I do realize that today is Valentine’s Day, a day of hearts and flowers and candy. But some of us are also celebrating another holiday today—Ferris Wheel Day. George Ferris, the inventor of the “iconic” Ferris wheel was born on February 14, 1859.
|The First Ferris Wheel at the 1892 World's Fair|
For anyone not familiar with the facts, a brief summary: When the U.S. was looking for something for the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair that would top the Eiffel Tower that France built for their 1889 World’s Fair, George Ferris came up with the idea for a huge “observation wheel.” And I don’t use the word “huge” lightly here. The wheel section for his ride had a diameter of 250 feet and a circumference of 825 feet.
There were 36 wooden cars attached to the ride and they each held 40 riders sitting down, or up to 60 people standing. I can’t help wondering how much observation people were able to do if they were packed like a bunch of sardines in one of these cars, but it’s amazing to think of that many people being lifted around this huge wheel at one time.
I’m grateful to Ferris for inventing this ride because I’ve always preferred his Ferris wheel over the other big amusement ride—the roller coaster. I’m not a fan of thrill rides. I think life provides enough of a roller coaster ride; I don’t need any more thrilling ups and downs when I go out to be amused for the day. I much prefer the leisurely circular motion of the Ferris wheel, and the chance to stop and enjoy the scenery as the other cars are loaded.
However, celebrating Ferris Wheel Day poses a problem for those of us living in the Northeast. There aren’t any amusement parks open this time of year, so riding a Ferris wheel is out of the question. But I thought a nice tribute to Ferris might be to visit and post a picture of one of the historic descendants of the first Ferris wheel, the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island, built in 1922. This is an interesting version of the Ferris wheel because the cars are attached in such a way that you can manipulate them to swing back and forth between the center and the edge of the wheel as you ride. (Not that I’ve ever been brave enough to do that, but no doubt those who enjoy thrill rides find it fun.)
So I grabbed my camera and my blog co-writer Stretch and headed to Coney Island. We froze our keisters trotting along the boardwalk only to discover that all the cars had been taken off the Wonder Wheel for the winter to refurbish them. But Stretch, ever the trouper, posed for this photo with the shell of the Wonder Wheel.
And he sagely suggested that next year we stay home and play with his replica Ferris wheel while we pig out on Valentine chocolates.