Local News

New Company Chosen To Run State Fair Midway This Year

Posted January 7, 2004

— A different company will be operating the midway at the North Carolina State Fair for the third straight year.

Reithoffer Shows,

of Gibsonton, Fla., made the highest bid among three presented Tuesday to the state Agriculture Department.

Reithoffer beat out Strates Shows, which ran the midway last year.

Wade Shows of Michigan also presented a bid.

Reithoffer will pay the state $5.81 per paying customer to the 10-day fair in October. A company spokesman said it is committed to high safety standards and a variety of rides for both adults and children.

"I guess I'm a little surprised that they took it," said Jack Stoorza, of Reithoffer Shows. "I'm certainly glad they did."

The paperwork should be signed with the state Wednesday.

Agriculture Commissioner Britt Cobb agreed to the open-bid process last year in the wake of the campaign finance scandal involving ex-commissioner Meg Scott Phipps. She had chosen Amusements of America to operate the fair, but the state canceled that deal.

Reithoffer already operates the Cleveland and Davidson county fairs.

Cobb praised Reithoffer for its rides and safety record.

"They have a very fine reputation from fairs they play up and down the East Coast," Cobb said.

Records show that a 7-year-old boy died on a Reithoffer rollercoaster in 2001. The company was sued but not found criminally negligent.

Reithoffer's winning bid was less than last year's winning bid and ends a run by Strates, which controlled the North Carolina midway for more than a half century.

Strates sued when Phipps chose Amusements of America to run the 2002 fair. Admissions of conspiracy and extortion likely will land her in prison.

Strates is not crying foul this time.

"We put in what we thought was a fair bid," said Jim Strates, of Strates Shows. "Someone outbid us, so the process was fair. Everyone saw it right here."

Some carnival companies complain that the high-bid one-year contracts put them at financial risk. Cobb said it's the best way he knows to prevent another scandal.

"We know that it worked well for North Carolina," he said. "It benefited us greatly.

"We had committed to this process for two years, and we'll be re-evaluating it in the coming months."

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