ABC 20 Streaming LiveSpotlight 20Pump PatrolRaw NewsFriday Night HangtimePay It Forward


MONDAY: Mostly cloudy with scattered flurries or a few sprinkles possible. High: 36. Winds: Southwest 5-10 mph.

MONDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy. Low: 32. Winds: Northwest 10-15 mph.


more »

Advertise with us!

Search Results

The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Made in Your Hometown: Eli Bridge Company Amusement Rides

The Ferris wheel is an amusement ride loved by people both young and old. For generations, the Eli Bridge Company in Jacksonville has been a huge part of the amusement ride industry, creating more than 1,400 wheels seen in every state across the U.S. and even being used in 36 countries across the globe.

The fascination behind a big rotating wheel began during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, which is where the original Ferris wheel made its debut appearance.

"It was a 20-minute revolution and one ride was two revolutions so it was very exciting and was it was totally new for that time," CEO Patty Sullivan said.

The Ferris wheel was 264 feet high and had 36 passenger cars, which is why nearly 1.5 million fairgoers stepped on board. One was Jacksonville resident William E. Sullivan.

"He saw the big wheel and rode it once and just fell in love with it, and decided that he wanted to build a wheel that could travel around so that everyone could ride something like that and get a thrill of going up and around," Patty Sullivan said.

Creating a traveling amusement ride is exactly what William Sullivan did.

Formerly in the bridge-making business, his passion lead him to create Big Eli Wheels, which are now seen across the globe.

"By the 50s they were up to about 76 employees at the time and they were selling about 50 wheels a year at that time," Patty Sullivan said.

Today, the Eli Bridge Company is down to 17 employees, which General Manager Tim Noland said is because of the growing technology and the quality of the product.

"There was a large demand early on, of course, wanting our rides, our Big Eli Wheels, especially our Scrambler, so the volume of new rides, that probably coupled with the economy and things, we have seen a decline in the number of new rides built," Noland said.

Now they build about three wheels a year, and make repairs on amusement rides used in hundreds of county fairs across United States. That's one of the many reasons welder Carl Davis has been working for the Eli Bridge Company for 20 years.

"It's a big thrill," Davis said. "It's a high, really, 'cause every year when I go over to the New Berlin Fair, I look at that nice yellow Ferris wheel that I know I built."

Fourth-generation owner and CEO Patty Sullivan said the wheels and amusement rides are gifts that just keep on giving, by creating more jobs.

"The carnivals are adding to every local economy to where they go because they're buying food, they're buying gas," Patty Sullivan said.

Once rides are used again and again, they need repairs.

"Occasionally some pieces get worn out, and then that gets them to order parts from us, so we, the Eli Bridge Company, actually brings new money into town," Patty Sullivan said.

Bringing new money and new people into town is why big rotating wheels have been so popular for more than a century.

"The wheel there is always that thrill of being up high," Noland said. "People remember that from their childhood. Young to old love riding the wheel."

The company said a large part of their business is keeping up with technology and the latest industry trends--in a sense, re-inventing the wheel. It was originally powered by steam engines, and is now powered electronically. Coming out next year will be a wheel fully operated with a touch pad.

Click here to watch Part 2 of Made in Your Hometown - Lender's Bagels.
Tune into Sunrise This Morning Wednesday, July 17 for the final installment in this three-part series.

  • WICS :: News - The Ferguson Decision

    The Ferguson Decision

  • WICS :: News - Tracking Ebola

    Tracking Ebola

  • WICS :: News - Traffic


    Get up to the minute traffic reports from WICS NewsChannel 20!
  • WICS :: News - Road Trippin News

    Road Trippin News

    Missed a Road Trippin segment that aired in the news? Check it out here!
  • WICS :: News - Health Matters

    Health Matters

    Featuring news segment videos about health.
  • WICS :: News - In The Kitchen

    In The Kitchen

    Watch the area's best chefs whip up their tastiest creations. See them in action and get their recipes to try at home. 
  • WICS :: News - Behind The Headlines

    Behind The Headlines

    Get Behind the Headlines commentary with Mark Hyman.
  • WICS :: News - Ready, Set, Shred

    Ready, Set, Shred

    In an exclusive eight-week investigation, ABC Newschannel 20 digs deep into the Springfield police document shredding scandal.
  • WICS :: News - Pay it Forward

    Pay it Forward

    Pay It Forward... because sometimes people need a little extra help.
  • WICS :: News - Ask the Expert

    Ask the Expert

    Do you need expert advice? Here's your chance to ask our experts!
  • WICS :: News - Your Voice. Your Future.

    Your Voice. Your Future.

    As the country faces challenges from federal budget issues to jobs and national debt, your voice is critical to the future.
  • WICS :: News - Road Trippin

    Road Trippin

    Come Road Trippin' with us! Check out all the great attractions in your area!
  • WICS :: News - Pump Patrol

    Pump Patrol

    Check out the ABC Newschannel 20's Pump Patrol to find the lowest prices, report low prices and get gas saving tips.

  • WICS :: News - Spotlight 20

    Spotlight 20

    Local organizations and community leaders tell us about events in central Illinois.
  • WICS :: News - Raw News

    Raw News

    Watch extra news footage, full interviews, and extended stories that didn't make it on air.  "Raw News" may include content that is not suitable for children and is intended for mature audiences only.
  • WICS :: News - On the Farm

    On the Farm

    Whether it's topical segments on what's happening on local farms to commodity prices, we have the world of central Illinois agriculture covered.
  • WICS :: News - Fugitive Files

    Fugitive Files

  • WICS :: News - Home Room

    Home Room

    When's the next school board meeting? Where's the basketball game? What's for lunch today? Do we have a snow day tomorrow? We have all the information you need for a successful school year--no pencil or ...
  • WICS :: News - No Text Zone

    No Text Zone

    Texting while driving kills thousands of people each year. Many more are seriously injured.  Keep central Illinois roads safe by taking the "No Text Zone" pledge.
  • WICS :: News - Business News

    Business News

    Stay up-to-date on the biggest business stories from around the nation.
  • WICS :: News - Pet of the Week

    Pet of the Week

    The cutest video you'll see anywhere! You won't be able to resist these adorable friends who need someone to love them.
  • WICS :: News - Waste Watch

    Waste Watch

    How are your tax dollars being spent? Waste Watch tracks whether local, state and federal governments are using your money wisely...or wasting it.
  • WICS :: News - Washington Times

    Washington Times

    Politics, Breaking News, US and World News.
  • WICS :: News - Health Care Reform

    Health Care Reform

    The Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act sparked a new battle. Check here daily for the latest developments, locally and across the country.

more »

Tonight on WICS

The Bachelor

The investigation into a pool shark's death reveals that the killer may have had paranormal powers.

Newschannel 20 at 10

Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Celebrity guests and comedy skits.


Complete Schedule »

WICS Pay It Forward
Buzzed Driving Prevention PSA
WICS Cheers For The Years
Jimmy Kimmel
WICS Storm Team