Rumors of riders plunging from Ferris wheels or derailed roller-coaster cars can take fairgoers' minds off cotton candy and amusement shows.
But officials of Drew Exposition, which is operating the Columbia County Merchants Association Fair this year, said the company pays close attention to safety so that fun is the only concern.
The portable amusement company has not had a death since it began operating in 1949, said Jimmy Drew, the company's former president who now helps his son, Jim, run the company. He said that the few injuries that occur usually are minor, such as sprained ankles or tripping on steps.
Rides are inspected at each location by different state agents, Drew said.
"Every week in every town, there is another inspection by somebody," he said. "Not only do we have to meet the safety regulations where we are playing, but, of the 12 to 14 states we are playing, we have to exceed the most stringent one."
But accidents sometimes happen. Last weekend, at the Cumming County Fair, which was not operated by Drew Exposition, a 3-year-old girl and her father were tossed out of the Bumblebee children's ride when the car they were riding in tipped over. The girl suffered minor injuries.
To help prevent such incidents, all ride operators are certified to check rides daily. They must attend mandatory safety-management seminars conducted by the American Society of Testing and Materials, which teaches operators to inspect, maintain, test and operate rides. Operators also are certified through two national safety organizations - the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials and the Amusement Industry Manufacturers and Suppliers.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has regulated outdoor entertainment since 1986, hundreds of thousands more injuries stem from recreational activities such as basketball and bicycling than from amusement rides.
The commission says that nearly 80 percent of ride-related injuries are caused by rider behavior, such as intentionally rocking cars, standing up, defeating safety restraints or sitting improperly.
"Carnivals remain one of the safest forms of family entertainment," said James Graybeal, Drew Exposition's manager. "My staff and I put safety above all else because our patrons are family and friends who have supported us for generations."
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