Out of the Past: “The Skywheel” Double Ferris Wheel

       By Steve Cichon

It was one of the most popular rides of all time at the Erie County Fair, and it was a mainstay at James E. Strates shows all over the country.

The Skywheel was a signature attraction on the fair’s midway for more than 30 years starting in 1963.

The complex double Ferris wheel was built in North Tonawanda by the Allan Herschel Company.

“The ride featured two traditional Ferris wheels attached to opposite ends of a large boom that rotated in the air. While one wheel was being loaded, the second wheel would spin freely treating riders to a panoramic view of the entire fairgrounds and the skyline of downtown Buffalo in the distance,” says Fair historian Marty Biniasz.

“The climax of the Sky Wheel ride occurred when the entire boom would rotate, creating a memorable thill for up to 32 adults or 48 children in one of its 16 seats. At night, the ride was covered in dazzling green and blue neon.”

After being taken off the midway in 1993, The Skywheel returned to Kiddieland for three years in the late 1990s.

In 2016, one of the seats from the retired ride returned to the fairgrounds as an interactive part of the Fair Heritage & History Center in the Octagon Building. Thousands of fairgoers have had their photo taken in the seat, reliving memories of fairs gone by.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.