The RC 48 isn't really a tower of money. It's more like a tower of wow.
But when people go to a state fair, they expect wow, Frank Zaitshik said.
Zaitshik is the grand poobah of all things carnival. He's a big guy with bright white hair and an iPhone he barely puts down. He owns Wade Shows, the company responsible for the rides, games and all kinds of other midway attractions at the Oklahoma State Fair.
He wants his fairs to be big, fun, impeccable. Profits will follow.
"A lot of people, when they think of the state fair," he said, "they think of big, exciting rides they can't see anywhere else."
They can't see the RC 48 anywhere else. Zaitshik says it's the biggest portable roller coaster in North America.
Zaitshik bought it in 2008 from an amusement park in New Jersey, where it spent two years in pieces, in open containers.
"We made 'em a fire-sale offer for it," he said.
It wasn't designed to be a traveling coaster, and Zaitshik planned to take his time — maybe up to a year — fixing it up. But then the Florida State Fair called. They were in a bind and asked Zaitshik if he could find them another coaster. He said he'd try. Nothing panned out, but Zaitshik had the inoperable RC 48.
A crew worked around the clock for more than a month, cleaning it and putting all the scattered pieces back together like a jigsaw puzzle.
"Putting it together was the easy part," Zaitshik said. "Getting it to run was the hard part."
The salty sea air of New Jersey had taken its toll. Zaitshik brought in the top roller coaster expert in the country. Finally, the RC 48 was ready.
Zaitshik used it first in Florida, and now he brings it with him. His crew set it up again this year on the Oklahoma State Fair midway.
But the RC 48's big thrills don't necessarily equal big profits.
Because the coaster is so massive, it's massively expensive. It takes eight tractor-trailers to haul from city to city and a 70-ton crane to assemble. It has its own full-time crew of half a dozen specialists. Zaitshik keeps it anyway.
"It's for overall presentation and overall satisfaction," he said. "If you put a pencil to it, you'd say, why keep that?"
Because Zaitshik's about presentation, not just pencil-pushing. He spends tons of cash on landscaping and picnic tables. All the tents and flags and extras fit into the blue-pink-white theme. It's all part of the big picture.
"I look at these things going up with great pride," he said.
His job's about money. It's about logistics, time tables and the number of tractor-trailers it takes to move a roller coaster across a time zone.
But it's also about people-pleasing. It's about persuading the masses to part with their money because they're having a good time.
To Zaitshik, that takes a stage that is perfectly set: rides, games, food, atmosphere. From each morning until the fair opens, he'll hop on his golf cart and drive through it all. It's these peaceful moments, when everything's quiet and dew makes the rides glimmer, that he loves the most.
"My favorite time," he said, "is when the table's set exactly like it's supposed to be set."