SKOWHEGAN — When the 197th annual Skowhegan State Fair comes to town next month, some of the rides on the midway will be operated by Smokey’s Greater Shows, a Maine-based carnival company cited by state officials recently for safety violations following ride accidents that injured three children and a woman.

Skowhegan fair officials say they’re not worried and the show will go on.

Gene Dean, president and CEO of Fiesta Shows, the midway operator that will provide ride space for Smokey’s rides, said all of the attractions will be inspected before the fair opens and riders will be safe. The Skowhegan State Fair, the longest continuously operating country fair in the nation, runs from Aug. 13 to Aug. 22.

“Smokey brought in a few rides for us last year, and she will be bringing in a few rides this year — she is very well qualified,” Dean said of the owner of Smokey’s Greater Shows, Jeannette Gilmore, 61, of Strong. “I think she is a good operator and had an unfortunate incident in Waterville, and thankfully, nobody was seriously hurt.”

Dean said he and Gilmore are in the business of putting people in motion “like an airline or like a train, buses or taxicabs — anything that puts people in motion — and we work on safety every day and want it as safe as possible.”

Dean said employees who operate the rides will be trained properly, and he is confident the Skowhegan fair will be a success again this year.

Gilmore and one of her employees were charged by the Office of the State Fire Marshal last week in connection with a pair of separate ride accidents in June at a three-day carnival at Head of Falls in Waterville that injured three children and a woman. Both are due in court Sept. 22.

Gilmore was served a summons charging her with failure to train a mechanical “swing ride” operator, which is a civil, or noncriminal, violation punishable with a fine of up to $1,000. That accident occurred the afternoon of June 13 when a woman unbuckled her safety restraint on the Air Time swing ride and fell off it.

Gilmore did not respond to a request for comment.

Arthur Gillette, 49, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, also was issued a summons charging him with falsifying physical evidence, a class D crime, punishable by up to 364 days in jail or a $2,000 fine or both.

Gillette was the ride supervisor for Smokey’s Greater Shows in Waterville when the malfunction occurred the night of June 12 on the Dragon Wagon roller coaster, injuring three children. In that incident, two of the small roller coaster’s cars decoupled while it was running. When investigators from the fire marshal’s office arrived, Gillette was trying to repair or alter the physical condition of the ride, constituting the violation, fire marshals said.

News of the two accidents at Smokey’s Greater Shows in Waterville — which occurred less than 24 hours apart — prompted at least one festival last month, Friends of Windjammer Days festival in Boothbay Harbor, to remove Smokey’s rides from its program. While organizers said they “erred on the side of caution” in deciding to cancel Smokey’s rides, other summer festivals are going ahead with the operation.

Julie Costigan, the former fire chief for the town of Starks, said she doesn’t have children going to the fair anymore, “but if Skowhegan has Smokey’s for their midway, I feel they won’t have very good sales for the rides.”

Melvin Blaisdell, vice president of the Skowhegan State Fair, said bringing in Smokey’s rides is “no big deal.”

“It was a malfunction on a ride in Waterville. I don’t think it was anybody’s fault. They were inspected by the fire marshal,” Blaisdell said. “When Gene brings them in, they’re inspected. We contract with Fiesta, and they have a super-good safety record, so I’m sure they will check them too.”

He said Smokey’s Greater Shows has been in business for 60 years and has a good safety record.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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