Getting ready for wild ride: Setup underway for Potato Festival

Potato Fest Setup
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Carlos Baltazar, a crew member with Deggeller Attractions, makes an adjustment to an amusement ride loaded aboard a flatbed trailer on Catalina Avenue as setup for this weekend's N.C. Potato Festival got underway in Elizabeth City, Tuesday. City officials closed Water Street in front of Museum of the Albemarle Tuesday to begin setting up amusement rides and vendor stations.

Potato Fest Setup

By William F. West
Staff Writer

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Setup for this weekend’s N.C. Potato Festival began on Tuesday, with Water Street in front of Museum of the Albemarle shut down for crews to begin erecting amusement rides.  

For the fourth Potato Festival in a row, Florida-based Deggeller Attractions will be providing the rides for this weekend’s event, which gets underway Friday and continues through Sunday. 

“Time flies when you're having fun,” Deggeller spokesman Jody Cadwell remarked Monday evening.

Deggeller crews are arriving in Elizabeth City this week following completion of their work at the recent Fort Bragg Fair.

Cadwell estimates Deggeler will set up about 16 rides for this weekend’s festival, along with about seven vendor food and beverage sites. He said Deggler’s plan to provide a mix of both new and what worked well at last year’s festival.

One new ride at this year’s festival will be a roller coaster in the shape of a dragon.

“It's a brand new ride,” Cadwell said. “It was purchased this year.”

A number of rides are returning from last year’s festival. One is the Crazy Chopper, a helicopter-like ride that Cadwell said Deggeller had created specifically to honor Elizabeth City and the Coast Guard aircrews based at Base Elizabeth City.

Also returning this year will be the giant Ferris wheel and the Fire Ball and Vertigo rides. The Fire Ball is a giant, looping roller coaster, while the Vertigo is a high-swing thrill ride.

At Deggeler’s vendor sites, festival-goers can purchase carnival cakes, cotton candy, Italian sausages, lemonade, lemon shakeups, popcorn and slushies.

For festival-goers who enjoy the mechanized rides, Deggeler is offering a new pricing option on Saturday at this year’s festival.

Last year, attendees could purchase a $15 Saturday “matinee” wristband, which was good for unlimited rides up until 5 p.m. Those who wanted unlimited rides after 5 p.m. had to purchase a separate $20 wristband for those hours.

That caused some apparent confusion at last year’s event. Cadwell said some festival-goers who purchased the $15 matinee wristbands expressed disappointment when their passes became void at 5 p.m.

To avoid that confusion this year, Deggeler will continue to sell a Saturday matinee wristband for $15 good for unlimited rides between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, event-goers will also be able to purchase an “all-day” Saturday wristband for $25. That wristband provides the wearer unlimited rides from 10 a.m. when the festival opens, to 11 p.m., when it closes.   

Wristband prices for all-day rides on Friday and Sunday will be $20. The festival’s hours Friday will be from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. On Sunday, the hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The wristbands provide a pricing deal for those who like to ride all of the rides multiple times. Each ride requires the purchase of between two and five tickets, depending on the ride. Each ride ticket is $1.

Potato Festival organizers first hired Deggeller Attractions in 2014 when they decided to turn the two-day festival into a three-day event. 

Deggeller crews like their visit to Elizabeth City, particularly the city’s waterfront, Cadwell said.

“I mean, you can't beat being downtown on the waterfront,” he said. “It's such a beautiful setting. Northeastern North Carolina is just a beautiful place to be anytime of the year.”

Cadwell also praised the N.C. Potato Festival Committee for putting on a top-notch event every year.

“This stuff just doesn't pop in and pop up,” he said. “There's a lot of coordination, paperwork, permits. And just to close the street down for the weekend is not something that you just wave a magic wand and get it done. It takes a lot of work and working with the city government and the state government,” he said.

Cadwell said once the Potato Festival ends Sunday evening, Deggeller crews will begin dismantling the rides and vendor stands. The company’s crews will then hit the road for the upcoming Pungo Strawberry Festival in Virginia.