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Amusement business has been family affair in the South Hills since 1950

| Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, 11:10 a.m.

Michaela Reinhart handed cotton candy to two sisters who couldn't reach the counter of her family's concession stand at the Our Lady of Grace Church Festival in Scott Township.

A photo behind the counter showed the 22 grandchildren who make up the third generation of Reinharts involved in the family amusement business.

“Not every person gets to grow up with a carnival,” said Michaela, 14.

Harry Reinhart Sr., 80, started the business in 1950 in Brentwood with his foster father, Homer E. Moore. They rented amusement rides to local churches planning festivals, and now Harry Reinhart Sr. runs the business with his eight children: Harry Jr., Beth Ann, Kathleen, David, Michael, Maria, Kristen and Kari.

All have careers outside the carnival life. Their children work at carnivals in the summer to help pay for their educations.

Harry Jr., 52, began picking up baseballs for the ball game when he was 6. “It's in our blood,” he said.

Reinhart Amusements for 16 weeks a year rents out its Ferris wheel and other equipment, primarily to South Hills churches, although they have provided equipment for firefighters' events as well.

In addition to the Ferris wheel, the company owns a merry-go-round, helicopter and Tubs of Fun rides along with a concession stand and games.

Each season starts at the St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish Festival in Baldwin Borough during the third week of May.

The Reinharts have done business with St. Elizabeth since 1970, said the Rev. Dale DeNinno, pastor. Immaculate Conception, his former parish, also used the Reinharts' equipment.

“I've known and worked with them for many years,” DeNinno said. “It has always been very positive.”

Reinhart Amusements sets up booths for the parishes, which parish volunteers staff. Rides and the concession stand are staffed by Reinhart employees.

“They have a very reasonable fee,” DeNinno said. “They allow for a pre-sale of ride tickets and you get a percentage of that.”

Cost varies depending on the parish situation, Harry Reinhart Jr. said.

“We purposely kept the business small,” he said. “We like to help the churches.”

The Reinharts conclude their season at their home parish, St. Sylvester's in Brentwood, each year. This year, the St. Sylvester festival was held Aug. 19 to 24.

The last night of a carnival is always the longest for the Reinharts. About 20 workers gather to take down the rides and transport them to the next location, where they are rebuilt all in the same night. Harry Jr. credits most of Reinhart Amusements' success to family, spouses and friends that help work the festival.

“It wouldn't be possible without them,” Harry Jr. said.

Ride safety is important. Each night, ride operators go through a checklist to make sure each ride is mechanically safe for operation. Employees must be at least 17 to be a ride operator.

“Our kids ride these rides,” Harry Jr. said as he reminds a young rider to keep both hands on the steering wheel while riding Tubs of Fun.

According to Michaela Reinhart, the Ferris wheel is the most popular ride. “It always has the longest line,” she said.

When lines disappear and the weather gets cold, Reinhart Amusements stores its equipment in a South Side garage before taking a family vacation in Florida.

“It's the Reinhart way,” Harry Jr. said. “We are family.”

Brittany Goncar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or bgoncar@tribweb.com.

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