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Little interest shown in rides at Washington County Ag Expo

July 24, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- After six days of lukewarm interest in the carnival rides introduced to the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair this year, event officials are uncertain whether they will bring them back next year, Washington County Agricultural Organization President Hal Spielman said.

Jimmy Mister, co-owner of Barstow, Md.-based M&M Amusements, said he's not sure he would want to come back.

Ticket sales for the rides have been so slow that they haven't even covered the carnival workers' wages, Mister said.

On Wednesday, the rides were scheduled to open at 4 p.m., but Mister said he saw no point. With the tractor pull rescheduled due to an earlier thunderstorm, the Expo's only activity Wednesday afternoon centered around the animal barns and exhibits. In the carnival area, the ticket booths and concession stands remained boarded up and the few remaining workers sat in their cars, waiting for enough interest to justify turning on the rides.

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M&M employee Stacy Mister said the busiest day for the rides was Monday, when competition from the Monster Truck Jam at Hagerstown Speedway had ended and the carnival sold unlimited-ride wristbands.

"That brought a little crowd," she said. "Nothing to be excited about."

The amusement company is paid through the sale of ride tickets on a percentage basis, so low interest in the carnival hurts both the amusement company and the event itself, Spielman said. Organizers also had to purchase additional insurance in order to offer the rides, he said.

Spielman said he has heard mixed feedback about the carnival addition.

"Some people said it's fine, and some people said we didn't need the rides and all that," he said. "I don't know which way we're going to go after the thing's over."

Visitors to the Expo on Wednesday seemed unconcerned to find the rides were not operating.

"It doesn't even matter to me," said Jack Ebersole of Hagerstown. "We come every year."

Ebersole was there with 6-year-old Logan Stewart, who said he was more interested in seeing the animals than riding the rides.

Terri Bearer, 48, of Hagerstown, said her family was there to check on their produce entries, but might have ridden the rides if they were open.

"I think if the weather would have permitted (people would have been interested)," she said. "It was so hot, and then all the rain."

Spielman said interest in the overall event took a hit this year, with attendance down slightly from last year.

"I don't know if it's because of the heat or the gas prices or whatever," he said.

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