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No Letting Up as Fair Winds Down

July 25, 1998|YUNG KIM

The fair may be winding down, but there is still time to get spun up and down, and all around, before the monstrous rides are taken away.

Heading into the final weekend of the 17-day Orange County Fair, more than 500,000 people have strolled through the pink gates, many of them itching to be upside-down.

Forget fastening seat belts; for the big rides, hold onto the shoulder and leg harnesses and don't forget to empty your pockets.

Top Spin has created a stir among fair-goers, creating lines 20 to 30 feet long on average nights.

But the ride, which carries 36 passengers, has almost as many people watching as riding.

Ana Soria, 16, of Los Angeles, held onto a Tigger doll for Claudia Castellanos, 16, also of Los Angeles, as she spun in a seat at 11 revolutions per minute while being lofted 50 feet into the air.

"I don't like the upside-down part," Ana said as Claudia shrieked while upside-down. "I don't like many of the rides. I just came to watch."

When Claudia's two-minute ride was over, she hopped out of her seat and bounced down the stairs of the ride, smiling brightly.

"When you get up there you regret it at first," said Claudia, who skipped breakfast and lunch to be on the safe side. "It's fun. I'm going [on] again before I leave."

Ray Cammack Shows, the company that provides the rides, has added four new attractions this year to satisfy the public's increasing need for speed.

"Customers look for thrill rides," Tony Fiori, the company marketing director, said. "The spectacular rides cost $650,000 to $1 million, but we do our best to give people what they want."

But the higher speeds and altitudes have created stiffer safety precautions. Many of the "spectacular" rides have minimum height and age requirements in addition to safety harnesses.

Fair representatives said public safety remains the main priority. Tom Tanner, safety director for Cammack, said most of the ride manufacturer's suggestions are adopted as strict rules for the fair.

"In Europe, some of the rides only have lap bars," Tanner said. "We'd make more money if we didn't have the [warning] signs, but safety is more important to us."

As the passengers are pinned into their seats, William Ross, a Top Spin operator, dances along the front of the flame-painted ride, securing the shoulder harnesses and taunting those not brave enough to try. After the check, Ross walks to the side of the ride and pulls a lever, which locks in a leg harness. Then he gives a thumbs-up sign to the ride's controller.

"After the ride, a person is not sluggish or slow," Ross said. "They get energized."

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