SAN DIEGO, California – San Diego County Fair-goers are getting the same thrill Michael Jackson once enjoyed – on a classic fair ride.
The Wave Swinger, a 44-foot high pink base with free-flowing swings, spent about a decade at the pop star’s Neverland Ranch. You can see it in aerial views of the sprawling property.
“He saw it at an event and wanted it,” said Corey Oakley, Vice President of Helm and Sons Amusements, which owns the ride.
It’s a point of pride for Helm and Sons, a carnival family that started with grandfather Larry Davis and his ‘Carnival Time Shows’.
Davis imported the Wave Swinger from Germany in the 1980s. The ride was one of many Davis operated when he ran what was then known as the Del Mar Fair, Oakley said.
It took about a year for Davis to arrange the deal to send the Wave Swinger to Neverland Ranch after it captured Jackson's attention. Jackson also leased the Lolli-Swing, now at the Del Mar Fairgrounds infield.
During the 10-year lease, countless visitors went for a ride. Hundreds of the riders were other celebrities; some were local children who went to the ranch on school trips, according to Oakley.
Jackson hired a crew to operate the ranch’s rides. Davis’ team signed non-disclosure agreements with Jackson to maintain the Wave Swinger to peak performance.
“It’s like a classic car – not many hours on it,” said Oakley.
The ride is still one of the most popular at fairs. It will travel this year as far north as the Oregon State Fair in Salem, and remain near the Queen Mary in Long Beach for the ‘Dark Harbor’ event in October.
Helm and Sons Amusements is now run by the third generation of the family, and with two boys making up the fourth, Oakley expects the Wave Swinger to be around for years to come.
The San Diego Fair takes place now through July 4, 2018.