FORT SMITH (KFSM)-- The Park at West End in downtown Fort Smith opened for the summer Friday (April 8).
The local park has been around nearly a decade, but the rides have been running much longer.
“The whole idea of the park is for the family and for the community and when you drive over that Garrison Avenue Bridge, our visitors come in they see the park and think ‘wow, what an icon,'” Ferris wheel owner, Phil White, said.
It’s an icon in the form of a Ferris wheels that White says is historic.
“The United States' oldest Ferris wheel running,” White said. “It's a 1937, built by Eli Ferris, and it originally went into the World's Fair.”
White said the Ferris wheel is the main reason people come to the park.
“Some people say, ‘I’m afraid to get back on it because it goes too fast,’ but I think that's the nature of the carnival,” White said.
Even though it’s the oldest Ferris wheel in the United States, White said it's just as safe as the first day it started spinning.
“The inspection process is a very thorough inspection process, and it's done by the State of Arkansas, and we've been given the green light,” White said.
The Wooden family said coming to the park has become a family tradition.
“Usually during the summer we come quite often because they like to come down here and ride and play,” Mary Wooden said.
They say they've always felt safe, and four-year-old Xander even faced his fear of the carousel.
“Last year he wanted to ride until he got up close to it, and then he backed out, and so I’m really surprised that he was all gung ho about riding this year,” Wooden said.
White said the Ferris wheel and the carousel will be running for many more years to come.
The park is open Fridays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. When school is out for summer the park will be open every day.