Everett residents Gerry Hall and Andria Smith manage the Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57 on Elliott Bay.

Everett couple keeps Seattle Great Wheel spinning

They are the spokes of the Seattle Great Wheel.

She runs the crowds and he runs the show.

His LED displays of thousands of lights can be seen for miles and get millions of views online.

“I never knew I’d grow up to have a 175-foot Lite Brite that the whole downtown Seattle gets to see,” said Gerry Hall, 39, general manager of the Ferris wheel that towers 200 feet above Elliott Bay.

His wife, Andria Smith, 34, is the ticketing manager.

The behind-the-scenes duo live in Everett, where few know they are the big wheels of the Great Wheel. Hall says he gets recognized more in Seattle from his TV interviews. Smith keeps watch over the steady traffic of riders who pay $13 for three rotations in the wheel.

The couple has managed the wheel, which has 70 employees, since it opened in June of 2012 on Pier 57. There are 41 self-enclosed gondolas that each hold up to eight people. There’s also one VIP cabin with a glass bottom floor that seats four. In all, that means about 300 passengers can ride at any given time in the wheel, which weighs 280,300 pounds, extends 40 feet over the bay and is rated for an 8.0 earthquake.

This is no simple carnival ride.

“We do two hours of safety checks every morning before anyone gets on,” Hall said. “We’re literally checking every bolt that these things hang from. We climb up the ladder and there are four different levels. We do checks on each side and spin the wheel four times and check each level four different times.”

It’s done every day. Rain or shine.

“And wind. Don’t forget the wind. We get those ladders whistling,” he said.

They pick a random cabin to evaluate the ride. “You have to experience what the people experience,” he said.

With so much responsibility, the worries don’t end at quitting time.

“More of the nightmares I get are at home, ‘Did I leave anyone on the wheel?’ ” he said.

“It’s like when you leave your house … ‘Did I leave the oven on?’ ” she said.

“One night he said, ‘Andria, I need to go back and check.’ He came down and checked and everything was fine.”

Hall designs the light displays for ball games, charitable causes and whoever wants a dazzle, from Bing to bands such as Pearl Jam. His time-lapsed spelling of Seahawks was a huge hit.

“I can do one letter at a time,” he said. “I can’t do, ‘Will You Marry Me?’ ”

Sometimes, a solid color says it all.

“One thing we do a lot lately is gender reveals,” Smith said. “The classic situation is the dad and mom don’t know the gender and they have either the doctor let us know or one of their friends, and they stand over at the aquarium and at a certain time we light it blue or pink. Some people want to have it half blue and half pink and then at a certain time change it to all the color they want.”

How does Hall do his mega Lite Brite magic?

“A little computer runs the light show,” he said. “It’s just a laptop. I do the programming at my house, on my couch, then put in the memory stick.”

It’s that simple. Well, sort of. He has honed his skills using the software.

The lighting hardware was an add-on at the time the wheel was made. “It’s a package, like an accessory to your car,” Hall said. “Do you want lights, a VIP cabin?”

Flashy light displays weren’t part of the couple’s extensive careers in outdoor recreation, primarily the ski industry.

“We started working together at Crystal Mountain 17 years ago, dated for 10 years and got married and decided it was time to move on. We applied here (the wheel) before it opened,” said Hall, who is also a scuba diving instructor.

He’s from Port Orchard. She’s from Puyallup. They moved to Everett 10 years ago and share their house with three cats.

“We bought a house in Everett because it’s close to Mukilteo where we like to go diving. And an hour from Anacortes,” she said. “We really like our little neighborhood. We live in Lowell.”

They enjoy what Everett offers. “I like to eat and drink and visit restaurants. There’s a lot of good little restaurants in Everett,” she said.

The commute keeps the wheels spinning in their heads.

“We have our drive back and forth every day,” Smith said. “We’re either talking about work or decompressing from work.”

So, is a ride in the gondola as much fun for them as for visitors?

Maybe even more so.

“It’s very relaxing for me to sit in here and just ride,” Hall said. “There are times I take meetings and phone calls in here, like we are doing now. This is my office.”

If you go

Seattle Great Wheel, 1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle; 206-623-8607; seattlegreatwheel.com.

Winter hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday; 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

The Valentine’s Day Special, $59.95, includes a private cabin, photo booth picture and two glasses of champagne. The tickets are not for time reservations. Cabins are loaded on a first-come basis.

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