Why there’s a ‘silent’ Ferris wheel and backward carousel horse at Grange Fair

Why one Ferris wheel at the fair sits silent this week

Garbrick Amusements is using the Centre County Grange Fair to honor their founder, Lewis "Jack" Garbrick, who passed away this Spring.
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Garbrick Amusements is using the Centre County Grange Fair to honor their founder, Lewis "Jack" Garbrick, who passed away this Spring.

It’s a traditional among carnival employees to honor the passing of a showman, and Garbrick Amusements is honoring one of its own.

Lewis “Jack” Garbrick, of Centre Hall, died in May at 93 years old. To honor the company’s founder, Garbrick Amusements is featuring a silent Ferris wheel and a backward carousel horse at the 145th Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair.

“The carnie tradition is to take your lead horse of your carousel and turn it backward,” said Teri Statham, Grabrick’s niece. “No one rides it for a week.”

What started as a machinery manufacturing company during World War II grew to become a amusement ride company that operates all over the world, Statham said.

“When my uncle came back from the Navy, he wanted to do something fun,” she said.

When the machinery company went out of business at the end of the war, Garbrick founded the amusement company in 1947.

The Ferris wheel was the first ride to be manufactured by the company and was always Garbrick’s favorite.

“He always loved the Ferris wheel,” Statham said. “Even last year at the Grange Fair, he rode the Ferris wheel.”

This year, the company has two Ferris wheels; however, only one is available for rides. The second silent wheel stands as a memorial to honor Lewis Garbrick.

“It’s just sitting there in honor of my uncle,” Statham said.

Fairgoers enjoy a ride on the Ferris wheel, next to the silent Ferris wheel to honor Jack Garbrick on Wednesday at the Centre County Grange Fair. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

Garbrick Amusements stopped making its own rides in the 1980s, but the company travels to carnivals and fairs throughout the world. Statham’s brother, Tom Garbrick, lives in South Carolina where he operates a unit. Statham and her family live in Centre Hall, where they run rides locally.

Garbrick rides have been a staple at the Grange Fair since 1955, and while Lewis Garbrick retired years ago, Statham said he was there every day.

“We’re not sure he ever really retired,” she said. “He’d ride with us, but he’d still make sure we were doing everything we were supposed to.”

By the silent wheel, the family placed a Brother’s Pizza box — Garbrick’s go-to place to eat — for fair attendees to write notes and share their favorite memories. Statham said she cannot believe how many people have signed the book over the past week, adding that it is a testament to her uncle’s presence in the community.

“It’s amazing how many people have stopped and talked to me,” Statham said.

Marley Parish reports on local government for the Centre Daily Times. She grew up in Slippery Rock and graduated from Allegheny College.