Ride safety in light of Ohio tragedy on the minds of many as Kentucky State Fair opens Thursday

08/15/2017 10:45 AM

The 2017 Kentucky State Fair opens on Thursday and continues through August 27th in Louisville, and one thing on the mind of fair goers and officials is ride safety in light of the recent tragedy at the Ohio State Fair in which one person was killed and seven others injured when a midway ride broke apart while in motion.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is in charge of inspecting all amusement rides in Kentucky, and Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles,R-Kentucky, says that his staff has been busy closely inspecting all rides, and says that the state has strict provisions in place before a ride can even go into service at a fair or carnival.

“Before you can even set up shop, you have to have a permit with us, proof of insurance, and at the Kentucky State Fair, you’re ride must be inspected by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture before you even turn it on,” Quarles said. “We’re also going to be conducting a series of spot inspections over the Kentucky State Fair.”

The manufacturer of the ride that broke apart at the Ohio State Fair determined that the incident was caused by “excessive corrosion of the interior gondola support beam which dangerously reduced the walls thickness over the years.”

The ride was 18 years old.

While Quarles said that his officials inspect rides carefully, there’s no 100 percent guarantee that any ride is going to be accident free.

“You can’t remove every single risk but we want to make sure that we do it properly, and compared to other states out there, we have a more robust inspection program,” Quarles said. “It’s not just show us your paper work, our inspectors are actually out there on the rides.”

The Kentucky State Fair is the signature event for the Department of Agriculture, and Quarles says that it takes many people to pull the event off each summer.

“The Department of Agriculture will be supplying about a hundred workers for the 11-day production of the Kentucky State Fair, but we also partner with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, and they’ll be sending over 100 agents, in addition to staff at the Kentucky Expo Center,” Quarles said. “The Department of Agriculture literally starts working on the Kentucky State Fair for the next year the last day of this state fair. It’s a year round production for us.”

One change at the Kentucky State Fair that has evolved over the years is the fact that most schools are already in session when the fair opens limiting family visits to weekend days.

The Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 50 during the 2017 which allows districts, beginning with the 2018-19 school year, to have the option delay the start of school to the Monday closest to August 26 which would be after the fair.

Districts that choose the later start date would receive incentives including not having to hit the 170-day instruction mark, but only the 1,062 hours of instruction.

“I fully support Sen. Thayer’s bill that gives local school boards the flexibility to determine their start and end dates, Quarles said. “For us at the state fair, we want young people to come.”

Quarles says look for some changes at this year’s fair.

“The commodities tent, where you can find that great food, is going to be in a more visible spot this year,” Quarles said. “The midway has moved from one side of the fairgrounds to be front and center when you pull in.”

Advance tickets to the fair are $7 for adults, children 6-12 and seniors through August 16, with parking tickets priced at $5.

After August 16, all tickets will be $10, including parking.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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