High ride offers fair-goers new perspective

Cars and trucks on Interstate 75 looked more like Hot Wheels rolling on for miles past the colorful carnival of tents and tiny people.

“You don’t realize how far up you are until you start panicking like I did,” Melissa Young said of the 150-foot view from America’s largest traveling Ferris wheel. “It was amazing (and) it was scary.”

The giant wheel was one of the main attractions at the 28th Georgia National Fair, which kicked off Thursday.

“It’s really big,” Young said after she, her husband and 3-year-old daughter got out of the gondola. “This is our first time here. We just moved from Augusta, so that was a nice ride to start with.”

Since the wheel was shipped in pieces to Florida from the Netherlands late last year, it has only traveled to Florida, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Oklahoma state fairs. Georgia is the wheel’s last fair of the year.

“So far it has mesmerized crowds wherever it’s went,” said Michael Wood, co-owner of the wheel and vice president of The Biggest Wheel LLC.

An 80-ton crane and six miles of electrical wiring are needed to assemble the wheel, which also displays an eye-catching show from the 524,000 LED lights that cover both sides.

It takes 16 people about 800 hours to assemble the wheel’s 500 pieces, Wood said. It takes another 800 hours to dismantle it.

Asked how he came to buy the $4 million wheel, Wood, a third generation fair businessman, said, “I’m from Texas. Big is better.”

Rides last about eight minutes and tickets cost $5.

Though there was no line for the wheel in the first couple hours of the fair’s first day, Wood said he expects 50,000-60,000 people will ride the Mega Mile over the fair’s 11 days.

“My favorite thing about the wheel is. ... how well it does in bringing people together,” Wood said. “This is something that every member of the family can do together.”

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor