Having a safe fair experience - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Having a safe fair experience


Two years ago, a KWWL investigation revealed problems with a carnival rides company.  River City Amusements failed state safety inspections on several of its rides that were set up at the Cedar County Fair in Tipton.  The company worked to address those issues and was able to get most of the rides back up and running following a second state inspection.

So as fair and festival season gets underway this year, how do you know the entertainment is safe?  We visited the Butler County Fair to find out.

Organizing a multi-day event like the fair in Butler County takes a lot of work.  Folks with the fair so they do everything possible to make sure safety is top of mind.

Take the livestock arena, for example.  In Butler County, it was recently upgraded with new fencing and gates to make it safer.  Fair organizers have emergency plans in place for just about any problems that might come up.  There's even a designated storm shelter nearby.  The fair board checks vendor references and does its own review of them after each fair.

"The grounds committee asks later on this fall which ones we did or didn't like, if there were any problems, and we kind of screen them," said Mike Ruby, Butler Co. Fair president.

The carnival rides at the fair are run by Smith Amusements, a family owned business.  The company says having a staff full of relatives keeps them reliable.  The staff undergoes extensive safety training.  Maintenance checks are done on rides daily and they're given a full run through before the show opens each night.  If anything isn't working right, the ride simply doesn't run.

"I do everything I can do to make sure they are as safe as they can be because if something ever did happen, I couldn't live with myself if I didn't," said Steve Smith with Smith Amusements.

If all those practices are followed, you can probably be rest assured the fair and festival season will be off to a safe start.

Meanwhile, the annual Cedar Falls Sturgis Falls Celebration and Cedar Basin Jazz Festival is also happening this weekend.  

This year, it's easier than ever to keep track of the festival's events.  There's a free Sturgis Falls app available for your iPhone, Android, and Windows phones. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, the carnival rides for Sturgis Falls are ready to go up near 2nd and State Streets downtown.

"Probably the biggest thing I'm concerned about with the carnival is their integrity.  You know, are they people who are reliable, trustworthy, family-oriented... 'cause that's what... Those are the people that go to a carnival, are your family people," said celebration organizer Jay Stoddard.

The Iowa Division of Labor inspects amusement rides and concessions at least once per year. The division conducted more than 1500 inspections in 2010.  If you feel an amusement company isn't running a safe operation, you can file a complaint with them by calling manager Jim Borwey at (515) 281-3647.

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