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A powerful landscape
Generators key to powering games, rides, booths
Richard Donais, Head Electrician for Amusements of America, oversees 32 distributor boxes and thousands of electrical connections that keep the 2010 Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair powered up. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Bright lights flashing, loud music blaring, colorful rides whirling and twirling. Food vendors keeping things cold and making things hot. Even the mechanical bull is juiced by a power source that is phenomenal - the force that makes the fair go round.

But where does the power come from? Nobody notices as they step around the huge trailers tucked in between the rides. They never pay attention to the thick cables they step over as they head for the Bonzai, and the music from the Rock-N-Roll drowns out the steady hum of the five generators that keep the fair going.

The generators are inside those trailers, and the cables snaking all over the ground are what transfer they energy to the distribution boxes, and then to the Crazy Mouse, the funnel cake trailer, and the games of chance.

The generators are 350 to 500 kilowatts each, said Mike Inman, general manager for Amusements of America, the company that brings the midway to the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair. And each of those generators put out 1,000 to 1,600 amps. "That's enough to run 25-30 houses," he said.

The diesel-powered Caterpillar engines use anywhere from seven to 25 gallons of diesel an hour depending on the demand for power.

Inman and the fair workers in charge of the power work constantly to maintain, service and repair the generators. Last year, one caught fire, and burned the ceiling of the trailer that housed it, he said. That is one reason there are five generators - in case one fails, he said.

"You always have to think ahead to stay ahead of the game," he said. "From time to time you do have failure."

Richard Donais has been the Amusements of America's chief electrician for 16 years. "When we hit prime time, I keep the motors going," he said. "When the lights go on, that's my biggest job."

He said he enjoys the challenge, and likes the carnival business because of the travel. That, and the unexpected, such as an exhaust leak last month that caused another generator fire like the one that happened in Statesboro last year.

"We're firemen, we're electricians, we're plumbers, we're truck drivers, we're everything," he said. "We have to be 95 percent self sufficient in every category."

Joe Mehr, who says his position title with Amusements of America is "on-the-go-Joe," whose job is to "find needles in haystacks," said when the company was at a fair in Princeton, Fla. During Hurricane Andrew, "We were the only ones who had power."

"It's a tough life, but we like it," Inman said. Mehr agreed. "No matter if it rains or not, we still have a job to do."

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 912-489-9414.


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