Meet the Family That Travels the Country by Renting Out a Ferris Wheel
That’s what it takes to overcome your fear of ferris wheels, according to Darren Janesky, the man behind Big Round Wheel. BRW is a ferris wheel and amusement park rental company based out of Blacksburg, South Carolina, with a roster of high-profile events and celebrity clients in tow.
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Owned and operated by the Janesky family—Darren, his wife, Jessica, and their three children—BRW was born out of a dad’s need to please his kids. It was 2011, and Darren was in the market for a ferris wheel.
He originally bought the classic 1969 spinning ride to set up in their backyard. It was a restoration project, and he had an amusement manufacturer restore the wheel to original condition. But as the cost climbed and the family put more and more money into the ride, the manufacturer recommended the Janeskys start renting it out.
BRW’s first year clocked about three or four rentals and showed the family there was a market for ferris wheel rentals.
“The second year,” Darren says, “we did more business, and it started to escalate.”
“Escalate” is a mild way to describe the success that would ensue. Since BRW started, the family’s ferris wheel has been everywhere from Kid Rock’s “Johnny Cash” music video to Governor’s Island, New York, to a Grammy Museum reception for Taylor Swift. It’s even been decked out in pink light bulbs for Victoria’s Secret’s PINK brand.
The kids are along for the ride for all of these events—the family travels the country together in a tour bus with the ferris wheel folded up “like a fan.”
“One of the biggest values for the kids is getting to go to some of the nicest places that we would normally have no reason to be there… Traveling the country, we get to meet a lot of interesting people and go to a lot of high-profile events,” Darren says.
“Why people rent ferris wheels is interesting,” Darren begins, leading into a story about a couple who rented the ferris wheel so they could enjoy their morning coffee from the seats. “We had it up at 5:15 in the morning, and as the sun rose, they drank their coffee. We were there for 45 minutes, and that was it.”
Another interesting gig for the wheel was when Lions Club International rented out a space with 90-foot ceilings for their annual meeting. The space felt too vast vertically, so they brought in the Janeskys and had the ferris wheel installed indoors.
As for set-up, every family member has a job.
“The kids are completely involved,” Darren says. “They go to a virtual private school. Each one of them has their own niche where they can help. It makes a difference.”
At age 8, the youngest, Corey, unloads the wooden blocks (known as “the cribbing”) and the pins, bolts, and nuts to assemble the ride. Sarah, 13, pulls the arms of the ride (“the windbreakers”) and mans the gate as a safety spotter. Tommy, 11, buttons the skirting around the ride, helps with the cable, and unfolds the seats.
Darren and Jessica have their own duties bolting seats, handling levels, and wenching out segments.
“By the time all of us pitch in, in about two hours and 15 minutes, you have a ferris wheel up and ready to go.”
And that’s where the family shines. Though their business includes other types of rides, they’re most proud of the ferris wheel because of how much work they’ve put into restoring it. And because families have a special connection and level of trust, the Janesky clan of 5 is the best set-up crew there is.
“A hired crew cannot touch the progress we make as a family,” Darren says.
The Big Round Wheel will be in Mexico this October, and there’s no telling what kind of stories and memories will surface from the Janeskys’ next Big Round Adventure.