Nags Head Ferris wheel wins one-season trial run

By on January 18, 2013

(Boardwalk Attractions photo.)

Split on the prospect of flashing lights rotating 55 feet above the town, Nags Head commissioners have decided take a Ferris wheel for a one-season test spin.

The Board of Commissioners had already made a zoning exception allowing a Ferris wheel at Full Throttle Speedway to rise above the 35-foot height limit.

On Wednesday, discussion focused on the ride’s flashing lights, which are prohibited at any height in town.

The Planning Board supported allowing flashing lights only below 20 feet for rides that might be added in the future. A second option would be allowing an exemption for all the rides, including the Ferris wheel.

Full Throttle owner Darnell Tillett told the board that the 55-foot ferris wheel he is leasing is equipped with flashing lights and disabling them would be difficult and expensive.

Commissioner Doug Remaley suggested more flexibility, saying that since Dowdy’s in Nags Head across from the Family YMCA closed years ago, he has heard numerous complaints that kids have nowhere to go.

“I think we should do everything we can possibly to do help,” he said.

No one showed up to speak at a public hearing, but Commissioner Anna Sadler said she had heard concerns about the possibility of flashing lights in the night sky at roughly the height of the South Nags Head Comfort Inn.

“We also need to take in consideration the people that live here in the summer as well as the winter that perhaps would not be using the amusement rides,” she said.

On the suggestion of Commissioner Renee Cahoon, the board compromised, passing a zoning amendment that allows flashing lights for rides below 35 feet and for one above that, which would exempt the ferris wheel from the town prohibition.

Sadler said she could go along with the trial period, thus providing the required super majority, or in this case, a unanimous vote. Commissioner Susie Walters was absent, but indicated in an e-mail that she would support making accommodations for the ride.

The Ferris wheel would be permitted from May 15 to Sept. 15. Tillett hopes to have it running this season. Full Throttle is on U.S. 158 at milepost 15.5.

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January 30, 2013 12:55 pm

to Ihate Walmart
do you remember Snug Harbor? spent a summer there as well as a summer at the old Nags Head Inn, Tommy Rolison was “running” the inn that summer (trying to anyway) what a freakin blast, from what I remember….8-)

nags head bob

January 28, 2013 1:30 pm

rbd, I think we might have had the same grandfather….

Ihate Walmart

January 27, 2013 6:55 pm

If You aren’t mad about auto zone, lowes and wal-mart don’t be hatin on my Ferris wheel!!!!! I can’t wait to ride it and see the ocean and the sound … In fact, I’m gonna ride it a thousand times!!!! Remember when it was going to be a boardwalk/conference/hotel center… That’s jersey shore … I bet nags head inn would have been more upset about that!!


January 25, 2013 12:34 pm

Once again I say GOOD JOB Darnell for doing this & thanks.I to went to Dowdys as a kid & worked there one summer when I was in High Shcool.I’ve already called & put my daughters name in for a job.Darnell & Dawn are wonderfull people.Darnell your grandfather would be proud.


January 25, 2013 10:03 am

Lowes and Super Walmart make the beach look just like any other place not a Ferris wheel which will be running only in the summer. Looking forward riding it in the summer.


January 24, 2013 10:06 am

It’s about having a little fun. I remember Dowdys very well “ride the bump cars!”. I worked at the water slide two summers in a row, had some friends who worked at the fozzball palace, some of the best summers of my life. Some of you don’t know what unspoiled was…we used to go to the research pier and surf fish way before any of the northern beaches had any houses. When I was very young, my dad rented a cottage in Salvo, left to get beer and didn’t come back for hours. He didn’t know there was no place to get beer on the island, ha….I’m ramblin’ with a tear in my eye. We still go all the time as we have familiy there. Looking forward to taking my kids on the ride this summer.

I wish I was an OBXer

January 23, 2013 9:47 pm

My visits to OBX when I was a preteen/young teen were made magical by going to Dowdy’s and all the excitement it presented. While it is true that I long for the days when OBX was not full of chains I can only see good things with this. I hope those who are troubled by this can find peace with it because I understand what the OBX and it’s lore can mean to you…even though I can’t claim OBX as home. Maybe one day I will.

MD girl

January 23, 2013 1:13 pm

I live about an hour away from Ocean City and I have to tell you I never ever EVER think about stepping foot there during the late spring through fall – it’s very sad. The whole beauty of the OBX, which I visit frequently, comes from the fact that when you walk out on your balcony at night you hear the wind & waves and see the lights from the pier, not hearing loud rides, seeing flashing lights destroying the starry night sky and the screams of teenagers in love and 20 something partiers. It’s one thing if it is for a few weeks in the summer like a traveling carnival, but trust me, it’s a very slippery slope with tons of mud at the bottom of the pit.

Family Fan

January 23, 2013 12:37 pm

Family and I have been coming to OBX from faraway Pittsburgh twice a year for the last decade

We’ve enjoyed the serenity of the place pre kids; the McMansion that we found affordable and as the kids grow, more other things and great off the beaten path stuff on the recommendation of locals.

Change happens, I think a good storm will prove the 35 foot height limit wise.


January 23, 2013 11:56 am

what’s a ferris wheel?


January 23, 2013 11:28 am

The decision has been made. Things that are on a “trial basis” tend to become permanent. The Commisioners should have the right to approve the design and lighting of the Ferris Wheel. Bright “flashy” lighting is not necessary.

OBX Resident

January 23, 2013 11:26 am

FYI, there used to be a water park on the OBX, called Diamond Shoals if I remember correctly….and it was where the Harris Teeter in Nags Head is now.


January 23, 2013 12:32 am

nags head, etal, has already become one giant strip mall. how can this make it any worse?


January 22, 2013 5:21 pm

I remember putt putt on jokeys ridge,thats a burger and ice cream.
dowdys and the circus tent were fun as well.
1 traffic light between KH and manteo.
NO,repeat NO wings,sunsations.
once a month trips to the big E city,USCG exchange,then to Grants,lunch at Roses then back to the exchange to pack meat and frozen goods.
then head backto kitty hawk on one lane roads winding through currituck.
granpa may have stopped by saunders in the E city or Tucks.
probably a stop by powells market as well.
the drive across that old two lane currituck bridge span to the texaco station on the right,was a simpler time for sure. Grandpa was right. we should have dynamited the bridges in the 60′s.


January 22, 2013 2:58 pm

Well said, Sherry Kelly!! I think we all need to lighten up….We could use some good family fun spots that don’t break the bank. Not all of us are on vacation, but we do like to have some options to go to with the kids during the in-season. I think the lights being an issue is bogus. It’s not like it would be running all night.
I hope he’s very successful.


January 22, 2013 1:56 pm

Well put Sherry Kelly!


January 22, 2013 1:12 pm

I love how people lament the possible “loss” of the old NH feel after they have everything they need.Just this weekend I was on my way to the beach from Va. and forgot a critical medicine. Now, back in the “old days” I would have been in a world of hurtin’, possibly having to turn around and go back!. Instead I picked up my smart phone, called a chain drug store, and by the time I got to OBX it was ready and waiting AND I didn’t even have to get out of the car! Now THATS’s progress! It’s a Ferris wheel for cripes sake! I still smile every time I pass by the Dowdy site. I still miss Foozball Palace! Relax!!

Sherry Kelly

January 21, 2013 8:10 pm

For years my kids looked forward to going to Dowdy’s. once or twice a summer was all we could afford, but we loved the small town feel of it and the pleasure in our kid’s faces. When my oldest turned 13, I thought she might be old enough for a season pass to the water park so she could spend the day there with her friends. Then it was gone. We have lots of drug stores, banks, etc. Whoa, even lots of lights from big box stores! We have very few outdoor family activities here other than the beach. Have you tried to find a free outdoor basketball hoop lately? Or a place for a pick up game of soccer or baseball? Certainly, you will not find it at our local Parks and Rec facilities. They cater mostly to organized sports. The people in McMansions like the differences and the “quiet” of our beaches? Oh my, I guess they dont need any entertainment after they have paid for their pool, spa and gamerooms some complete with home theaters and bowling alleys?! We need to support small businesses that provide entertainment for everyone. Our local families need affordable entertainment, too. The carnival coming to town was always exciting when we were kids. Ours have left permanently. Kudos to a businessman who sees an opening which not only profits him, but may also add to our community, flashing lights and all! And by the way, we tend to frequent anyone who offers even a small locals discount.


January 21, 2013 7:16 pm

What about a nice water park or something in that direction for the kids to do cause there is nothing other than the bowling ally when that opens back.


January 21, 2013 6:55 pm

I’ve lived here 65 years. Put up the ferris wheel and bring back the Casino and Pirate’s Jamboree.


January 21, 2013 6:43 pm

The dowdy gump people are super nice. Would they be running it again?

obx resident

January 21, 2013 6:00 pm

Way to go ekim! you can tell the ones who never experienced our way of life.


January 21, 2013 5:13 pm

Relax people. The Outer Banks is already like that place to the north and that place to the south. The Outer Banks stopped being “paradise” a long time ago. With the mega-houses, shopping, and “I am bored places”, y’all have got to be kidding me. PAAALEASE!

John T

January 20, 2013 2:31 pm

Like it or not,the ferris wheel will be a success and a much needed attraction to the area.Since I moved here,we lost Dowdy’s and 2 water slides in Nags Head alone.Getting back a small fraction of what’s been lost in the form of amusements,will in no way transform this place into a Myrtle beach.

Duke Geraghty

January 20, 2013 2:24 pm

Makes me think of both of my sister’s families who used to come every year and liked SNH because it was less commercial. As their kids got older and became teenagers they were complaining after 3 days that they were bored. My sister and her daughter were sitting on a dune and commented on the birds. Her daughter’s reply was ” I can see the same sea gulls in the parking lot at Walmart back home”. They don’t come here anymore for vacation.


January 20, 2013 12:00 pm

35yrs ago Dowdys was much simpiler then A 50ft FERRIES WHEEL there was nothing here thats why most of us stayed, FOR THE SIMPLICITY! If you like more DEVELOPMENT move back inland, If your in such bad health move BACK INLAND its you bozos who dont understand this wonderful way of life, Your the ones helping @ OVER DEVELOPING IT ! The wheel just shows that SIMPLICITY & the BEAUTY has been FORGOTTEN. Sitting on the dunes @ NH on a fullmoon is a much better RIDE.

Mark Williamson

January 19, 2013 6:19 pm

When the nearest dentist, optometrist was E. City, and groceries were twice the price of Great Bridge, and the pharmacy was 5 times the cost as Hampton Roads, I say that development has made or lives better. You want privacy and space, go to a National Park.

greg honeycutt

January 19, 2013 2:29 pm

Come on folks we are talking about a Ferries Wheel for 4 months not Coney Island.Those of us that have been on the OBX for awhile and remember Dowdy’s ,what a great family activity that was. It will be beautiful lookin out over the sound and ocean. I agree in that we have many great beaches and if you want to escape lights go south.


January 19, 2013 1:32 pm

I think anyone who thinks a Ferris Wheel will turn us into Ocean City or the Jersey shore needs to visit those places with both eyes open.


January 19, 2013 12:35 pm

I’d appreciate an explanation as to why why this Ferris wheel is/will be so much more different & detrimental to the area than the one that used to be at Dowdy’s. What’s the damaging impact likely to be that we haven’t already had/experienced? Surely our memories are not that short, especially for those were here when Dowdy’s was.


January 19, 2013 12:20 pm

WELL SAID KRIS! This ol island use to be about the beutiful beaches an A cheap t shirt, You walk the beach now its MC MANSION AVE I still like the walk the veiw just aint the same, Is that wheel gona hold up against the wind? `Not that I would ride it.


January 19, 2013 8:53 am

Have we become Ocean City?


January 19, 2013 8:38 am

As a yearly vacationer to the OBX, as Karen says, what sets your beaches apart from destinations to the north and destinations south and deep south is they are not carbon copies. Children need more then a Ferris wheel. The history, the beauty and a place that families need to spend one on one time teaching their children how to appreciate what nature has laid before them – before it is too late. (And no, I am not talking just about birds and turtles.)


January 19, 2013 8:36 am


If you like desolate beaches drive 10 minutes south and you have all you can handle. You act like “our” beaches are 3 miles only, there is more beaches. Plenty that the crazies are shutting down even for you not to walk on. Development isn’t going to make this a Jersey Shore witch I’m sure you are familiar with.

Mark Williamson

January 19, 2013 8:01 am

Its a ferris wheel, lighten up you bunch of negaholics. What is wrong with having a ferris wheel? SOMEONE explain?


January 18, 2013 6:53 pm

What sets our beaches apart is the fact that they are NOT carbon copies of destinations to our north.


January 18, 2013 6:48 pm

Hey Paula,
Please elaborate on your vision of the “right” direction?


January 18, 2013 5:45 pm

Sure feels like another step in the wrong direction, unless you’re a developer/builder.

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