The Gwinnett County Fairgrounds are starting to look like the site of a carnival.

This week’s prep for the Gwinnett County Fair began Monday morning, when crews from Amusements of America and some local workers started to haul in and assemble some of the fair’s more than 50 rides and other concessions. Meanwhile, state inspectors were patrolling, taking inventory of the attractions they’d evaluate for safety concerns when prep is closer to being finished.

“It’s grueling at times, but these folks travel all year long and go from town to town,” event organizer Dale Thurman said. “They set up, and the state will inspect it up to code and make sure it’s safe for the customers. These folks do it year-round so they’re good at it.”

While the Ferris wheel and some fun houses were already in place on Tuesday, other attractions aren’t as large but are more intricate to assemble.

On Tuesday morning, construction was starting on the carnival’s most labor-intensive and largest attraction, the Crazy Mouse Rollercoaster. With a 55-inch minimum, the ride has the tallest height requirement of any ride at the carnival. Amusement of America owner Rob Vivona said it’s a project the crew tries to assemble ahead of schedule because of the scope and the time it takes for it to travel.

“You have to use a crane and six trailers,” he said. “The trailers will come on and guys will come on and they start assembling.”

About 80% of the crew setting up for the carnival travels from event to event. The company is based in New Jersey. Vivona is one of the company’s owners, a family business for roughly 18 years.

The crew with Amusements of America came from Greenville, S.C., last week and will head to Hampton for the Georgia State Fair after things wrap up in Lawrenceville Sept. 22.

“They do everything right (in Gwinnett),” Vivona said. “They get good family people here, it’s a nice crowd. That really just shows you how much I respect this event.”

Setup will likely continue up to Thursday afternoon, when the fair opens with free admission at 5 p.m.

“The carnival’s got its own infrastructure,” Thurman said. “You have a basic pasture; you blink your eyes you have a city out there.”

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Taylor Denman is a reporter born and raised in Gwinnett County. He came back home to seize the rare opportunity of telling stories about the county in which he grew up.

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