Catering, Event Planning, Fun Story, funfair events

How Is Candy Floss Made

3 February 2023

Have you ever wondered just how candy floss is made. That fluffy sweet treat, also known as cotton candy, papa’s beard, fairy floss, suikerspin depending on where in the world you grew up.

One of the world’s favourite treats, there is even a national candy floss day.

Bride With Candy Floss
Bride With Candy Floss

The Scientific Explanation

Candy floss is almost, but not quite, 100% sugar. There is a minute amount of colouring and flavourings, and if you go for our alcoholic range there is actual vodka, tequila and such like, but its mainly sugar.

Now a typical candy floss machine, has a cylindrical drum, with space in the centre to pour this sugar mixture into. This drum performs two important functions. It rotates at high speed, forcing the sugar outwards against a wire mesh. Secondly, this wire mesh heats up to 186 degrees centigrade. This just happens to be the melting point of sugar.

Candy Floss Head
Candy Floss Head

At this temperature, the heat breaks the bonds of the sugar molecules Causing the hydrogen and oxygen atoms to rearrange and form water molecules. The water evaporates leaving carbon behind, which begins to burn and caramelises the sugar.

As the drum is still rotating at high speed, this liquid is flung outwards at high speed. It solidifies as it streams out, but it happens so quickly and the strands are only 50 microns thick that you only really see it as it hits the inside of the bowl.

This is collected by the operator using a stick, or as they often do in the states a paper cones. The result is the classic fluffy candy floss we all know and love.

Making Candy Floss
Making Candy Floss

The Real Way Fairy Floss Is Made

Of course you try telling this explanation to an average excited kid and just watch their eyes glaze over. So just for them we have a real explanation.

Inside the bottom of our candy floss machines, live a band of Irish Faerie Folk, the Sidhe. These happy little folk sit there merrily knitting away to turn the mixture from sugar into fairy floss. Once they have knitted it they push it out through the little holes in the centre drum. Whereupon it is collected by the operator.

Check Out Our FAQ’s for more info on candy floss.

Fun Story, Funfair Rides, General

Funfair Rides From Drawing Board To Finished Article

29 January 2023

Someone asked me recently who builds funfair rides. Well, there are a number of long established companies going back in some cases a considerable number of years. Like much of industry, the major manufacturers are European. There were a number of UK based builders making large adult rides, but these are by and large defunct.

The smaller children’s rides market is much healthier. A number of excellent rides are turned out for the home market and occasionally for export. Many of the started as travelling showmen, who perhaps built a ride for themselves, and were then asked to build another for someone else. Most end up building an occasional ride as a sideline, but some turn it into their full time occupation.

Fairtech Fabrications Ltd

One such company is in the hands of a friend of mine, his wife is my wife’s first cousin so there is once again a family connection. Along with his two sons, he has always worked on his own equipment to a high standard, and when recently the number of fairs he attended was cut drastically he looked at leveraging his building prowess into a full time gig.

This post is going to follow the design and build of one of his rides.

Cups And Saucers

The cups and saucers, or teacups as they are sometimes known, isn’t a new ride. Its been one of the staples of the funfair industry over here since I was a teenager, some 35 years or so. So was a good bet for a saleable product.

Initial Concept Drawings

Like most things now, the ride started on a computer. Initial drawings were made to produce the layout of the steel work and electrics/hydraulics. Once these were satisfactory, more detailed drawings with correct dimensions and material tolerances were produced, enabling construction to begin.

Initial Steel Work

The bulk of the funfair ride construction is box section mild steel. This is fabricated into a number of section for the ride bearing chassis, the moving part of the ride, and the support items such as the light posts and speaker brackets. Parts such as hydraulic valves and rams, electric motors etc are attached to the basic frame.

Basic Frame Under Construction

The basic frame is built up and disassembled a number of times. Things like the decorative centerpiece need to be attached to ensure the mounting holes and suchlike are in the correct places. The aluminium tread plate needs cutting to size and fitting to ensure it all matches. Slew rings to allow the cups to spin have to be in position to ensure they are level and running free and to tolerance.

Initial Build To Check Fit And Finish

Hot Dip Galvanising

The ride is pretty much built to a finished standard, except for the decorative sections. It is then stripped down completely and sent to have the full metalwork hot dip galvanised. This is a method of submerging the steel in a molten zinc bath, to apply a protective coating. This can extend the life of the rides structural components to in excess of 50 years. Untreated steel without regular maintenance can start to degrade in less than 5 years. In a marine environment it can be as little as 1 year before rust starts to attack the structure.

Galvanised Teacups Ride Frames
Galvanised Teacups Ride Frames

Assembling The Finished Ride

Once the galvanising is complete the funfair ride is assembled again. Sometimes it is possible for the heat of the galvanizing process to warp the steel sections, so any that are out of specification. may need to be rebuilt or replaced.

Once the structure is to the builders satisfaction, final assembly can begin. The chassis is assembled, and then the circular frames carrying the cars built up and attached to the chassis. At this point the electric cabling, braking systems and hydraulic systems will be attached.

Over the last few years the Health and Safety Executive have started tightening up on the use of barriers around children’s rides, to meet both this requirement, and with an eye on the European market, Fairtech made the decision to go for the more stringent TUV approval, which is regarded as a must have in many export destinations. This involved additions to the rides such as a barrier to prevent a child being able to walk up and touch a moving part of the ride.

Additionally on the older designs, the cups were not locked in place, smaller children exiting the cup could slip and fall as the cup spun. Fairtech have added an automatic locking system, so once the rides stops, the cups lock in place. They also added some nice touches to the the chequer plate flooring. The ride is finished off with LED lighting to help meet current environmental regulations, and a Bose music system.

Final Funfair Ride Assembled

The final ride with full decoration, music, lighting and automatic gates to allow the riders to access and exit the ride.

Final Ride Assembly
Final Assembled Ride
Fun Story

Top 6 Festival Rides

6 January 2023
Mouse Coaster

A look at the top 6 festival rides in the UK. These tend to be bigger, faster and higher than the rides you would see at a regular funfair.

No.1 Giant Wheel

Most people have seen Ferris wheels at their local funfair. usually these are of the Eli Bridge type. An American built wheel that stands about 10 metres high, and can be set up fairly quickly. Great for local fairs and even 1 day events.

The ‘Continental Wheels’, however are bigger. Much bigger, 35 metres is a regular size, though there are some examples towering to around 80 metres that are transportable. The current worlds biggest is around 250 metres. Though that type are built in place and don’t tend to move.

35 Metre Giant Wheel

No.2 Star Ride

Built by Zierer in Germany. There is currently only one example of this ride actually travelling. Owned by Danter Attractions this attends a number of festivals and major fairs. Sadly, being transported on four loads, with a crane required for set up and derig, it doesn’t tend to appear at local funfairs. It quite possibly would be usable for corporate events, however it would incur a massive costs so it would only be for the most prestigious of events.

Danters Air. A Zierer star ride.

No.3 Mouse Coaster

The next in our series of festival rides. These are a compact travelling version of the type of roller coaster you see at theme parks. With a spinning car and a compact set up you will see these at some of the larger fairs. Again a major set up compared to say a waltzer, needing a crane, a number of trailers and at least a couple of days.

Mouse Coaster

No.4 Reverse Bungee

Also known as the slingshot. This uses bungee ropes to launch the spherical two person car to a height of 45 metres or so. Being a single trailer and a comparatively quick set up you are in with a chance of seeing this at some of the smaller fairs.

Slingshot Reverse Bungee

No.5 Booster

At a peak of 45 metres the booster is a high speed take on an old style ride called the dive bomber. That one was smaller but with a similar concept. Again you are in with a shot of seeing this at smaller events as it is a single trailer transport and another quick set up.

45 Metre Booster

No.6 Starflyer

This one is available in a range of sizes. Some smaller rides are a regular sight at medium sizes funfairs. The largest examples upto 70 metre height are another festival/major fair attendee only.

Star Flyer
Equipment, Event Planning, funfair events, General

Berts Barrow – One Of Our Favourite Venues

3 January 2023
Berts Barrow Logo

Another of our favourite venues Berts Barrow.

Operating nationwide over the years we have provided attractions and services at a multitude of different events and venues. Some we visit once then never see again. Others we seem to turn up at regularly. Some we find to be awkward venues that we would rather not be at. Others like Bert’s Barrow quickly become favourites. Usually it’s down to the people in charge. They can make a venue welcoming, easy for us to operate at and make us want to return.

Bert’s is a family run farm, that has been turned into an events venue. Usable for smaller events such as weddings. Or equally lending itself to larger corporate events, with full funfair rides etc.

Wedding At Bert's Barrow

We have provided attractions for family fun days at a few events there and found Charlotte, Jason and the team to be accomodating and made the events just so easy for us. Definitely worth a look if you want to run a corporate function in the West Yorkshire area.

Berts Indoors Dressed For An Event

Pumpkin Time

They also offer a great time around Halloween when you can go picking your own pumpkins. Pet dogs? No probs, take them with you. With funfair rides and other attractions it makes a great day out for the family.

Pumpkin time at Bert's

For more details check their website out Bert’s Barrow

Fun Story

Christmas At The Cathedral

31 December 2022

Normally we only carry out corporate events where the client has prepaid for our services. However one of the team fancied branching out this winter. As a result, our Citroen HY van was booked into the winter event in Birmingham christened ‘Christmas At The Cathedral.’ It was an extension to the long running Birmingham Christmas market.

Luxury Hot Chocolate

The van was set up to dispense luxury Cadbury’s hot chocolate. A variety of concoctions including Terry’s chocolate orange. After Eight mints, Ferrero Rocher and Black Forest gateau.

It turned out that the visitors to Birmingham were crying out for luxury hot chocolate’s. From opening to closing each day the van had a massive queue, and we ended up adding additional hot chocolate dispensers, and an autofill system for the boiler to keep up with demand.

The whole event was fabulously ran along professional lines, with a selection of craft huts rotating over the 5 weeks of the market. A selection of food vendors. Along with the Pigeon In The Park bar adding the finishing touches. Hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoyed the event over the 5 week run.

If you need to book a luxury hot chocolate service then check us out.

Christmas In Cathedral Square

Catering, Equipment, Event Planning, Fun Story

Amazon Peak

28 December 2022
Amazon Christmas Huts

December is usually our busiest month, by quite a margin. This year it got even bigger. We picked up a contract with Amazon to provide their Peak Treats service.

Basically it consisted of visiting 70 Amazon’s in 4 countries over 6 weeks, dispensing over 66000 Salted Pretzels and 15,000 litres of mulled wine (Non alcoholic sadly)

So how did it go. On the surface all serene and everyone happy.

Underneath, our usual paddling madly like ducks to make it look all serene.

Last Minute As Usual

We were notified that we had won the tender for the event. However we had to provide a sample of the food and drink for a company tasting. So obviously we didn’t want to start spending money on stock etc until after the tasting just in case it all went Pete Tong.

Happily they loved the items on the tasting and everything was finally signed off, 8 days before we were due to begin. This meant we have roughly a week to design and build 6 new mini Christmas huts for the job. To buy and take delivery of high capacity boilers and pretzel warming cabinets, new mains, obtain enough stock and and sort out freezer facilities for tens of thousands of pretzels.

Building The Stalls

Luckily the local fabricator we use was a bit quiet on the work front. So we nipped some spare steel we had up to him and talked him through fabricating the frame we needed. This took best part of a day. Fortunately the cover guy we had found was in the vicinity that afternoon so he called and measured up for the covers we needed and promised to have them ready for Sunday teatime (The job started Monday morning gulp).

A quick trip to the woodyard to have the counters made, and then the paint shop to pick up our new favourite product Raptor with which to coat the steel. Nigel promised to have all the steel work ready for mid week so things were on track. Our resident wood guy measured up for the wooden panels we needed and promised to have them by Sunday as well.

Pretzel Storage

We priced up a freezer trailer hire for the pretzels, but quickly worked out we could buy a second hand unit cheaper than hiring one, so that’s what we did. It was delivered about an hour before our first delivery of pretzels, so just in time, but hey, it was there. This proved to be a godsend. Not just for the pretzels, but a number of other jobs where we usually ended up disposing of stock, we suddenly found we had the storage capacity to keep it, so win win all around.

Stock

A salted pretzel
Pretzels

The pretzels came from a company we have used in the past who import them directly from Germany. The mulled wine was sourced initially from a localish company, which was handy, the problem was they only did them in bottles. So for the initial batch I ordered a thousand bottles. We went in one of our vans to collect the order. 2 pallets worth. The fork lift driver rubbed his beard, “Whats the payload of this van”.

“About a 1.2 tonne I think”, I replied.

“Ahh well 2 pallets is 1.2 tonne mate, and you too will take it a little over”

Oh FFS. “It’ll be OK, stick them in”

Only it wasn’t, once they were in the van towbar was touching the floor. Turns out that particular van was only a 1 tonne payload. We had to take one out and make another sodding trip. After that we sourced an alternative that came in 10 litre drums and was delivered direct to our yard.

Equipment

The equipment we sourced started out pretty well. And worked pretty well for about a fortnight. Then the warming cabinets started blowing the electric at random times. Turns out they have a design fault. The U shaped heating element in the bottom expands as it heats up. As it expands it rubs against the ide of the cabinet. Luckily it is insulated. Unluckily continued rubbing removes the insulation and then blows the electric. Quick work bending the ends of the element sorted that out.

Vans

I had all 3 of our vans serviced before we started thinking this would ensure everything was OK. Only true to form Murphy bit us twice.

On the very first day the van i was driving suddenly flashed up a warning that it was no longer charging the battery half way to the site at Rugeley. Now having owned Citroen Dispatches for a number of years I know that a failed alternator or snapped fan belt doesn’t damage the engine. I also knew from past experience that as the battery voltage dropped the van computer would start to shut systems down.

Sure enough ten mile from the destination, just as I hit twisty windy country roads, the electrically assisted power steering shut down. Followed by brake assistance, lights, indicators etc.

I actually got to the venue, pulled into the usual parking bay and applied the handbrake just as the engine shut down, phew.

Now the important thing was we had got there. Getting home should have been a problem, but one of our staff, Fred, had been late getting to work. So in temper he was told he was going to have to drive his own van and meet me at the job. So we had a spare van to tow me back.

The same sodding thing happened a week later with a totally different van. Only this time it was at Dunfermline in Scotland. This resulted in us having to call at Halfords and buy 2 new batteries so that we could keep changing them on the way home to keep the engine running.

FRED

Frank Spencer
Frank Spencer

Mentioning Fred, one of our regular staff members, we have officially changed his name to Frank Spencer (If you are too young to remember Frank, check him out here) . He left a trail of destruction throughout the duration of the contract. including;

Putting the plastic chocolate sauce bottles in the electric pretzel oven to warm them up. Cue an aroma of melted chocolate and plastic!

Faffing about with the gel packs in one of our ethanol gel pretzel warmers, managing to set his hand on fire, shaking it to get the burning gel off, and successfully setting fire to one of the brand new covers on our Christmas huts.

Deciding to move the fully loaded pretzel ovens on a job and forgetting to plug them back into the electric. Resulting in a panic to get everything warmed up in time of opening.

Security

The only other real hiccup we had, was the fact that we would do an afternoon shift at Amazon, then go back for the evening shift. But for some reason, the night security never seemed to have been notified that we had been booked to do the job. Cue most evening trying to convince security to actually let us on site.

Fun Story

Vintage Espresso Machine Hire

2 November 2022

The new little vintage 2CV van we acquired is well on the way to becoming operational. We decided to theme it around being vintage. To this end we decided to acquire an age appropriate espresso machine. Now the initial idea of doing this excited me as some of the old espresso machines were works of art.

Unfortunately our van being early 80’s coincided with coffee machines following the design ethos of function not form. So the machine we eventually chose was an absolutely stunning design, that the company decided to wrap in a boring cube. We are looking at ways to tastefully expose the inner workings as they are too nice to leave hidden.

Our little machine is a La Cimbali Eleva. Built by a company based in Italy (well where would you go for an espresso machine, Russia?) La Cimbali started out in 1912 as a copper processing shop in the centre of Milan, before moving into the coffee machine market.

A beautiful vintage espresso machine
The Start

This was the state of the initial machine, we happened upon a guy in Accrington who restores vintage coffee machines. We visited him, and the beautiful machine I wanted to buy was vetoed by our new director of business direction who wanted something more in keeping with the van age. Bloody kids!

If the machine looked like this at the finish I would be happy, but as you will see it doesn’t.

Various images of the complete trip down and refurbishment process.

Gas system

Oh did I mention that we also wanted a duel fuel machine to take care of those times when the client can’t provide an adequate power supply, pictured here being tested.

Coyote Ugly

Fully Clothed

And here it is with its godawful case added. A crime to cover those lovely internals up. I suppose being red and cubed it sort of fits the Citroen van quite well, I just think its cubist modernism isn’t a patch on the art deco look of its insides. Oh and notice the lever. Instead of pushing a button to activate a pump, this uses the original traditional lever extraction method. Hence the term, ‘To pull a shot.’

A Possible Answer

Glass Case

Just a thought that this might work. Though knowing some of our crew we would have a full time job replacing broken glass panels.

Anyway if you want to hire a coffee service, either our modern carts, or the vintage Citroen van with its vintage espresso machine then check it out here.

Event Planning

Everything You Need to Host an Unforgettable Holiday Party

15 October 2022
Everything You Need to Host an Unforgettable Holiday Party

Don’t look now but the holidays are just around the corner. If you are hosting a holiday party this year, now is the time to get started with your planning. Leaving yourself plenty of time to put all of the pieces together will ensure that your party is the hit of the season. Here are five things that you need to host an unforgettable holiday party this year.

An Amazing Menu

Every great party starts with an amazing menu. The food spread will always be the focal point of any event, making it important that you put some thought into this aspect of your planning. Be sure to provide a variety of options, including healthier items along with choices for those with sensitive diets. You will also need to offer a mix of savory and sweet items. The timing of your event will largely dictate the scope of your menu.

You would be wise to choose some menu items that you can prepare ahead of time. This will ensure that you are able to enjoy the event rather than spending too much time in the kitchen. Leaning on the services of a professional caterer is ideal if your budget allows it.

A Varied Bar

In addition to great food, you will need to consider the drink menu for your event. Start with offering a few different types of beer and wine. You will need at least one red wine and one white varietal. Champagne is a natural choice for this festive time of the year.

It is also fun to create a signature cocktail for your party. The flavors of the holidays provide many fun ideas. Eggnog makes a great base for a myriad of holiday-themed cocktails. Mulled wine is always a hit for a holiday party. Or encourage your guests to get cozy with a mug of boozy hot chocolate or a hot buttered rum. The possibilities are endless when you have all of the popular flavors of the season to use as your inspiration.

Professional Help

Your party will go off without a hitch if you leave the heavy lifting to the professionals. When you choose to hire event staff, you will feel confident that every element of your party is in good hands.

Good roles to farm out include bartenders, caterers, and food servers. You can also hire staff to handle the set-up and clean-up of your event, making it easier for you to enjoy being in the moment. Regardless of if you are planning a large corporate blowout or an intimate celebration, professional help will take the strain off of you.

Setting the Mood

Every good holiday party includes a mood that is carried through all of the details. The decor that you choose will go a long way in achieving the mood that you are aiming to create. This includes choosing the right lighting. Candles are an easy and affordable way to add that special holiday glow to your event.

Other good ways to add a festive ambiance include using scents to bring out the vibe of the holidays. Evergreen, cinnamon, and vanilla are all good choices for this time of the year. Lastly, do not forget to create a great music playlist. The music you choose will help to create the mood that you are aiming to replicate.

All of the Extras

Do not fail to neglect all of the small details that will elevate your party to an event that nobody will ever forget. There are a number of extras that you can consider for your party. How about setting up a photo booth with a variety of fun props?

Another good idea to implement is to provide all of your guests with a take-home gift. Appropriate ideas for a holiday party include a box of beautifully decorated cookies or treats, cinnamon-scented pinecones, or a festive ornament for them to take home for their tree. These are the little things that everyone will remember about the party long after it is over.

Bottom Line

All five of these items are essential for a fabulous holiday party. Lean into the spirit of the season to make this year’s party one for the record books.

Event Planning, funfair events, Funfair Rides

Setting Up A Funfair

8 October 2022
Funfair Thrill Rides For Hire

When it comes to setting up a funfair there are a lot of misconceptions. People often go to bed, then when they get up the next morning there is a fully fledged fair spread through their high street. So how does this happen?

Well, the first thing to explain, is that we do have permission to be there. We once had a newcomer to a town ring the council to report the town being invaded by ‘fair people’, only for the council to inform him that the fair had been held in the town for some 300 odd years!

Large events like that take months of planning, along with a host of health and safety paperwork and permissions such as road closures, so its ludicrous for someone to expect that we have just ‘rolled’ into town and set up a fair because we feel like it.

Sequence Of Events

Most major events have been running for decades, and in some cases hundreds of years. So these tend to be firm fixtures in our calendar. Months before the actual event, requisite licences and permissions are applied for. Permissions for road closures etc are applied for. A comprehensive event plan, with insurance documents and ADIPS safety testing documents for all the attractions are submitted for approval.

Once these have been signed off. The showmen actually attending the event are informed of the ‘sites’ they have been allocated. These are all listed on a master build plan, to enable everything to be set up with the necessary safety spacing and such.

Whilst to the outside eye, the fair might look like a random collection of rides, games and catering units. It is actually a carefully choreographed set up with specific sections of the event allocated to individual attractions. Many of the rides are high speed, and need positioning super accurately in high street to ensure they don’t knock the lampposts down or similar.

Set Up

On the day of the set up, the attractions pull into position. This is usually in a specific ordes some of the rides need a large clear space around them for the initial set up. Once everything is in and erected. Designated safety officers will check that the necessary build requirements are being adhered to. For example emergency exits are not impeded, or heavy rides aren’t obstructing the public pavement.

Only when all the boxes have been ticked will the event be signed off as good to go.