Kansas leaders loosen regulations for rides at county fairs, small events

Posted at 10:14 PM, May 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-01 23:14:22-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Regulations for rides at county fairs and small events across Kansas could see more changes after a law was passed last year in response to the Schlitterbahn tragedy.

The law was organized after the tragic death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab on the Verruckt water slide at Schlitterbahn in 2016 and brought greater oversight and inspection requirements for water slides and various types of rides.

The law also led to higher fees for inspections and more paperwork for companies like Creative Carnivals & Events in Overland Park.

“It’s changed how we do our setups a lot,” explained owner Sondra Wilson. “It takes more time. It takes more admin time on our side.”

Wilson showed 41 Action News the signs her company must now put up for multiple rides warning bounce house users what to do in case of an injury.

She also showed stacks of paper, featuring insured certificates and Kansas Department of Labor documents, that now must be filed both before and after events.

With around 150 rides and inflatable setups that need to be inspected, Wilson said the law passed last year brought big changes.

“Everyone had to be inspected so there was a fee for that,” she explained. “I would say overall it probably had around a $30,000 increase between staffing, time it’s taken, and registration of everything.”

One year later, changes already approved by the House and Senate would lower requirements for rides at short-term one location events run by non-profit groups. 

Instead of having to use inspection officers that would come from states away, county fairs and small event organizers would be allowed to use a local inspection agent. 

The amendments will also lower inspection fees for the rides.

State Sen. Bud Estes (R-Dodge City) helped organize the changes and said they would make the inspection process quicker and more affordable.

“This was to straighten out a bill that was very well intended but had some pretty expensive propositions to it,” he explained. “It was a fix for what we did last year and what we did so fast. This cleaned it all up.” 

The amendments would also exempt hayrack rides, low-speed barrel trains, and water slides under 35 feet in height from the regulations.

“We got it where these rural communities and the ones that have to use smaller rides can survive,” Estes said.

Moving forward, Sondra Wilson said ride-goers should still feel safe when heading out for fun during fair season.

“They’re as safe as the people watching them and the people installing them,” she explained. 

As of Tuesday evening, the changes still needed Gov. Jeff Colyer’s signature after approval in both the House and Senate.