GREENFIELD — When it came time to set up the midway for this year’s Hancock County 4-H Fair, the owners of Burton Brothers Amusements knew the pressure was on.
When the fair’s longtime vendor, Interstate Amusements, went belly up in the spring of last year, fair organizers were left scrambling for a replacement.
What resulted was a scaled down midway, a host of complaints, and a promise to do better next year.
And that’s just what the Shirley-based company has done, fairgoers said during Friday’s kickoff.
“The family attitude was that we’re gonna do our best,” said Robert Burton, 18, son of co-owner Ben Burton. “We just really hope people enjoy what they come out and see.”
Last year, there wasn’t much to pique the interest of seasoned fairgoer Shawna Stratton, 18, of Greenfield. In fact, she didn’t ride anything at all, noting that the majority of last year’s offerings were bounce houses of different shapes.
This year, she declared the Power Surge – a claw-like ride that tilts in the air and flips upside down as it simultaneously spins in circles – not for the faint of heart.
Stratton has been coming to the fair for years and was glad to see the midway restored to its former glory.
“This year’s a lot better than last year – that’s for sure,” she said.
Giving her daughter a wave, Michelle Scott held up her cellphone to capture the 5-year-old’s ride on the Yo-Yo, a ride that works like a circular swing set.
“She’s holding on for dear life,” Scott said with a laugh. “It just makes me nervous.”
Scott complimented not only the selection of this year’s rides but the midway’s overall layout, which she said seems better designed to accommodate big crowds like those that are sure to hit the fairgrounds over the weekend.
Last year’s bounce house encroached on much of the walking space.
“It seems like it’s more spread out and easier to get around,” she said. “I like the setup.”
Denise Repass of Greenfield offered to buy her daughter, Natalie, a wristband for unlimited riding Friday night so she could get a full midway experience.
Natalie is a fan of “the scary rides,” her mother said, making this year’s midway, which is full of large rides owners refer to as “spectaculars,” just perfect.
“I think the kids – 10, 12 and up – like those,” she said.
Repass had heard about the former carnival vendor going out of business unexpectedly last year and was glad to see a local company come to the rescue.
“Just seeing it from the street was better than last year’s,” she said.
Also getting good reviews is the addition of a mobile zip line to the selection of rides.
For five dollars, riders are invited to zoom 146 feet down the line toward an inflatable landing zone.
The experience was a hit with Noah Reed, one of the first to give the zip line a try.
“It’s like the most awesome ride you can get,” said Noah, 13.
Burton said he was pleased to hear positive reactions just a few hours into the opening of the midway.
“We really hoped that they were gonna be great,” he said.
The family’s efforts to draw a bigger crowd have not gone unnoticed.
“There’s a lot more rides,” Noah said. “They worked hard to set it up, I think.”