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The Serious Risks of Traveling Carnival Parks

A day at the carnival or fairground often brings back childhood memories of cotton candy, Ferris wheels, and fun times. From summer nights under the twinkling lights to silly games at autumn festivals, there’s something for everyone. However, underneath these exciting distractions, these pop-up parks can hide devastating dangers for visitors and employees alike.

Because carnivals and fairs are often traveling or temporary, the rides and other attractions are built to be set up and taken down with relative ease. Being constantly on the move contributes to significant wear and tear on the rides and attractions, and even burnout amongst the personnel in charge of assembling, disassembling, and operating them.

Common Causes of Injuries at Carnivals

Many people are drawn to amusement parks and pop-up carnivals for the thrills they can enjoy on rides and attractions. Sometimes, it’s the adrenaline rush and even the fear that appeals. However, it’s not always just fun.

The most common causes of injuries at pop-up carnivals and fairs include:

How to Stay Safe at Carnivals

Of course, there are a few things that fairground visitors can do to increase their safety while enjoying rides at a local pop-up carnival.

  • Adhere to height restrictions. Don’t try to trick the system! If your child is not tall enough according to the rules, it’s not safe to ride.
  • Pay attention to the ride attendants. Are they doing their jobs effectively and efficiently? Are they keeping an eye on the machinery and checking guests’ restraints?
  • Respect safety warnings. Fences and warning signs are there for a reason. Don’t wander into restricted zones; many of these areas are restricted because of moving parts or other dangers and you should keep your distance.
  • Keep all appendages (hands, arms, feet, legs, etc.) inside the ride. You often hear this warning at Disneyland and other amusement parks, but even if they don’t suggest it at a traveling carnival, it’s important for your safety.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand a rule or you’re unsure whether you’re buckled in properly, the attendants must address your concerns and answer your questions.

How Are Pop-Up Carnivals Regulated?

Non-permanent rides, such as those at a fairground or traveling carnival, are regulated by a different governmental body than fixed rides at amusement parks such as those operated by Six Flags or Disney. Fixed-site amusement parks are subject to regulation by local and state agencies, while non-permanent rides, inflatables, and go-karts are regulated by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC manages recalls and laws surrounding unsafe products. Read our blog post on theme parks and water parks to learn more about the dangers of fixed-site amusement parks.

Considering this distinction, any injuries or wrongful deaths that occur due to unsafe carnival rides may be cause for a product liability case against the manufacturer of the ride, the carnival itself, or both.

Reading the Fine Print at Carnivals

When you enter the fairgrounds, or the temporary location taken over by the traveling carnival, you are covered by premises liability. When you enjoy a pop-up ride at the fair, such as go-karts or a mechanical spinning ride, you are covered by product liability.

Even if riders are greeted with a warning like “ride at your own risk” as they enter the ride, or if there’s similar fine print on a ticket stub, the ride operator is not absolved from liability. In fact, while a ticket stub is especially helpful in an investigation, it’s not a necessary piece of evidence for a recovery claim.

Should you or a loved one be injured while aboard a ride, or even walking near a ride or other carnival attraction, it’s important to gather as much evidence as possible to share with your lawyer. Take photos and videos of the area and structure and try to gather as much photo and video evidence of the accident as possible from friends and passersby. If you do have a ticket stub, be sure to keep it in a safe place.

2017 Fire Ball Ride Malfunction at Ohio State Fair

In 2017, an accident on a ride at the Ohio State Fair left one dead and seven injured. The Fire Ball ride, owned by Amusements of America, malfunctioned due to what was later determined to be excessive corrosion damage. In response to this tragic accident, several states including Tennessee, California, Indiana, and Kentucky issued orders banning all Fire Ball amusement rides from operating within their borders.

2019 Xtreme Super Sizzler Malfunction at Harvest Festival

The parents of a 10-year-old girl were left to mourn in 2019 when their daughter was ejected from the Xtreme Super Sizzler ride while it was operating at the Harvest Festival in New Jersey. This is especially tragic because the state of California had mandated seat belts on this ride in 2006 after a series of ejections like this one. However, the ride had passed New Jersey state inspections and allegedly did not require seat belts. In the wake of this accident, the state of New Jersey ordered a full shutdown of the ride.

2021 Magic Carpet Ride Malfunction at National Cherry Festival

In 2021, a terrifying incident at the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, MI could have proven deadly if it weren’t for the heroic actions of several bystanders. The Magic Carpet Ride, which spins riders vertically on a single large arm, started rocking violently back and forth, threatening to fall while the ride was operating with passengers on board. Fortunately, no one was injured, but it was only because several passersby leapt into action, using their body weight to stabilize the ride until the spinning arm came to a stop.

The ride was taken apart by the next morning and has since been scrapped.

Who Do I Contact If I Was Injured at a Carnival?

If you or your child were injured while at a fair or carnival, regardless of whether the injury occurred on board a ride or not, it’s important to act as quickly as possible to gather evidence in pursuit of a claim. Because these events and attractions are often temporary, you can’t rely on the ride or even the operators being there for much longer after the incident. In extreme cases, the ride may even be disassembled the next day, like the Magic Carpet Ride incident at the National Cherry Festival in Michigan.

Don’t wait to file a personal injury claim. A law firm like Arnold & Itkin can help you make your case and win the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to learn more.


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