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Chicago man hopes to break record with 48-hour Ferris wheel ride

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Updated: May 24, 2013 6:25AM



Clinton Shepherd had a notion that he wanted to put into motion.

The South Side resident wants to set the Guinness Book of World Records mark for “Longest Marathon on a Fairground/Theme Attraction.”

Shepherd, 32, will attempt to ride the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel for more than 30 hours and 35 seconds — which would break the mark that radio sidekick Robbie “The Intern” Gibson set last July in an amusement park in Edmonton, Alberta.

His endeavor is set to begin at 2:30 p.m. May 17. Shepherd is aiming to shatter the record with a 48-hour spin.

He knows his stuff. Shepherd has worked for Navy Pier since 2005, when he was a host answering questions and giving directions. You could say he worked his way up to Pier Park operations manager. He has operated the wheel and has loaded on thousands of guests.

“My competitive spirit came out,” Shepherd said during a sunny Monday morning conversation by the Pier’s wheel. “Our Ferris wheel is modeled after the first Ferris wheel done by George W. Ferris. That’s why I want [Chicago] to have this title.”

Ferris designed his wheel for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Shepherd is already in training. “Once the weather breaks I’ll be on the wheel to do four or five hours here and there,” he said.

He does not have to practice holding his bladder. Shepherd is entitled to a five-minute break every hour. “But I can’t go to sleep,” he said, and he’s practicing staying awake.

He will have a tricked-out red gondola with curtains, a cushion, a PlayStation 3 and a flatscreen TV. A good house mix would include Blood Sweat and Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” and AC/DC’s “Long Way To the Top.” He will also have a cell phone to communicate with ground control.

The Ferris wheel will be open to the public for the entire duration of Shepherd’s record-breaking attempt.

On May 18, Shepherd will celebrate his four-year anniversary with girlfriend Deanne Davis, a field trip coordinator for the Children’s Museum at the Pier.

“We’ll be celebrating with a candelight dinner on the gondola,” said Shepherd, who grew up near 81st and Artesian. “I’ll have a suit and tie, she’ll have a nice little evening dress.” His 9-year-old twins Aaliyah and Jalen also will visit their high-flying father.

Shepherd is also dedicating his ride to the Armed Forces, as May 18 is Armed Forces Day. His father, Floyd, was in the U.S. Marines. A Guinness adjudicator will be on hand when Shepherd leaves the wheel, hopefully on the afternoon of May 19.

This smells like a publicity stunt, not unlike that of the current record holder, which was part of the wacky Pepper and Dylan morning radio show.

“This was my idea,” Shepherd said. “I brought it to the Pier and pulled them in on it.”

Gibson had to set his record through torrential overnight rains. Shepherd is prepared for fickle Chicago weather in his fiberglass and steel hideaway.

“I’ll stay on as long as I possibly can,” he said. “We’d have to shut it down if winds got up to 50 miles per hour. When we have guests on, we shut it down between 20 and 30 miles per hour. You get up 150 feet, so you see a nice view of downtown and Lake Michigan. But me [practicing for] the record will be the first time in a long time that I’ll ride it.”



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