Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Sunday, September 23, 2007

TR: Minnesota/Wisconsin 2007 - Day 2 8/31/07

Trip Report: Minnesota/Wisconsin 2008 - Day 2
August 31, 2007
Wisconsin Dells - Mt. Olympus, Timber Falls
Wisconsin Dells, WI
T-Shirt of the Day: 2007 Holiwood Nights shirt - "Attack of the Airtime Monster"


"My Big Fat Greek Theme Park"

Here begins Day 2 of the trip. As noted at the end of Day 1, we are starting somewhere between 4:30-5 AM getting up, getting prepared, and getting ready for the four hour trip to Wisconsin Dells. Which we do, and somewhere between 5:30-5:45 we are out on the road.

Our departure time is such that we will be able to clear downtown Minneapolis just before morning rush hour, even if that does mean having the sun in our eyes again. We cross into Wisconsin, and here I admit I slept most of the rest of the way to the Dells. I did note the highway patrol was in full force in its role as the Wisconsin Welcoming Committee, seeing as they like to handle traffic tickets for out of state drivers on a cash right now basis. You may recall when ACE had an event in the Dells a couple years ago, they felt the need to publish a strongly worded warning about the speed trap nature of driving in Wisconsin. No such bad news would befall us, however, and at around 9:40am we are pulling off the interstate and heading into Wisconsin Dells.

We did not, however, rush directly to the park. We were going to spend the night in Wisconsin Dells, and our hotel, like many in the area, offers package deals which supposedly include "Free Mt. Olympus admission for every registered guest" Well, we added the Mt. Olympus option after already having reserved a room there, so we know exactly how much those "free" tickets cost us, and we also knew that was the best rate we could find. So, we stopped off at the hotel, picked up our tickets (labeled "Complimentary" of course) and also found out our room was ready for immediate occupancy. So we also grabbed room keys, got back into the car, then headed to Mt. Olympus.

WIsconsin Dells is a big toursity area centered around the Dells, which are reportedly a wonder of nature in their beauty. It also contains craft stores, and a lot of tourist attractions. The Dells can also be referred to as a tourist trap, and I have heard the term "vacum cleaner for your wallet" used. So make a right at the intersection that has two mini golf places (one of those with a rollercoaster). then go down the road, past the deer park, a waterpark, Riverview Park amusement park (aka the carnival that setup in the Dells and never left), a haunted house, a fun house, "Top Secret" - and who knows whats in that upside down white house, they never tell you, but people still line up. Pickup point for the Original Dells Ducks, Extreme World - full of all kinds of extreme attractions, like bungee, SCAD and more. Oh here it is on the right, growing bigger every time I see it: Mt. Olympus.

It has been fun over the years watching the place go from being an FEC to a theme park. It used to be just a go kart place, but it seems they have always been expansionistic. Before I arrived on their property the very first time, they had already acquired Crazy King Ludwigs, which was a competing go-kart operator next door, and had owned another go-kart place in another part of town, Big Chiefs Kart World. They started drawing the attention of the coaster enthusiasts when they started installing wood coasters in and around their go-kart tracks. A name change to Big Chiefs Kart and Coaster World. But these weren't tame little wood coasters, these were noteworthy coasters that grabbed the enthusiast community by storm, causing many to discover Wisconsin Dells for the first time, and to see what this little go-kart place was doing. (Other than keeping Custom Coasters real busy)

Between my first and second trips to the park, they had managed to buy out the outdoor water park that was behind them, the indoor water park that was next door, and the hotel that was associated with that indoor water park. Thus, the property changed to "Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park", the property was gated, and a gate charge levied, even to those who had no intention in partaking in the attractions, a massive parking lot was added, and lots of general improvements like new restrooms (people who remember the old Big Chiefs restrooms are still cheering), and Crazy King Ludwig's castle was rethemed to look like an ancient greek building, with shops and eateries. On the ride side, both a water coaster and the parks 4th wood coaster (and Gravity Groups very first coaster) were built.

For this visit, I hear they have brought in some more rides, added an indoor theme park, and added another rollercoaster. This time, it was a steel coaster, a Zamperla spinning mouse coaster to be exact We pull into the massive parking lot, made even more massive as I think there are signs that a divider between their parking lot, and the one for Top Secret have been removed. I wonder just how many more of the town's attractions the Mt. Olympus people own that they haven't admitted to owning. I should point out, though, that its the massive FREE parking lot. We pull in and find a space, there is also evidence that the parking lot has already been restriped with a different traffic pattern.

We were parked near the main drop into the tunnel on Hades, and to my right I noted a Group Sales office. Some of you may recall that on my last 2005 trip, two-day tickets were sold out of Group Sales, which was only available in a little building on the waterpark side of the property. I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, parks actually read my TR's because I am starting to see some of the problems I talk about in my TR's corrected.

We head to the left, and I notice a new gift shop has been built, in the parking lot. I didn't make the connection at first, but I should have. We pass the new gift shop and head to the impressive entrance plaza that was built for the Mt. O transformation. Big greek stately looking plaza with the statue of a Greek warrior on top. Because of the way Mt. O operates, even though we still had advance tickets we still had to stop at the ticket plaza. We found an open window with no waiting, and soon our tickets were taken, scanned, and wristbands issued. We even got receipts which, to no surprise, claim we used comp tickets with a value of $0.00. So I follow Jerry's lead and use the window ledge of an unopened window as a way to facillitate appying the wristband to yourself. (Place band upside down on ledge, put arm on top of wristband, then you bring the ends up and fasten.) That chore done, we entered the park.

On my last visit, I had noted the park entrance was down an insanely steep hill that ran from the parking lot to and area that was the core of the old Big Chiefs. That path was fenced off, and a new path was created that ran alongside the parking lot behind Zeus. Ah now I get it, this new path takes you around to the rear of that new gift shop in the parking lot. At this point there are three from the parking lot: the one from the main ticket plaza on one side, the path down from the group sales building on the other side, and the park exit path in the center. As you have probably concluded the park exit path runs directly into the gift shop. This is just more of that transformation into a full fledged theme park. At the gate they have one person sitting there to inspect incoming guests for wristbands, and to divert all exiting guests into the gift shop. There is a chain and stanchion barrier directing exiting guests into the gift shop, but they divert all those who try to beat the system.

From, this point the path turns and goes downhill. I soon realize this new entry/exit path becomes what used to be the Zeus entrance ramp. I wonder if part of this decision is that from what I have seen Zeus isn't very popular, and with the entrance path moved, I wonder how many people are about to do what we did, which was to walk directly up those Zeus entrance stairs as we entered the park. So up all those stairs we go, through the turnstile, and head to that back car.

We noted the front of the back car had been roped off, literally with some multi colored yellow rope blocking the seat queue, and some purple rope tied through and around the seatbelts and lap bars keeping the bars lowered at all times. Whoever though white is a good color choice for a coaster train should see this train. A white train would seem to require almost daily washings, which this train is not appearing to receive.

We climb into that back seat, drop the ratcheting lapbars, fasten the shared seat belt, and prepare for a ride on Zeus. Zeus drops right out of the station, and then a turnaround to the left brings the ride to the chain lift. Up the chain lift you go, then a turn to the left. Zeus is an out and back style coaster which means basically we are going to go over a series of hills on the way out, turnaround, then come back over another series of hills, then make a right turn into the brakes, then there is a drop between the brakes and the station. Zeus was reported, upon opening to feature lots of floater air on the way out, then a couple strong airtime moments on the way back. That may still be the case, and it would work well if it were a smooth ride, but the ride seems to bottom out and pothole at the bottom of every drop. Penalty flag on the play for unnecessary roughness. Zeus, has not aged very well.

From Zeus we exit down the stairs into what I call Exit Land. Both Hades annd Zeus have their exit stairs right by each other, then share a common midway width path back down to the main path.

Back at the main path, we take a right, and head to Hades. You know, someone once quipped that diplomacy is defined as telling somebody to go to hell, and have them looking forward to the trip. So it is here, as we pass under the impressive HADES archway, then we pass under the cut through under the first drop. Here I notice the park has gone with new safety rules and height signs. What I was impressed about is they used the style where they put the various warnings on cartoon character signs, like the big parks used to do before they started making ride safety signs look like a scary legal document. One of the signs indicated the wait would be an hour if it extended back to the sign, given the way Mt. Olympus operates rides, I would say that is an understatement.

We enter the queue, which takes the form of a ramp up through the infield of the ride, where you turn and go up a much steeper ramp, then you turn again, and the path in front of you gets much steeper in the form of 4 flights of stairs. More than a couple people refer to this place as Stairmaster Park. The line was already halfway down the stairs. When we got to the top, you can notice where they have fenced off the queue gates for the last car they never have installed. Mt. O is not known for doing fences very fell, and the stairway for Hades takes you quite close to the tracks. I see they have used the finest cheap looking plastic latice work as fencing. This same plastic latice work has been installed in the station from the railing up to the ceiling.

For our first ride, we opt to hold out for the back seat. This allowed me to witness a truly scary sight, and that is the way the ride is operated. Everything is fine until they dispatch the train. Then the person on the unload side working the main console, and the person on the load side, working the co-dispatch console, both leave their consoles, walk over to the sides of the track channel, then sit down with their feet sitting on the track rails holding a conversation. They continue to do this until the train comes back to the brake run, then they get up just before the train rolls down the drop from the brake run into the station. Also, from what i witnessed, no button presses are needed to stop the train in the brakes, advance it from the brakes to the station, then stop it in the station. The ride is automated as far as it can be, which leads to spells where you have bored ride operators. Perhaps a change in park policy allowed this to happen. You see, Mt. Olympus used to be a pay per ride park, (with POP plans offered), and that time
when the coaster trains were out on the course, used to be when the load side operator would allow people past the turnstile after checking for tickets/wristands and other ride restriction. It probably one of those situations that is safe 99.9% of the time, even if big name parks would cringe if they saw their ride attendants act that way. However, I am thinking of that 1 in a thousand freak acciddent, I know I would not want to be around the cycle the brake run fails, and send the train barelling into the station. This appears, though to be standard Mt. O operating procedure for Hades, at least when there are no other staff members up on the platform, when that happens, they suddenly know how to behave.

So, enough with that, its time to ride, we take our seats, ratchet bars, shared seatbelt. Wait, I thought this ride opened with individual seatbelts. Hades starts with a pre lift sequence that has more action than some full length wood coasters. You start with a drop right out of the station, then a curve to the right, back up a little bit, then down into an extended double down with a turn in the middle of it. You then curve around some more then its up a short hill, into the rides fourth drop. Thats four good drops before the lift hill, with good air on three of them. You then curve around again to start up the life. I see they worked out the math, as the lift chain does not go all the way to the bottom of the lift hill, it only goes down as far as they need. We then climb the lift hill which goes over the station roof, and then, "Hands Up Everybody!", its the main drop, which is set so that you are in clear view of the parking lot and the people driving down the main drag. It seems natural for people to raise their hands here, even if it's the only time on the whole ride. You can also, almost always see people standing in the parking lot taking photos of trains coming down the drop.

Here comes the signature element, the long tunnel under the parking lot. This is not your ordinary coaster tunnel, as this one has drops, hills, curves, and a 90 degree baked section within it, Welcome to the underground coaster. At the other end of the tunnel, you come blasting out for a brief above ground moment. Up the turnaround hill, then a curving drop, then another hill and a wondefully airtime laden drop through greek temple ruins back into the tunnel. This area is the best coaster billboard for a park, thinking outside the park, the coaster leaves the park, goes under the parking lot, and comes out to do a few tricks right up alongisde the main drag. What better advertisement, than to see people having fun. It's a genius move.

Anyway, its back through the tunnel for more surprises, and when you emerge from the other side, you go up a hill that runs right alongside the main drop, except not as high obviously. You do curve and go through a wonderful set of headchoppers as you dive through the lift hill structure. For some reason, I thought this hill had airtime, but it doesn't. You then dive under the station, giving the station platform quite a shake in the process. You finish up with an extended figure 8 element that circles the queue area and the brake run. This part of the ride exhibits some unbelievable shuffling, and has been termed by some people as why the ride has gotten too rough. Funny, I thought this section was rough and shuffled when I rode it two years ago, not really a noticeable change. You know its Gravity Group when the train finishes the course on a fast paced upward journey to the brake run. Pause, then its down a little drop into the station. We then exit the ride and head down the stairs to the exit area.

Well, after 4 hours of travel and 2 coaster rides, it was time to get a little business taken care of, so we headed to what was the front of the park. I'm not sure I can call it the front of the park anymore. When it was Big Chiefs, you entered between Pegasus and the kiddie rides area, then when the entrance was redone, you entered between the kiddie rides area and Cyclops, but still in the same general location. Now you enter between Cyclops and Zeus, which means that the long dead end trail to the wood coasters can now be considered the park entrance. Does this mean the front of the park is now back by Zeus? If you define the front of the park as where you enter, I would sat it does.

This means that as you enter, Zeus is on the entrance path, and at the bottom, the Hades rollercoaster and Poseidon Go-Kart track are to the right, and everything else is to the left. A word about go-karts, I have tried Mt. Olympus' go karts and have found them to be slow with non responsive steering, and generally suck, I also note they tend to have long slow lines, so I just sort of ignored them.

Coming down the hill towards the core, we passed by a play area that looked like the deck of a pirate ship, totally random there, and then walking further down the hill, we noted there is a consession stand in the side of the ship. The ship actually does make some sense, thematically as it sits between Poseidon and Dive to Atlantis. Next we pass the aforementioned watercoaster, Dive to Atlantis. It's ride has been clocked at over 15 minutes, and with only 3 or so 4 or 5 passenger boats at most, its an arduously long wait. I have the credit, so I skipped it this year.

Past Dive to Atlantis is a shaded sitting area and then a booth that used to servce as the main ticket booth. Now, I think it still does a small business in ride tickets, (per the Dells Price Guide, a single amusement ride ticket at Mt. O can be purchased for $6.50 on top of the $10 general admission *spectator* charge. ) However, the main use for this booth is actually a relatively cutting edge idea, "Cash on Wristband". This idea is you get a barcoded wristband, then you can make a deposit to a house account represented by that barcode. Then you enjoy your day in the park, and whenever you need to spend money you can just have the attendant charge it to your wristband. I did note, that at the end of the day, they advertise you can cash out any unspent balance on your wristband. That's a really neat concept, given the fact that the park has a major water park component, and the ability to give kid's money they can only spend, not lose.

We then come into what used to be the core of the park, the ride ticket booth we just passed, the original gift shop (still open but it doubles as a coffee bar), concession stands, restrooms, and an eating area. What used to the the main park entrance has also been fenced off at the bottom of the hill, and now the kiddieland, Torjan Horse go-karts, and Pegasus coaster are in a dead end area, instead of being at the park entrance.

So we take care of business, then walk down behind the concession stand. In this area there is a cluster of go-kart tracks (yawn again, however I do note that go-kart tracks seem to being quietly removed, like Medusa's Drop). In front of the go-kart tracks, the park has added a small 4-seat model of the popular S&S Screamin Swing ride, which the park calls "Apollo's Swing" Apollo's Swing was not yet open for the day, with a crew working on it, focusing mainly on the on-ride video system. The bad news, is this ride is not included in the Pay One Price admission plan. Even worse, I heard at the start of the season, it was going for an almost reasonable $5 per ride, to an obnoxious $10 per ride. I have a very hard time for paying $10 to ride this ride, when later this weekend, I can a similar ride for free. But, the ride is not yet open, so lets keep moving down the path.

We decide to take a trip through the park. The next ride we passed was Little Titans, which is the park's children's coaster. Luckily, I was able to snag this credit before the park discovered the "You must be shorter than or accompanied by" rule. Right after Little Titans I recall on my last visit the park had a grand midway that seemed to go nowhere, just a dead end. Now it makes sense, as the midway runs right into the new outdoor waterpark expansion. We dodge the waterpark expansion and headed to the right. We pass one of the parks numerous "Information" booths, these are dubious information booths, as normally guest services booth don't need to be flashed with "Have dinner on us, ask us how!" signs. Yep, these booths are really time share booths just waiting to ambush the unwitting tourist.

We continued to the next major turn in the path, here are some more go-kart tracks, and remarkably the batting cages remain. I notice in the corner of the park, a DUCK is parked. In this case a DUCK is the amphibious vehicle. Upon closer look, it appears that it is one of the Dells Army Duck. That would make sense, as Original Dells Ducks has a boarding point right across the street from the park. Next to the DUCK was a wooden stairway pushed up to it to facilitate loading, and I note a similar wooden stairway sitting just a few feet away. Also next to the duck, is a ticket booth, as this is an extra charge attraction. It looked as if the idea was to board the duck there, but I noticed the duck parked there did not seem to move all day. Either there was very little interest in riding the Ducks, or they merely sell tickets at that booth, and refer you to a meet up point elsewhere in town. I like the idea of having pickups in the park, as that keeps the guests in the park longer, a brilliant move on the part of Mt. Olympus? Why let your guests leave to go take one of the Dells most popular tours and then risk them not coming back, when you can get a cut of the ticket money, have them board the duck right in your park, and most importantly have them dropped back off in your park.

I note the park map is fluid, even the one on the website is not quite up to date. Appaently the Duck pickup was in front of the park by Pegasus. The park, and Extreme World had also both advertised that the extreme attractions were coming to Mt. O but apparently that did not happen.

We continued around the park to the area where Crazy King Ludwig's castle was. On my last trip, this was the line between the ride side and water side of the park. The castle became a greek themed building, and was filled with shops and eateries I notice this year the arcade in th center has been removed and replaced with a locker room for the water park. More to the point, the little pond in the front of the park, has been replaced by Poseidon's Rage, a fairly agressive sounding wave pool. (Waves up to 9' high). Also in the front of the park is Triton, a waterslide tower. These waterpark attractions are a fair walk from the remained of the outdoor waterpark, and this waterpark expansion area as even been known to have different hours.

In terms of rides, I notice the Disk'O that was sitting in front of the "Shops at Mt. Olympus" building has been moved elsewhere in the park. The Robocoaster is still there, but it was labeled as not going to operate today. Bummer, that. I did note the Robocoaster is no longer part of the POP package.

We continued along the main pathway and passed three games of skill. The noteworthy thing here is the price, all the games were 3 tries for $1. Sure, the prizes looked to be on the dinky size, but what to you expect for 33.3 cents per try. It's an interesting business model in times where parks are up to $3 per try for a midway game. It will be interesting to see how it works out for them.

Just past the game joints is the new Parthenon building. The Parthenon is the much touted "indoor theme park" So, we stepped inside. Inside the building, the most notable feature is the Zamperla spinning mouse coaster called "Opa!" Opa! sits the to left and takes up most of the left half of the building. In the front on the left hand side is one of those dubious info booths, restrooms, and vending machines. I suppose in the summer, they just use vending machines in here, as you have the big food building almost right next door. To the right when you enter is a lazer tag, and an arcade. The arcade had no pinball, but I noted it has those Deal or No Deal machines. Down the center aisle is a Zamplera mini tea cups and a Moser Spring Ride, as well as a karaoke video booth. Along the back wall dead ahead is a Zamperla Central Park, to the right is a bumper car ride. Don't get too excited the cars look real slow and the ride doesn't look that interesting. To the left is a climb around attraction and the Zamplerla Disk'O. Also in this area I noted a replacement socks vending machine. Why is this not over by Dive To Atlantis?

The Disk'O operator looked bored, so we went over to see if it was open. The Disk'O is sandwiched between the side wall of the building and Opa!, which sort of sets up a queue area be default. The attendant comes down, opens the gate and admits us into the ride. I note that it looks like lots of seats are marked Out of Order. We find two seats that appear to be open. Disk'O consists of a U shaped track with a big round spinning disk ride car in. The round ride car has 24 seats facing outward. The neat thing is the seats themselves, which look like motorbike seats. You straddle the seat, and lean up against the front of the seat, then an automatic combination safety bar/backrest comes out of the base of the seat, raises up and claps tight against your back. Thats how its supposed to work, but it took a couple tries until Jerry and I both found seats that worked properly.

Looking out at the track, a good deal of the abbraisive/traction surface on the ride rails appeared to be worn clean off, which meant the ride squeals some as it gets started. The ride didn't seem to spin as fast as i remembered it, but just wait halfway through the ride, the direction of rotation reverses, and then as the ride goe on the ride acts more and more maniacal finging back and forth along the course faster and faster while the disc spins faster and faster, and it seems to want tofly clean off the ends of the track. Yep, the Disk'O is still a great ride, its just that this particular example needs some serious rehab.

The exit to Disk'O takes you on a pathway behind Opa!. Opa! is not set flesh with the building wall, which may also be meant to prevent people from reaching out and touching the walls. We next decided to ride Opa!, the line for Opa! was down the stairs and wrapped around the side of the ride,but not too far back. We thought, this won't be a long wait at all. Then we saw how the park operates it. You see at carnivals, they have a ticket taker, a grouper, a person loading you into the cars, a person checking lapbars, then a person in back unloading people, and the cars never stop moving, and they have enough cars on where it works like a well oiled assembly line.

Not here, here they try to run it with one person. Here is how it works, the bring a car up to the front of the station, then they open the gate and let the next group in. There is no attempt to pair up groups, the person seats the group and has them lower their lapbar. Then I think thee is a design flaw, as our loader could not reach the lapbars on the two far seats. Therefore, what she did was climb down of the platform, onto and over the track rails so that she was standing in the middle of the track, between the track rails. She would then check the lap bars, then have to climb back out of the track channel to the ride platform, then dispatch the car. By this time it is time to walk to the back of the station, unload a car,walk back to the front of the station, then advance the cars in the station ahead one slot. Note that they had two cars sitting on the storage track,

So after an agonizingly slow wait, whee I had time to read the "Roller Coaster Rules" sign, which I note is the same exact sign for all the coasters, right down to the "You must be 18 or over to ride in the back car of Cyclops" printed on all the coasters signs. We do make it onto the ride, and Zamperla took a nice ride and messed it up. Seat cushions, GONE, hard molded seats with seat horns in,and the individual ratcheting lap bars. My main problem is that the Zamperla version does not seem to spin as well as the Reverchon. Being indoors was a different experience, but overall the ride was pretty meh. But wait, time to sound the coaster credit meter for Coaster # 265.

After Opa, we backtrack out way towards the wood coasters. We catch the end of a cycle of Apollo's Swing, and prepare to watch a full cycle to see what you get for $10, but there was no group waiting to ride, so we passed it up for now. As it turns out, that was a bad move. Speaking of bad moves, instead of heading straight to Cyclops, avoiding Pegasus, I decide to go take a ride on Pegasus, and Jerry follows, all "Do we really have to?" Pegasus is not my favorite ride at Mt. Olympus, and I think I ride it each visit just to remind myself how awful it is. I mean can CCI really turn out a ride that was this bad. The entrance to Pegasus is a marked opening under the lift hill, and then past an abandoned go kart station. You then come to the stairs (this is Mt. O afterall), Pegasus was meant to be a children's coaster, and that fact is driven home in that the stairway and handrails for both entrance and exit were clearly designed with the younger set in mind. We get up to the station and it does run a full size train, albeit only 4 2 bench cars long. It now runs a PTC train, but legend has it, Pegasus was the second coaster to attempt and fail to run CCI's in house designed 3 car 3 bench train. The park never did reconfigure the queue gates when they changed the train, they just keep one roped off at all times, and they don't really line up to the train at all. On the way to the platform, Jerry reminds me that if I value my body, that we each sit in our own row, on the unload side of the train. Well the front of the back car on this coaster is roped off. So I take the back seat, and Jerry finds an open spot near the middle of the train. I dutifully sit on the unload side, and with a little trouble, fasten the standard PTC install short outboard side seatbelt, and pull down the lapbar. I note Jerry started to sit on the unload side, but by the time the train dispatched he was on the load side. Once nice touch I like about the ride is the use of a big old lever in the station. Note, I did not say big old brake lever, instead this big old lever controls the lapbar mechanism.

The train departs the station, and the train lurches like it is fighting to negotiate the curve to the lift hill, up the lift. Now the ride has no real big drop, just a few shallow drops. In the past I had noted the rides most redeeming feature is that the big flat top section serves nicely as a flagpole rack for a collection of international flags. This year, it lost that redeeming feature as the flagpoles sat empty. So you go down a couple shallow dips, and then a collection of brutally sharp right turns that slam you into the side of the cars. If there is one thing Pegasus has its laterals, but the way it executes them, it isn't even pleasant. In true CCI fashion, even though the ride does no real drops, it still seems to continue to pickup speed all along the course. I was happyu the ride was shorter than I remembered it, and we could soon get down the exit stairs and start heading to Cyclops.

On the way to Cyclops, I aksed Jerry what the deal was with him sitting on the wrong side of the train. He reported that the seatbelt on the unload side of his bench was so badly damaged it could not be adjusted, so he had to sit on the wrong side of the train, and wasn't exactly happy about it. We head to Cyclops, Cyclops has maybe the fewest stairs required to ride a Mt. O wood coaster, and is the only one that has a wheelchair ramp up to the station. I still don't get the part where you enter the station in the back, then go down a real sharp, short ramp down maybe 2 feet, then walk to the front of the station, then back up 2 feet with another sharp ramp. The only thing I can come up with, is that is to discourage running. Er enter Cyclops and head to that magical 18 and over car. (the back car) Due to the demographics of the crowd in this part of the park, at this time, we had almost exclusive access to the back car. For ride 1, we both sat in the back seat, and I noted the metal tongue on the seatbelt is BENT like 45 degrees, suggesting somebody needed to test the integrity of the seatbelt, then again it is a shared belt, and the tongue may have gotten outside the car somwhere it shouldn't have. The best news is the ride till uses the drop down buzz bars.

The train taks a curve out of the station, and up the relatively short lift hill, the ride comes quite close to Zeus, so thatr if you focus your attention on Zeus you are caught off guard as you crest the lift, and is that airtime on the first drop, then a speed hill, then yep thats some nice airtime on the second drop. You then turnarond and slice back through the structure with another drop and then a ride into the signature element, you see the midway in front of the ride sits much lower than the ride itself, so the rides major drop is actually the last one! You come around a high right turn, and you are facing the midway, and the train has a nice head of steam behind it, you then go down an incredibly steep drop with a twist at the bottom. Those riders in the back seat suddenly see their life pass in front of their eyes. Dear God, keep me in this car! This is one of the single best airtime moments on any wood coaster. You know its quality air if you feel the seatbelt grab hard at you, and if you ride with a loose seatbelt, your knees getting a rude introduction to the lap bar. If you want ejector quality air, this here is the ride for you! After "The Drop" you do a turnaround in a trench in front of the station, unfortunatelyu this part washboards some, then you come back up as you circle the station building and come onto the brake run in back of the station. Another turnaround takes you back into the sttion. It's short, its a one trick pony, but oh what a trick it is.

We walked around, yes you have to walk all the way around, even if the station is completely empty, it says so in the rules, no exceptions. We head back for the magical back car, I take the back seat, and Jerry moves up a seat, so that we have more elbow room. That back seat, and that drop, alone in the car, with a loose belt, that is one of wood coaster's greatest moments. I decided to ham it up and scream bloody murder all the way down the drop. I've pulled this trick before, on Rideman, on the Kennywood Jack Rabbit, another ride known for out of this world backseat air.. Sorry Jack Rabbit, you have nothing on this. You see, I very rarely scream on a coaster, and then very very rarely ever scree bloody murder. In both cases, I had Rideman and this time Jerry whipping around in their seat fearing the worst and hoping I was okay. In humor, timing is everything. I didn't have time to gloat about getting Jerry, cause the next thing I know I was screaming in real pain as I managed to land right on top of the seat divider. Yeouch, that hurt, but it only stung for a few moments.

We proceeded to ride Cyclops three or four more times, basically until the sensation caused by "The Drop" wore off. We alternated between the two seats in the back car, only after that ride I starteed sitting on the unload side of the train, like Jerry did. I had avoided that side because thats where the side that has the lap bar mechanism in the car at perfect height to abuse your shins. I figured that was better than any more seat divider landings.

After Cyclops, we skipped Zeus and headed straight back to Hades for a Hade ride session, basically defined as riding the ride over and over again. We took about 5 back to back rides on Hades in this set. (Yes, walking around of course, particularly since the line varied from beiing halfway down to 3/4 of the way down the stairs, I think once it was even clean down to the bottom. Jerry prefers the back, I prefer the front so we alternated ends of the train, how is that for the buddy system. Then since the way the station is laid out, with the entrance being in the back of the station, the cramped nature of the station, and the fact that visitors here don't seem as bent on waiting for the front seat, we took all but one of our front end rides in the front seat. Hades was already performing better than it did during our early morning ride, and seemed to get better with each lap. We basically rode over and over until around 2:30 when we decided to take a meal break. Besides the riding, maybe the best part was talkign with a group of first time Hades riders, and seeing their reactions when they got back to the station. Some were priceless.

We then headed out of the park, up the hill by Zeus, and through the gift shop. The giftshop is set up so you have to walk from one end to the other, but that patch is mostly obstruction free. I noted on the exit doors, they have a sign about remembering to cash in unused balance on your wristband. Nice touch, as they could have kept quiet and hoped people found their way a 100 miles from the park, with no way to cash the band.

We took a drive through town, past Extreme World, and I noted a new facade has been applied to the Mt. Olympus Resort but it looks more Roman Colliseum than Greek to me, and I noted the dumpy motel next to it is now the "Mt. Olympus Value Motel" A bit further we passed by the famous Noah's Ark waterpark, and the Pizza Pub, which is a often mentioned pizza buffet, a bit later past Tommy Bartlett's place, and some boat tours and hotels and we come to Moosejaw on the other side of town.

Moosejaw is a brewpup/pizza parlor. It has the rustic hunting lodge look, with antler themed chandeliers, fireplaces, rustic log cabin look, and drinks out of mason jars. Moosejaw is a Canadian chain, (the Canadian flag in the lobby should have told you), and in addition to a brewpub for beer, they also make their own root beer, orange soda, and grape soda. The word of caution is that the word "small" is not in their vocabulary. We started with a nice order of cheese sticks, which instead of beeing deep fried like almost anywhere else come out almost looking mexican inspired with a hard tortilla like shell. Jerry then had a 1/2 lb huge hamburger and fries, while I had what has to be the world's largest calzone (pepperoni, sausage, green pepper for those keeping score) Great food, big portions, fast service, and a reasonable price coming in at just around $35 before tip for the two of us, in a tourist resort town. Keep watch for their delivery PT Cruiser with moose antlers on top. We caught it right timing wise, when we arrived we walked right in, when we left people were waiting out on the porch.

We left Moosejaw, and returned to Mt. Olympus. We had to park further out than we did in the morning, and we learned that whatever genius painted the parking lot has ALL the arrows heading towards the park, and none of the arrows painted away from the park. This works fine as long as their are parking attendants, if not, if you choose a row that has no space left, you can either exit the lot, reenter and try again (and good luck with that left hand turn out on the main drag), or take your chances, and go again the traffic arrows. Most take the later course of action. We wind up parking out past the Group Sales building, and I note behind Group Sales there is a pathway marked Park Entrance, and the gate was open. We head down the hill, passing behind Hades lift hill, and come out by the gift shop. There is a chain blocking our way into the park. Main if they didn't want this ramp used, why didn't they block it at the other end of the ramp. We decided we were smarter than the chain and clip, and proceeded on into the park with no resistance. On the way into the park, we snagged a back seat ride on Zeus. Nope hasn't gotten any better.

From Zeus we head down to Hades for another mini marathon riding session, and hey the line is getting shorter, only 1/4 to 1/2 of the way down the stairs. They way Mt. Olympus operates their wood coasters, is that if there aren't enough riders to fill the train, they will wait a few minutes to see if anybody else come,s, if they have enough riders, however they will run the ride as long as every row is full. Single riders are OK, but there must be at least one person in each row. Of course they don't explain this to anybody, as that would involve speaking, they just wait there with the queue gates open until somebody figures it out and claims that undesired seat. I think their operators have a very limited phrase book they are working with, and if you ask them any question not in their phrase book, they are unable to answer it, and they can only respond with their limited phrasing. I have doubts that they can understand much less communicate in the English language. I hate to use the term Eastern European to describe them, as other parks, like Valleyfair, also employ Eastern European, and they are much friendlier and have more command of the language. Everything is black and white with them, which is why I usually refer to them as vogons.

We take several more Hades rides. We then go to check out the Swing and the other end of the park, We get down to the swing, and they had either had mechanical troubles or had given up on the day already. So much for Apollo's Swing. We kept walking,and that same DUCK is still parked there. We eventually head into the indoor theme park, and find Opa! with a longer line than the one we suffered through. No, thanks.

Since we did walk all the way down here, we headed back to Disk'O, maybe 20 people in line. It was then that I realized how bad of shape the ride was in. Out of 24 seats on the ride, only 8 were in safe operating condition. What should have been a one cycle wait took 3 or 4 cycles. I don't know why we stuck through it. After riding Disk'O, one last look at Opa!, nope that line keeps getting longer.

We head all the way back to Hades, but look that DUCK is moving! Oh wait the passenger less DUCK is moving and the ticket office is closed. They must be calling it a night just like the swing operator. We make it back to Hades, and finish out with one more multi ride Hades session going till about 7pm. And hey, we even get one or two rides with no waiting. For some reason the Hades line seems to have died down for a bit, but then it picked back up. The park was schduled to close at 8pm, it was already 7pm. We decided we had our fair share of Mt, Olympus rides, and besides we had prepurchased tickets to Timber Falls, so wanted to make sure we got our money's worth there. Timber Falls was scheduled to be open till 10pm, but you never know if the crowd is light.

While researching ticket deals, we found a package on Timber Falls website, for $24.95 you could get a POP wristband, and one ticket to ride Skyscrpaper. This same package would run you $29.95 in the park. That was deal enough for us, but then they had a "Buy 3 tickets, and get the 4th free" promotion. Doing the math of that deal that meant that each of us could have a morning wake up call at Timber Falls tommorow for only $12.50 each, including a Skyscraper ride that runs $20 by itself. ($10 with a valid POP armband) We bought the 4 ticket package and planned to drop by for a few hours tonight, then an hour or so in the morning for a wake up.

We pull into the small but ample Timber Falls parking lot to find an open, yet sparsely populated park. We go to the ticket booth in the center of the park, head to the line for e-Ticket redemption, and get a clerk who clearly has no idea how to handle the e-tickets. She looks them over, puts them in the cash drawer without scanning and issues wristbands. We ask about our Skyscraper rides, and she seemed puzzled and even after seeing the e-tickets I don't think she was all that sure about it. She was nice enough however, shrugged and tore two Skyscraper tickets off the roll and handed them to us.

We head right up the stairs and ramp to the Avalanche station. Avalanche is a triangular shaped coaster that basically runs around the perimeter of the park. We arrive at the station, and head for the back car, a train pulls in, and the riders in the back car move to different seats, the queue gates open and we boar the 3 car 2-bench PTC train. Bars checked, we pull out of the station, left turn to the lift, up the lift, first drop, up into the second turn to the left, then a few speed hills. The third turn is a signature element, its a turn that is just so wrong that it feels so right. You pull into an underbanked curve that tried to manhandle the train through a 270 degree turn. Did I mention the apex of the turn is the top of a hill, so you go into this curve, and it slams you to the right side of the train, then you come over the hill, get lifted out of your seat by the airtime, then the train finishes the curve and it slams you back to the left, as it puts you back down in your seat. It's a great element, and if you didn't like that, you'll love the next spee hill with ejector air that slams you up into the lap bar, holds you there for a seond or two, then slams you back down into the seat. You do another left turn as you fly by the station, for the second trip around the park, you ride closer to the ground with a series of speed hills for the first two sides, each one with nice airtime. "Attack of the Airtime Monster" indeed. The third side on the second lap around is mostly concerned with a final dip and rise up into the brake run. It's the kind of coaster that doesn't look like much from the road, but once you ride it, it will hook you in one ride. I also have to officially dispell the rumor that a trim brake was added to this ride, that's not true. The grapevine has it that that the park though they bit off more than they could chew with the upkeep of this ride, but at least they are still running it.

We basically spent the next hour just riding Avalanche over and over and over and over again. During this time, we got a demonstration that Timber Falls knows they can't compete with Mt. Olympus with rides, but they can compete by having much friendlier staff, and more customer friendly policies. For example, you can ride as long as no one wants your seat, and if someone does want your seat, you can either find a new seat, or exit back to the load side. Did i mention we had tons of rides, like an hour straight.

After about an hour we looked around, and after having better than ERT conditions on the coaster, as in just the two of us riding for several rides. we took most of the rides in the back car, then moved up to the front car. Jerry said, "It's not as intense up here", well thats a relative statement, as due to the short trains, I don't think there is that much differance in the front and back cars.

After an hour we exited the coaster and took a look around. In the front center of the park is the clubhouse with tickets, merchandise, snack bar, arcade, restrooms and a second floor observation deck. Behind the clubhouse there are 2 mini golf courses, wrapped through and around the mini golf courses is the parks log flume ride. The Avalanche coaster runs around the perimeter of this area, and just outside the bounds created by the coaster are some bumper boats, and sitting out in the parking lot is a Skyscraper. Accross the street from the park are two more mini golf courses they own, and then the river. On the other side of the park is a competing mini golf operatin.

We wanted to be sure to get to the Skyscraper before they closed down early due to small attendance. We first stowed everything in the car, then walked over to the Skyscraper where there was a single rider on the ride, and the rest of his group on the bleachers setup for spectators. Since we had tickets, we got to sit in the riders lounge area at the bottom of the stairs up to the ride. After his ride ended, we were invited up to the ride deck.

The ride deck consists of the loose article bins, operator console, and the access way to the ride itself. We step off the wood deck onto the metal platform and then hop into the chairs provided. It takes some time to get ready to ride Skycraper thanks to the complex harness arrangement. After the operator makes sure you are sitting all the way back in the chair, no slouching, he proceeds to strap you in. The harness system on Skyscraper is similar to but not totally like having two 3 point automotive harnesses, one located on either side of you. They key difference being the belts are not on retractors and are manually adjusted. So I sit down and the operator pulls two thick pieces of black padding out from the sides of the seat and ask me to hold them over my lap. He then reaches over my right shoulder and proceeds to cross that strap across my chest so that it fastens into to a clip/buckle mounted on the left side of the seat, this is also connected to a lap belt. He proceeds to tighten this until it is snug but not tight. He then reaches above the left shoulder and pulls out a similar looking belt that runs diagonally across your chest and fastens to a clip located on the right side of the seat. This means the two shoulder belts form a large "X" across your chest, and you effectively have double lap belts for added redundant protection. The operator proceeds to pull these belts snug but not tight. He then takes a moment to make sure everything looks to be correct with the safety harness, and then goes in and yanks on all the adjustors with all of his might to get all the belts as skin tight as he can get them. You then realize those two big black pads sit directly under the buckles and adjustors and they protect your legs from any nasty gashes from the buckles. This would also be a good reason to make sure your pockets are empty to make sure the thick straps don't crush any hard objects into your legs. The last step is to take the anti sub strap and to affix it to the front center of the lap straps. Men are thankful this belt is not tightened. He proceeded to step next chair and harness Jerry to his seat in the same manner. After all the harnessing the operator takes a step back to make one final visual inspection while thinking "Now I have you two right where I want you, you guys aren't getting out of those chairs until I let you, so for the next few minutes you belong to me and whatever I can dish out"

While he was strapping us in, for small talk he asked if we hae ever done one of these before and we both enthusiastically said we had, and then Jerry mentioned how many times he has been on a Skyscraper, thanks mostly to the fact he bought a season pass upgrade at Valleyfair that includes their Skyscraper. I let the operator live with the impression I was also very experienced. He had this big grin on his face that said, "I'm gonna have so much fun!"

He started the ride, and instead of going right into doing the usual loops on this giant propeller ride, he starts by rocking us back and forth, not unlike how a looping ship ride starts. We ecnouraged those watching us to come over and get in line themselves. Eventually we start making complete loops, but still not much action. A few loops later, and he starts to play with the speed control, and we find ourselves flipping almost continuously. We do this for several rotations, we then stop at the top of the ride, and pause for a breather while the ride starts shaking left and right, huh? Then it was time to do it all in reverse, lots more flips, and as we came into the loading dock he started jogging the main arm back and forth. We then come into the station and he lets us off the ride, clearly quite pleased with himself.

After Skyscraper we take about another half an hour worth of Avalanche rides. At this point we had to exit the ride, and we then decided tht since Jerry had driven 4 hours this morning, and had another 4 hours tomorrow, tht we would just call it a night. It was 9PM at this point anyway, and we had been at coasters for nearly 10 hours. We did stop at Arby's on the way to the hotel for shakes (love that Jamocha), then we headed to the Best Western Ambassador Inn.

I am happy to report we had better luck with the building access system this year, and our room was satisfactory. Jerry went straight to the internet, and i decided to check out the hotel pool. They have both indoor and outdoor pools, and I elected the outdoor pool. It's a nice pool area, with a kiddie water area with zero depth entry, bubblers, and a mushroom fountain. Then the main pool, but even it has a waterfall in it, on the other end is a sitting area and a hot tub. The area even has changing rooms, and right inside the hotel are vending machines and an arcade.

I swim and hot tub for about an hour. I learned my swim skills are very rusty, I could sake myself, but it wouldn't look pretty. 1 cycle in the hot tub did wonders to ease the abuse my feet and side had been taking all day. While I was out there there was a group of teens who had discovered the kiddie pool was not heated, and the main pool was nice and warm, and then there was the hot tub. They were having fun going from one to the other, and feeling the effects of submerging themselves in varrying temperatures of water. I'm thinking that can't be good for you.

After my swim, it was time to head back to the room and call it a night. Tomorrow is more Timber Falls, then we return to Minneapolis for some Valleyfair action.

Watch for that TR whenever I get to it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

TR: Minnesota/Wisconsin 2007 - Day 1 8/30/07

Trip Report: Minnesota/Wisconsin 2007
Day 1 - August 30, 2007
Minnesota State Fair
Falcoln Heights, MN
T-shirt of the day: Teal Paramount Kings Island logo golf shirt

"Accept no imitations, it's the Fair!"


As you can guess by the title, I did another one of my legendary Minnesota/Wisconsin Labor Day Weekends. (insert oohs and ahhs here) The layout of this one is the standard: Minnesota State Fair, Valleyfair!, The Park at Mall of America, Mt. Olympus, Timber Falls and SS Billiards. We did rearrange the order of the parks somewhat from the usual schedule, anything to confuse the reader and the tourist. Enjoy!!

Prlogue - OR - "Getting there is half the fun, come share it with me!"

I think I started planning for this particular Minnie/Wisconsin weekend far earlier than usual. It wasn't because I had knowledge of a great new super spectacular appearing at the Fair, and it wasn't because Mt. Olympus built another wood coaster. At the time, I may or may not have known that Valleyfair! was getting Renegade. We were actually sitting pricing out going to Knott's for the Winter Coaster Solace, when I decided, purely for grins and giggles, to plug in the coordinates for CVG->MSP on Labor Day Weekend. Instead of using the usual Fare-O-Matic, I decided since it was almost 9 months in advance, I would check on using Skymiles. I, like most I have talked with, have had trouble when it comes to actually using Skymiles. Either there are no flights available at anything that resembles a reasonable schedule, or the times available don't align with your plans, or you find something, but it is classed as a SkyChoice flight, meaning it costs 50,000 instead of 25,000 miles to book. I was surprised to find the exact same flights I would have booked for the weekend to be available to me as a SkySaver (25,000) flight. At the price of $15.00 (fees) for a round trip flight, I decided to book first, and ask questions and time off later. Soon, I had a reservation.

Okay, you can now fast forward to July. It was time to sit down and rough out a touring plan, nothing too detailed, just which days to assign to the Dells, everything else can be flexed, really. We then secured hotel accommdations in the Dells, and persued discount offers for the parks. I also decided to check my trip confirmation on Delta and saw that they had moved my flights around a couple times, but the new flights are within just a few minutes of the original flights, so all is well. I admit to getting nervous when it comes to travel and time schedules, one of the downsides to getting my flight rescheduled is that I lost my seat assignments, and the online system would not allow me to reselect. I admit I was nervous when the flight was showing full a couple days before the trip, and I did not have a seat assignment in hand.

On the day before the trip I logged into almost as soon as my check in window opened up, and printed my boarding pass for the leg from CVG->MSP. I was happy to see I had a seat assignment, even if I really wasn't too wild about row 16 of an 18 row aircraft. That night, being the typical guy, I waited till late at night to even start packing, but never fear I had a duffel bag full of clothes, and a briefcase full of electronics ready to go by morning. The morning of the trip, Mom was going to drop me off at the airport, and she wants to get places like airports even earlier than I do. She was worried we were running late, but even after a fuel stop, I was safely deposited at the airport 2 hours and 15 minutes before my scheduled departure time.

So, I was dropped off at the passenger drop off, and made my way into the terminal. Already having a boarding pass, and flying on Comair, I could skip the ticketing and baggage check counters and head directly to security. In Cincinnati, the TSA checkpoint is in the basement, right before the subway station for the trains that take you out to the concourses. They have an express escalator that is suppoed to take you directly down two floors to the checkpoint, but that was roped off, instead sending people down the normal escalator. This usually means the full queue maze is in use, but I used neither escalator and instead rode down in the elevator. When I got to the basement, I was glad to see it was really a walk in wait for security.

By now, the security routine is getting old hat, but that doesn't make it any easier. Show person 1 your ID, move ahead, show person 2 your boarding pass, move ahead, person 3 assigns you to a security lane, you proceed to that lane, and grab at least two of those big rubbermaid tubs. Into one goes the shoes, into the other goes the laptop. I then proceed to push duffel bag, tote with shoes, tote with laptop, and briefcase down the rollers towards the X-Ray machine. I have just pushed the bags into the X-ray machine, and an preparing to walk through the metal detector. It should be noted I am eager to reunite myself with my laptop.

However, I am being detoured, I have been randomly chosen to participate in TSA's newest screening, the Puffer. The Puffer is a machine designed to detect trace amounts of explosives on your body. It looks like a slightly oversized phone booth. You step in when the green light is lit and the machine says in a computer voice "Enter" you step into the machine, it says "Stop", the doors close, and the machine blasts a burst of air on you. Then you wait, what seems like a minute or two later, the doors in front of you open, and you can proceed to the metal detector. This story does have a happy ending, and I am soon reunited with all my belongings, including the laptop. Put shoes back on, and its time to head for the subway train.

Right before getting on the train, I do stop to check my flight on the departure monitors, which was a good move. While I learned the flight was on time, I also learned that there had been a gate change. I proceed to the boarding platform and wait for a train. Like the well trained amusement ride rider that I am I stand dutifully on the arrow pointing to a boarding door, and behind the line several feet back from the door. The train pulls in, I hop on and ride out two stops to Concourse B. Oh, but I need Concourse C, so I manage to juggle everything and take a precariously balanced escalator ride up to the 1st floor, where, I take a sharp left, avoiding the US Customs office, and instead head to the shuttle bus stop. There is a shuttle bus waiting, and soon I am riding the bus out to Concourse C. Arrive at Concourse C and enter the terminal.

Concourse C consists of a main hub with an info booth and food/retail, with the boarding gates along 4 arms out from the hub. You can't freely walk around Concourse C, you must wait in the hub area, and in the 4 corners of the hub are waiting rooms where you can wait for your flight. Since I had time to kill, instead of heading to the waiting room, I instead head to the on site McDonalds. I admit the queue looks scary, but since it was feeding into 4 or 5 service stations, the line moved pretty rapidly, and soon I had a Sausage Egg McMuffin meal at a price not that much higher than normal street price. I proceed to sit down and leisurely eat breakfast, being sure to grab a refill on the orange drink on the way out.

After eating, I head to the waiting area associated with gate 12. I arrive there to find the waiting room jammed, and seats very hard to come by. Seems to be a popular time for departing flights. I look around, and note that the doorways between the waiting area, and the hallway where the gates are have changed from using letters, to being numbered. What's more the number on the door matches the gate number you will use in the hallway. It makes so much sense, I wonder why no one thought of it sooner. On my last greyhound ride, I noted the bus terminal provided places to recharge or work with electronics, and I note that the airport has done the same. I also note that this work area is already completely taken. I also note Delta is shrewd enough to provide a hard backless bench as seating in this area. I eventually settle for sitting down in a phone cubicle. Why not, I wasn't the first to do that, and with cell phones, how much use to the pay phones get anyway?

I listen to some iPod music until about 10 minutes before the flight, then take the formal pre flight trip to the restroom and arrive back to find the waiting room was slightly less full, and I was able to secure a chair close to my gate. I saw the overbooking notice, but I had also checked for the next available flight time. I was not going to be that willing volunteer, but flying gratis on miles, I knew I might be at the bottom of the totem pole. Around 9:00 they start boarding, and I note the agent working the gate next to ours, who had finished loading her flight, had started working our line, attaching pink tags to our luggage, then I got to the front, my boarding pass was scanned, and I was heading down the long hallway. It figures I would be at the very last gate. I deposit my duffel bag on the luggage cart and climb aboard. Literally, in this case as you climb up a short flight of stairs from the tarmac. I soon make my way to the back of the plane, which was one of Comair's newer 70 seat jets, find a spot for my briefcase, sit down, and wait for the person that has the window seat with me. (I like aisles on Comair jets if only for headroom) I will also admit that I wasn't feeling good vibes when, if this were an Intamin Jet I would be having trouble, as I think I could barely get 1 inch of excess belt out of the adjustor. This is not boding well for parks that have short seat belts.

So, I settle into my seat, and am releived as we taxi away from the gate. No bumping for me, no sir. We taxi out to the gate, and don't have to wait too long for clearance to take off. Soon I am back up in the friendly skies heading to Minniapolis.

So, I settle into my seat, and am releived as we taxi away from the gate. No bumping for me, no sir. We taxi out to the gate, and don't have to wait too long for clearance to take off. Soon I am back up in the friendly skies heading to Minniapolis. Not much to talk about onboard the flight. Okay, so my seat pocket didn't have a copy of the in flight magazine, but sitting towards the back does mean I was towards the front of the line when it came to getting my ration of peanut butter crackers, and a toy cup of Apple Cranberry Cocktail. Overall it was a smooth flight, and I watched for a time about half hour before the expected arrival time. It was at that time, I knew I could cue up the 4 various Minnesota State Fair songs from the Keepers album on my iPod for a little mood music. Okay, I did have time for some Moxy Fruvous after the four Keepers songs, but soon it was time to put electronic toys away and prepare to land.

At Minneaspolis,a jetway is extended so there is no climb down to the tarmac, just to climb back up into the concourse. By the time I reach the jetway, my duffel is waiting for me, and I proceed into the airport. As soon as I get into the airport, I make contact via phone with my partner for the weekend, Jerry, and confirm pickup location. I also make note NOT to use any restrooms in the Minneapolis Airport. I make my way all the way down Concourse E to the main terminal, then slowly lug everything down the stairs to the exit doors. I exit the airport just in time to see Jerry pass by the pick up area once. There is no stopping and waiting. On Jerry's next go around, I hastily toss my bags into his car, climb in and we exchange pleasantries.
It's time to head from the airport to the fairgrounds.

Along the way to the Fair, we decide not to use the highway as we would be right in the middle of the mid day rush hour. The first time we come to a bridge, Jerry jokingly warns me that I am about to cross a bridge, in Minnesota. Well, at least they can laugh about it now, even if it was still a daily news item. We quickly make our way to the fair. When we have almost reached the fair, Jerry hands me my FUNvelope with all my advnaced sale ride and admission coupons for the fair. We are soon heading up the last section of road before the parking lot. I note some of the unofficial parking areas are full, but there still seems to be room in the official parking lot. Minnesota has agressively tried to promote park-and-ride and carpools as an alternative to driving the the fairgrounds yourself. The simple fact of the matter is that there is not enough on site parking. Therefore they have developed an extensive park and ride network for the fair which I believe is free to use, if you decide to park on site, they will assess a $10 parking charge. On my last visit, in 2005, they had discontinued the carpool promotion, whereby carpools of four or more people received free on site parking, which has helped free up more on site spaces. Luckily they still run the discount promotion where you can exchange one $8 advanced sale admission coupon for parking.

We enter the line to enter the parking lot. As expected the first person we come to is wearing a rather nifty looking money box/ticket roll belt/suspenders arrangement, but that person waves up past upon showing them a presale ticket. We come across a second person similarly equipped, I guess in case we missed the first one, and they too wave us on to the third person. The third person tears your ticket and drops it into the ticket can. We both noted the person did not tear our presale ticket and return the stub to us, as is the ususal practice but instead kept the entire ticket undamaged, but we decided not to press the issue. Soon parking attendants were leading us to a space, yes, I repeat, parking attendants led us to a space in row K.
We take time to stow items we don't want to take into the fairgrounds with us, and make sure we have those essentials, like the wallet, money, admission ticket, and a supply of ride coupons. We secure the car and head to the front of the parking lot. We decide to take the opportunity to cross the main access road at first opportunity, then head to the front of the lot. At the front of the lot, is the bus station for that extensive park and ride network I mentioned along with port-a-johns and vending machines. We pass all that up and come to the ticketing plaza. Here we see lines at least 30 deep in back of every ticket booth, I mean this area is jammed with people waiting to buy tickets. I note the full price is $11, and am glad I only paid $8, I am even more glad when we cross over to the exit area and proceed to bypass this entire crowd of people, cutting back over to the entrance after the ticket booths. Jerry asked me if I felt guilty cutting in front of all those people. I responded, "Not even just a little bit" Soon, we spotted a ticket taker with no line, handed in our tickets, and the proceeded to climb the three ramps up to the bridge that would take us over the access road, then three ramps back down to deposit us into the fairgrounds.

We start to head, more or less right for the rides area. We go down Clough St., past the Miracle of Birth Center, past the all-you-can-drink milk booth, past the livestock area, only making a brief stop, before making a left at Carnes Ave. and heading down this street all the way till it dead ends at the Mighty Midway. The Minnesota State Fair is aranged in basically a large "L" formation, with a lot of the core building in the corner where the two arms of the L meet. The long arm of the L is called "Machinery Hill" and is where you can see tractors, snow blowers, and all other order of farm implements, and these days cars, trucks, and boats as well. The shorter arm of the "L" houses the livestock area, Heritage Square (a historical area), and in the center at the end of the "L", the Mighty Midway.

It would be a good orientation for those who are not used to fairs and carnivals, to note that Minnesota runs their midway as an independent midway. What this means, essectially, is that instead of giving an exclusive contract to one midway provider, or a master vendor arangement with one midway company, the fairboard essentially becomes its own contractor, and books in each ride, game, attraction, merchandise. and food stand. Each piece of the midway being a seperate contract, the idea behind this arrangement is that it is supposed to give the fairboard maximum control and flexibility in setting up exactly the midway it wants, with exactly the rides it wants.

The Minnesota fair, however, also goes out of its way to hide this fact to the casual observer. It wants to project the image to the casual fair goer, that this is one unified attraction called "The Mighty Midway" To that end, each staff member must wear the Mighty Midway uniform and nametag, stick joints have a uniform style of canvas overhead, and it would seem that use or display of the individual show names is discouraged. If a ride/game/whatever wants to flash their attraction with decorative flags, they must use the standardized white flags with the Mighty Midway logo, though I note some operators have gotten by with limited display of the American flag as well. (I would assume this is an authorized exception).

As you enter the area there is 4 sided entry sign. On two of the sides it has the Mighty Midway logo, along with operating hours (10am-midnight, except for Labor Day 10am-10pm), prices (rides 3-6 tickets, games 2-4 tickets), and the days/times when specials can be had. The third side has a very handy measurement chart to determine you child's height "The Mighty Measurements", and the fourth side has the very useless map. I mean the map gives the general layout but instead of naming which ride is where, it just says "Rides" and will have a zone marked. Just past these signs are the main ticket booths, and don't worry if you miss those, or run out of tickets, there are several more smaller ticket booths further on back. Being an independent midway, the issue of how to handle the ticket money comes up, and to that end there are NO Pay-One-Price specials, ever. All rides use tickets, and on this lot, even the skill games are paid for in tickets. The fairboard sells the tickets to the fair goers, the fair goers use the tickets at the rides and games, then the operators turn the tickets back into the fair to be redeemed at a certain agreed upon rate per ticket.

Now, that is out of the way, allow me to take you on an orientation tour of the midway. The midway is essentially one long rectangular area, with rides and games down each of the two long sides, and a row of rides and games down the center. You enter on one short end, and it deadends at the other short end. Additional games and ticket booths are located in the center of the main walkways, with food booths and sitting areas provided along the center interspersed with the rides and games. Going from memory, so this may or may not be right, this is approximately the layout in use. I f you were to look at the Mighty Midway standing at the main entrance on Liggett St. on the left side you would find: (note I am skipping the games that might be interspersed between the rides)

* Mardi Gras Glass House

* MTV Video Funhouse

* Fabbri Kamikazee

* "The Dark Side" - a dark ride

* KMG/AmTech Spin Out

* Wisdom Storm
* Larson Fireball
* Magestic Skooter
* Mondial Shake "Magnum"
* KMG Afterburner "Extreme"

* Bumper Boats

Down the center:

* Mondial Swinger "Fighter"
* Wisdom Tornado

* Sellner Tilt-A-Whirl (with the new G5 tubs)
* Eyerly Spider

* Dartron Downdraft
* Zierer Wave Swinger
* Chance Rok N Rol
* Eli Bridge Scrambler
* Chance Giant Wheel

* ARM Super Shot
* Chance Zipper
* Dartron Cliff Hanger

Down the right side:
* Arabian Daze Fun Haus
* Wisdom Moby Dick
* Midway Guest Relations
* Dartron Zero Gravity
* Tivoli Remix "Techno Power"
* Chance Alpine Bobs
* Wisdom Starship 3000
* Allen Herschell Skywheel
* Hoffbrauhaus German Fun Haus
* Pinfari Zyklon "Avalanche"
* Mondial Top Scan "Space Roller"

Accross the back, blocking off the back of the short end:
* Reverchon Crazy Mouse Coaster
* World of Wonders "10-In-1 Style" classic sideshow

We take our own orientation tour of the midway, about one and a half laps worth, before deciding to start the day on the Crazy Mouse roller coaster. The choice to start with the Crazy Mouse was due in part to the fact the ride was a total walk on, which is a rarity for the Crazy Mouse coaster at the fair. We proceed through the empty queue area, and I note the midway is having an Early Bird special, which means the price on all rides and some games is rolled back 1 ticket during happy hour. We walk up to the loading area, turn in our tickets (5) and the ticket taker assigns us a car. We step into the assigned car, one of teach on each side, and pull down the lapbars as the car continues to roll forward. We reach the end of the station area, and a visual check of the restraints is performed, then we roll out onto the course. There was a time when I thought the Crazy Mouse was a neat ride, then I saw the Gerstlauer version. The Crazy Mouse very much jeeps to its Wild Mouse roots. We roll out of the station, make a left turn, roll across the front of the ride, another left turn, then climb the lift, another left turn. We go around the ride marquee as we enter the top level switchbacks. At this point the ride is a normal Wild Mouse, as the cars are not free to spin yet. At the end of the switchbacks, you go down a short dip and rise, then make another left turn to again go across the front of the ride, this time on the mid course brake. The next left turn is the big one, as you go down the big drop, then up into a weird long extended uphill that flattens for a little bit towards the top, before climbing again for the final short hop. The bump adds an interesting experience to the ride, often accompanied by a wonder if you are going to make it to the top of the hill, to make that next left turn. Before the first switchback turn, you pass the mechanism which unlocks your car, for the second set of switchbacks you are free to spin, You make a few switchbacks, before heading straight towards the front of the ride, a drop, rise, and turnaorund at the front, then a drop, and you cut diagonally through the ride structure on mostly flat track that does have a bunny hop in the center. You then make one final turnaround and its into the brakes, then the mechanism that realigns your car to face forward, then lock it back into stationary mode. For all the things the Crazy Mouse does right getting you onto the ride, we must talk about how they get you off of the ride. The Crazy Mouse does not stop in unload. An unloader unlocks the lapbars, which you then raise. He then walks along side your car telling you to get out. He has a knack at telling you to jump out right as you pass a support column. He also probably means well, standing nearby to help people exit the tubs, but if you decide to instead jump out of the tub, it is quite easy to lland near or on his feet. I happened to nail him, jumped and landed with all my weight right on his foot. I apologized profusely, and he told me not to worry about it, it happens all the time. I would figure that would be encouragement to stand further away, but I guess some people need a more shallow learning curve. We then exit the ride, making sure to take care on the extra large last step, then walk down the exit path, dutifully ignoring the on ride photo booth.

Well now, it is time to make the walk I have been dreading for the past week, the walk over to Space Roller. Those who have read my past fair TR's know that the Space Roller is one of my favorite rides, so why am I dreading it. Well, the story goes that Space Roller went in for some extensive rehab work this year, part of that rehab work is all new seats and shoulder harnesses. Anecdotal comments from those who have ridden, and those who have tried to ride this year, is that it is a tighter fit than it used to be. I walk up to the ride, and I do note that the part about new seats is true, the older seats were yellow, and the new seats are a baby blue color. I also note crotch belts have been added to the front center of the seats that fasten into the shoulder harness. I have also been told those belts are a non-issue. Well, may as well get it over wiht, find out if I can ride the thing or not anymore. I head up the entry area, where I note a new fence has been added narrowing the entrance to about 1 person wide. Wonder if they had trouble at another spot. I turn in 5 tickets, and head up to the top of the waiting area. Soon the current cycle ends, and I am admitted to the ride area. I note I am the only one in line for this cycle. I am shown a seat, and sit down, the bars automatically lower, but of course fails to lock. This is not cause for immediate alarm as I have always needed a slight helping push. The loader fastens the seatbelt, then goes to work on pushing the bar. He tells me he has to push, I say "Okay" he pushes, no luck, he asks if he can push harder, I say okay, he pushes, no luck, he says he will give it one more try, but he has to really push hard. I say okay, he pushes HARD on the bar, it locks. It is a really tight fit, he makes sure I am alright before he leaves me to give the all clear. The ride starts, and what a glorious ride it was! This is all the goodness of Space Roller that I remember, and I will tell you something, being stapled that tight into the seat is actually a benefit, it is even more rideable than it was before, now that I am essentially one with the ride, with no room to slide or bounce around. I think I am given a slightly longer than average program, then the ride ends, and the loader comes around to let me out. One of the downsides of the new belts is that it is very hard to reach the end release buckle (with the red button on the bottom) while seated in the seat. I thank the guy for his patience and return to the midway. Oh, the obligatory ride description: A Top Scan consistts of a lifting boom, attached to the lifting boom is the main boom. At one end of the main boom is the counterweight, at the other end is the ride vehicle. The ride vehicle end consists of 6 5-seat spokes set in a windmill like arangement. All 5 seats on a spoke face the same way. So first the lifting boom lifts the main boom up into the air, then the main boom starts spinning, and when it spins it is set at an angle so it is also raising and lowering the ride arm. Then the windmill with its 6 spokes starts rotating, then each spoke is mounted on a swivel so it can roll backards and forwards as inertia dictates. If a very impressive ride which turns you every which way but loose, and the inertia mounted spokes help ensure no two rides are the same. It is still, very much on of my favorite midway rides.

We head back up the midway, and our next stop is at the Techno Power. The Techno Power is the 'extreme' version of the popular Orbiter ride. It was developed during the craze was to reduce the big bulky ride tubs of the past down to bare essentials, basically a seat, with legs dangling free. The downside to this, is that while the Orbiter has rather loose non adjustable lap bars, the Techno Power has much more restrictive adjustable shoulder bars. I had heard an anecdote that the Orbiter was developed with no passenger restraints, and that they are added when they come to the United States, but a review of a German rides video, shot in Germany reveals the Orbiter had the lap bars in their video.

The ride consists of the main center tower, at the top of which extends seversal sweeps, the sweeps are L shaped so in the load poasition the ends of the sweeps are hanging straight down. At the end of each sweep are mounted three stub arms, each stub arm having 2 seats. The ride starts by lifting up from the load position to the run position, then the main tower starts spinning, then the sweep ends start spinning, then the seeps pivot up so that instead of hanging down, at their peak they are sticking almost straight out perpendicular to the ground. The ride spins around awhile at very high speed, then the sweeps pivot back down, then the ride stops spinning and lowers back into the load postion.

Jerry and I board the Techno Power, and the bars come down, and since we have our arms in exactly the wrong position, the bars did not automatically lock. No matter, a loader came and gave them the push needed to lock the bars. The ride starts and when the sweeps are hanging down, the lateral forces push you towards the outside, but when the sweeps are in the upright position, the forces push you down into your seat. The upright position is also hard on your legs. All in all, its a great little spin ride. After spinning for a bit, the ride ends and we head on up the midway.

After the Spin Out, we head to the Tornado. The Tornado somewhat resembles a Paratrooper, except I don't think it tips up near as high. The key different is that instead of the Paratrooper seats, the ride consists of 8 sweeps that hang down, each ending in a spherical shaped ride tub. Each ride tub has 4 chairs facing inward, and no other siding which again helps with the wide open feeling that many newer rides wish to instill. Riders are secured to the seats with T shaped lap bars.The key feature of the tub, however, is the Wheel of Delight (or the Wheel of Doom, depending on your point of view) in the center of the tub. This allows each ride group to spin or not spin the ride as fast or as slowly as they see fit. This particular unit is equipped with a modification I had not yet seen. Essentially the center pole between the wheel and the top of the tub has been covered with a red sleeve. The sleeve is not rigidly connected to the ride, and therefore can free spin. The idea, which apparently stemmed from an incident that occurred a couple years ago, is designed so that if you should grab hold of the center pole during the ride, instead of causing bodily injury, it will safely spin with you. I would expect this unit to have all the modifications, as I believe it is Wisdom Rides show model, that they themselves are exhibiting,

We board the Tornado and grab Tub 3. The ride starts, and as soon as the tub brakes release we have the tub spinning at a nice clip. During most of the ride, the outside world is a blur, and all I can see clearly are Jerry and the wheel. To be sure, it is tiring to keep the tub spinning, but its worth it. When the ride ended, we calmly exited the ride and were called over by the operator. The operator, according to name tag, was no less than Kyle Wisdom himself, who commented that he was impressed with our performance, he also told us that we had fairgoers who were walking past the ride concerned for our health and well being. I think in reality that just watching us spin the tub into a wild blur was making them sick!

From the Tornado, we headed to the Fighter. The Fighter is a Mondial Swinger, as is Mondial's take on the circle swing ride. The ride has a lot of characteristics similar to a circle swing ride. It is big and round, with a stairway all the way around the ride, and in the center of the ride a main tower, where the top of the tower rises up from the load position to the ride position. The big difference is that at the top of the tower, instead or a large round cap that contains a multitude of swings on chains, the Swinger is different. The cap on top of the Swinger main pole is a large square shaped affair, on each corner of the square an arm hangs down, at the end of the arm is a cluster of 5 sweeps in a circular arangement. When the ride starts, the ride lifts up, then the main boom starts to rotate, then each of the four arms starts spinning its set of 5 sweeps. To make life even more interesting each arm is mounted with a hydraulic arm that is capeable of pushing the arm out from a vertical position to about 30-45 degrees off center.

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the theming, that of a female ninja. On the top piece, in the center on all four sides, is a female ninjas face mounted above body armour clad boobs. The four arms coming down from the ride in effect are the ninja fighters arms, and you can clearly see her hands, and at the end of each hand the 5 armed sweep is meant to resemble some martial arts weapon. From theme, looks, sound system and entire package, its a stunning piece, and Minnesota recognized that fact by putting the ride in the "Spot of Honor" the front center ride on the midway.

Jerry and I board the ride, with the very open chairs, and refreshingly for a big European super spectacular, the ride does NOT have shoulder bars. The ride instead has very simple non-adjustable loose fitting lap bars. We sit down, and lower the lapbars so that the flat metal plate at the end fits into the locking mechanism where a deadbolt type arrangement secures the bar. I have ridden this ride in the past, and now the ride can deliver a variety of ride experiences from mild to intense. For this particular ride, was needle was more towards the mild side.

From the Fighter, we head to the Chance Rok N Rol. You heard that right, a Chance Rok-N-Rol. (user cues up a medly of "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay", "Old Time Rock and Roll", and "Rock and Roll Music") From what I understand, a state ride inspector commented that he had not seen one of these in at least 20 years. The ride consists of a center spindle which has a large round frame around the outside, mounted to the frame are 10 cylindrical cars mounted on edge. The cars resembles the tubs of a spin dryer, and as you are about to find out, that is quite the valid analogy. The tubs are closed in with a metal mesh on the inner side and on top, only the outer side of the car is open. The tub has two seats facing inwards, and in the middle of the two seats is a U shaped grab bar mounted to the inside wall of the tub.

So the ride starts, and the 10 tubs start spinning around the center pole, then the tubs unlock, and as the name suggests, you can Rock the tubs, and if you are sucessful, the tub will start rolling. Yes, in a refreshing blast from the past, it is a ride where the rider gets to control the ride experience. I recall that a couple years ago, a major local newspaper for the Twin Cities wrote a midway review panning the Tornado becuase it required the rider to exert real work to get their ride. However, with the Rok N Rol, sedentary riders need not worry, as there is a mechanism in the center of the ride, that when activated will automatically roll the tubs as they go past it. You have to watch these interactive attractions. This Rok N Rol has a skilled crew that likes to play with the flipping mechanism so that as the ride spins you can't always be sure if its going to flip you or not. They also like to act like your ride is coming to and en, slow it down, then speed it right back up. Oh and how do they hold the riders into the car. No shoulder bars, no lapbars, just seatbelts. Of course, they are not normal seatbelts, they are special extra wide seatbelts, and instead of a buckle, the ends of the belt are fed into a special camlock mechanism. The belt is fed into the camlock, then the cam is clamped shut. Once this happens it can be pulled tighter, but not looser. From early photos of the ride at the fair, it started the fair run, with not only a "No Single Riders", but also a "4 Riders per Tub" sign. I note both of those signs had been removed.

The Rok N Rol was also quite popular an had a line. While waiting for it, I overheard the latest games come-on. The idea is to post a rule you have no intention of ever enforcing. Say, institute a "No Leaning" rule, back it up by bright red lines, and large signs proclaiming "No Leaning" Then get the agent in charge on the mic "For the next few minutes, we are going to let you CHEAT! That's right for the next ten minutes, you can lean in all you want to, all we ask is you keep one foot on the ground. Okay, who's ready to come over here and CHEAT, Thats right, people are cheating and winning over here" Of course the ten minute promotion never ends, but it works well by fooloing people into thinking they are getting some kind of special advantage.

We boarded the Rok N Rol, and the first tub we tried, we had no hope of fastening the seatbelts. Like many rides, not all seatbelts are created equal, unlike most rides, the operators acknowledge that fact and relocated us to the Big Boy tub with the long belts. The belts were inserted into the camlocks and pulled tight. Before the ride started the loaders came around the ride at least two more times, giving each belt another hard tug as they walked past. The ride finally starts, and we are just getting back into the swing of rocking and rolling the tub when the ride stops. Wow, that ws way too fast. The operator comes around and does not release the belts, but instead says that the rie will resume in a few moments. We then had a ride that lasted, shall we say a Good Long While. Jerry and I had our tub ding a spin dryer imitation at times, and at other times we delighted in hanging upside down. It was a wonderful ride, and at the end when we were let loose of the ride tub, and exited the ride, we got pulled over by the operator to tell us how impressed he was. That makes two operators impressed with our unique skills. Next up is Storm.

When I first started going to the Minnesota State Fair, I was impressed with the Storm. The Storm consists of a rectangular turntable mounted at a slight incline so the back of the ride is higher than the front. On top of the turntable are mounted two smaler rectangular turntables, on top of each the two small turntables, are mounted two 10-passenger rectangular ride tubs. Each tub has two rows of 5 arranged facing each other The ride starts and the main turntables, the small turntables, and all 4 tubs all start spinning. The ride has one purpose, and it does it quite well, to spin at a nice constant fast rate, on many axis, and hold a sustained force of at least 3G.s As I said I used to be impressed with it.

We walked up to Storm, and wre shown to a tub at the very back of the ride. Jerry and I got our own ub, so we sat on opposite sides, then opposite ends of the car, to ensure proper balancing. The ride started and yes it span well, yes the force was strong and sustained, but all in all it just doesn't do much for me anymore.

After Storm, we headed to the ride Jerry gave his Blue Ribbon "Ride of Show" award to this year. The ride is the Magnum, which is a Breakdance on serious drugs. The ride looks like a Breakdance at first glance, you have the huge main turntable, and on the turntable are mounted 5 turrets, mounted on top of each turret is a set of crossbars, at the ends of the crossbars, are mounted tubs, so 4 tubs per turret, 20 tubs on the ride. Like on the Breakdance, the tubs are mounted on a swivel so thet can spin by inertia, but instead of the car being mounted directly to the swivel, the key difference is the swivel ends in a set of uprights, from which the ride car is hung. This means that the cars can not only spin bi inertia, but they can also roll forwards and backwards by inertia. The main table spins, then the turrets start spinning, and from that point on, who knows what your individual tub might do, and yes rocking the car is perfectly allowed.

Jerry and I have ridden this before, and we also know they like to pair single riders. The problem with the two of us paired into the same tub is that the tub gets too heavy to get any good action. So, first I get in line, and I'm off on a chaotic exciting ride. At least twice during the ride I had good 7 flip sequences going, and I also had some interesting moments where I had the tub stuck upside down and still spinning around. In short, it was a great ride, but not for amateurs. Next, Jerry went to have his Magnum ride. While he was being loaded, I walked over to the food stand, and ordered a Lemon Shake Up. Fairground Lemonaade, yes I know they spike it with extra sugar or corn syrup, but its still a refreshing treat. (20 oz for $3). I then watch Jerry proceed to put the ride through its paces, and I think he had an even more insane ride than I had. After Jerry's ride it takes me a few moments to finish my drink, then we head to our next ride.

The next ride would be the real test. It is Extreme, a KMG Afterburner. The afterburner is a pendulum ride where the pendulum ends in a 6 sided claw. The floor drops away, then the pendulum swings back and forth, then the claw starts spinning, At the peak of its swing the arm is swingng up well above 90 degrees. I say the ride would be the real test is I tried to ride a similar ride at the Florida State Fair, and could not fit, later last year, I tried to ride another ride just like it at the Ohio State Fair, and could not fit. As I enter the ride, the friendly greeter tells me its a great ride, but also cautions me that she has doubts that I will fit. I board the ride, take a seat, and the bars drop. Of course, it doesn't lock by itself, but it only takes a gentle push by the loader to lock the bar. Compared to Space Roller, this was a breeze. I like the spinning pendulum rides, the problem is my home park has Delirium, which is a massively large swinging pendlum ride. The small KMG ride just doesn't seem to do it anymore. The program they run on Extreme is prett mild except for the final 10 or 15 seconds, when it starts swinging back and forth with gusto, as the ride starts spinning at maniac speed. The problem is the intense part of the ride is much too short.

After Extreme, I noted the Early Bird special had ended, all rides back to full price. Sounds like a good time to take a walking tour of the fair. We started by crossing Liggett Street and wound up in a zone called Adventure Park. This is an area where, in the past, the fair has had such extreme attractions as bungee jumping and a SCAD tower. Let's see what they have this year. The first thing I come to, next to the fresh cut fries stand is the Ejection Seat. I see they have the spring and cable version, instead of the bungee cable version. Either way, its about the same, you and a partner climb into a capsule, then the capusle is launched high in the air at high speed, and you have the chance of flipping while you bounce up and down a few times. The last time I rode one of these, down at Old Town, I thought it was pretty underwhelming. Therefore, I did not take the fair up on its offer to ride this for only 5 tickets. Yeah, its marked 5 tickets, but you are no longer on the Mighty Midway, you are in Adventure Park, and Adventure Park has its own tickets, which run $5 apiece.

Passing on the Slingshot, I look around at the rest of the challenging attractions. I see a portable rock wall, a Euro Bungy Trampoline attraction, a "Ham on Rye" Virtual Reality game, and a SKyscraper. I also see a lot of empty field where the ropes course and the Skycoaster sat last year. Adventure park wasn't very adventurous. While the Slingshot seemed to be at near market prices at $25 (the one at my home park is $25, and often runs specials for $20 or even $15), the Skyscraper was obnoxiously priced at $25, especially considering the local amusement park has the same ride, for only $10.

Failing to be inspired by Adventure Park, we continued down Carnes Ave. and stopped to see an interesting exhibit put on by a local television station. It seems a theme of this year's fair is the green lifestyle. This particular television stations was getting in on the act with the first 100% people powered broadcast, well at least in theory anyway. The idea is that you could stand in line to be invited into the glassed in booth. Inside the booth were a number of stationary bikes. The bikes were fitted up with some type of dynamo to produce electricity. The idea is that you need to generate a certain amount of electricity to do your share. If you do that, you get a free t-shirt, and there are even monitors that measure your energy produced. Jerry mentioned that at a previous fair, a booth about how much energy it takes to perform a simple task. They used the same gimmick with the stationary bike hooked up to a dynamo to generate power. However, they hooked their bike up to a simple 60 watt light bulb. How much pedaling, and how fast do you have to pedal to light the bulb. A lot more than you would think, as people found out as they tried to light the light bulb.

Continuing down
the same street, we stopped in Playland. Playland is an arcade. We had a couple things to look at in there. One was an operating Turret Tower game, I had played Turret Tower before but we wanted to get some photos of me playing it for a friend. Well, we'll take care of that on Monday when we have cameras. In the back of Playland though, they had 4 pinball machines. I am an admitted pinball junkie, so I tried a couple out now. After that little amusing break, we continued up Carnes, past the Cub Foods building, and turned onto Cooper Street.

Our first stop on Cooper Steet was the Robot Combat arena. Unfortunately for us, we arrived at the arena at 2pm, and shows are every other hour on the odd numbered hours. We never did make it back there to see Robot Combat, but we had seen it at a previous fair, when it was held in a much larger venue at the top of Machinery Hill. Robot Combat : "All of the violence, none of the guilt!" "Robot warriors don't die, they just get reassembled"

Across from Robot Combat was the Kidway, we never did tour the Kidway, but from the perimieter I see it held the usual collection of kiddie rides, including practically the entire Zamperla kiddie-rides catalog. Rockin Tug, Flying Tigers, Speedway, Jumping Star, and much much more. A couple years ago the decision was made to change this area from a grass field to a gravel field. I wonder how that is working out for them, since it seems so counter intuitive.

Our next stop, was a short jog down Randall Ave. to the "Wonders of Technology" pavilion. Wait, what happened to Wonders of Technology? Its now the Eco Experience. The exhibit on hybrid cars and the windmill out front should have told me. The Eco Experience, as you might imagine is all about that greener living. Recycling, alternative cleaner forms of power, transportation alternatives, and organic foods were all part of this exhibit. We saw what looked like a toy pickup truck, runs entirely off a battery that can be charged by any AC outlet. We noted the specs stated its got a 500 pound payload capacity. If that includes the passengers, Jerry and I are in deep trouble. Then again looking at the cab of the truck, I think it would be a challenge to get Jerry and I in there at the same time. We also saw a car painted up to introduce a program called hOUR CAR., which is apparently a community car share program. (You can rent a car by the hour for short errands). Jerry is a bike enthusiast and he was commenting on the new style bike racks they had on display. Much more substantial, the metal frame of the rack is shaped roughly like a bike, which gives more securement points, and the rack itself just might help deter vandalism, or accidental damage to the bike.

While we were looking at the bike rack, a booth representtive came up to us to try to sell us on the ideas of carpooling, bike riding, mass transit riding, combining trips, bascially any options to take cars off the road. First she talked with Jerry and sounded impressed he had come from about an hour away from the fairgrounds. This set me up, when she was going to explain my transit options to me, she asked where I live. I told her Cincinnati, Ohio. First of all, she couldn't believe somebody would come all the way from Ohio to go to their state fair. But she was friendly, even though she must have realized that at that point I would not be needing her services. We chatted a bit about Cincinnati transit, and she even talked about how she heard the Ohio State Fair is a pretty good one. As an Ohioan, I'll just let her live with that misconception... Anyway, we spent less time in that building as Eco Experience, than we would have when it was Wonders of Technology.

We came out of the building just in time to see a bit of the daily parade, we decided our best plan was to duck behind the buildings in the North Woods section in order to stay clear of the parade route. Further up Cooper we spotted the Minnesota Bound store, sporting both American and Canadian flags. This area of the fair has a rustic backwoods feel to it, and the theme continues with the BBQ pit, kettle korn, and Giggles Campfire GRill eateries that sit in front of a show area that boats a lumberjack show.

We continue to tour the part of the fair that used to be known as Machinery Hill. This is where you could, and still can, but all types of tractors, lawn mowers, snow throwers, and farm implements of all sizes, shapeds and descriptions. It also seems like car and boat dealers have also moved into the Machinery Hill zone.

Near the top of Machinery Hill, another television station was using sports themed games to entertain the children. There was an inflatable hockey themed game, but what really grabbed people's attention was Human Foosball. There was a game area that resembled an oversize foosball table. Instead of the little woodem or plastic men, you controlled life size wooden figures (with heavily reinforced rubber feet) There was even a cute little oversize soccer ball. The rules are the same as in real foosball, except that instead of spinning your players around, the human players stand behind their assigned man, and by using handles can swing the figure forwards and back to hit the ball. Like in foosball you can also move the figure left and right but it you elect that option, everybody in the row has to move along with you. Hmm, all the figures are player 45, I wonder what television station is sponsoring this game.

Leaving the Human Foosball we walked about as far up Cooper St. as you can go, here Major League Baseball had a fan zone setup. Here there were all kinds of displays about America's Pastime, and you don't have to be a Twins fan to enter, they were proudly flying the flags of all the MLB teams. Inside their tent they had a speed pitch, batting cage, and other hands on partipatory exhibits on baseball, then I noticed all their activities were a stated number of tickets. Yep, the baseball fan zone is a revenue generating attraction.

We walked over Murphy Ace, and across from the baseball fan zone, there was both a Twins team shop, and a little sandlot field where various little league teams were playing The idea was to promote the groundbreaking of the Twins new outdoor stadium, coming in just a few short years. I had already heard the Golden Gophers are building a new football stadium, and the rumor is the Vikings will also want a new facility. Poor Metrodome, I fear your days are numbered.

We then passed the Pet Center, and I'm not sure if that's a kennel to store your pets, a place to find out how to give your pet a better life, or what. Seeing as I am not a pet lover, I quickly passed up this building. We stopped at a Coca Cola Booth (from the local bottler). Just about any American market product that they bottle can be had for $2.50/bottle, and official Coca Cola souvenirs go for $10. Coca Cola has several of these stands throughout the fair. Last time I was at this fair, it was only $2/bottle, so prices have gone up. Before heading back down Underwood Street, we took a look at the X-Zone. X-Zone, does that mean it has rollercoasters? Nope, thats X-Base, not X-Zone. The main attraction of X-Zone looked to be something that resembled a skatepark. Today they were exhibiting BMX bikes doing all kinds of dangerous looking stunts for our amusement.

While back in X-Zone, we spotted the booth for a major electronics maker, who was advertising an instant win game for a free giant screen HDTV flat panel TV. All you had to do was take a free ticket on the way into the booth, and have the person in the back of the booth scan the barcode. Well, its not really that easy, you do have to leave then the usual contact information by filling out the back of the ticket before they will scan it. Jerry got a losing ticket, and I won some little logoed mini frisbee thing that I haven't even opened yet.

Even though we had little interest in the rest of Machinery Hill, we decided to walk down Underwood St. instead of taking the SkyGlider. The Minnesota Fair is large enough to need two skyrides. This one is the Sky Glider, which uses more open chairlift style seats, and runs from the top of Machinery hill down the the heart of the fairgrounds near the Grandstand. The other, the Sky Ride, uses enclosed sky buckets, some of which look like they have been graffitied or otherwise been given some wild paint jobs. The Sky Ride runs from by the Ag-Hort building to over near Heritage Square and the Mighty Midway. I have never ridden either Sky Ride at the fair. Seeing the Sky buckets stuck for a number of hours on my first ever visit to the fair has turned me off to the skyride. Besides, it's not like I couldn't stand to walk a bit more.

We took another look at the Kidway from the other side, and then walked over to the Penny Arcade. Wait, the Penny Arcade is gone. In its place is the Butterfly House. The open sides of the building have been netted in, and for $3 you can come inside and look up close at the butterfly exhibits, and maybe get a butterfly to land on you. Or, you can just watch the butterflys fly around from outside the building for free. We chose the latter option.

We made the turn onto Dan Path Ave. and I spotted what is reputed to be the finest Cheese Curds stand on the fairgrounds, and I have a liking for Cheese Curds, which is why I can't quite explain why I never made it to that stand. We noted that the Butterfly House does not take up all the Penny Arcade. The Arcade is still there, its just been downsized. And look, they have 5 pinball machines here. Time for another pinball break, pardon me.

On our way out of the arcade, I failed to try the Adams Family shock machine. It seems Jerry like toys tht shock you, and he tried to talk me into trying the shock machine, but no deal. Speaking of no deal, at the front center of the arcade is a Deal or No Deal video game. Its a redemption video game in a super deluxe cabinet. Big screen monitor and lights all around it that change right on cue: red during a bank offer, blue when selecting cases, and yellow when the game is explaining itself to you. The game, is essentially Deal or No Deal without the humour or the interaction between Howie, the player and the Banker. The numbered cases are still there but instead of dollar amounts, the cases hold varrying numbers of redemption tickets, from 1 to 400 in the standard game. Double that, if you decided to play Double Deal or No Deal. You start the game, you sleect a case for yourself, you open some cases, get a bank offer to end the game now and take a stated number of tickets, or go on. Deal, or No Deal? You continue with case opening rounds, and bank offer rounds just like the real game. They player even gets a hot seat to sit on, which is strange becuase players of the real show have to stand up. The large control panel contains numbered buttons for each case, as well as the large Deal and No Deal buttons. What got me more than anything was the price. Standard Deal or No Deal was $2/game, Double Deal was $4. I saw people shove money into this thing like crazy. Sorry, $2 is a bit much for one novelty game. I saw the same guy play Double Deal at least 3 times. (Well, at least he had his family around him to help him make those great choices, like pressing No Deal after busting the safety net, and winding up with winning 16 tickets after paying $4.)

We moved on and past the Grandstand, having no interest in the Grandstand show. We seem to have come to a major food area. There is the major Corn Roast pavillion (complete with compost piles out front for those corn cobs), Bayou Bob's with such things as Alligator on a Stick, frozen grapes, and sugar free lemonade. A bit furher is a Fried Fruit on a Stick stand. Wait, doesn't frying fruit sort of defeat the purpose of a healthy alternative. Then again, food must pass a certain "It must be at least THIS bad for you" test before it can be sold on a faigrounds. Then there was Custards Last Stand (frozen custard), and the SPAM booth. Remember, SPAM comes to us from Minnesota. Thanks, Minnesota. And what is this deep fried SPAM Curds, and a line at least 10 people deep. Did I just slip off into the twilight zone?

So backtracking a little ways, we take a look at the Giant Slide. It looks to be just like the model at the Ohio State Fair, and looks like it should be pretty good. Of course at Ohio the Giant Slide is included in the rides pass, here there is no ride pass, and its $2. I decline the Giant Slide. We cross the street into Carousel Park. With a name like Carousel Park, you might expect some big fancy antique Grand Carousel, but no, its just your standard traveling model carousel. I did notice that it is ADA accessible via a folding rampway they have sitting next to the ride Ride tickets won't work for the Carousel either. While all the midway rides share tickets, the numerous non midway rides that dot the state fair, each have their own ticket booth out front, and their own tickets. I think the Carousel was posted at $3, which makes it one of the most expensive midway-style rides at the fair.

Across from the Carousel were a collection of what I presume are public works arts sculptures. You know the idea, a company, artist, or team buys a base sculpture, and then within stated rules is free to paint and decorate it anyway they want. The finshed sculptures are then scattered around to the public to enjoy and judge. Various are projects of this type have appeared at the fair over the years, and at the fair they put a collection of them all in the same place, right in front of the Grandstand. This years theme was dinosaours, and they had some pretty clever entries. We continued through Carousel Park, under the Grandstand bridge, which gives easy access to the second floor of the expo hall built underneath the grandstand seats. Continuing along Dan Patch Ave, we passed some more of my food stands.

There is Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar, a stand specializing in HOT, baked while you watch, chocolate chip cookies. I WILL be back to check out this stand before I leave for home. They even have what you need to go with cookies, either hot coffee, or ice cold milk. Or you could do what several others, do, take your large bucket of Sweet Marthas over to the Dairy Association's "All The Milk You Can Drink (or dip cookies in) for $1" booth. Next to Sweet Marthas is Famous Dave's rib joint. Hey, my restaurant! With a location on the fairgrounds. We had almost returned to Liggett St. which meant we were back near the Mighty Midway.

After a brief stop, we head back to the Mighty Midway. This time we start with another ride on the Rok N Rol. This time we sat on the opposite sides of the tub, and I found out Jerry is a much better Rok N RolTub engine than I am. We also got to see a little crew disagreement. The ticket taker sent us to a short seat belt tub, the loader near that tub spottes us right off, and told us to go to Tub 8. We walk around to Tub 8 to find other people already strapped in. The other loader takes us to Tub 6. We can fit into Tub 6, but lets just say Intamin would not be happy with the small amount of spare belt that we had sticking out of the adjustor. The first loader wasn't thrilled with it either. He calls loader 2 over "I told these two to go to Tub 8", "They did, but I already put other people in Tub 8" There was a bit of a disagreement among them, and in the end we wound up riding in Tub 6. Maybe not quite as good as ride 1, but still an impressive roll fest nonetheless.

After Rok N Rol we head over to Spin Out. We had not yet ridden Spin Out. The ride consists of a claw shaped passenger car with 6 'fingers' each holding 4 riders facing in. It sounds a bit like the Afterburner, but instead of being connected to a pendulum, the claw is connected to the end of a robotic arm. The arm is capable of turning the claw completely upside down, or anywhere in between, and is often the bearing that controls this rotation is constantly turning. The claw itself also spins, and the base that holds the robot arm is mounted on a turntable which is constantly spinning. You might see why its called the Spin Out. We hand in our tickets, and with just a slight press by the loader, we are cleared to ride, and succesfully ride the Spin Out (for a description on how to unsucessfully ride the Spin Out just wait till Mondys' Trip Report). Man, the Spin Out is one of the more intense KMG rides at the fair this year, and is priced as merely a Spectacular, and not a Super Spectacular, like the others. Jerry reported his ride cost a little extra in terms of change shaken out of his pocket.

After Spin Out, we head further down the midway and stop at the Larson Fireball. This is a classic concept that dates from a ride called Ring of Fire from the same company. The ride looks real simple, just a true circular vertical loop, with a train inside it. The ride starts and the train keeps going back and forth a little further each time, until it finally completes the loop, then proceeds to go through the loop several times at high speed. It then usually stops upside down for a few seconds. It the goes on several loops in the other direction before rolling back and forth again to a stop. Of course, its not a coaster, and a close inspection of the ride reveals that the train has a chasis that actually goes all the way around the loop, and I presume can be stopped with the train in any position they operator decided.

The difference between Ring of Fire and Fireball is more open seating. I'm not sure its a great move, gone are the cramped enclosed cages where you are secured by only a lap bar with a huge bolster around it. Gone are the cage roofs, and some of the sides. There still exist guards by the seats to prevent you from sticking your hands out. Instead of the lap bars, the ride uses shoulder bars that are safetied with crotch straps. Maybe the most interesting thing is that every other row alternates direction, so if if you find the right riders, you conceivably jam 4 people into this tiny space. We sat one of each side, and on opposite sides of the train to gain as much elbow and leg room as we could.

After the Fireball, we headed to Super Shot, which is the drop tower ride. The fair used to have this as a Super Spectacular costing 6 tickets, but now I see someone has come to their senses and its only 4 tickets now Still, its an awfully short ride. The Super Shot is no nonsense, brutally efficient in its operation. You enter the ride, hand over tickets, they seat you, lower shoulder bars, fasten crotch belts, and up the tower you go. As you go up the tower you realize there are no handholds on either the shoulder bar or the seat. That's what makes these tiny ARM drop towers better then the big boys, they feel very vulnerable. This isn't the observation tower ride, and you don't get a look around because the millisecond the car reaches the top, it releases and comes falling back down. Sure its a nice airtime jolt, but still far too short, even at 4 tickets.

After Super Shot, we took another ride on Magnum. We did our usual trick of riding on seperate cycles, or waiting long enough between each other that they would be unlikely to try to pair us. I wound up getting paired with another, thankfully much smaller rider. I didnt get as good of ride action as I had the first ride of the day, but considering my co-pilot that may have been just as well.

After Magnum, we headed back to the World of Wonders. World of Wonders is an old fashioned sideshow, the likes of which I thought had been run off fairgrounds and carnival lots all over. World of Wonders seems to be making a comeback, as I have seen it setup at three different state fairs now (Florida, Ohio, Minnesota), and he seemed to build a good tip wherever it is setup. The front of the tent is full of classic sideshow canvas will cartoonish illustrations detailing what is waiting for you on the inside. The front canvas is a work of art in its own right. We move to the center of the tent, still outside, preparing to watch the free show. While it costs money to go inside World of Wonders, they still have the free acts on the bally out front. We saw a fireeater, we saw "a real life dwarf whos former film credits include being an Oompa-Loompa and a Munchkin" As always yu are encoruaged to get as close to the bally stage as you can (to get a better look, then of course they tell you about all the different acts they have waiting for you on the inside. Here, however the old come-on about letting everybody in for the price of a child's ticket is not going to work, as this is considered a Mighty Midway attraction, and they set the price, they post the price, and they are serious about making sure the attractions don't over or under charge.

I admit I have wanted to see what one of these old Ten In One shows for awhile now. (Ten In One is a term that means that instead of paying separately to see each sideshow act, your going to get to see them ALL for the price of one ticket. Ten shows in one ticket. I think in this case, it was actually a Thirteen in One. The price of the show was posted as 6 Mighty Midway coupons. When it came time to "turn the tip" we readilly joined the crowd to hand over 6 tickets to walk inside the tent, ducking under the privacy shield. There will be no free peaks.

After a nice size group has assembled inside the tent, we are welcomed. We are welcomed with a brief introduction into the world of the sideshow. I get the feeling that this sideshow is a lot like other historical reenactment societies, where they cast gets their thrill in the act of keeping an old time tradition alive. They say as much in their introduction, that they are the LAST ten-in-one style sideshow, and unless something changes when they decide to hang it up, the Ten-In-One will become just a piece of carnival legend. They stress that, when you stepped into this tent, you stepped back over a hundred years in time. They claim to present the old time sideshow arts just as they would have been performed just a century ago. They also explained the rules to us, basically we are free to stay as long as we want, they have a number of acts, and they cycle through them continuously throughout the day, and always in the same order. There is no program, but when you start to see the same acts repeat you will know you have seen the whole show. "And by the end of the show, you will have seen it ALL" They stress that what we are about to see are not illusions, but real sideshow skills that have been passed down through the ages with a little good old fashioned humor mixed in.

With that, let's bring on the first act:

1) The Human Blockhead

This friendly person performs an act where we hammers (well beats in with his microphone) a nail right into his nose, and then proceeds to do the same thing with his ear. Not impressed yet, he sticks a spon up one nostril and it comes out the other nostril. He spins this together with real bad puns. "People worry about blood when I pull the nail out of my nose, but, its snot" "Folks, the jokes don't get any better" He ends his skit with a warning to the kids in the audience "Stay in school, study hard, or YOU may be standing on a sideshow stage sticking nails and spoons in your head to make a living"

2) The Four Legged Woman

We are told to move to one end of the stage, this will become common as the audience is in constant motion moving around in the tent to get from act to act. Some peppy dance music plays a curtain opens and we see a woman moving her feet around in rhythm to the music, all 4 feet. Look fast, because they only keep the curtain open for a few seconds.

3) The Guiotine

Okay, we have probably all seen magicians do a Guilotine escape, or perform an illusion where it looks like their head was cut off, or where the blade magically falls through missing their head. They put a slightly different backstory on it here. They tell a bit about the execution device, and how it was thought to be a more humane way to die. Then he goes onto say that because the break is so clean when it cuts off the head, that the head remains alive for about 30 seconds in excruciating pain. So they set up the famous magic trick, and I don't think they even try to hide the fact he pulls his head out while the group is watching the blade fall. . The host then pulls the severead head out of the basket, and it does appear to be looking around while in pain. He sets the head down on a table and it continues to move. He then picks up the tablecloth to make sure we know there is nothing connected to the head. "One thing about being sent to the guilliotine, you always come out ahead" (I told you the jokes don't get any better). He then acts like he is about to throw the severed head into the audience, but what gets almost thrown is clearly a mask.

4) Electric Girl

The premise here is that through some bizzare reaction the performed generates electricity and shocks anythign she touches. She sits down on a chair, and after the presentation of the backstory is complete, audience members are invited to reach up and touch her hand. Of course they get the static electricity shock of their nightmares, loud enough that the tent can hear. I suspect the chair is hooked up similar to that machine in Physics Lab where you get static shock as soon as you touch it, and as long as you are touching it whoever touches you gets shocked.

5) Rubber Boy

Contortionist act where Rubber Boy moves his body around into several seemingly impossible positions.

6) Fire Eater

Performer not only eats fire from torches, but can simply breath on an unlit torch to cause it to light up.

7) Blade Box

In this one a performer is introduced and assisted into a large rectangular coffin like box. The man makes it clear that this is NOT a saw the woman in half magic trick, no this is the ultimate act of contortion. First he places a blade in the box so that it divides the box in half. "Now she has to move either to the left or right side of the box. Now I am going to use two more blades, and divide those sections in half, again she has just seconds to move to safety. He continues to insert and more blades into the box, in what he says is a random order, whatever mood I am in. Whatever I choose she has to move around to find more room in the every increasingly small spaces. In the end there are 13 blades inserted. "Now, ladies and gentelmen, the largest space left in that box is a mere 7 inches wide. Most people could not fit, but Seprentina can, as she continues to bend herself around to fit. Serpentna raises her arms through an open hole in the lid of the box and waves then around to show she is okay.

Now, who here would like to see how Serpentina does this amazing feat. For just this show, we are going to allow YOU to come up here on stage with us and you will be able to see her as I see her, you will be able to look down through the glass lid of the box, you will be able to see how she is curled up around all those blades. By this time the entire audience is lined up at the foot of the stage steps. But wait just a minute. Serpentina is NOT a regular part of the show, she is here as a guest and neither World of Woners or the fair are paying her for her appearance here today. In other words he puts on the poor mouth and bald face lies. Her only income for being here today is through contributions from folks like yourselves. He then acts like he is picking a number out of the air. If you would like to see Serpentina curled up in the box, all we ask is a small contribution of at least $1, you can put it here in my hat as you come up on stage. In addition, in appreciation your your contribution Serpentina will give you this illusion that you can take home and fool your friends with. (Its a piiece of paper with something printed on it). No, I did not go for this particular upsell.

After time was given for all who wanted to see Serpentina to go up on stage, the show resumed:

8) Sword Swallower

Needs no introduction, he takes real swords, sticks them down his through, bends down so you can see, then stands straight and pulls it back out. Proceeds to do the same thing with a much more dangerous object, an object you refer to as a coat hanger.

9) Ladder of Machetes

This act invites the Serpentina to come back out and do her regular act, and that is to climb a ladder. But not just any ladder, each rung in this ladder is really a razor sharp blade. It takes skill, balance and timing to make it up this ladder without cutting your feet to shreads. But she gets both up and down the ladder without incident.

10) The headless woman

Another curtain is open and for a short while you can see a woman with no head. She can move though, and audience members (mostly kids I note) are invited to come up and feel her warm skin and verify she is real. Don't look to long because the curtain closes again pretty fast.

11) Bed of Nails

Performer lies down on a bed of nails, an anvil is placed on his stomach, and then struck with a sledgehammer. When he gets up from the bed of nails, he turns with his back to the audience, and you can see the pin pricks but no blood.

12) Spiderwoman

Another short stunt, the curtain opens and the human spiderwoman is shown for, now wait a minute I didn't even get a good look before the curtains were closed again. (Out of consideration of our fans who are deathly afraid of spiders)

13) Gorilla Girl

The CLASSIC. This one is still performed all over as a single attraction. Its about a woman who mutates on command into a gorilla. But don't worry, we lock her in this steel cage before we begin the transformatio, your saftey is ensured at all times. They get all historical about how this is actually the oldest sideshow stunt, and how they perform it as close to the original version as they can. All you grown ups in the audience, you KNOW what is going to happen after the transformation. Please don't spoil this for your children, let them get the full Gorilla Girl experience, and those of us who have seen it before, well we'll get a good laugh out of their reaction. I must say though, after that build up, she was the most laid back Gorilla Girl I have ever seen, hardly made any attempt to pounce forward out of the cage, scare people shitless, and have them running out of the tent in a mad panic.

After Gorilla Girl we were invited back to the center where he thanked us for coming and celebrating the art of the sideshow. Now, you can take a small part of the sideshow with you. When we were recognized by the Smithsonian, a limited number of these posters (poster looks like a panel of the canvas front of the sideshow) were made to commemorate the event. Only 500 posters were made, and as you can see they are numbered here in the corner. (Yeah right, maybe a series of posters with 1-500 repeated) We will GIVE one of these posters away to anybody who asks for it, we just ask, uhm, how bout $5 to cover our shipping costs. In other words its a poster sale. He talks about the art of the sideshow front, and how it advertisses what all you can see on the inside, hand painted and hand designed, these are works of art in their own right, and how the front canvas panels act as your show program. He then pauses a bit so we can grab some water and check on a few things backstage. Then he comes back out and does the opening spiel again, so you know "You have now Seen it ALL". We exit the tent, and back out into the Mighty Midway.

Overall, its what you expect, the sideshow is very campy, some might say the free bally acts are sometimes better than what you see inside, but the cheeseiness of a sidehow is part of its charm. You price it low enough where people are willing to go see it, even though they know its cheesey, and also low enough so that the first timers won't get too mad and complain. That said, I'm glad I got to see this re-enactment of the old time Carnival Circus Sideshow for myself. And hey 6 tickets for an experience that lasts 20-30 minutes and could last all day if you just stayed in there, maybe the best value on the midway.

From the World of Wonders, we went back to Techno Power and took another ride. After Techno Power, I was getting a bit hungry, so we decided to grab a bite at my stand, Famous Dave's. No, I have never had Famous Daves before. Famous Dave's is well famous, and it took a while to get through the line and get served, but when I got served, I wound up with a half slab of ribs (they give them to you already broken apart so you don't need a knife), cole slaw, BBQ Baked Beans, cornbread, and a Pepsi, all for $14. Man, thtas practically street pricing for a meal like this. And no tip!. Well seats in the dining tent, forget about it. Seats in the patio between Famous Daves and Sweet Marthas, forget about it.

We wound up balancing our plates in our laps (Jerry just had the pulled pork sandwich basket, so he had a much easier time of it) on a park bench and proceeded to chow down. The ribs were great, the sauce is not too sweet not too spicy, and I thought the meal was great value. We were sitting across from a radio booth and they were broadcasting their live coverage of the groundbreaking for the new Twins ballpark project. So it was nice entertaining background to listen to while eating. I wound up taking not nearly enough paper towels, and thats even after constant repeated finger lickings. But I know a little house on Liggett Street that has a nice row of sinks ready to help out.

Now, I just finished a half slab ribs dinner, where do I head next, to the Tornado. Did we take it easy, of course not! This time it wasn't Kyle running the ride but someone else, someone who just mentioned to us "That was a real evil spin you two had going on there!" as we exited the ride.

I checked my pockets, I had exhausted todays supply of ride tickets. I noted I could either go out to the car and get the rest of my ride tickets, or go up to a ticket booth and buy some more. In the end we decided that since it was nearly 7pm, we had been here almost 8 hours, we still have an hours drive home. More importantly, we are going to Wisconsin Dells tommorow, and to avoid rush hour traffic and to get to Mt. Olympus at opening bells requires leaving the house at 6AM tomorrow, and if you can manage 5:30 or 5:45AM that would be even better

We decided to just call it a night so we could get rested up for a day at the Dells. We wound up, in hindsight, leaving at just about the worst possible time. Jerry lives 1 hour due West of the fairgrounds, and at the time we left, which was almost sundown, we had the bright sun right in front of us almost the entire way home.

One more thing to mention, and that's on Highway 55, out of town a ways, they have started an agressive campaign against tailgating and speeding. They have painted a series of dots in the road "Keep two dots between cars, travel no more than 1 or 2 dots per 3 seconds" Of course the citizens could not leave it along, one person painted a bright yellow Pac Man about to eat the dots, in what looks like highway grade, highway yellow paint. At the other end a copycat painted a Pac Man in garden variety light yellow paint that is not holding up well. Plus that Pac Man is faced heading against traffic, and not with traffic.

But enough for tonight, time to get into the house, releax, and get ready for tomorrow.

Catch you soon for Day 2: Wisconsin Dells.