Local News

Nation's Top 20 Carnival Operators Can Bid On State Fair

Posted July 2, 2003

— The Amusements of America contract with the State Fair was scrapped because of a public corruption scandal involving the state Agriculture Department. That company is threatening to sue, but there is the possibility that a new selection process could result in the very same company running the midway.

When interim Ag Commissioner Britt Cobb tossed out Amusements of America's state fair midway contract Tuesday, he opened up a whole new set of challenges.

"I know it's a sound decision and I stand by that decision," Cobb said.

In a matter of weeks, Cobb wants to complete a selection process that typically takes months. First, the state will notify the top 20 carnival operators in North America that the fair is again up for bid. Interested companies that have the October dates open can apply.

Operators must meet a new set of criteria including safety history, number and quality of rides and prizes. Those that make the cut can then bid what they will pay the state per fairgoer.

At that point, Cobb said lobbying and favoritism will be eliminated because the highest bidder wins.

"It's going to be a very clean, clear-cut, open process for anyone to view," he said.

Many fairgoers liked the changes Amusements of America brought to last year's fair. Despite the voided contract, Amusements of America is still in the running. If the company meets the criteria and makes the highest bid, they could be running the midway again.

"Every top 20 company will be treated the same," Cobb said.

However, state Attorney General Roy Cooper believes Amusements of America may sue instead.

"If they're going to be suing the state over the initial contract maybe a bid would not be appropriate," he said.

Joe Cheshire, attorney for Amusements of America, says the state has no right to cancel the contract. No one from the company has been charged in the scandal. However, he says that Amusements will reapply in the new bidding process. If they do not win the contract, they say they plan to sue.

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