MARSHFIELD — Children and adults alike screamed as they were spun high into the air while tightly strapped to seats that rotated and flipped a complete 360 degrees several times for a few minutes. The Speed XXL is the perfect ride for thrill-seekers with a need for speed and extreme heights, and it is the first time it has appeared at the Marshfield Fairgrounds.
The new amusement ride is just one of a number of changes at the 146th Marshfield Fair, which opened last week and ends Sunday. In addition to the two-arm propeller ride and new landscaping in and around the fairgrounds, security measures were tightened, as they have been at many other large public events in light of the fatal Boston Marathon bombings.
Leonard LaForest, president of the Marshfield Agricultural and Horticultural Society, which organizes the annual fair, said his organization has worked closely with the Marshfield Poice Department every year to evaluate what the best security plan would be, within reality.
“There are two ends of the spectrum: You can either do nothing or spend millions of dollars on security,” he said.
For this year, the fair instituted a new policy that allows security personnel to randomly search bags and backpacks, while retaining its ban against coolers. Other security procedures were also implemented behind the scenes, but not disclosed to the public. LaForest said fair attendees also play a role in helping to ensure safety.
“We depend on people who see things out of the ordinary, or suspicious, to report them to security or to an officer,” he said. “It’s hard when so many people are rotating in and out of the fair.”
The annual Topsfield Fair, which draws even bigger crowds and runs from Oct. 4 to 14, will follow Marshfield’s lead and also improve security measures. Spokesman David Thomson said while security in the past has been tight, the fair will continue to work with State Police and other organizations to be especially diligent this year.
“It is going to involve searching at the front gates, and there’s a possibility backpacks might not be allowed,” he said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
While organizers and directors work on safety, fairgoers of all ages have been streaming in to enjoy the merry-go-rounds, fried dough, magic shows, and other amusements that are part of the nostalgic experience. LaForest said he expects more than 160,000 attendees this year, with cooperation from the weather.
The Kielty family celebrated Chase and Gavin’s second birthdays at the fair last Saturday with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. It was the first time the twins were able to enjoy the rides outside the confinements of a stroller. Father Steve Kielty said that while he is originally from Whitman, he and his family have been attending the fair ever since they moved to Marshfield 15 years ago.
“You see second-generation parents and grandparents with their kids walking around and enjoying the fair together,” said LaForest. “And if parents want to go home and put the kids to bed, they can come back to enjoy the events at night.”
And while the fast-spinning, head-rush-inducing Speed XXL thriller ride might attract many, 5-year-old Aiden Kielty said he comes back for the classics.
“My favorite is the bumper cars,” he said as he got ready to drag his father over to them one more time before the day ended.
Tickets to the fair are $10 for adults and free for children 6 years old or younger. The fair runs from noon to 10 p.m. every day.Nicole Leonard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @NicALeonard.