- Associated Press - Saturday, June 7, 2014

WILDWOOD, N.J. (AP) - There’s that excruciating moment of doubt before the adrenaline kicks in that comes just after you’ve decided to seat yourself on that Tilt-A-Whirl, gigantic roller coaster or dangling-feet swing ride.

But it’s too late to change your mind and exit when that safety bar slams down. And within seconds you’re off, whizzing five, six, then seven stories above all those tiny people on the beach and boardwalk.

This isn’t too bad, you think. The view’s pretty good and then - slam.

So it has gone for decades on amusement piers all along the New Jersey Shore, summer after summer, when thrill seekers and those less accustomed to the high voltage world of such rides converge.

New Jersey’s amusement centers are among the oldest in the nation, dating to the 1890s when Ocean Pier and Steel Pier opened on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and entrepreneurs for the first time extended piers out over the ocean and crammed them full of attractions like midway games and such rides as the “Roundabout,” a wooden precursor to the Ferris wheel.

Nowadays, at places such as Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, Gillian’s Wonderland Pier in Ocean City, and Steel Pier in Atlantic City, the young and the not-so-young can find the ride that suits them, from the kiddie cars to the 20-story Ferris wheels.

And the in-betweens - teens and mostly young adults - will go for the high-flying, fast moving (speeds up to 100 m.p.h.) thrill of coasters, spinners, and pendulum rides. And they will seek out what is new this summer, joining an estimated 297 million people who visit about 400 U.S. amusement parks annually, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

The summer of 2014 brings a push toward “multi-generational attractions” that all members of a family may enjoy together, said Paul Noland, president of the IAAPA, a trade and support organization for amusement operators across the globe.

“The diversity of new attractions opening for families to enjoy together this summer is incredible,” Noland told The Philadelphia Inquirer (http://bit.ly/1ovLyMR).

The state Department of Community Affairs provides one of the most stringent amusement ride registration and inspection policies in the nation. There will be an estimated 100 million rides taken on amusements in New Jersey - from Shore rides to carnival events - by the end of the summer, officials said.

With a manager, an engineering staff of four, and 17 inspectors, the state DCA’s Carnival and Amusement Ride Safety Unit last year performed 12,685 inspections on 3,271 rides that had been issued operating permits in New Jersey, according to Tammori Petty, a DCA spokeswoman.

Petty said that every ride is inspected before the beginning of the season and that the agency then performs as many inspections as possible throughout the year.

Inspectors visually scrutinize each ride and make thorough examinations of welds, fasteners, and moving parts for wear and tear. They examine clearances around a ride, both with and without passengers aboard, making sure it is functioning properly. They examine maintenance and operations logs and manuals, and inspectors also research whether the manufacturer has issued any safety bulletins regarding a particular ride.

Similar inspections are performed on portable rides used in carnivals and traveling shows.

The agency also performs operational inspections while rides are in use to determine whether manufacturers’ guidelines such as height restriction are being followed, Petty said.

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