WAHOO – The Saunders County Amusement Association is ready to for its annual run during the Wahoo Saddle Club Rodeo and Saunders County Fair.
Rides will be operating Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27. The full carnival, with rides and games, runs Tuesday, July 30 through Saturday, Aug. 3. Carnival hours are 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. each night.
While the carnival always brings excitement to the fairgrounds in Wahoo, this year has a little extra celebration.
This year is SCAA’s 30th anniversary.
SCAA President Robert Spicka said there was informal effort to have hometown rides at the fair prior to its formation, but the association itself was formed in November 1989.
Even aside from this being the 30th anniversary of SCAA, Saunders County Agricultural Society Vice President Theresa Klein said having the volunteer group as part of the fair is a big reason to celebrate every year.
“We are probably the luckiest county fair in the state, probably in the U.S., because we’ve got a fair with a safe and friendly carnival,” she said.
The dedication of the SCAA board and the willingness of so many volunteers to operate the rides and games, she added, is a part of the fair’s success.
Prior to the 1989 fair, Richard Vernon of Wahoo and other volunteers experimented with some simple games and rides. A 1989 Wahoo Newspaper article reported that the fair board was pleased with the experiment and agreed to allow the group to expand. The article stated that a train ride was being built and added to the county fair that year.
By 1990, the group had its eye on even bigger rides. A newspaper article prior to the 1990 fair reported the SCAA was looking at purchasing a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and an octopus ride. While those were going to be purchased as funds became available the group wanted to have at least one by that year’s fair.
Last year, the SCAA continued its quest to add to the carnival. Two rides were purchased and added to the midway.
Spicka said there were no new purchases this year, but the focus has been put on maintenance of the existing rides. For example, the carousel got a new awning.
There was a little more work to get done this week, but he said the rides have all been inspected by the state and should be ready to go for opening night Friday.
Getting the carnival ready each year takes a lot of volunteer hours.
This year, setup began in May.
“It’s usually going hard by June 1 for sure and that’s just stuff on the ground,” Spicka said.
Prior to May, there were already many meetings and discussions. Spicka and the other SCAA volunteers have plenty to plan and do before the first carnival ticket is purchased each year.
“There is a lot that goes on before it actually starts,” he said.
During the carnival, there is more work to do these days too. Spicka said regulations for carnival operation is getting stricter and there is a lot more paperwork to do. While the carnival games and rides can continue to be manned by volunteers for right now, there is training and documentation involved.
Still, all the work setting up the rides and managing a seven-day carnival run is worth it.
Spicka said having a carnival that is operated by friends and neighbors gives a lot of parents peace of mind. The atmosphere is kid friendly.
“It’s just comfortable,” he said. “It’s like sending them over to a buddy’s house.”
The kids seem to like it too.
Spicka said when he asks his kids what they think about the hometown carnival, the response is positive.
“It’s something to do in town,” he said. “It’s clean fun.”
Klein would agree with that. She said the Ag Society encourages county residents to volunteer to help at the carnival and, in general, to support SCAA.
“We encourage everyone to jump in and help,” Klein said. “You get to see a lot of people you know and it’s fun.”
Ticket costs will not change this year. They are $1 each.
Special wristband nights for rides will be on July 27, July 30 and Aug. 3. A purchase of a wristband will give access to all the rides without a ticket.
One small tweak has been made to the hours for kiddie rides this year. Those will stop at 10 p.m. Spicka said the rides for the youngest kids usually slowdown that last hour.
But, there is no slowing down for the rest of the activity on the midway.
Spicka, who has been a part of SCAA for 19 years, said there have been a lot of people who have been involved with the organization over the past three decades. Every so often, he added, it’s time to pass the torch onto new people.
Anyone wanting to become involved with SCAA or to get more information, may talk with Spicka or any board member during the carnival.
Other board members are Scott Nielson, Steve Olson, Leon Binstock and Pat Seals.
Anyone wishing to volunteer to run rides or games at this year’s carnival may do so by visiting, the association’s website at www.scaacarnival.com.