By PAT HARTMAN
Those darn Ferris wheels just can’t stay out of the news. We first noticed it when Greg England, staff writer for the Sparta Expositor, told us in “The Carnival Rolls Into Town” about an 85-year-old company, Geren Rides, in its fourth generation as a family-run business. This piece revealed a previously unguessed-at carnival tradition of mourning for a colleague. England says:
Visitors to the carnival will notice a seat on the Ferris wheel that is covered and unavailable for rides. He said the tradition is intended to show respect to the family of a deceased woman, who worked with the carnival.
From California, Tracy Manzer (Contra Costa Times staff writer) reported on the dramatic night-time rescue of a couple who were stranded for about 45 minutes, 60 feet in the air on a malfunctioning Ferris wheel. In St. Louis, a power outage afflicted the Colossus at Six Flags, according to Tyler Carlton at Coaster-Net. In that incident, the riders were released by manually cranking the Ferris wheel until each coach had released its occupants on the ground. Also from St. Louis, Julie Randle of Suburban Journals wrote of the charming playground on the roof of the City Museum, which boasts, among other attractions, a four-story-high, 12-car Ferris wheel. Tom Goetz, Sports Editor at the Mississippi’s Daily Leader, tells us about a local Ferris wheel adjacent to a baseball park. Apparently, a batter may become a legend in his own time by sending a ball 400 feet to hit the amusement ride.
The Ferris wheel news trend is not confined to the North American continent. In Belfast, Ireland, a man wearing only a pair of shorts climbed to the top of the Big Wheel, and lay down on the upper rim to sunbathe. The ride had to be stopped so firefighters could go up and apprehend the miscreant. The man was said to be a Traveler (something like a Gypsy) engaged in a political protest. He was charged with disorderly behavior and false imprisonment of the other people trapped on the ride while all this went on.
And… there’s a Kevin Dolgin Connection. In The Third Tower Up from the Road, he visits an amusement park called the Wurstelprater, inside a larger park called the Prater, in the city of Vienna, Austria. There resides the world’s oldest Ferris wheel (1897) and it too has a name — the Riesenrad. In those days, Ferris wheels were not made with skimpy little 4- or 6-person carriages. They were big hunkin’ things. Kevin writes:
Inside, I got the impression of being in a small old-time trolley car.… If you look at the other cars, you’ll see that some are decked out with formal tables, and in fact, you can rent a Riesenrad
car for dinner. I’m a hopeless romantic, and I can’t help but think that there can be few more romantic occasions than renting a car fitted with a single table for two and gazing into soft eyes as you slice up your Wiener schnitzel while slowly spinning over Vienna.