Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fair

September 1, 2005 and September 5, 2005

"The All-American State Fair meets Germany's Oktoberfest"

In recent years, I have made a mini-tradition of going to the Minnesota State Fair to see their exciting exhibit of amusement machinery. Last year, I took a year off to do my Coasters of the Southeastern United States tour. However, I had several good reasons to revisit Minnesota this year, namely in the form of 2 major wooden roller coasters to try in Wisconsin Dells, and a new coaster at the Mall of America. Oh, and that expo of amusement ride machinery had some fascinating new exhibits.

"Getting there is half the fun" I know I have used that line to start several TRs, and at this point I must acknowledge the assistance provided by Nell and Lee Ann the morning of my departure. It seems that due to unexpected circumstances my usual airport transportation would not be able to drive me to the airport. It looked like either an expensive taxi ride, or a very early bus ride, but Nell and Lee Ann tag teamed to get me to the airport, and got me there in plenty of time. Thanks!

Okay so I arrived at the airport where I checked in, got through the TSA checkpoint with no wait at all, and arrived at the terminal in plenty of time to grab some breakfast at the airport. I watched some hurricane Katrina coverage on CNN and was soon loaded onto the aircraft for an on time departure to Minneapolis. Approximately two hours and just under two episodes of Dukes of Hazzard later I safely touched down in Minneapolis. I picked up a Coke at the Minneapolis airport for only $1.25 a bottle, and waled out the airport exit where Jerry's car was waiting right where we had planned.

We exchanged greetings and small talk and soon thereafter arrived at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. We pulled into the parking lot and were able to park in a reasonable row F. Parking at the Minnesota State Fair (MNSF) is up to $9, but they are willing to cut some slack by letting you turn in a presale gate admission in exchange for the right to park your car. Using this approach, you can park for only $7. Yes, we took advantage of the $7 parking. Another promotion the fair has eliminated is the former carpool promotion. The carpool promotion said that if you had 4 or more in your car, you parked for free, that was totally eliminated and I saw a couple cars get to the parking area and turn around because of it.

We proceeded to walk to the front of the parking lot, then through the park and ride area to the entrance gate. There I turned in another $7 presale admission ticket and walked through the gate. We then crossed the bridge over the major road separating the fair from the parking area and were then officially on the grounds. We walked around the Coliseum, where I noted the brand new look for the all-you-can-drink milk stand. We walked down the roadway that goes between the animal barns, and a couple turns later we had arrived at the Mighty Midway

As near as I can tell, the Mighty Midway forms a cul-de-sac at the far western edge of the fairgrounds, such that there is really only one point of access. Right in the middle of the entrance to the Mighty Midway is the prime location where they usually put what they think will be a headliner ride. I looked over, and sitting in the #1 spot is one of this years new rides, the Mondial Fighter. You will hear much more about the Fighter later in this report.

I looked into my fanny pack and discovered that I am the owner of 7 sheets of advanced sale ride tickets. (Yes, that’s 140 tickets, yes that’s $70 worth, no that won't be enough). Before I get into the rides, let me cover the administrative details. The MNSF is strictly a pay-per-ride show, there are no POP specials. What they do have are bargain ride days, where they reduce the price of each ride by 1 ticket. Full price for major rides would run from 4-6 tickets, which meant they would take 3-5 tickets during discount times. Single tickets are 75 cents each, but better offers could be had by purchasing ticket sheets either at the fair or in advance. Purchasing in advance got the per ticket price down to 50 cents, the best on the grounds offer is a 54 sheet for $30 which gets it down to 55 cents a ticket. Tickets may be used on either the rides or the games. MNSF runs an independent midway as opposed to having one traveling amusement company in charge of the midway, so it truly is an exhibition of the finest in traveling amusements.

I started by taking an orientation tour of the midway to get the lay of the land. Now, I realize that some of the regular readers of my trip reports are probably expecting me to launch into to an ultra detailed blow by blow account of the day, unfortunately this is NOT going to be that type of trip report. I mean the majority of the report could be summarized as "We rode a lot of rides then went home" and honestly I could not tell you the order in which we rode the rides if my life depended on it.

Thus here is the midway list annotated by my commentary:

Crazy Mouse - Reverchon Crazy Mouse- 6 Tickets

I took two rides on this, once with Jerry, and once with Jerry, Paul and Cameron. We were able to get some nice spin action out of this mouse. One moment of note is the ride where Jerry and I rode and the operator advised us that if our car should stop midcourse to remain seated and he would be up to give us a push. Fortunately that was not needed.

Top Spin - Sorani and Moser Loop on Top - 5 Tickets

I took a total of three rides on this Top Spin. It was running a nice long program that offered about 15 flips per ride cycle. I found the restraints to be more comfortable than those on the standard HUSS Top Spin, but then HUSS has improved on them for their Giant and Floorless models. For some reason this ride was being shunned by the fairgoers with very minimal amounts of riders.

Whitewater Flume - Log Flume - 6 tickets

Sorry, didn't ride the Log Flume. Looked to be your standard portable log flume ride.

Space Roller - Mondial Top Scan - 6 Tickets

Okay, I took numerous rides on this one, hey its only cardstock right? It's still one of my favorite rides at the fair, with the ability to spin you around and flip you without warning and without mercy.

Extreme - KMG Fireball (Afterburner) - 6 tickets.

Rode this one twice. I found the shoulder bars on this ride to be especially tight, with me just barely being able to ride, in fact at the end of both rides my bar did not automatically release at the end of the ride and had to be manually released. It's not nearly as good as Delirium at PKI, but seeing as I haven’t been on Delirium since April, it felt good to get on a swinging spinning pendulum ride.

Cliff Hanger - Dartron Cliff Hanger

Sorry, didn't have any interest in riding this one. Perhaps if it were a POP show.

Storm - Wisdom Storm - 5 tickets

I took a few rides on this one. Storm has one goal and it does it well, that is to spin you without mercy. Its ride action is very similar to the old Watkins Tempest except that on a Storm the tubs are geared and motorized so the spin action is more controlled. The rides bally states that it pulls 3.5g's sustained. I was glad to see the mic man from 2002 return, as he has a lot of enthusiasm.

Avalanche - Pinfari Zyklon - 6 tickets.

We took one ride on this one, it was our usual "Let’s see how much weight we can cram into this coaster car ride." To give you a hint, we blew through all the trim brakes, even the ones that were closed, and those magnetic brakes at the end of the ride, well they didn't slow us down. We got the "All hands on deck grab on to this coaster car and stop it before it rams the car in front" braking action. Yes, they got us stopped before we rammed the car in front.

Magnum - Mondial Shake - 6 tickets

I got two rides in on this one. The Magnum is not running as good as it has in years past. It seems to have gotten a lot harder to get the cars to flip over, and it takes a lot more work on the part of the riders to get the cars to flip. Would someone hand me that tube of lithium grease to squirt the bearings of my tub before I ride, I want that tub to be able to flip and pummel mercilessly.

Techno Power - Tivoli Remix - 5 tickets

The Techno Power is still running great. It runs smooth and fast. I believe I took 3 rides on this.

Eclipse - Fabbri Contact - 5 tickets

We took three rides on this. It has been described as the Tilt A Whirl with hyperactivity disorder, and that would just about describe it. The seats are meant for giants, and even after lowering the shoulder bar as low as I could get it, the ride still leaves a lot of room for you to get tossed around. Of course it didn't help that we purposely made sure the tub was as out of balance as we could possibly get it. Wicked insane changes of spin direction.

Skater - Zamperla Skater - 4 tickets

The ticket price should say it all. I took 1 ride on it. Its an oversized Rocking Tug, and not that much more impressive About the most interesting thing is watching the loading platform fold down to the ground.

German Fun House - walk through

I toured this piece in Ohio, no need to tour it here.

Zipper - Chance Zipper -
I have learned from past MNSFs that I don't fit on this particular Zipper, particularly after they cram someone else in with me.. Shame as I like to ride the Zipper.

Mega Bounce - 5 tickets

I took one ride on it. I was warned that it was a pointless ride, but since I had not seen one I decided to go ahead and ride it. Waste of 5 tickets. This is another in a series of recent rides that tries to reinvent the Flying Coaster/Kangaroo Ride experience, and for some reason or another just doesn't do it. This one manages to recreate the ride action (constantly raising and falling tubs) without recreating the airtime that made the original ride a success. Add to it, the ride it set to only bounce the arms that have riders on them and the ride just looks dull from the midway, and rides dull. During the time I was at the fair, this ride spent most of its time sitting still waiting on riders.

Skywheel - AH/Chance Skywheel - 5 tickets

Call me a softy, but I had to take a ride on the Skywheel. The Skywheel is a midway classic, that unfortunately is getting very rare. Whenever I come across one, I have to take a ride on it. The feeling when you are sitting at the top of the top wheel, and wind up at the bottom of the bottom wheel is one of those great midway moments. Add to that the fact that this Skywheel looks, sounds, and rides fresh off the showroom floor and it’s a must do.

Bumper Boats -

Nope, didn't do this one.

Skooter - Majestic Skooter

Nope, didn't do this one, maybe if it were POP I might consider it.

Thunder Bolt - Chance Thunder Bolt

Nope, missed this one too. - Again it it were POP…

Starship 3000 - Wisdom Starship

Missed this one as well, add this to the if it were POP list.

Giant Wheel - Nope

Tilt-A-Whirl - Nope

Scrambler - Nope

Though I remember a comment made on MCW that nobody was showing off any photos of the Scrambler, so I'll toss in two to make up for it.

Super Shot - Drop Tower - 5 tickets

From the name I was expecting a ride that shot riders up like a space launch, but instead its just a freefall ride. Mind you it does a better job at the freefall ride experience than most park installation of a free fall. I can't get over how short the ride experience is for the price. Wound up riding this twice, however.

Spin Out - KMG Spin Out - 5 tickets

Rode once, I personally like the Spin Out, it’s a great ride, but I fear its days are numbered as evidenced by the general lack of ridership I noticed.

Moby Dick - Wisdom Moby Dick - Nope, never got around to giving this one a try.

Wave Swinger - nope

Spider - Eyerly Spider - 4 tickets

I rode this once, hey I like the old time Spider rides. While this Spider spins, it doesn't spin at nearly the quality as the one at Holiday World. Not a bad ride, and it delivered some quality spinning.

Downdraft - Darton Downdraft - 5 tickets

I rode the Downdraft once. Its not one of my favorite rides, but the group wanted to go so I took a spin on it. I think I prefer the older Hurricane rides.

Wisdom Tornado - 5 tickets

We got three rides on this one. It’s a spin ride fanatics home for obsessive spinning. We had our tub spinning clocked at up to 45 RPM. That’s what you get when you put 4 spin ride obsessed insane riders in one tub. (That is we started a count when we saw the center spindle and got past one second but could not get to 2 seconds before passing the center spindle again) And, we were all able to contain our fun!!!

Oh yes, there were several back end pieces which I summarily ignored : Arabian Daze, Mardi Gras, MTV Video Funhouse, German Fun House, The Dark Side - dark ride.

Which brings us up to the feature attraction - The Fighter!! - 6 tickets.

We took several rides on this. It’s a fairly unique piece from Mondial. The ride looks like a swing ride from a distance, but just wait till you climb aboard. The ride contains 4 arms that hang down from top, each arm having 5 seats on it arranges in a circle, each seat containing 2 people, secured only by lap bars. The ride act likes a swing ride, the ride starts the center raises up, the main ride frame starts spinning, then the individual arms start spinning, as if that wasn't enough, the arms contain a hydraulic mechanism to push the arms out and in. Believe me, this is one ride whose bite is worse than its bark. And that's saying something considering that it has a sound system that may be worthy of that great rock group "Disaster Area" of Hitchhiker's Guide fame. Add to that a great light show, great artwork, and a lot of flash. (Hey the main ride frame features 4 very well endowed female figures)

Now, just so those whose interest is more into the games of the midway, I don't want to leave you out. Although I played exactly zero games while at the MNSF, I did note that on offer were the usual assortment of racing games, Bust a Beer Bottle, Bust Em and Run Em Pool, Bottle Up. Machine Gun and a lot more games. I give my blue ribbon to the game with the best flash to the Skeeball trailer. That thing is magical at night. Okay, the scene, at night the trailer is lit by ultraviolet light, the lanes are coasted in UV reactive paint as are the balls. There is a fogger running full blast, and purple neon cords hanging down. Impressive.

The MNSF midway is very particular about wanting to present a clean, unified image, despite the fact that it is all independent. To that end all the workers on the midway wear the same uniform, have the same type ID badge, then if the ride or game uses flags as part of its decoration, the flags are almost always replaced with MNSF Mighty Midway logo flags. I did spot a couple pieces slip an American flag through, or some very small solid color pennants, but for the most part the standard MNSF flag is in use. Speaking of the games, I rekon that if you operate a stick joint at the MNSF, you have to rent the tent from the fairboard. I say this because all the stick joints had one of two very distinctive canvas tops, and they were laid out in a very orderly fashion with the goal of presenting a very neat and orderly midway when viewed from the air. Also the stick joints were all of the same construction with metal poles that were painted with a fresh coast of the exact same shade of blue. One last note on the midway as a whole, we spotted a bench that read (in part) "Courtesy of the Bossman family!" I wonder if there is any relation to the MCW poster.

So Jerry and I arrived at the fair around noon-ish, and started with a solid 1 hour ride session in order to make the most of the Early Bird ride special prices. We then took a tour of Adventure Park, which is the fairs extreme attraction zone. This year Adventure Park contained: Skyscraper, Spring Shot, Skycoaster, Cyber Sez, Trampoline Thing, and Fear Factory.

Fear Factory is a ropes course. A portable trailer mounted ropes course, manufactured by a well respected ropes course manufacturer. I admit before I arrived at the fair grounds I was all gung-ho about walking the ropes course. However taking a walking tour around ground level was enough to scare me out of that notion. I think I was fine with trying it until I saw that leg where you have to walk a length of tight rope with NOTHING to hold onto. Athleticism and agility are not my strong suits, and I know that. But then only $5 to try. Hmmm. Jerry was able to dissuade me from trying the ropes course (which was not getting any business during this time) with a very persuasive reason. Chiefly on Thursday the fairground experiences strong winds (up to 30MPH) Jerry pointed to a flag and asked "Do you really want to try to balance on a thin rope with winds blowing against you like that?"

After touring Adventure Park, we returned for more riding on the Mighty Midway. I noted an Avalanche car got stalled out on the course, and the Skywheel had closed for wind. We took some more rides, then went out to the car to get cameras. We took some photos of the DNR park, the fairgrounds, and the Mighty Midway. We went over to the Kidway to see if there was anything interesting over there.

I wonder how the new gravel surface instead of grass is doing. I didn’t ride anything on the kidway, but I did look at a couple rides. The Zamperla Flying Tiger, which is basically a suspended kids Whip ride with airplane themed tubs looks real cool. I wouldn't mind seeing an adult sized version of it. Zamperla also wins the "Ah isn't just so adorable" with their Fire Brigade ride. On Fire Brigade the kids stand in cages on the back of fire trucks. The fire trucks make slow circles around a building painted to look like it is on fire, and as the trucks go around the center the cages attached to the fire trucks ladders go slowly up and down, and the rider gets to aim a fire hose at the center tower as if they were fighting the fire. Too cute!

Jerry and I then returned the cameras to the car and met up with Cameron and Paul on the Mighty Midway. We talked a lot, we rode some, we had Philly Steaks at Andy's Grill We stayed and rode rides till about 9:30, with a stop to go get Frozen Chocolate Dipped Key Lime Pie on a Stick. Yummy!.

At about 9:30 Jerry and I left the fairgrounds.

We returned to the fairground on Monday September 5, which is Last Chance Day, last day the fair is in session for 2005. "All good things must come to an end". We got lucky enough to park in row A of the lot, and made our way into the fair. Jerry and I started with an early morning ride session, then took a tour of Pioneer Village, which is the fair's historical district. A lot of historical exhibits, including one on the history of the fair, with some of bally canvas from side shows, old fair advertising posters, old ride cars, and all sorts of fair memorabilia. They have about a 2" section of bungee cord from the 1992 bungee jump sitting out as an exhibit. It did not reassure me as to bungee jumping.

Through the day we did a lot more riding, we took a walk up Machinery Hill, had a Walleye sandwich and took a nice walking tour of the fair. It is noteworthy that the temperature was up in the 90's which is hot enough to suck the enthusiasm right out. At least we were thankful that there was a slight breeze. I also saw the official MNSF gift shop, a post office that was open on Labor Day, a bank that was open on Labor Day as well.

In the afternoon, we started to eat our way through the fair with Saratoga Chips, Pizza, Lemon Shake-Ups, Spumoni Ice cream and more involved. What's more impressive is we did this in the midst of the ill-fated Operation Get Cameron Sick. While I am happy to report that no one became ill, the mission must be deemed a failure because the intended victim did not get sick. Oh we tried to throw a whole wide variety of the spiniest and flippiest rides the fair had to offer, in quick succession, but it did not work. The highlight of this failed operation was The back to back rides on the Tornado. At first the operator split our group into two different tubs due to balance issues. Ah well, at least Jerry got Cameron prepped. Then the next cycle the ride operator said he could accommodate us all in the same tub. This was the ride that hit 45RPM. Oh, I feel I should mention that Cameron pulled the old "I'm fresh out of tickets" routine as we headed to the Tornado, that ploy didn't work. We go out of our way to entertain our victims.

We spent the evening walking the fair, talking with various friends on the midway, some in the biz and some not. Cameron needed to get his 1 millionth Andy's cheesesteak of the fair, so I decided to run over to the All You Can Drink Milk booth. Well the price of milk doubled to an even buck, but hey they did have those gourmet cows up in the red barn that produce chocolate milk.

We still managed to go ride a lot more rides on and off throughout the day, eventually needed to buy additional ride tickets. We finally wound up enjoying the fireworks while standing around and enjoying a nice HOT fresh bucket of Sweet Martha's Chocolate Chip Cookies. Is there a better way to end the fair for the year?

At the end of the fireworks we joined the sea of people heading to the parking lot. However we noticed theat the vast majority of the sea of people were content to wait at the light and use the crosswalk, so we were able to express our exit to the parking lot by using the less popular crossing bridge.


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