In many people’s jobs, finding something out of the ordinary is a good thing. Not, though, if your job is to inspect the carnival rides at the Illinois State Fair. Doug Rathbun, manager of the carnival and amusement ride inspection division of the Illinois Department of Labor, says his staff has actually expanded to five inspectors. They spend the three days before the fair opens making sure rides are safe.
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Rathbun says for children, parents have to be involved in safety as well – not putting kids on rides for which they’re too small, or that they are afraid of. Also, he says, parents should tell children to hold handrails and obey the operator. As for the operators, the image of the fleabag carnival with scary-looking “carnies” is one that was well-earned in the past, says Pat Repp, general manager of North American Midway Entertainment, the longtime provider of midway rides. In these days of background checks, Repp says that kind of person could not get a job with a reputable company today. Repp, who says he went on the road at age 12 from Avon, says his company travels to about 35 events a year, taking the winter off. The Illinois State Fair runs Aug. 12-21.