At every great carnival, one can surely find cotton candy, giant stuffed animal prizes — and thrill-seekers, high atop every spinning, whirling ride.
Tavi Holmes is one of them. For as long as he can remember, he’s been coming to the carnival at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo looking for the rides that make him feel like he’s flying.
“I’m a hyper dude, and it’s an adrenaline rush,” said Holmes as he stepped off the Freak Out, a ride where a crane lifts and swings seats in the air as passengers squeal. “I just feel free.”
There are just shy of 50 rides at the rodeo carnival, said Gary Denton, assistant manager for Wade Shows Inc., which puts on the carnival. And the so-called thrill rides are always a significant draw for people looking for that extra-special rush, he said.
“They like to live on the edge, see how far they can go,” Denton said.
In the Walsh family, the thrill-seeker is William, 10, who was gearing up Friday afternoon to ride the Super Shot: Passengers sit in chairs arranged on a center pole; the seats lift slowly, and then plummet before coming to a sudden stop just above the ground.
“He’s our rider,” said his father, Bob Walsh. “He rides ‘em all.”
Walsh called to his younger son, Patrick. “You should go ride it!”
Patrick, 8, shook his head and smiled. “It looks freaky,” he said. “I’m not willing to lose my life on a ride.”
There are three types of carnival rides, said Red Cox, general manager of Wade Shows. The kiddie rides, like the carousel and minicoasters, are for small children. The intermediate ones, such as the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Sizzler, can suit both children and adults.
Then there are the major rides — “something that excites you when you get on,” Cox said — the up-in-the-air, whooosh rides.
For Frederick Douglas, his favorite thrill ride was the Power, a 132-foot-tall yellow crane with a set of seats at each end.
“I’m addicted to it right now,” said Douglas, who had just gotten off work at the AT&T Center, where he converts the flooring for different events. He found it difficult to describe how riding the Power felt, though he expressed it later in a series of whoops and hollers as he went for his fifth — yes, fifth — ride.
“It’s a rush,” said operator Teddy Bear Feldmann. “Being 130 feet in the air is just awesome.”
But plenty of visitors come not for the thrill but for the memories.
The Tilt-a-Whirl is still one of the top 10 rides, though it’s considered intermediate and was originally popular in the 1940s or ’50s, Denton said.
Mothers and fathers want to ride with their children on the rides like the carousel, Denton said, “because when they were young, their mothers and fathers put them in the carousel.”