TIMONIUM, Md. - Admit it. You think about it. When you go to the fair and step onto those rides, you think about them being set up and broken down week after week and wonder if they're safe. ABC2 goes behind the scenes to see what steps are taken to make sure you have nothing to worry about.
Before the smiles, the screams and the nausea that come with the rides at the Maryland State Fair there is a high-wire act of sorts. It starts long before the crowds line the midway. And it involves a team of inspectors and repairmen who take ownership of the rides that bring the joy and fear we’ve come to love year after year at the end of summer.
Making sure every ride can serve up a smile or a scream on command is work. Danny Abner knows that better than most. He’s been the safety consultant for Deggeller Attractions for two decades. We followed him behind the scenes of the midway, where he says, "It's all got to fit together. It's like a puzzle."
In this case, it’s a puzzle with pieces that are taken apart and put back together every time Florida-based Deggeller Attractions moves from fair to fair. Once those pieces are assembled, Abner gets final say on whether they’re safe. But even before he gives the green light to start selling tickets, the state has to sign off on whether the rides are safe to operate.
Each year before the fair, ride inspectors from the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation do pre-installation consultations and final checks. DLLR spokeswoman Maureen O’Connor tells ABC2 no significant issues were reported during this year’s check of Deggeller Attractions. But checks continue, with Abner indicating the state still requires ride-specific inspections every single day the fair is open.
So from the bottom to the top, each carnival ride is checked. And Abner says so are the people who run them, with the consultant doing laps of the midway every two hours, searching for potentially distracted operators. There are firm rules, he says, with no cellphones, no texting, and no distractions. Abner says, “If they turn their back on a ride to watch a good looking lady walk down the midway, I don't want that. This is about paying attention."
They’re paying attention to detail, making sure that when you take a seat on the rides at the fair, you have nothing to think about. Except maybe that pit in your stomach.
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