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Durham Fair's Water Wheel

The fair's most unique booth includes a working water wheel.

A ferris wheel may loom large over Durham's skyline this week but a smaller and more historic wheel will turn a few heads at this year's Durham Fair.

Inspired by his hometown agricultural fair, resident Chris Flanagan has built and installed a working water wheel at the Democratic Town Committee booth.

"We based it on Durham's early business legacy. It was known that the first two businesses in town were waterworks on the Allyn Brook. One was a sawmill, the other was a grist mill," says Flanagan, who with help from other committee members built the booth prior to last year's fair.

Flanagan designed and handcrafted the wheel this summer in his home workshop.

"The wood for the wheel is all western red cedar, purchased from Baldwin Furniture of Middletown. They gave us a super generous discount on the order because they liked the idea of contributing to non-profit volunteers," he says.

The hub assembly was made by a machine shop in Porland using second hand steel purchased in Meriden. The stand that supports the outboard end of the axle is made of white oak and came from a tree Flanagan cut down about four years ago.

Check out Patch's video of the wooden water wheel in action!

The water wheel weighs about 300 pounds but because of Flanagan's precision craftsmanship needs only a trickle of water fed from a copper flume to turn.

"We definitely think we have raised the bar with this project," he says.

Flanagan hopes the water wheel will attract a few more fairgoers to buy the booth's Jamaican Patties, an item with a similarly unique flavor.

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