Carnival company ramps up ride checks ahead of Ionia Free Fair

Ionia County

IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — The Ionia Free Fair is returning this weekend after taking a year off due to the pandemic.

Crews spent Wednesday morning assembling rides and food stations throughout the fair grounds.

“What people are going to see this year at the fair is going to wow them. Especially in the short time that the board and community put it together, people will be amazed,” Raul Alvarez with the Ionia Free Fair said.

Alvarez said that in the last few days, the fair has sold several thousand tickets. In years past, it has drawn upward of 300,000 people.

The fair is set to take place Friday through July 24 and will include a monster truck show, horse soccer and several concerts. Organizers say there will also be a Ferris wheel, bumper cars and flying swings as they plan to put on a full production.

Arnold Amusements sets up at the Ionia Free Fair. (July 14, 2021)

One ride that will not be present at the fair this year is a Magic Carpet-style ride that malfunctioned at the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City last week. The ride, assembled by Arnold’s Amusements, was captured on video swaying back and forth with riders suspended in the air. The video was viewed online by millions.

“As soon as we saw the video and we found out about it, the fair board reached out to Arnold Amusements, who we’ve had a 10-year relationship with,” Alvarez said. “Three things happened, the swift action that Arnold’s took. One: The ride was immediately dismantled. Two: It was sent to the manufacturer for them to investigate what happened, no one knows what happened. And three: We were able to confirm with Arnold’s that they’re in full compliance with all the inspections through regulatory agencies like (the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs) and the state, which allows them to operate.”

Alvarez said the rides are inspected a few times annually by the state and typically inspected every day by the operators while on site. This year, Arnold will inspect the rides multiple times daily to ensure the safety of riders.

Alvarez said that despite the issue at the Cherry Festival, there was never a plan to use another company to provide rides.

“The relationship we’ve had with the Arnold’s, we’ve had about a decade-long relationship with them but they’ve been in business for over 40 years. There was never any question and as soon as they took those swift actions with those three things, it just confirms we have the confidence in them. We trust that they’re doing the right thing,” Alvarez said.

Organizers say if ticket sales are any indication of support, the community is fired up for the fair’s return.

“Come on down enjoy the rides, enjoy the food have a great time and know that the Arnolds are going to take care of your safety,” Alvarez said.

The gate for the free fair will open Friday at 1 p.m. Several events are free of charge. Some will require tickets. More information can be found at the Ionia Free Fair website.

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