Riding high at the State Fair

August 27, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

The sponsor of last night's "Family Fun Night Ridemania" at the Maryland State Fair in Timonium was stated incorrectly in yesterday's Maryland Live and Today sections. Oldies radio station WQSR-FM (105.7) sponsored the midway event.

Also because of incorrect information provided by the State Fair, the operation dates and times of a shuttle service between Hunt Valley Mall and Timonium Fairgrounds were listed incorrectly yesterday in Maryland Live. The service is available from 1 to 10 p.m. on Sept. 4, and will not operate on Sept. 5.

The Sun regrets the errors.

What's big and round and colorful and, although spanking new this year, also 100 years old?

Answer: The Giant Wheel that provides the midway centerpiece of the 112th Maryland State Fair, opening this weekend for its annual 10-day run at the Timonium Fairgrounds.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"It's really pretty when it's up, pink and white and lighted on both sides. And this is only the fourth fair we've used it," says Greg Deggeller, one of the three brothers who run Deggeller Attractions, the Florida-based midway operator.

Yet while it stands 96 feet tall and can whirl 120 people around at six revolutions per minute, the 2-month-old ride actually ranks as a piddling progeny of the first Ferris wheel.

The original vertical go-'round, designed by Pittsburgh bridge engineer George Washington Gale Ferris for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, stood 265 feet high and could carry 40 passengers in each of 36 cars.

Ferris was seeking to outdo the structure that had graced the Paris Exposition of 1879: the Eiffel Tower.

On the other hand, that first wheel didn't fold down onto the backs of three tractor-trailer trucks for highway transport, as does the Giant Wheel featured at Timonium.

And by the time Chicago Exposition visitors were raving about the round-about thrill, the Timonium tradition was already more than a decade old. The Maryland State Fair and Agricultural Society first mounted an agricultural extravaganza beside the railroad tracks on the old "Timonium Estate" in 1879. (During World War II, the fair was not held for two years because the fairgrounds were used by the U.S. Army.)

This year, as usual, the fair offers a place for the urban masses to confront their rural roots.

Visitors can enjoy a huge variety of animal displays and shows, home and garden demonstrations, 4-H and Future Farmers of America competitions, a commercial exhibitors show and a 10-day racing card at the Timonium Race Course.

For the seventh year, the first full day of the fair will be capped by a balloon race, lifting off at 7 p.m. from the racetrack infield, to benefit the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

And the midway actually opens to the public at 7 tonight, with a $6 unlimited ride promotion sponsored, like the balloon race, by radio station WERQ-AM/FM (1010/92.3).

Almost every day of the fair's run has its own flavor, as the Maryland Foods Pavilion offers daily tastes of Maryland food products.

"Every year, when we do surveys, people always say they come first to see the animals," says Howard "Max" Mosner, vice president and general manager of the fair. "But the midway rides are always right up there, too."

Hence the excitement about the new Giant Wheel.

The ride only arrived at the fairgrounds Monday. A crew of about 15 people, headed by Tommy Coffing, went to work Tuesday morning and erected the ride in roughly 18 hours.

The big wheel's bright red trailers joined together to provide a foundation, and the whole assembly lifted up on hydraulically operated hinges.

"You drive into an empty parking lot, and in three days you build an illusion. You create an amusement park," Danny Abner said as the wheel and the other 30 rides of the carnival strip began to take shape on the fairgrounds parking lot.

Mr. Abner, a South Carolinian, is the man who supervises and inspects the amusement rides for the company that has been providing the thrills at Timonium for most of the past 18 years.

Greg Deggeller, 37, notes that a company operated by his father and uncle, Allen and Irvin Deggeller, first played the Timonium fair in the mid-1970s. In 1978 they sold the firm to another company, which played the Maryland fair for a couple of years.

But in 1980, Greg, older brother Don, 43, and younger brother Jeff, 25, started the current company and have provided the ride excitement at Timonium ever since.

"We all grew up in the business. Any time I wasn't in school I was on the road with my parents. I've done everything around this business, from operating the rides to selling snow cones, T-shirts and novelties," Greg Deggeller says.

Fairgoers may recall that a Big Wheel has been at the Timonium midway for a number of years. Actually, it was about 15 feet taller than this one, Mr. Deggeller says.

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