×

During setup for the Concord Kiwanis Fair, safety checks come before the fun

  • State Inspector Nancy Ettelson looks over a ride at Kiwanis Fair setup at Everett Arena in Concord on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, as event workers prepare to open on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A worker from Miller Amusements climbs up the gondola ride as event officials set up for the Kiwanis Fair at Everett Arena in Concord on Wednesday, May 16, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Workers from Miller Amusements set up the gondola ride as they prepare for the opening of the Kiwanis Fair at Everett Arena on Wednesday, May 16, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • State Inspector Nancy Ettelson looks over a ride at Kiwanis Fair setup at Everett Arena in Concord on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, as workers prepare to open on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • State Inspector Nancy Ettelson looks over a ride at Kiwanis Fair setup at the Everett Arena in Concord on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, as workers prepare to open on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A state inspection sticker is affixed to a ride from Miller Amusements at the Kiwanis Fair on the grounds of the Everett Arena on Wednesday, May 16, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Thursday, May 17, 2018

Many hands are needed to lock down the Ferris wheel, the most obvious sign that an annual rite of spring has arrived in Concord. The spray hoses cleaning off the bumblebee carousel also give an indication. And the tasty provisions being loaded onto the food trucks help, too.

All the moving parts in the Everett Arena parking lot Wednesday only confirmed that the 63rd annual Concord Kiwanis Fair was hours from opening day.

And while four days of fun and games were ahead, on Wednesday it was all business, especially for the ride inspectors on the scene who went from ride to ride, ensuring safety before fairgoers were allowed to go for a whirl, a spin or a loop.

One of those inspectors was Nancy Ettelson, who works for Tramway and Amusement Ride Safety, part of the New Hampshire Department of Safety. She was at the fair Wednesday afternoon, inspecting the attractions that had been set up. Scoping out a miniature roller coaster, clipboard in hand, she could be seen constantly ducking under the rails and closely eyeing every inch.

A watchful eye is important for inspectors like Ettelson, especially now. A spate of amusement park accidents nationally in recent years have made headlines and opened the industry to questions of safety. But it has also allowed inspectors the chance to detail the process they go through before the first ticket is sold.

According to New Hampshire RSA 321-A, “Carnival-Amusement Operators,” amusement park rides require regular inspection, including annually and prior to the operation of the ride. A sticker is also affixed to the ride in a location that is visible to the public. These decals double as proof that the company operating the ride has received approval from the safety board. Proof of insurance is also part of this approval from the board.

With more than 20 rides being set up for this year’s fair, Ettelson and her boss, W. Briggs Lockwood, had their hands full. Lockwood is the chief inspector for the Tramway and Amusement Ride Safety Board. While Lockwood was not on site Wednesday afternoon, he will be conducting final inspections of the rides ahead of the 5 p.m. start time today, according to Ettelson and Lockwood.

“Anyone who wishes to operate a ride, before they do it, they have to call us and we have to conduct an inspection,” Lockwood said. “Each inspection is based on ride design and operation characteristics.”

Scott Miller is the owner of Miller Amusements, which is providing the more than 20 rides for the fair, much like he has done for the past 10 years.

“We have an excellent safety record and we are constantly maintaining the equipment, and we inspect it ourselves every day. The state comes in and inspects every week,” Miller said. “We are 100 percent safe.”

Miller said he pays so much money to the state that when he hears of other companies cutting corners, he’s “not afraid to turn them in.”

Lockwood said the application process includes a fee of $130 per ride.

In terms of the inspections themselves, according to Lockwood, the manufacturers of the rides provide a checklist for what should be looked at during the inspection. One of the last steps in the inspection process involves the testing of the ride itself. Lockwood said the final piece of inspection requires the ride to be run for one cycle with no one occupying the ride. Some of the other final steps require a closer look at the actual seats and restraint systems of the rides – sharp edges and faulty seatbelts would be grounds for an inspection failure.

In a previous article published by the Monitor, Lockwood said he has been inspecting amusement rides for more than 15 years and has extensive knowledge of the equipment. However, he did note that as the years go on, the rides become harder to inspect because of mechanical and technological advancements. To help combat this, an operator’s manual from the manufacturer must be kept with every ride.

Mark Lester is the vice president of the Kiwanis Club of Concord and has focused more on the logistical side of planning the event. Lester recalled growing up in the Concord area and coming to the fair as a child.

“Miller is a great partner with us,” Lester said, who also noted that the mission of the Kiwanis helps build deeper connections with companies like Miller Amusements.

“They really love working with us because they see what we’re doing,” Lester said. He noted how all the money that will be raised this weekend will be given back to the community through scholarships, key clubs and donated to local food banks.

The fair will start in the Everett Arena parking lot on Loudon Road at 5 p.m. Thursday and run until 10 p.m. Hours Friday are 5-11 p.m., noon-11 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. There will also be a roller derby inside the arena at 3 p.m. Saturday.

(Jacob Dawson can be reached at jdawson@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @jaked156.)