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Midway, wild rides thrill crowd at fair
101408 FAIR RIDES 01
Wave Swinger riders are silhouetted against the evening sky at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Tuesday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Flashing lights, twirls and turns, upside down and topsy turvy — the reason most people enjoy carnival rides is the thrill.
    Some claim they like being scared. Others just say the rides are fun. But whatever the reason, lines were steady Monday as citizens enjoyed the first night of the 47th Annual Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair.
    The multi-county agricultural fair offers more than a midway. There are arts and crafts displays, student FFA, FHA and 4-H projects, a Heritage Village with vendors, a country store, an old farmhouse and barnyard, and live entertainment as well as livestock shows.
    But the midway lures with its brightness and noisy activity; thrilling rides for both young children and adults as well as games of chance.
    This year Amusements of America brought a couple of exciting new rides — the Crazy Mouse roller coaster and the Disco. These two new attractions, along with the popular Bonzai, Rock-N-Roll, Gravitron, Tornado, Fireball and others brought screams of (mock) fear, laughter and maybe a tear or two.
    That's what Fantasia Eason, 15, said. The Statesboro teen came off the Crazy Mouse hollering.
    "That ride has so many curves and turns, that junk is scary," she said, panting as she tried to regain her breath. "I'm about to cry."
    But when asked whether she would try it again, she smiled. "Yeah, I'll get on it again. It was so much fun!"
    Her friend Tyrae Jones, also 15 and from Statesboro,  enjoyed the ride, too, although she did her share of screaming for mercy.
    "It was fun and scary at the same time," she said. "It was worth the five tickets, I know that."
    On the other side of the midway, Marietta resident Daniel Venson, 20, wasn't quite as eager to get back on the Bonzai, which has two arms with rows of seats at the end. Each arm swings opposite and arcs, going higher and higher, until the arc becomes a complete circle.
    "My head went down and my stomach went up," he said, face a bit green. He regretted the decision to ride the Bonzai so soon after eating a snack of boiled peanuts.
    His friend, Steve Schaff, 19, also of Marietta, enjoyed the ride as well, in spite of Venson getting sick. "It was an awesome ride,"  he said, laughing at Venson, who was turning green again.
    Ride after ride, as each turn ended, people showed a mixture of emotions and expressions as they exited the ramps. Some were laughing hysterically, some appeared somber, and others were clutching their stomachs and groaning.
    The Disco features a bowl-shaped cluster of stalls where riders stand in a circle, and swings side to side, spinning. Riders appeared to be enjoying the fun, as lines were long.
    The Gravitron looks like a space ship, and riders are pinned to the walls inside as gravity holds them up, with the " hip" spinning. The Tornado has several arms with four seats clustered together in an open globe, which spins as the arms rotate. The Rock-N-Roll is a series of cars linked together on a rolling track that travels at high speed forward — and then backward — as loud rock music plays.
    The Fireball looks complicated, rather like the business end of a mixer. Riders are seated in a circle of seats at the end of a swinging arm. As the arm swings in an arc, the seats spin.
    "I love it," said Claire Kochatta, 17, of Statesboro. "It's one of the best rides. Last year I rode it nine times in a row.
    Micha Pomeroy, 18, also of Statesboro, agreed. "I think it's one of the best out here."
    However, the next  young man exiting the ride just shook his head and ran off when asked if he would like to share his experience.
    Possibly one of the most difficult rides at the fair this year is the mechanical bull. It's the only ride designed to dump the riders.
    William Banks, 11, tried to master the bull, but after falling off the wild machine the bull butted him as he got up.
    "It felt like you were riding a real bull," he said.
    His brother David, 14, said the bull ride is "awesome, but I hurt my legs" trying to stay on. He, too, was surprised by a head butt from the bull's soft stuffed horns.
    For the less adventurous, the fair's midway offers the largest Ferris Wheel in the world, bumper cars, and the swings, among other attractions. But for the brave and fearless thrill-seeker, rides like the Bonzai, Fireball and crazy Mouse are waiting.
    Tonight, admission is free for students (university and college included) with photo identification. Ride prices are reduced for students.
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