Ferris Wheel one of fest's new attractions

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Vir­ginia Dare Build­ing is still the tallest struc­ture in El­iz­a­beth City. But over in the Water­front Park park­ing lot, a newly erected 65-foot-high Fer­ris Wheel is just as im­pres­sive a sight.

The Ferris Wheel, operated by Florida-based Deggeller Attractions, is one of the new attractions at this year’s N.C. Potato Festival set to get underway Friday at 5 p.m. 

"Well, you always want to do something different for your patrons each year," said Jody Cadwell, spokesman for Deggeller Attractions, which has been providing mechanical rides at the Potato Festival since the 2014 event. "When they walk in, even if it's just putting a ride in a different place, you don't want your customers to see the same ole thing every year."

Cadwell said the Ferris Wheel, which was built in the early 2000s, has been retrofitted and updated with an all-new lighting system.

"It's a show," he said. 

While he didn’t know the precise speed of the Ferris Wheel, he said "It's a slow, easy ride."

The Ferris Wheel isn't Deggeller’s only new addition to this year’s Potato Festival.

Also new this year are 16 bumper cars. Cadwell said the system powering the amusement ride has been used for a while, but the cars themselves will be used for the first time at this weekend’s Potato Festival.

Cadwell said he didn’t have to replace any rides from last year’s event to accommodate the Ferris Wheel and bumper cars. He said he approached Potato Festival organizers and said, "If we can make room, I can bring these two rides."

Cadwell said Potato Festival organizers, as always, have rolled out the red carpet for his crews. He praised the job organizers do putting together such a complex festival every year. 

Although there's no significant sign of rain in the weekend forecast, Cadwell says a shower here or there won’t put a damper on Deggeler’s operations. One advantage the company has in Elizabeth City is that all its rides sit on pavement.

"So if we get a little shower, we're right back in business," he said.

Cadwell said Deggeller brings approximately 100 workers to the Potato Festival. That many people can provide a mini-boost to the local economy, he noted, as they spend their money at restaurants and grocery stores.

Deggeller Attractions is arriving in Elizabeth City from the Fort Bragg Fair. After the Potato Festival, the amusement company will head for Virginia and the Pungo Strawberry Festival, followed by several days at the Mount Trashmore Summerfest.

Cadwell said since Deggeller’s crews started making their way north from their home in Florida this spring, he’s noticed customers seem to be more willing to spend more money than they have in the recent past.

"I think that people are optimistic and when people are optimistic they're more likely to spend more," he said.

The three-day Potato Festival, which celebrates the Elizabeth City area's potato growing heritage, is set to start at 5 p.m. today and continue until 11 p.m. The festival will resume at 10 a.m. Saturday and continue until 11 p.m. It will resume Sunday at 11 a.m. before concluding at 6 p.m. N.C. Potato Festival organizers say they’re expecting up to 40,000 to attend the event over the course of the three days.