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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
A few year back, about 15 to be precise. We launched an initiative to become the most environmentally friendly funfair operator on the circuit. We switched to running on bio diesel. Swapped all of our catering consumables to bio friendly alternatives. Started switching to the then, new technology of LED lighting. Even looked at adding solar panels and a mini wind turbine to our helter skelter to run the lights. We even purchased a set of Swedish designed compost tumblers to dispose of our food waste.
Armed with the glow of the righteous, we set about marketing our new environmentally friendly catering services, and took pains to explain in detail what we were doing. And it went down a storm. People loved it. BUT, and it was a big BUT.
The reply we got when sending quotes in for our services was along the lines of;
“Wow, what you guys are doing is fabulous, we really love it, hope you keep it up, unfortunately the non environmentally friendly operators are just a little bit cheaper than you, so I am afraid we will have to go with them!”
It quickly became apparent that we were going to end up as the most environmentally friendly bankrupt funfair operators out there.
Back To The Drawing Board
In truth, we pretty much went back to operating like everyone else. The fact was that saving the world was just too expensive at that time. If no one else was going to do it, putting ourselves out of business wasn’t really a sound business plan. You didn’t need an MBA from Harvard to suss that one.
So, what has that got to do with the price of bacon?
Well, we think the time is right to re launch our aims. The environment is suddenly a mainstream topic. It beginning to reach the stage where being enviro conscious is no longer the exception, rather you are expected to take it into account.
It does help that items such as drinks cups and plates etc are dropping in price for the biodegradable versions. So mush so that there is now only a slight premium in using them. Most items, such as cutlery ,plates, bowls, cups etc are widely available in various ‘plastics’ made from plant matter, or sugar cane.
The one hold out is bloody straws, the awful paper things we have been saddled with are useless. Three sucks of any liquid and the things collapse. So if you know of an alternative we would be happy to hear from you.
Keep checking back, as we will be launching a new environmentally friendly catering initiative in the coming months.
One of the world’s greatest treats. Ice cream ticks the boxes for everyone (well almost everyone, I am sure there are some strange people out there that don’t actually like it). Everyone has their favourite flavour, though officially in the UK vanilla is the number one choice.
However, there seems to be a concerted effort to cater for more, ahem, exotic tastes, everything from squid, to lobster, god forbid that someone should ever think of adding Brussels sprouts. Lets have a look at some of the wackier stuff that’s available;
Heinz Baked Beanz
Definitely not sure about this one, I love ice cream, I also happen to love Heinz Beanz, but both together, its like fitting a Maserati with a 2CV engine, technically still a car but meh.
Coco Pops Ice Cream
Aah, now this is better, coco pops good, ice cream good, coco pops ice cream double good. In fact why isn’t this a regular thing. Both this and the Beanz Cream were limited edition specials from a pop up ice cream store in Anya Hindmarch’s village, London.
Not sure about this one, personally I hate liquorice, and I’m not struck on salty, so probably a big fat no from me. I sometimes think that a lot of these ‘black’ coloured desserts, are purely made because the colour makes them ‘different’.
Goat’s Cheese (and Beets and Spinach)
Goats Cheese, yum, beet, perhaps, spinach yuck! There seems to be a regular move towards creating ice cream from savoury flavours. Some work some don’t, so I will reserve judgement until I actually get to try this one.
Jagermeister Ice Cream
Now this is one we have tried, we were hired a few years ago to provide a photo booth and ice cream cart, with the cart dispensing Jager flavoured ice cream. TBH, it isn’t a flavour I would probably have picked, but on trying it, I found it to be a thumbs up.
Whisky And Prune Ice Cream
I think this is another where the Maserati/2CV analogy would hold up. Whisky good, prunes, not so much. In fact they are right up there alongside Brussels sprouts as the food of the devil.
Hire Ice Cream Carts
If you are looking for an ice cream cart for your wedding or event, we can supply a range of different options, from the traditional flavours through to some for the modern favourites such as Orea’s, Bounty, triple choc etc.
Or if you are a corporate client we can put together a fun food truck package to dispense your own ice cream for a sales promotion of event.
During the lock down, like many businesses we found our regular business model changing. We have always provided a large number of catering services, but usually what we called fun catering, doughnuts, waffles that sort of thing. A number of our regular corporate clients started asking us for things like burgers, noodles, pasta pots, more of a main course sort of thing. We swiftly set all of that up, initially in a range of street food style satalls. Perfect as they could be set up inside or out. However we also came to realise that many of the clients wanted more than just the food, they wanted something of an impact from the serving vehicle. To this end we are in the process of adding a range of fun and quirky food trucks for hire.
Citroen Hy Catering Van
Based on the vintage Citroen HY van range, but built on a trailer chassis using modern materials this is a fabulous looking food truck for any occasion, perfect for high output corporate jobs, but equally at home at a high end wedding.
Vintage Horse Trailer
A fully refurbished, vintage Sinclair horse box, with a stunning black and copper paint scheme, and finished in a high end Sapele hardwood this fits many country themes and can be fitted with any of our range of catering options.
Citroen Acadiane Van
The newest member of our fleet, another vintage Citroen design, based on the iconic 2CV car, but with a van body. Designed for many of our smaller food offerings such as coffee, doughnuts etc. This also works well with our our other Citroen food trucks hire.
Only Fools And Horses 3 Wheeled Van
Probably our quirkiest food van, based on the legendary Del Boy Trotter’s 3 wheeled van, again designed to take smaller offerings, this is a real head turner at any event.
Mini Camper Van Food Truck
Next is a mini camper van replica. Great for summer parties and beach themed events. Perfect for drinks offerings, but equally suited to food offerings. Check out our food trucks for hire and add a touch of fun to your party or event.
Traditional Ice Cream Trike
Back to the simplest vehicle of all, a tricycle. Bought initially fo ice cream jobs, it is adaptable for many desserts such as strawberries and cream, waffles, poffertjes etc.
Next up in our new range of food trucks is our converted horse box. We looked at a wide range of converted horse trailers, but were never 100% happy with the design. We happened by chance upon a maker called Sinclair, long defunct, but their trailers were different as they had a curved front panel rather than the usual triangular style.
After much searching we located one at the other end of the country, a brief conversation and we were told that it is perfect, ready for the road.
Cue and early morning trip to Bournemouth. On arrival, the rather vacant sounding young man informed us that actually the lights don’t work. Hmm, so not quite road worthy then. Luckily I had the foresight to throw a lighboard in.
However upon examining the trailer we discovered that it had four different sized wheels.
“Tell you what mate, I’ll ring the boss and tell her about the trailer and let you know”
Luckily I had a back up plan, I had found another trailer at Knutsford, only about 100 miles out of our way on the return trip lol, and this one was described as ‘mint’.
We duly arrived at Knutsford. The trailer was far from mint, but it was suitable for what we wanted. We struck a deal, coupled up and discovered that a short on the trailer lights had blew the lights on the van. That turned into a whole other saga as changing the fuse necessitated a full strip down of the dash to reach the bloody thing.
But I digress, we set off home sans lights. On the way we did receive a text message from the first seller asking when we would be returning for the first trailer. FFS, we left there 7 hours ago.
The Initial Strip Down
After careful consideration we decided that rather than doing what most people seem to do, a quick coat of brush paint and throw some counters in, we decided to make it something nice.
So we started with a complete strip down to the bare frames, leaving my other half to retort, all you have actually bought is a bloody frame!
Taking it back to bare metal we primed everything with rustcoat, then coated the entire frame with black Raptor, one of our favourite products. This gives a hard wearing textured finish that protects everything and covers amazingly well.
One of the concerns the health inspector had was that the original floor would contain years of horse urine soaked into the wood. No probs, as we stripped and burned the original wood flooring and binned the rubber coating.
A new wood floor was fitted, two coats of stain to seal it, then a new rubber coating.
Big Decision, Wooden Cladding
One of the major decisions was how we were going to finish the exterior. The original wood was a high grade hardwood, but because all the screws and bolts were seized in, we pretty much destroyed it taking it off. A trip to our local wood guys yard and a look through his collection of woods saw us settling on Sapele. A tropical hardwood that is related to mahogany, and is a fabulous colour, ranging from red to golden brown.
We used a soak in wood treatment on all the panels, then a number of coats of satin varnish, as we didn’t want an overly glossy look to the trailer.
We also settled on a satin black for the fibreglass roof and aluminium corner panels. Again, we wanted a less shiny look, though I admit the satin clearcoat was a nightmare to spray without it looking patchy. In the end after numerous attempts I gave up. But curiously, after a couple of weeks the patches disappeared and a uniform coating appeared????
The front corner panels were steel, they were overly heavy and badly rusted, so we replaced them with three mm aluminium. In retrospect two mm might have been sufficient as the three really took some bending.
Making It Different
We wanted a different look to the usual horse trailers, and I freely admit that we had seen an American horse trailer that we loved, so we used that for inspiration. One of the things we added to achieve this different look was a number of windows, both to let light into the trailer, and to add some visual appeal.
On To The Interior
Finally we got started with the interior. A number of steel frames were built in situ, with sapele front panels added and temporary countertops in MDF. A water tank, water heater and waste system, single and three phase electrics and a cooking fume extraction system. Also in common with our other food trucks we added a 42 inch display for menus and such.
The interior corners we added alternating sapele and idigbo strips to add some visual effect.
Another Of Our Food Trucks Almost Finished
Our programmable light panel.
We added decorative copper panels to the exterior and additional windows to the front. Just waiting on the production of our top sign at this point.