Sunday, December 7, 2008

What This City Needs is a Ferris Wheel

A few years after we moved to Richmond, we attended a low-key carnival shoehorned into a spot between the flood wall and the canal near the turning basin. (Back then, it was a dingy parking lot and dumping ground for construction and railroad materials; now it's a multi-million-dollar condominium.)

The most memorable feature of the day was the witheringly hot blacktop on which we stood in line with 2-year-old Emily for this little ride or that little ride, only to have her nerve give out when it was finally her turn. Then, at last, we boarded a Ferris wheel, and that's when I fell in love with Ferris wheels.

As small as it was, that wheel lifted us up above the baking asphalt, above the flood wall, high enough to catch a breeze and see the city stumbling away in all directions from the river's banks. At the zenith, we were about the same height as the cars on the Downtown Expressway, rushing past not too far away--yet I felt in a different world: they had somewhere to go, apparently, and quickly; I had only a circle in which to go, and another, and another, none of them taking up any time at all, it seemed.

Ever since then, I've been convinced that Richmond's Canal Walk needs a permanent Ferris wheel. Sedate, tastefully lit, operated by someone's grandpa (who only smokes on official breaks, not while buckling children into their seats, which I've seen happen at the State Fair), accompanied by live big-band music at twilight on summer weekends, powered entirely by the James River....

This is on my mind because I recently learned that Kings Dominion is opening a "new" Ferris wheel this coming season--24 gondolas, each seating 6 people. (It's coming from the former Geauga Lake Amusement Park in Ohio, also the original home of KD's "new" Dominator ride.) We get up to KD once every two or three years; I dread it every time but often end up having a good time in spite of myself.

Next time we go, I'll make it a point to become good and irritated at the heat, the crowds, the cartoons, the plastic and the noise; that'll make the Ferris wheel ride all the better.


  1. positively crackling with energy! great! But, what is a turning basin which is now a condo?

  2. Great idea. I remember that carnival!

    Do you remember the Merry -Go-Round in the field next to Tredegar Iron Works. It was there for months. Like the one at the Smithsonian Mall in DC.

    A lone Merry-go-round in a field next to the river was a wonderful sight. Or a ferris wheel.

    And the idea of powering it by water, tying into the history of heavy industry and the river, and pointing the way towards green industry...sign me up!