With the Rotary Carnival setting up on Rt. 7 and School Rd. next week, Wilton parents will probably answer their children’s pleas of “Carnival! Carnival! Carnival! not with a yes-or-no but more likely with a “How many times will we go?”
But following the malfunction of a swing ride at the Oyster Festival in Norwalk this past Sunday where 12 children and one adult were taken to the hospital after being injured, some Wilton parents have said they are thinking twice about whether to go to the carnival at all. Images of EMTs attending to children on the ground in front of a disabled carnival ride were difficult to erase from memory.
“Definitely will be skipping the carnival,” Jessie Adams wrote on the GOOD Morning Wilton Facebook page. “I told my kids about yesterday’s incident and explained to them why we would not be going to the twice yearly carnivals on Rt 7 anymore.”
The fall carnival has been sponsored by the Wilton Rotary for more than 20 years, and it’s the group’s major fundraiser of the year, traditionally helping the club give away $25,000 a year, according to Patrick Russo, the Rotary member who has been in charge of overseeing the carnival for the last five years. He’s eager to reassure parents that the carnival is safe.
“We’ve had a successful carnival for 20-plus years with the same vendor. I know he’s highly regarded and he’s always been good to the Rotary. He’s always been responsible for a well-run carnival. We have police officers on-site, we provide plenty of lighting and parking, we hope people have good experiences. We’re very concerned with safety at the carnival, making sure it’s a sound and secure site.”
The ride operator for the September 20-22 carnival is Tufano Amusements out of Cheshire, CT. According to Lt. J. Paul Vance, public information officer for the Connecticut State Police, Tufano has a good safety record as a carnival operator.
“I can tell you that that operator is a reputable operator, it has been operating in Connecticut for a number of years. We’ve had no issues with them.”
Russo has solid confidence in Tufano Amusement owner Anthony Tufano. “I have no issues with how he operates. He’s inspected, insured, I know they have an inspection as soon as he arrives in town and sets up.”
GOOD Morning Wilton did obtain copies of Tufano Amusements’ current insurance and the application to hold the upcoming carnival from the Department of Consumer Protection. According to the DCP’s spokesperson, the inspection is scheduled to take place Thursday, Sept. 19, and the license will be issued when the carnival passes inspection. The inspection will be conducted by Wilton’s fire marshal and a state inspector. “Everything is done by the book. I have to go through six or seven departments to get permits with the town, and so does [Tufano],” Russo explained.
As for the rides, the same inspection process happens each time the carnival sets up at a different location.
“[Tufano] told me he had 28 venues during the year, and he’s inspected 28 times,” Russo said, to which Lt. Vance agreed: “Any of the ride operators out of Connecticut, and there are several, they have to go through the same inspection process every single time they erect a ride.”
Carnival attendance crucial to Rotary fundraising
Understandably, the Rotary wants parents to feel secure in coming so that the carnival’s fundraising mission remains supported.
“The carnival is a large profit raiser for us—this is the bulk of the money we raise for scholarships, for the Wilton fuel fund, for the food pantry, for other events in town that we contribute to over the year. It’s always a successful fundraiser for us thanks to the townspeople who have been very generous to us over the years, so we can contribute our proceeds to the town as well as to other international programs,” Russo said. “The carnival is a big piece of the what Rotary is. We don’t keep money in our pockets–whatever is raised this year we return to the community next year. There’s a whole list that we publish at the carnival itself.”
He added that what the parents think about the carnival is important, and said that the Rotary has always tried to be responsive to feedback from the community about safety as well as any other issues or concerns.
“We have always listened to parents’ opinions. We’re sensitive to the Jewish High Holy days, and we moved the carnival a week later than we normally would have it. We typically would have it this coming weekend [when Yom Kippur falls], but we moved it and Tufano understood that. He was asked to have another carnival this weekend nearby but didn’t do that because of our relationship with him, and how it would have impacted our gate [proceeds]. It gives you an idea of the individual he is—focused on his reputation, a good business person to work with and a family man, so he understands the concerns of the parents.”
Attendees to the carnival next weekend will not find the same swing ride involved in the Oyster Festival accident over the weekend, a decision that predates what happened in Norwalk. “He’s not bringing the type of ride that malfunctioned. We don’t have the room for it–that ride takes up a lot of room.”
As for whether what happened in Norwalk over the weekend could have been prevented, Vance explained that it was something very unpredictable.
“The accident that occurred [Sunday] was almost exactly identical to you go and get in your car, the tires look good, the engine sounds good, everything looks good, you back out of your driveway, you drive down the street, and the engine stops. There was no way to anticipate that there would be a mechanical failure, because that’s exactly what it was.”
Tufano Amusements addresses safety directly on their company website, writing:
“Safety is the number one issue for Tufano Amusements. Once a week, after every move, the Connecticut Department of Public Safety inspects every ride. Also each week before opening, our rides go through an additional inspection by local electrical inspectors, building officials and health inspectors. Only after all inspections are complete will the state and town officials grant a license to operate. We work very hard to comply with and maintain our equipment to the highest standard, and we hope it shows.”
The link also lists Tufano’s suggestions for “helpful DO’s and DONT’s for riding” to help stay safe.
The carnival that comes to Wilton in the spring is operated by a different company, and is traditionally hosted by the Georgetown Lion’s Club.