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Exchange Fair starts Friday; rides get special make-over

When the annual Brookhaven Exchange Club Fair kicks off on July29, fairgoers can expect a fresh look on some familiar “faces”.

The Exchange Club Park, which was established in 1952, has beenthe site of an improvement project for the last few weeks, and muchof the improvements are expected to be finished in time for theweek-long fair.

“We will have the tilt-a-whirl and the ferris wheel finishedbefore the fair, and we hope to have some of the other stufffinished around that time,” said Brookhaven Exchange Club Presidentand Fair Chairman Kelly McDonald.

The park has been closed on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridayswhile some of the rides have undergone paint-stripping andrepainting. It is the first time McDonald recalls having such alarge improvement project at the park.

“I’ve been in the club 20 years, and I can’t remember when therides were ever stripped down to the bare metal and painted again,”he said.

Charles “Ploochie” Ratliff, who is the only charter member stillin the club, echoed McDonald’s comments, saying this is one of themost significant improvement projects the park has received.

Although members of the club volunteer their time every year tomaintain the rides, their efforts have not been this extensive.

“We’ve tried to keep it up ourselves, but it takes someone whosegot the right equipment,” said McDonald. “That way it will last alot longer.”

The technique of removing the old built-up paint is a uniqueone, which is considered safer for the rides that date back as faras 1914.

“They’re using crushed pecan hulls, and it costs a little more,but if it gets in the bearings it won’t eat into them the way sandwill,” said McDonald of the method used by a Summit basedcompany.

The club has been saving up for the project for several years,but members believed it was important to do the job right.

“This is a big project, but we saw that we needed it,” saidMcDonald.

Other rides scheduled to be given a new coat of paint includethe merry-go-round, the roller coaster and the swings.

A storage building that was gutted by a fire on Jan. 2, 2000,will also be a point of interest during the improvementprojects.

The building, which contained equipment from some of thechildren’s rides, will be under construction, while some of therides have already been replaced.

Several airplanes were built at the Brookhaven Technical Centerto replace the airplanes that burned. The new planes, whichchildren ride in a circular motion, were a close match to theplanes that were damaged.

“They did a great job on the planes,” said McDonald of thestudents’ work.

After the improvements have been made to the fair rides andstorage building, McDonald hopes another project will get underway.He wants to bring new equipment to the playground area.

“We would like to upgrade it a little and make it look nicer,”he said, commenting on how new playground equipment and some heavycleanup is much needed at the park.

The improvement projects have brought out a special effort frommany of the members of the club. They have been working extra hardin order to complete the projects.

“We usually meet every week, but from now until the fair we’llmeet every night and work,” said McDonald.

The labors affiliated with stripping the old paints will betaken care of by professionals, but the Exchangites will work oncleaning up and other tasks in preparation for the fair.