RALEIGH — Amoralis Lopez and her classmates at Hairston Middle School in Greensboro had a field trip planned to the N.C. State Fair on Friday, then heard late Thursday there had been an accident on one of the rides in which five people were hurt.
They came anyway, along with tens of thousands of other people, many of them determined to experience all the thrills the fair has to offer, including the brain-scrambling rides.
“The whole point is to be a daredevil,” said Lopez, 13, who was trying to talk her friends into boarding a Ferris wheel with gondola seats. “They’re a bunch of scaredy-cats.”
Throngs of people who visit the fair never ride anything more exciting than the tram that takes them from the Folk Festival to Dorton Arena. Others want to go on whatever spins the fastest, swings the highest and takes the most turns upside-down.
Eyan Wiggs, 17, and his friends, Sarah Thompson, Morgan Lamm and Parker Bizzell, all of Wilson, had already been on four or five rides by midday Friday. They were about to get something to eat and figure out what to ride next.
Wiggs said he would ride pretty much anything on the midway if he hasn’t heard bad things about it. There was one, he said, an upright circle of track that a train of cars whizzes around, that he wouldn’t ride.
“Every year, that thing gets stuck upside-down,” he said. “No way I’m getting on that.”
Maggie Burns of Apex came Friday with her husband, 11-year-old son and a friend, Allison Dease of Oxford. They had four sheets of ride tickets and planned to use them all.
They had heard about the accident, but like other patrons, figured there was probably more danger of getting hit by a car while trying to cross Hillsborough Street on their way to the fair than of being injured on one of the rides inside it.
“You know, you could get struck by lightning, hit by a bus. My car could catch fire. Everything has some risk involved,” Dease said. “To say you’re going to quit living because there’s risk involved? That’s silly.”
The risk of something going wrong on these rides is very low, state officials stressed Friday. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said fair officials were “deeply shaken” by the accident, but he also called it an isolated incident and said he hoped it wouldn’t discourage people from coming to the fair.
“I still feel confident that my grandchildren can ride these rides,” he said.
The Vortex that was involved in the accident will not reopen during the fair, but another ride on another section of midway also called Vortex was open and had a line Friday afternoon. It’s a completely different type of machine.
Michaela Anderson, 15, of Snow Camp had already been on it once and was waiting to ride again.
“I like that it goes upside down. I like the height,” she said. “I like scary rides. It gives me that rush to ride it.”