Workers are assembling brightly colored chairs and hanging them from a giant cable at the State Fairgrounds, where a new sky ride will make its debut at the State Fair in October.
The State Fair Flyer will carry people 1,400 feet from one end of the midway to the other, at the leisurely pace of about 2 mph. It will run between a location near Gate 8, the busiest during the fair, and the east end of Restaurant Row, giving people not only a great view of the midway from above but also a way to bypass crowded walkways.
“It is a ride experience and a transportation tool,” said Kent Yelverton, director of property and construction for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which runs the fair.
The ride looks like a ski lift without the mountain. It was made by Partek Enterprises, a company in the small southern New York town of Pine Island that specializes in ski lifts. The chairs are being assembled and hung by Ropeway, another Pine Island company.
In a house on steel legs at the Restaurant Row end of the ride is the giant motor that moves the 2,800-foot cable carrying 127 chairs in a continuous loop. Once it starts up, the ride won’t stop, and attendants will be on hand at each end to help people get on and off, said Robert Fulton of American Sky Lifts of Sanford, the company that owns and will operate the State Fair Flyer.
American Sky Lifts was one of three companies that bid on the chance to lease the land at the fairgrounds and build the ride. The company will give the state 32 percent of gross ticket revenue from the ride. Advance tickets are on sale now at the State Fair website, www.ncstatefair.org, for $4 one way, $7 round trip. (Prices will go up $1 each at fair time.)
The chairs will carry two adults comfortably, or two adults and a small child (you must be 42 inches, or 3.5 feet, tall to ride without an adult). There’s a weight limit of about 340 pounds, so ride attendants will be making some judgment calls.
“You try to size people up, you know what I mean?” Fulton said.
This is American Sky Lifts’ first sky ride. Fulton says he’s been in the carnival business since he helped his father run a Ferris wheel as a boy and that he’s never missed a N.C. State Fair. He says he sold 10 carnival rides to focus on the sky ride business and that he’s looking for other locations to build additional ones.
Fulton’s contract with the state allows American Sky Lifts to operate the State Fair Flyer whenever the fairgrounds are open, and he says he plans to run it during the Got To Be NC agricultural festival in the spring.
“We may run it a few other select weekends, but that’s up in the air,” he said. “If it’s profitable, we’ll run it.”
One consideration is the amount of preparation required each time the sky ride goes online. Whenever the ride shuts down, as it will after the fair, it will need to be reinspected and tested by the state Department of Labor before it can start up again, Yelverton said. That testing involves filling each chair with barrels of water to simulate a ride full of passengers.
“You can’t decide on Thursday that you want to run it that weekend,” he said.
State Fair Flyer
Length: 1,400 feet
Speed: About 2 mph
Height: 45 feet at its highest point
No. of towers: 11
No. of chairs: 127
Landing points: The “Orville Terminus,” between Restaurant Row and the Scott Building, and the “Wilbur Terminus,” near Gate 8 and the Village of Yesteryear.
Tickets: Available at the State Fair website, www.ncstatefair.org, for $4 one way, $7 round trip. Prices will go up $1 each at fair time.