TR; Hamilton County Fair - August 7, 2004

Cincinnati, OH

Well, for the second time in two weeks, I awoke on Saturday, and went over to the Hamilton County Fairgrounds. As for my trip on July 31, all I can say is "Next time you decide to go to a fair, make sure there IS a fair going on" Ahem, back to the present weekend. The weather could not have been better as I arrived at the fairgrounds.

I entered the fairgrounds via the Vine Street gate, and took note of the following basic information:

Okay, so I approached the very friendly ticket seller, who commented on my Bald Eagle/American Flag t-shirt, and proceeded to sell me an admission ticket. She also noted that I was there alone, and noted that I was probably there just for the rides, hmm is it that obvious?

Anyway, she handed me a combination fair map/show schedule and my ticket stub. The ticket stub proclaimed "Bates Brothers Amusements and Your County Fair Welcome you! This ticket good for one gate admission and one rides handstamp". The red ticket, not much larger than your standard roll tickets had pretty much the same wording on both sides, except that the front isde was overwritten in blue print "ADULT ONLY" and the back side claimed "Not to be used by anyone under 18 years of age" Hmm, I don't recall there being a price difference to me with a breakpoint of 18 years of age. I wonder what that is all about. Anyway I was advised to be extra careful not to loose that ticket before I could echange it for a handstamp.

Anyway, I first stopped in a building exhibiting well, ah, uhm an interactive exhibit involving white porcelin furniture. It as a useful if utilitarian exhibit. Better stop now cause its the only exhibit of its kind on our county's fairgrounds.

Okay coming out of that exhibit I looked at my watch and the event schedule I was handed. I managed to do it again, I arrived shortly after noon to learn the rides midway doesn't open till 1pm.

Well, okay this will work out well both for me and this trip report because I will be able to get a great deal of the non-midway stuff out of the way early. The Hamilton County fairgrounds is a 'split level' site with a big hill running through the middle of it. On the lower tier is the parking lot, grandstand, animal barns, and the main midway, the upper tier housed the kiddie midway, the exhibition buidlings, most of the live entertainment, and the guest services type things. The fairgrounds being setup between Vine St. and Anthony Wayne Ave, each tier of midway has a long striaghtaway heading from one end to the other, at either end is a ramp to get either up or down the hill. This did not stop people from attempting to scale the hill wherever they pleased.

So starting out on the upper tier on the main pathway coming out of the White Porcelin Furniture Exhibit, on the left hand side of the walkway you start with an area filled with various food vendors and other commerial booths (Merchandise, corporate informational booths, that sort of thing) There is no Commerical Exhibition building, instead it appears that anyone who wants one can rent one or more booths along the main pathways. Behind these vendor booths was a row of line up joints (carnival games), followed by a carnival games area that went all the way from the hillside to the main path, at the end of the carnival games area was the Children's Rides area.

I took down a listing:

And in the middle of all this kiddie ride goodness, sticking out like a sore rocket, the Wisdom Astroliner, which they call the "Odyssey 2000". Thw Wisom Astroliner was one of the earliest motion simulator rides, showing a move that screams ripoff from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The deal is you sit in a rocket ship whose interior is done up like an airline cabin, the doors close and you watch this film while the rocket is capeable of tipping up and down, and rocking from side to side. Its not all that great, and the seats have no restraints in them, its that gentle.=

While I want to award merits for moving this outdated gentle ride to the kiddie ride area, I must immediately demerit them for still charging $1 for this ride. You see even though every paid admission includes a free rides handstamp, Bates left themselves a Texas sized loophole with the clause "Except Special Attractions" For whatever reason the Astroliner is a special attraction.

Last time I rode Bates' Astroliner the air conditioner was busted, and the film was so out of focus that it really was not all that plesant of an experience. I can't report if conditions have improved as I did not try it this time around. I still recall exiting the Astroliner on my last ride at the fair walking out into 90 degree temps and feeling chills. I have since ridden a similar ride at Dutch Wonderland, where they have apparently replaced the projection system.

Speaking of the Children's Ridea Area, Bates has done something that deserves particular praise, in that they have managed to add ride platforms to rides tha traditioanlly do not have platforms. Amongst other benefits this allows them to have a consistent look and feel to the rides, and it allows them to be able to control how high off the ground a ride vehicle is, reducing some of the big steps into and out of the ride vehicle. A clear example of this is the Bear Affair. Thanks to te platform, the tubs no longer have a steep staircase to get in ad out,t here is now one step. Mind you this required significant changes to the tub doors, which now swing on hinges like a normal door, rather than dropping down to derve double duty as the stairs.

Beyond the Children'a Ride Area, almost to the Anthony Wayne gate is the fair's First Aid building (The one with the big red cross flag on top). I merely noted that at yet another fair the first aid building is adjacent to the rides midway. Coincidence?

Crossing over the main pathway, and starting to head back towards Vine Street, I noted the mlitary display. Apparently a meet and greet with some military types, with photo ops of them and their equipment.

Continueing onward you pass the Showwagon, which is a portable trailer mounted stage that is brought here for most of the non-grandstand live entertainment. Behind the Showwagon is the fairgrounds office, continuing down the main path you pass an exhibition building that houses the flower and food exhibits (fruits, vegetables, pies, cakes, bread, honey) that type of thing. May I suggest that fairs consider putting a bake sale type booth immediately at the exit to the 'cookingcontest exhibition area' ???

Behind the Foods and Flowers building, I spotted the Bates. Brothers office trailer, which at that time had a long line of people seeking to conduct business at its window. (And its positions puts it right accorss the side street from the main fair office building) Behind the Bates Brothers office is the Arts and Crafts building

I went into the Arts and Crafts building primarily because one of my co-workers has a quilt on display in there, and also becuase I still need to kill time until those rides open. I was somewhat surprised and saddened to learn that the Arts and Crafts builing has felt the need to install chain link fences seperating the fairgoers from the exhibits. The Arts and Craft's building has 2 main aisles, and thus 4 'rows' of exhibits. One half of the building it taken up with the exhibition of arts and crafts, the other half is a hodgepodge with 1 row being the Photography contest exhibits, another row with entres into the antiques contest (Oldest and/or antiques in best condition) The remaining 2 rows of half of the building contained the 4H exhibits. Now Hamilton co. is almost synonymous with Greater Cincinnati, so it strikes me as odd that the 4H would have that much of a presence.

I then proceeded to the Memories Building. It contained old (Ford Model A) and unique vehicles (like the 1-seat car designed to be thrifty and fuel efficient no-frills transport for 1) Other items on interest a 1950's era British tank, a 1940's era motorboat with a really sharp polished wood finish on top, the Starsky and Hutch car, an exhibit old old telephones, including about a 6' long section of 1930's era switchboard. Phones from hand crank models up to rotary models. It even had some of the original cell phones, back when having a car phone meant you had a phone that sat in a big bag. There was an exhibit on militairia, old flags, railroading equipment, and old city busses. Between the city bus exhibt and the railroad exhibit was a relatively small model train layout.

Leaving the Memories Building I noted that there were three old city busses parked outside, all of which were from the Northern Kentucky trasnit companies, but none from the Hamiton Co. transit company. One was 1980's vintage that I can remember rding on, the other two were much older vintage.

Exitig that area I headed back to the main walkway, the last two items along the main pathway were the Hamilton County services exhibits, and a Big Cat show (which was NOT sponsored by the local Zoo, which does excelent cat shows, and is used to taking their show on the road, Hmmm)

Of special note in the Hamilton County services booths (Elections, Convervation, Traffic Engineerng, and DARE/Sheriffs Office), were the aerial maps exhibits by the city engineer (who also had a modern day traffic light controller open and on display, along with the newest in signals which use LED's instead of conventional light bulbs (bubs).

But over at the Sheriff's office exhibit, they had a an area with a representative sample of the vehicles in the Sheriff's motor pool. Imagine my surprise when amongst the vehicles on display was a nice shiny black TANK with the sheriif's office logo boldly emblazoned on the sides. I had to ask what it was used for, the answer I got was a very brief "SWAT runs and drug raids"

And look its almost 1pm, so I can take my mind off of tanks in Cincinnati, and instead focus on rides in Cincinnati. ( I can hear all the people who have been saying "Get ON with IT!, Lets talk about the RIDES" are starting to cheer.)

So I go past the restroom building which is right next to one of the ramps dowm to the main midway. I feel kind of bad for the vendors who get booths along the semi steep ramp down to the midway, as its not the most natural place for a person to want to stop and talk, not to mention having to design your display materials to take into account the slope of your booth. Anyway I got to the bottom of the ramp and took the following ride list of the Main Midway:

As one might expect, when you get to the midwy right at opening, the Handstamp Booth is expected to have a long line. I noted the midway hours to be 1-11, with a break from 5-6, they then had all the usual safety warnings you expect on amusement rides, and the notice that a ride handstamp costs either your admission ticket stub OR $5. This means that those entering the fair on free passes (or those less than honest people who sneak their buddies in the trunk) do not get to ride the rides unless they buy the handstamp. It also means that a ride enthusiast can never hope for a free pass to the fair, the best they can get is a $2 discount. I have to wonder if the extra business generated by selling handstamps to free ticket holders justifys having to man the handstamp booths, and having the operators have to check for handstamps. They had two handstmap booth set up, one on the main midway, and one in the children's rides area, though I saw two more disused ones sitting behind the rides. Research this past week told me that it would be Bate's orange unit that would be playing, and I noted the handstamp booths as well as the grilles on all the trucks were orange. I wonder if the yellow unit has yellow ticket boxes and truck grills......

So, I traded the red midway ticket, for a green handstamp on my left hand, a stamp consisting of the outline of the State of Ohio, and the words "Fair Days" written on it.

I noted on the side of the ticket box the "Get Size Wise" program for dealing with the rider heigt problem by having a measuring stick consisting of a series of different collored shapes. The premise is a child finds out what symbol they heght falls in, like the star or triangle, etc, then look for those same symbols on the safety signs at the entrance to the rides. I also noted the phrase that is the mortal enemy to those of us who go to fairs alone "Some rides requireat least two riders per seat" Luckily no such rides were being exhibited here.

I started my ride session shortly after 1pm with the Inverter. By Chance, my seating assingment happened to be an end seat. I sat down and adjusted my camera bag so that it on the side of me that had an empty seat, and I was getting situated when (OUCH!, what was that?). Most Inverter opertors give a warning when they lower and raise the automatic restriants. The Inverter is a ride that tries to be a looper, except that Chance went and got all over complicated with it, so that the tub rotates in the opposite direction that the main boom is rolling, its the same net effect as a Looper , its just different. The Chance ride, also had the most safety decals in the passenger compartments of any ride on the midway, uhm, what a surprise.

Then to vary the pattern I went over to the ARM Twister. The Twister is a ride that looks a lot like a Eli Scrambler, except for several key differences. One being the Twister has a ride platform, and a European midway look to it, the other is that the cars are easier to get in and out off than a Eli Scrambler which in turn is a lot easier tog et into and out of than the Wisdom Sizzler. It also outperforms the Eli Scrambler as I clocked the Twister at 15RPM, and I beleive that a Scrambler is rated to do about 11RPM. I like the ingenous yet simple way that ARM ensured that the unit poles and the center pole would always spin at the same rate of speed. On each sweep there is a diagonaly mounted axle with a tire on each end. One trie runs along the bottom fo the sweep and is spun by its contact with the ride platform, the tire on the other end spins the unit pole. At least that's what it appears to be doing.

Next to the Twist wa the Screamer. The Screamer is ARM's version of the Kamikazee II. (the floorless version). The Screamer only has one gondola instead of two, and while most seats are floorless the two end seats do have full floors. This may have something to do with the fact the ride gondola sits much higher off the platform than the Bonzai does. Riders are secured with shoulder harnesses that have a short belt attached that fastens to the seat between the riders legs. The ride is your typical looping ship ride.

From the looping ship, I headed to Whirl Wind. Whirl Wind is merely your garden variety round-up. Nothing much to note here.

Then I headed back over to the Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is yet another looper type ride, however the RIng of Fire only has lapbars, no shoulder bars. (Of course it also has a padded tub roof) I used a riding tactic I was taught after my last Ring of Fire ride, and that is to pick your feet up off the floor and wege your legs to the underside of the lapbar. When held upside down it feels a lot better being supported by the legs than it does to be supported by your head

As I rode the Ring of Fire I noted how cramped the car is, that is a narrow train, I cannot fathom that some shows require two riders in a seat on this, and further I can't fathom that there was once a time when I would FIT into one of these cars with another rider.

For the next few hours I would ride the above 5 rides. I decided against the Fun Slide after seeing the landing some other heavy riders were making, as in sliding clear to tend of the channel and into the crash pad, and I had experienced the "Tower of Terror" creation several years back, and I recall thinking I was too big for it then, now I would probably get stuck somewhere along the line. Also the Eli Wheel did not interest me, both becuase it had a long line, and becuase I was alone, and it faced away from the midway rides. I could not come up with a compelling reason to ride it.

So I rode, and I rode, and I rode, and I rode some more, then at around 3pm the talkers came out to talk up the "Carnival of Wonders", a classic sideshow, featuring people doing crazy and dangerous things. The signage on the sideof the tent called it the "Freakshow". From the front banners, I could see that the were advertisng stunts like the Fire Eater, the Sword Swallower, the Bed of Nails, the Human Blockhead, etc.

I watched the free bally on the stage set up in front of the tent, which featured a juggling act. Whats so special about juggling? Well the he first juggled three arabian style knives, with the talker being a master of the bad pun. "We call this act a Farewell to Arms", "He learned this trick from his brother, he's now his half brother", "This stunt complies with our hands-off policy" He then moved on to juggling flaming torches, lastly the person who was talking took a swig of some clear liquid then spit it out towards a torch causing a nice size fireball.

I stood back in the crowd, I did not want to be the only person to buy a ticket to see this show, but soon enough some people started to go up to buy tickets, and I joined the group. Let me tell you, the old catch-phrase "Come on in and see <insert stunt here>, Just one thin dime, on tenth of a dollar" is pasee. This one wound up costing me $2 to earn the right to go through the tent flap and see whats on the inside.

We entered the tent, and after a short wait the show began. The stunts in the show included "Lying your face down in 40lbs. of broken glass while a member of the audience stands on your head" No bleeding resulted from this, but the bad jokes continued as part of the show. He first looked at the pile of broken glass and said "Wait, there is piece of paper in there, I mean a man could get a paper cut!"

After that stunt, there was the Fire Eater, who ate fire fast, he ate fire and then pulled the torch out of his mouth still lit so you could not claim he just blew it out, he transferred fire from one torch to another by lighting a part of his body on fire. h e ate fire from two torches at once.

Next up was the Human Blockhead who took a hammer and drove two big nails into her head, and then pulled them out again with a pair of pliers.

After that came the Balloon Floss where a guy stuck a baloon in his nose, and it came out through his mouth, then we wiggled it back and forth like a piece of flosss. He also included a sales pitch for a book on stupid tricks you can pull on your friends.

Then came the Sword Swalloer, one sword in, one sword outm and the sword promptly curled up. He said "Yep, that one was fake, I showed it to you becuase (launch sales pitch for selling the fake sword eating magic trick - - $40 value, yours for only $20 until you leave the tent) He then took the real genuine, beat it on a hard surface sowrd and did the trick for real. Or so we think.

Then came the time to solicit tips, hesaid anybody can throw $1 in the bucket, but for $2 I will hand you a staple gun and you can staple it to my arm, for $5 you get to staple it to my chest, $20 for the face, $50 for "You-name-it". I did not see anyone take them up on this offer.

The last act was the Bed of Nails, "We have 1,000 ANGRY Hader Hardware rusty nails" "Hospitals always appreciate the fact we use

rusty nails......" Performer lies down on the bed of nails, a wooden plank is placed on top, and an audience volunteer stands on the plank.

But first the lecturer demonstrated how to stand on the board by standing in the place where if you were a man lying on a bed of nails,

you would not want to have anyody standing on you, then he jumped up and down. At the end of the act the victim took off his shirt and revelaed a nasty grid of what looked like holes in his back, but oddly enough no blood or anything like that.

They then pointed out the gift table in the back of the tent, and that was the end of the show. According to the refrigerator magnet I got ($1), they are the Pickled Brothers Sideshow.

I then checked my watch, wow that sideshow lasted almost half an hour, gee that was really good value for $2. Wait, I am thinking of a sideshow as being good value, something must be wrong with the world. Okay, that was 6 acts inside the tent, so thats a 6-in-1, right?

They started their act by proclaiming what you are about to see is a very rare art form, as we hare one of the very last authentic carnival sidehows left in America. A search of their website reveals that they also happen to based right here in Cincinnati, OH.

The Carnival of Wonders wins merits for using live talkers and not a recording, they then lose those merits right back for 'spamming' the midway, as they had their sign on every trash barrel and above every urinal in the men's room. You know a show that advertises above urinals has GOT to be quality entertainment! :) Their ads loose more points for not telling where the show is located, or what time it starts.

Speaking of sidewhows, they also had Samson the Giant Horse ($1) I did not go to see Samson, my lack of enthusiam for this sideshow was that my manager saw something similar at a fair and the one he saw was purely a trick, a "Man Eating Chicken" if you will. He poneys up his dollar to see the "World's Tallest Bull", and in that one he could see the bulls head sticking up over the canvas barrier. It was only after buying a ticket that he got to go behind the canvas and find out the bull was a nomral sized animal that was standing on a scafold. Samson used a recorded bally.

That did not stop me from going to see the Animal Oddiies style show,

the recorded bally referres to it as a freak animal show. Outside ths animal show they had a pen with the 4 eared goat as bally. $2 gets you inside. Inside there was stuff like the 6 legged cow, the 6 legged coat, the miniature animals, the ultra giant rat, the Zonkey (half Zebra, half Doney) and then the case of taxidermed dead animal freaks, and the pickled animals like the two headed pig in a jar. It's an interesting exhibit.......

Speaking of Animals just past the midway are the 6 barns and the miling parlour at "Everybody's Farm" the animal exhibit area of the fair where you can see and pet animals for free, and in the red barn see all kinds of animal shows,

After watching the sideshows, I stayed around and rode more rides finally leaving around 5pm. I did stop to look at a most unusual game joint, they offered the "World's Tallest Pinball Machine" What it ammounted to was a pin table the size of a flatbed, which was tilted up at a severe angle. (Which was toped with a propeller blade spinning around with two american flags) The game was you take one ball, drop it into the hole, press the button that sends the ball to a conveyor that takes the ball up to the top of the game, the ball then falls doen through a series of wooden pegs, Plinko style. If the ball makes it all the way down to the bottom of the table, you win Choice, however if the ball falls into one of the numerous trap holes, you only get a consolation prize. It was neat looking winner-every-time game, and being a pinball fan, I almost had to try it, except I resisted the urge becuase the game was priced at a hideous $2.50, for 1 ball. I noted that the game has obviously been discounted becuase the real sign says $3, and $2.50 was taped under it.

I did try the mechanical shooting gallery, yes its one of those infared gun shooting gallerys, but I have soft spot for watching the animatronics go when you hit them. Plus it was reasonable at 50 cents for 15 shots.

I did have a Buffalo Burger while I was there (claimed to be made with Buffalo meat) which was a real tasty burger. A burger with melted cheese hot off the grill is hard to beat though, and the rosted ear of buttered corn, and the Hawaiian Shave Ice. One of the frozen ice booths had an interesting gimmick. Instead of the attendant pouring the syrup in, they hand the person a plain ice ball, and show them to a station with numerous nozzles at which they can create the ice ball of their dreams.

Yep, its Fair season here in America, and what would America be without free market and competition. That was most pointed out in the quest to get a soft drink at the fair. Soft drink prices I noted ranged all the way from 75 cents for a can to $3.00 for (i hope) a 32.oz fountain beverage. Smart comparison shopiing made it possible to not get thirsty and yet not blow a wad of cash, After all three of those 75 cent cans would give you 36oz. of soft drink for only $2.25 That $3.00 fountain drink probably is at least half ice!

As I mentioned earlier the midway takes a break from 5-6, and I figured that was as good a time as any to leave anyway, so I headed to the exit gate, noted the uhm, unique modern art sculture that surrounds the parks main flagpole, noted on another pole the rarely seen Hamiton County flag, and then headed out.


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