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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 11, 2011

The Stinger: A million-dollar ride makes American debut in Altamont

By Anne Hayden

ALTAMONT FAIR — What costs a million dollars, weighs over 100,000 pounds, and will make its American debut next week at the Altamont Fair?

The Stinger.

Reithoffer Shows, the company that has been providing midway games and shows at the Altamont Fair for over 20 years, will unveil its newest ride, straight off the boat from Italy, at the fair beginning on Aug. 16.

Last week, the 24-meter-high pendulum ride was being assembled, against a backdrop of a brilliant blue sky and puffy white clouds.

“It’s the hottest ride in Europe right now,” said Rick Reithoffer, as he squinted up into the sun to watch a worker climb up the side of the ride. “I can’t wait to get on it,” he said, as the arm of the ride began to swing back and forth during testing. 

The Stinger debuted overseas last year. The family-owned company paid roughly $1 million to bring it to the United States. It took two weeks to make the journey to this country, and had to travel on board a ship, due to its weight.

It is the first “Stinger” in the country and only the 11th in the world. Richard Reithoffer, the fourth in a line of family members running the Reithoffer Show, since 1896, said his family has always prided itself on bringing the newest rides to the American public.

“When I was growing up, there weren’t these super-rides that you have now,” said Reithoffer. He named the Ferris wheel, octopus, merry-go-round, and the scrambler as the most “thrilling” rides from his childhood, most of which are still standard at the Altamont Fair.

“The rides have evolved over the last 40 years to be bigger, better, and faster,” said Reithoffer. “It is basically like we’re bringing amusement park rides to outdoor fair venues.”

Most of the big-ride manufacturers are based in Europe, and Reithoffer said he travels across the Atlantic each year to see what is new, and to determine what would appeal most to Americans. He went to Italy for two weeks last year to look at the “Stinger” at a carnival, riding it to get a feel for the thrill factor.

His son, Rick Reithoffer, was the first to test the ride on the Altamont fairgrounds after it was set up last week. Two Italians accompanied the ride on its journey to America, and helped get it set up on the fairgrounds.

“My son said it was the best ride he has been on, and he’s been on them all,” said Reithoffer.

The “Stinger” is considered an inversion ride; the seat is a gondola shape that spins and loops, while the main arm that holds the seats swings like a pendulum and eventually swings all the way upside down and over.

“It is a unique ride mixing together the effects of a flyover spinning pendulum and the typical looping twirl of a roller-coaster ride,” according to the manufacturer’s website. The riders experience strong negative and positive accelerations, giving them incredible weight-change sensations.

“Our industry is one where, when people come to the fair, they aren’t just spectators, they get to experience the rides for themselves; I love watching people experience that thrill,” Reithoffer said. He never really considered going into any other profession but the family business.

For 115 years, Reithoffer Shows’ motto has been “Entertaining America,” and Reithoffer said he plans to do just that at the Altamont Fair.

“I think people are going to love it; they’ll come check it out and people will be lining up to ride it,” said Reithoffer of the newest attraction.

This year, for the second time, rides are included in the price of admission to the fair.

“It was a big experiment at the fair last year, to pay at the gate and have all the rides free, but the crowd seemed to receive it really well,” Reithoffer said. He hopes that an even bigger crowd will be drawn by the inclusive $15 ticket price this year.

“I’m hoping we have a great year,” Reithoffer concluded. “We’re going to have the best set of rides we’ve ever had at the Altamont Fair, and we’re looking forward to spending part of our summer on the fairgrounds.”

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