Monday, September 12, 2011

Riding the Sky Wheel

A well known fact about myself, I am terrified of heights...Another well known fact about myself, I love carnivals...and another fact about myself, my favorite ride of all time is the Sky Wheel, better known to the general public as the Double Ferris Wheel.My first memory of the ride was back in the late 70s when Century 21 Shows booked the massive Space Wheels owned by Royal American Shows (see photo on the right) to play the Greater Gulf State Fair in Mobile, AL. The Space Wheels is simply 2 Sky Wheel units that share a center support. That was the only time I'd seen and ridden the Space Wheels. After that, the Sky Wheel was a regular staple on the midways of the fairs in Mobile and Pensacola...up until the mid 1990s. Due to the size and the fact that replacement parts have become expensive and difficult to obtain, many shows have opted to retire the ride.Having seen it at every fair I attended when I was a kid, I feel let down when I visit a large fair without one. A few midway operators understand the appeal of the ride among enthusiets and have taken to initiative refurbish some of the older wheels and bring them back out. There are currently 13 or so on the road, 4 have made it to Georgia fairs that I've attended over the past 10 years.What's so great about the ride? You say it's just a ferris wheel? Think again. It's actually a thrill ride disguised as a gentle giant. If you're lucky enough to sit in the "over the top" seat on either end of the wheel, you will experience an elevator drop that will tip your seat so you're facing the sky from the top until you make it to the bottom of the rotation and before you know it, you're back at the top doing it all over again.The ride has actually been manufactured by 3 companies, it began with the Valare Brothers before the rights were acquired by the Allen Herschell company and then Chance Rides after they purchased the assets of Allen Herschell. It stands just short of 80 feet, usually dwarfing the rest of the midway. 8 seats on each wheel, it's capacity is 48 adults per ride cycle. Click on the video link of my 2011 Sky Wheel onride experience to get an idea of what it's really like. If you ever find yourself on a midway with one of these guys...check it out for yourself and you'll understand why it's known as "The King of the Midway."

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