Fairs that don't use generators?

This is a fairly specific question, but I'm wondering a bit about the power hookups for carnivals. Do all of these traveling midways use generator power or do some fairgrounds have permanent hookups?

99er's avatar

Depends on location but the majority are going to use equipment like this. A few of those will typically be placed around the grounds and rides will be tied back to those using distro boxes. Next time you are at a fair look for those distros scattered around the grounds, follow the cables leading out and you will find a generator trailer sitting just out of view behind a ride.

This is the same exact setup you will see at concerts, broadcast events, movie sets, etc. Basically anywhere you need power, and a lot of it, you will find setups like these. The company I use here in Central Florida for events is CES Power.


99er's avatar

Short video kinda of detailing power for events. Not a carnival but same concept.


The San Diego County Fairgrounds at Del Mar increased the number of substations that service it, and installed underground feeds through out the grounds. It is set up now to the point all they have to do is set the ride up and plug it in. No generators needed.

That seems like the right way to do it. I don't remember the last time I went to a fair, but what I do remember is all of the wires/cables running on the ground. Pretty obvious tripping hazard. And stepping on electrical wires always seems like a bad idea.

TheMillenniumRider's avatar

Most traveling carnivals run cabling across and walkways inside those hard plastic cord channels, so not really a concern of stepping on wiring. Unless the fair is large enough and setup the same each year it is cost prohibitive to install permanent electric, and once installed what else throughout the year would use it. Unless you install step down transformers at the supply locations, you have 480 3 phase which isn’t usable for average stuff. Amusement rides, large portable coolers, stuff of that nature sure, but otherwise you have a huge expense put out for something that can be done by the carnival themselves, and may not be usable for everything else.

Thanks for the replies everyone. That's really interesting about San Diego County Fairgrounds. Just before the pandemic, I went to the LA County Fair and I can't seem to remember seeing any cabling or generators in the RCS set up. I wonder if they have some permanent wiring as well?

In San Francisco we have a temporary ferris wheel set up in Golden Gate Park at the moment and it has a CAT generator running 24/7 to keep it lit up/operating. The generator sometimes has visible exhaust and so a few of us were wondering if it'd be worth asking the city to investigate installing some sort of permanent wiring to the grid. The problem is there is a one-day fair each year of a few rides and who knows how long the ferris wheel will ultimately stay, so it's hard to make economic sense of it, but if there was a hookup it could open up the park to other uses.

janfrederick's avatar

Dutchman, after my last SDG&E bill, I'm wondering if the show operators would rather use their own generators. I'm looking at 99er's link to that 2000 KW job thinking I oughta propose one for our HOA. Though I'm sure solar might be more feasible. ;)

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza

They use red carb diesel for fuel (if they are not a permanent installation when they would likely be fueled with natural gas). which does not have all the federal, state and local road taxes on it, but it's still not as cheap as it was a decade ago. The principal reasons for installing electric infrastructure on the fair ground was safety, and pollution, both air and sound, even with the new gen sets with the advanced sound muffling systems (like the movie studios used. My understanding is that there were many, many trip and fall claims even when you have the covered ramps over the cables. People have a habit of drifting off the designated walkways.

Don't remind me about SDGE, I can use the same amount each month and the price increases. Biggest mistake was the state allowing Sempre Energy to buy them.

99er's avatar

janfrederick said:

Dutchman, after my last SDG&E bill, I'm wondering if the show operators would rather use their own generators.

While the equipment rental isn't too expensive, the labor to setup and run them is high. I am having power installed for an event next week and for 16 circuits, for 4 nights total, I was quoted $16,000! Needless to say I had a meeting today asking (telling) the vendor that I need something more manageable to work with. So tomorrow morning I should have a better quote in my email :)

It makes sense for a large county or state fairgrounds to install power for fairs. Those typer of exposition centers do many events throughout the year that can make the install of power cost effective. My small county fair back in Ohio just doesn't have the money to do something like that so it's easier to use generators for the rides and breakouts from power poles for concessions. And while I have not been to my county fair in a few years, they were still just running power across the ground (in grass) between rides without cable ramps.


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