It’s a treat to see the classic and rarely seen Sky Wheel, one of the flashiest carnival rides of the late 1950’s and ’60s, in action on the midway at the 2012 Wisconsin State Fair. Coney Island photographer/videographer Jim McDonnell made a trip to the fair this past weekend and brought back this POV video.
The ride is owned by McDonagh Amusements and is a 1965 Allan Herschell model refurbished by them in 2003. After the Wisconsin fair closes on August 12, the Sky Wheel will travel to two American fairs famed for their independent midways: the Minnesota State Fair (August 23- September 3) and the State Fair of Texas (September 28-October 21).
Seeing the video brings back memories of the Velare brothers, Curtis and Elmer, who pioneered the eye-catching idea of two Ferris wheels, and then four, set up in a row. Their first Sky Wheel — a double wheel– debuted with Royal American Shows at Tampa and Orlando in 1940. In 1958, they introduced the Space Wheel– a double double wheel. A Billboard ad from our collection trumpets the 92-foot-tall Space Wheel as “The Greatest of all Portable Rides,” “Brilliantly Illuminated,” “Unequaled Public Appeal” and “Front Page Publicity.”
In 1960, Allan Herschell, the merry-go-round and kiddie ride manufacturer in North Tonawanda, NY, bought the patent rights to manufacture the double wheels from the Velares. Herschell president Lyndon Wilson paid tribute to the Velares’ tenacity and ingenuity. He told the Billboard that it took 20 years of hard work by the Velares to develop the double wheel and the double double wheel from wheels which were all steel and had cable drives to wheels with part aluminum, part steel construction and dual friction drives that operate like clockwork.
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October 8, 2010: Traveler: Most Beautiful Video of the State Fair of Texas
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