The carnival came to town but some folks are glad it’s gone.
The annual Bohemia Mining Days (BMD) carnival camped at Bohemia Park is one of the largest draws of the four-day festival. However this year, dozens took to social media to complain about the quality and safety of the rides, prompting carnival and BMD leadership to meet and investigate the claims.
“Safety is our number one priority,” said Crystal Haas, partial owner and human resources contact for Rainier Amusements, the company that provided the carnival to BMD.
The company has two separate traveling carnivals, one led by Haas and the other by extended family members. And while Haas said the company takes every complaint seriously, she noted that not all complaints carried the weight of truth.
“I had a woman call me and say there was a problem with the seatbelt on one of the rides. But that ride wasn’t in Cottage Grove. It was in Battle Ground Wasington with me,” she said. “She then called back saying it was a different ride.”
BMD coordinator Cindy Weeldreyer told The Sentinel that, in her experience, there are a handful of carnival-goers every year that complain about the rides.
This year’s carnival saw more than 70 residents answer a post by BMD’S Wendy Johnson inquiring as to the rumors of carnival safety and dissatisfaction among attendees.
Rochelle Clark said she attended the BMD carnival as a teenager and returned with her young children this year. “My son rode the ride that took them pretty high up and he said his seatbelt came undone while it was going and he had to hold it against him,” she said. When she approached the ride’s operator she said she was told the seatbelts cannot come undone unless she undoes them. “Then we saw my husband’s friend and he said he, or his kid, was on the ferris wheel and bolts fell out of the seat.”
Fellow BMD attendee Matt Gibson also said he had questions regarding the rides’ safety and noted “…the operators could care less about the people on the rides.”
Haas however, said that many of the rides that people have complained about are computer operated, including the seatbelts. “We inspect our rides every day and then the state inspects them as well. We have to follow strict guidelines and meet certain safety standards,” she said. She also addressed rumors that the ferris wheel at this year’s carnival was 70 years old.
“I don’t have it in front of me but I would say it’s 50 years old,” she said. “But those rides undergo a special inspection by the state and we comply with that,” she said. “I hire someone on my staff that inspects for the state and obviously they don’t do our state inspections because of the conflict, but we take safety very seriously. My children ride these rides.” She also noted that, according to her records, Rainier did not receive complaints through the customer service representation that was present at this year’s fair. Both Rainier and BMD staff were expected to meet after press deadline to discuss the complaints and investigate avenues to move forward.