WRAL.com at the State Fair

State Fair taps Sanford company for sky lift

Posted January 25, 2016

Fireworks over the North Carolina State Fair on October 21, 2015. (Photo by: Jerome Carpenter/WRAL Contributor)

— Visitors to the North Carolina State Fair could hop over midway crowds in a new "aerial lift" under a plan the Council of State is set to approve next week.

American Sky Lifts of Sanford will lease the space needed to operate the lift at the fairgrounds. That lease must be approved Tuesday by the council, which is made up of 10 statewide elected officials, including the governor and agriculture commissioner.

The ride will operate roughly 30 feet off the ground and serve as both an amusement right and a way to alleviate congestion through some of the fair's busiest areas, said Kent Yelverton, property and construction manager for the state Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, which runs the annual fair. As currently envisioned, the chair-lift-style ride will carry passengers from an area near Gate 8 and the Village of Yesteryear 1,400 feet over the midway – and past an often congested lane of food vendors – to an area near the Gov. Kerr Scott Building on the Blue Ride Road side of the property.

"If you think about where it's running ... you bypass a pretty restricted pedestrian area," Yelverton said.

In exchange for a 10-year lease to operate the ride, the company will remit 32 percent of its ticket sales to the Department of Agriculture. The ride's towers and lines will be installed year-round at the fairgrounds, while the chairs that run along the ride will be removed when not in use, Yelverton said. However, the company will have the option of operating the ride at times other than the fair, such as the Got to Be NC Festival in May.

Roughly 1.1 million people visited the 11-day State Fair in 2015.

According to business records filed with the Secretary of State's Office, American Sky Lifts was incorporated in 2013 by Robert Fulton and Ronnie Turner, both of Sanford. The company submitted one of three bids for the lift contract and was the only bid from a North Carolina company.

Yelverton said this is the first lift ride the company has built and was required, as a result, to partner for construction with a more experienced firm in order to bid on the contract.


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  • Scott Householder Jan 25, 2016
    user avatar

    @ Steve E. - James E. Strates midways always had the chair lift ride. I remember being on it many times as a kid and young adult. That was back when the good 'ol boy network ran the fair and there was no bidding process. I also remember one time when Powers Great American ran the midway...this was, in my opinion, the BESt midway ever to grace the fairgrounds (the carnies all had collared company Polo shirts, name tags and were clean cut) and Meg Scott Phipps was subsequently screwed because of some reason or another ( I don't remember the specifics, perhaps someone else on here will). I am glad to see the ride returning, although it does say in the article (last paragraph) that this will be the first build for American Sky Lifts. Maybe I'll go on the 5th or 6th day....lol. I'm also glad to see it is a company from NC!
    Got To Be NC!!

  • Steve Eubanks Jan 25, 2016
    user avatar

    The chair lift used to be my favorite ride as a kid. The last time I went to the fair (several years ago), I was shocked it wasn't part of the fair anymore. I would totally consider going again if the chair lift was back.