In her first year as Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), Dorothy Pelanda is taking on a new role – one she deemed “chief of ride safety.”
ODA includes the Division of Amusement Ride Safety and Fairs, which licenses and inspects all amusement rides, midway games and concession stands. As Director, Pelanda oversees these at every fair throughout the state.
Although this is a new responsibility for her, she said it is something she is both “prepared for and excited about.”
She said the state fair and county fairs are important to her mission within ODA – promoting safety.
“Families have a right to know the rides that their children and their grandchildren ride are safe,” she said.
Since 2017, when a ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair caused the death of a teen, Pelanda said ODA has taken extra measures to make sure families are safe.
As of this year, she said a new ride operator from Texas, Talley Amusements, has replaced the previous carnival provider.
Additionally, she said the department received increased funding to conduct more inspections – double what she asked for in the budget.
Pelanda also said there is a much more rigorous ride inspection in place. She said all inspection reports require information from the manufacturer, updated information about changes and repairs since last inspection and inspection reports from other companies, if available.
She said tightening up on inspections was a crucial step in ensuring safety and seeing the effects makes it worthwhile.
“The most rewarding part of this is witnessing the amazing job our inspectors do,” she said. “It’s great to just see a fair go smoothly.”
Pelanda said there are eight full-time ride inspectors that work for the department, who are trained to make sure all rides meet state regulations.
On July 25, Pelanda shut down one ride at the fair permanently and temporarily shut down four others for further inspection.
“As you’ve seen, I will not hesitate to shut down a ride that is not compliant with our standards,” she said.
While she emphasized the importance of ride safety, she said that is only one part of maintaining fairs throughout the state.
She mentioned her attendance at the Union County Fair last week and said oversight of each fair in Ohio is important to her since they provide opportunities for young people in the community.
“(The fair) has been such a part of my childhood and my growing up,” she said. “The heartbeat of the fair is really our youth, the people who are our future.”