The autumn months aren’t the most exciting for the majority of teenagers. With the beginning of the school year, students’ lives take a drastic turn from happy and carefree to another year of hard work. The Italian Festival is a nice, timely event for students who are looking for some reprieve from the start of school. The St. Jude Italian Festival is an annual event that many citizens of Monroe partake in. It usually runs for four days, filled with food, fun, and games; however the rides are the main attraction. Families and friend groups come together every year to challenge their bravery and stomachs. However, a big concern arises. Are these rides, rotating and flying people in the air at high speeds, even in the slightest safe? Are the rides inspected for proper safety standards?
Traveling carnival’s are an age-old American tradition. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition started in Chicago and was the world’s first traveling carnival. 129 years later, a lot has changed. Modern traveling carnivals sign contracts with local governments in order to hold their events, which is most likely the case for St. Jude’s Festival. These contracts force carnival companies to take responsibility for any injuries caused within their premises. It is expected from a traveling carnival to ensure safety for its carnival goers, as injuries would negatively impact the carnival company as well, perhaps putting them out of business.
Stewart Amusement Co. is a carnival company that supplies the Italian Festival with their rides. The company has been supplying rides to the carnival industry for over 100 years. With a number like that, one would imagine the company possesses an abundance of experience. But in 2013 that experience was put to the test.
On Sept. 8, 2013, one of the rides at the Oyster Festival of Norwalk experienced a catastrophic failure. The Zumur swing ride, a ride with people on swings rotating at high speeds, had a drive system issue. The drive system allows the ride to rotate, but unfortunately a malfunction had caused the system to stop. This sudden stop threw many riders’ swings into each other.
According to reports, even though all safety protocols were properly performed, it appeared that the drive shaft’s internal weakness had been overlooked. These supposed “thorough” safety inspections missed such a crucial fault in the ride’s structural integrity.
“Once those things are set in place, they shouldn’t have to be adjusted,” said Stewart Amusement Co. when responding to the claim by the ride manufacturer that the gears of the ride had not been properly maintained. The disastrous event resulted in 18 injuries, sending 13 people to the hospital. Although the Zumur swing ride is not a ride that is present at the annual Italian Festival, the failure in safety inspection sets a scary precedent for frequenters. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported a total of 30,900 carnival injuries yearly.
After learning about the incident in 2013, senior Aidan Haughney, had a few comments about the Italian Festival.
“I imagine that since it is a one off incident that it was unrelated to the company itself and just a faulty piece of machinery,” Haughney explained. “I would still wanna go on the rides of the festival, considering the incident was nearly 10 years ago and I personally haven’t seen or heard of any rides malfunction as of recent.”
Despite knowledge of the potential unsafety at traveling carnivals, some people still decide to go. Parents on the other hand are a lot more skeptical. Brendan Boyle, the father of sophomore Evan Boyle, was more worried regarding the safety of the Italian Festival after hearing about the Norwalk Carnival incident.
“Knowing that I would maybe think twice about going on some of the rides; knowing that, it’s a little bit scarier. Maybe I shouldn’t let [Evan Boyle] go.” Although inspections and proper regulations are required to hold a carnival, how can one really guarantee their own or loved one’s safety?
Rides are not the only danger that you may face at a carnival. Carnival food should also be a cause of concern next time you visit a local carnival. The CDC has an entire article dedicated to vetting the food safety at fairs or festivals. It’s common knowledge that carnival food may not be the healthiest, but is it dangerous?
Connecticut Law dictates that all food at carnival’s follow certain standards, for example, “food-contact surfaces, including utensils and food-contact surfaces of equipment, shall be cleaned as frequently as necessary to protect against contamination of food.” However, the question is raised again, are these regulations being properly enforced?
The fact of the matter is that no one really knows whether a carnival is going to be completely safe. But that does not mean you can’t enjoy the American tradition of the traveling fair. Although carnival food may not be the healthiest, and the rides might not be the safest, that’s life. If we live life tip-toeing around every possible danger, then when will one have time to actually live life? No matter the risk, most are still planning on visiting the Italian Festival when it comes back around next fall. Ultimately, that decision lies on the individual. Though there may be uncertainty attached to the Italian Festival, that won’t stop the Masuk community from enjoying it.