Local News

Companies Lining Up For State Fair Midway Contract

Posted July 11, 2003 5:36 a.m. EDT

— It is a decision that affects the fun for hundreds of thousands of state fairgoers, but despite the short notice, 16 carnival companies have said they are interested in running the rides in October.

"The process is moving just as we hoped it would," interim state Agriculture Commissioner Britt Cobb said.

Cobb recently tossed out the contract of Amusements of America, this year's midway operator, to wipe the slate clean of suspicion. So far, that suspicion has led to indictments against former Ag Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps and three of her former aides.

To eliminate the appearance of favoritism, Cobb established a new process. The company that meets all the safety, ride, and game guidelines and then makes the highest bid will be the new midway operator.

Dan Finch, a member of the Agriculture Board's fair advisory committee, fully supports the quest for fairness, but he worries about companies that may stretch to win the deal.

"My concern is if you go for high bid, there may be some process that they're going to ultimately come up with that may be underhanded or maybe illegal or may hurt the fair to make up for the bid," he said.

In other fairs where high bidders won contracts, some operators hiked prices or shortened rides. Some were accused of manipulating games for extra profit.

"We're very much aware that this is a possibility. It's something we've addressed and we'll certainly be addressing it with the companies that submit bids," Cobb said.

Cobb says the quality of the North Carolina State Fair is riding on it.