Speed, thrills, flashing lights and lots of motion brought screams, laughter and a few green faces Friday night as the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair enjoyed its 50th aniversary. The scene was a far cry from the first Fairs in Bulloch County; instead of a few small thrill rides, the midway is crammed with dozens of large thrill rides, exciting kiddie rides and rows upon rows of games of chance.
The Fair is made up of a variety of exhibits, displays, and attractions, but the midway is usually where the action - and the largest crowd - can be found. Amusements of America, owned by the Five Vivona Brothers, has been bringing thrills to the Fair for 33 years now, and boasts one of the largest and most exciting midways in the country.
As the line stretched around the Bonzai, a ride consisting of two arms with several seats at the end, riders giggled in anticipation. The ride began, each arm swinging in opposite directions, then making a complete circle as riders were turned upside down.
Operator Shane Jordan talked about his job, which is mostly good, but on occasion, less than pleasant.
What happens when the ride makes someone queasy?
"We stay calm, cool and collected," he said. "We hose it down, clean it up and sanitize it."
Fortunately, that doesn't happen all that often, he said.
Keith Padgett, 20, from North Georgia, said he was in line to get thrills.
"I love the exhilaration," he said. "I love the experience of going so fast, so high and upside down."
His friend Earl Van Alstyne, 25, of Atlanta, agreed. "I'm a thrill seeker, Adrenaline is a drug, and am addicted,."At the next ride, Greg Cosani operated the Gravitron - a spaceship-styled ride where riders enter and are pinned to the wall by gravity.
What happens if a rider gets scared or even passes out?
"We stop the ride immediately, and call EMS," he said. That happened in anoter town recently; a girl fainted during the ride. "We had EMS there in three minutes,' he said.
Bulloch County EMS and the Bulloch County Sheriff's department is on hand every minute the Fair is open when the event is in town.
What draws sommeone like Cosani to work at a carnival?
"The smiles," he said. "On a fine night in a nice town like this, the thank yous we get, and showing people a good time" are what is in it for him.
As he helped others onto the Gravitron, Statesboro's Kaycee Charette, 17, prepared for her first ride that night.
"I like it because you can't move," she said. "It pins you to the wall and you get that stomach-drop feeling."
That is what Erykah Palmer, 14, and Arreyonna Cone, also 14, said they liked about the Tornado, a ride with several arms ending in a cluster of four seats that spin as they rotate around the center.
"It's so fun to go fast and high," Cone said.
William Ball operated that ride, and explained the task fo making surfe everyone stayed safe. "You watch for kids tring to climb out and feet hanging," he said with a grin.
But even as the rides drew screams and laughter, the fun doesn't stop there. Many people carried large stuffed animals, small inflatables and other toys and prizes they won from the games of chance.
Rusty Freeman lives in Hilton Head, but takes his "balloons and darts" game to several Fairs across the country, including some for Amusements of America.
As a military retiree, he is used to traveling and enjoys it, he said."I like meeting lots of different people."
He enjoys seeing people walk away happy as well, such as prize-winner Tonda Brown, 24, a Georgia Southern University student from Stone Mountain.
She carried a cute stuffed animal she won at a game where you squirt a stream of water into a small hole.
"I knew it was an easy game I could win without getting addicted and not winning something," she said."I like winning prizes, plus the thrill of the game."
Today is the last day of the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair until next year. Gates open at 1 a.m., and a wrist stamp for $20 will allow unlimited rides. The stamps will be sold all day, and admission is $5.