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The Fifty Foot View

a ferris wheel glows red and blue in the night sky over the USU Quad
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The Quad has been home to farmer encampments, military exercises, farm and orchard experiments, and even a tree nursery.

It has seen cow-milking competitions and ice sculpture contests. It made possible the first football game played against the University of Utah, in which the Utah Agricultural College Farmers prevailed 12–0. It has hosted cricket matches, baseball games, rugby, lacrosse, track and field events, and even quidditch players riding broomsticks … “but no, I’ve never heard of a Ferris Wheel gracing the Quad,” says Robert Parson, university archivist.

And there it was in the northeast corner, all dressed up in candy apple red and white, glistening like an amusement ride left behind, defying anyone who might be taking the start of school a little too seriously. That is what they were aiming for, at least, says Cooper Low, student events vice president who won the Ferris Wheel lottery.

For years, student VPs tried to bring one to the Quad, but it all came together for Low, and with only five days to spare.

That is because Ferris Wheels, for all their simple pleasures, are complicated—and in short supply—especially the ones on wheels. And then there’s the costs, the scheduling, the approvals from risk management, purchasing, facilities, the legal office …

But finally, one August afternoon one appeared with its cheery lights in a star-spangled string of red, white, and blue laced between its mighty spokes. A blur of color that turned the staid daytime Quad into a nighttime carnival—exactly what they were going for, Low says. “Something out of the ordinary, out of the box, and over the top.”

A new perspective of the university, too, and a perfect way to give students a singular first-week experience, says Spencer Bitner, associate director of student involvement and leadership. “It may not be the fastest ride, but the experience of being 50 feet up in the air and seeing Old Main and the valley from that perspective is pretty unique.”

– By John DeVilbiss


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