Minnesota State Fair

August 30, 2007 and September 3, 2007

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

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

Preface:

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 delta.com 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 Do 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.

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 upSpast 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. If 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)

Down the center:

Down the right side:

Accross the back, blocking off the back of the short end:

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 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 keeps 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 land 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 with, 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 when 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, the 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 end, 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 and 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 was way too fast. The operator comes around and does not release the belts, but instead says that the ride 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 were shown to a tub at the very back of the ride. Jerry and I got our own tub, 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 they 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 by 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 pretty 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 station 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 rRill eateries that sit in front of a show area that boasts 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, buy all types of tractors, lawn mowers, snow throwers, and farm implements of all sizes, shapes 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 wooden 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 that 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 art 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 Rol Tub 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 spots 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 you 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's 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 theycast 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 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 he 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 spoon 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 performer generates electricity and shocks anything 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 breathe 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 gentlemen, 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 Wonders 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 for your contribution Serpentina will give you this illusion that you can take home and fool your friends with. (Its a piece 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 throat, 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 transformation, 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 he 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 alone, 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.

"Lights! Sounds! Motion!"

. As has become our tradition, we spend Labor Day at the Minnesota State Fair. We left Jerry's house pretty early, on the order of 7:15-7:30, despite the fact the midway doesen't open until 10, and its only an hours drive to the fair. Jerry has long impressed on me the fact that Labor Day attracts a large crowd to the fair, and there just aren't enough parking spaces on the fairgrounds. Something like 9,000 parking spaces for 150,000 people, and the fair acknowledges this fact, and has implemented an extensive park and ride program, as well as a hefty $10 parking charge for on site parking. We opt to park on site, and Jerry being a self proclaimed morning person, I think he just likes arriving early.

As predicted, arriving around 8:20 or so we had no trouble finding a parking space and at that time there was nobody waiting at the entrance gate so we quickly entered the fair and soon found ourselves standing in a still mostly closed fair. Sure, the livestock area was a buzz with activity, but the exhibit areas don't open till 9, and a good number of the food stands aren't quite ready yet.

To kill some time , we walk down Judson Ave and watch them get the Rapids Ride ready. You see, this fair has a bunch of rides outside of the midways. They have not one but two sky rides, and the usual giant slide, but they also have a Space Tower observation tower ride, an Old Mill, a haunted house, go-karts, and a rapids ride. All of these rides come at extra cost of course, usually around $3-$4.

We continued around the front where the Bazar section, where you can enjoy food, crafts and culture from around the world was not open yet, and I noted several past exhibits such as the MN DoT, and the aviation exhibit were not present this year. As we walked around the space tower, there was a booth setup where they were selling decorative lawn ornaments made out of bundled up grass. We walked past some administrative office type buildings, and returned via Dan Patch Ave. It's sort of fun watching the fair wake up, as vendors are just getting their stands open and slowly the fair springs to life.

Right around 9 we headed to the DNR park, which has a bunch of natural resources exhibits, including a fire tower. By fire tower, I mean the elevated platforms you would find in rural, wooded areas or state parks where a fire spotter is posted watching out for the first sign of forest fire. According to the signs, sometime in the 1960's a full size fire tower was built at the state fair as an interactive exhibit where fairgoers could climb to the top of the fire tower and enjoy the view. Sometime in the late 1970's the firetower was closed to the public, and could only be looked at from the ground. More recently, in 2006, the firetower was reopened as an observation tower.

Jerry informed me that the fire tower is a very low capacity attraction, and that while they do offer a virtual queuing system, my best chance of seeing it would be to go first thing. When we arrived the towers small queue area was already half full, and they were not yet offering the virtual queue. It became apparent that the bottleneck is that they only allow about 6 people or so into the Fire Tower area at a time, once they have those people in, they admit one person to go up only once a person comes down. Even at this early time it still took about 15 minutes or so in line. We were then admitted to the fenced in tower area. The first flight of stairs is a fairly normal grade and starts some distance away from the tower and the first flight ends when you get within the main tower structure being mindful of a low beam. They do have bright yellow padding around that beam, from then on the stairway seems to get tighter and steeper with each landing. From the base of the stairs to about halfway up there is a railing separating the up and down sides, as you near the top, the center rail goes away on the landings as the landings become about 1 person wide. There are some more padded low beams as you near the last turn in the stairs before you go up through the trap door and into the room at the top of the tower.

Now, most know that last year, I spent Labor Day tackling a different climbing project, as a I climbed over the top of the Purple People Bridge, as a part of the short lived, and now defunct Purple People Bridge Climb. The top half of the fire tower stairs are every bit as steep as the stairs to the top of the bridge, and unlike the bridge, fire tower climbers are NOT issued fall prevention harnesses, or training or anything like that. To be fair, the stairway is fenced in, so I suppose the theory is that even if you should slip you might have a nasty spill down one flight, but it won't be life threatening. At the top of the tower, is a small room, and when I saw small room, I mean the trap door for the stairs is the most dominant feature of the room, circling the trapdoor is a narrow platform from which you can stand next to the windows and take a look out. Pictures under the windows give you an idea of what you can see on a clear day and how far the object is. You can't walk all the way around, as one corner has a rangers chair and table where an attendant is there to answer questions. So as you can see there isn't a whole lot of room up top for people to gather. They ask you to please limit your visit at the top of the tower to 5 minutes. After our time, we started the decent. I took the stairs down very gingerly, basically sliding one foot ahead till it hit the end of the tread them stepping down. It might have taken me awhile but I did make it back to the ground.

Once on the ground, it looked to be about 9:30 or so, so we started to head over to the Mighty Midway. We spent the time watching ride and game operators get their attractions ready for the day, and were happy to see the Tornado cars getting a nice fresh application of lube. We must have circled the midway 3 or 4 times waiting for the rides to open. I was going to start the day on Space Roller, I knew I had trouble fitting on it, so I figured in the morning before the crowds arrived would be my best chance at getting a crew willing to be patient enough to take the time to shove the shoulder bar into submission. It did not look like there were quite ready at 10am, so we decided to walk next door to Avalanche.

Avalanche is a Pinfari Zyklon coaster. Its your standard fairground coaster full of lots of helices and very few real drops. The ride was a walk on, and capacity is always on the crews mind. Instead of letting the two of us take an entire car, one per bench, they loaded another pair into the seat behind us, despite the ride being a walk on. To be honest Jerry and I didn't mind as our take is the more weight you can cram into one of those tiny cars the better. We didn't have any hard encounters with trim brakes, and we also did not get the feeling like we were going to crash land into the car ahead of us like we have had on previous rides. All in all it was a fun ride, and while riding it, we noted the Space Roller had opened. We walked back to the 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 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. Jerry and I agreed that my morning ride today was better and longer than the ride I was givenon Thursday. 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 hit the locking position all on their own. 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.

We start on lap 2 around the midway and wind up on the Magnum. 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. This time we get more daring and enter the ride with a few riders in between us, and amazingly they let both of us ride single. I wind up in Tub 20, which Jerry has proclaimed the best on the ride, and Jerry is in second best (#18), and I'm off on a chaotic exciting ride. During the ride I had several multi flip sequences going, and I also had some interesting moments where I had the tub stuck upside down and still spinning around, once it even held for a complete rotation of the main turntable. In short, it was a great ride, but not for amateurs, and maybe not even for us, as while we didn't get sick or anything like that, it did mess with our equilibrium to the point where we wound up chatting with Justin for quite some time socializing and recovering.

After chatting with Justin, Jerry and I follow it up with another spin on Techno Power. Smooth, fast, powerful as always. After the second Techno Power ride, we head to the Coca Cola booth, and $2.50 later we each have a cold drink. We then go over and all at once wind up finding Paul Miller, Cameron, Loren, and Bill. We do that weird ride nut behavior where we are on a midway talking about rides instead of riding rides. After chatting, Paul, Cameron, Jerry and I wind up taking a ride on 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.

We 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 unlike Thursday, instead the needle was more towards the Wild side, as we were given a demonstration of the rides thrill ability. Jerry even looked over at me and said "What's with this hanging on stuff??"

From the Fighter, we intended to go to Tornado. Unfortunately no matter how persuasive we tried to be, we just could not get Cameron on the Tornado at this point in time. Paul had to go off towards the livestock area, which was his real main purpose for going to the fair to begin with, and Cameron headed to the Coca Cola booth. After Cameron got his drink, we headed to some television stations booth, where they had an exhibit about tornados going on. I got the impression they went through it to show me how cheesey it was. Bookended by some expository areas with photos, text and video clips is the show room. The main feature of the show room ae some high powered fans and some water misters which are meant to give you the feeling of what it would feel like to be inside a funnel cloud. We dubbed it Air Conditioning: The Ride, which is actually quite an attraction on a fairground on a hot day. We next went to another television stations booth to get their goodie bag, the main feature in the bag we were interested in was a FREE Park at Mall of America ticket. The catch is you don't know if the ticket is a free ride, a free day of rides, or a free year of rides until you go to the amusement park. Later review with a barcode scanner revealed that we had four tickets all with the same barcode, I'm not sure what it was, but I know that common sense would say they were all 1 free ride.

Enough visting exhibitor booths. We next headed to the Corn Roast. Its the main corn roast booth at the fair, and its a mass production operation with a gigantic corn roaster, vats of melted butter and all. To speed things up, the people passing out the corn don't deal in cash, instead the booth has ticket kiosks located out front, where you buy your $3 yellow Corn Roast ticket, then take the ticket into the booth and trade that for your ear of corn,. If a bucanneer is a terrible price to pay for corn, I don't want to hear about $3. We noted the main ticket booth had three long lines, but then the person manning a ticket booth off to the side was just standing there unnoticed, we went over to the side booth, bought tickets and soon were enjoying our ears of corn while walking through the fair, and conveniently finished up the corn right as we were arriving at the 1919 Root Beer Stand. Oh, and I regret the absence of Lemon Pepper at the corn booth.

I then visited the 1919 Root Beer Stand and most of wound up with $3 cups of gourmet root beer, well at least thats a 33oz. serving (no ice in root beer purist tradition). We enjoyed our root beers while we watched Cameron play some shoot-em-up game in the arcade. From the arcade, we headed to, you won't believe this, the SPAM booth. Loren and I decided to try the Deep Fried Spam Curds. Yup, deep fried mounds of Spam, instead of cheese, served with ranch dressing. I want to say I gave $4 for them. "Officially eating my way through the fair!" In all honestly, the Spam curds were rather bland and lifeless.

From the SPAM booth, we decided to take a walk through the main exposition hall underneath the Grandstand seating area. Once inside, I realized that fair expo halls are pretty much the same place all over. Cameron pointed out one booth that sells stationery, cards, books and other things entirely made of paper made from elephant droppings. After walking down a few aisles we left the expo hall. Cameron announced he had a need to see Machinery Hill, and it was clear he was putting off as long as possible getting back to the rides.

So we parted ways, Jerry and I started back towards the midway when Jerry mentioned to me that he remembered I wanted to get some photos, and that right now might be the best time, sky conditions wise. We headed out to the parking lot. On the way out, we had our inside lower arms stamped with readmission stamps that used the flimsiest,most water vulnerable ink they could possibly find. This stuff is so bad, that by the time we walked to our relatively close parking space, got our cameras, drank a bottle of water, and walked back to the gate, the stamps more resembled a smudge.

We started our photo safari with the exterior of the livestock buildings, and hey I did get some horse pictures as a group was marshaling for a show in the Colisseum. We then spent a LOT of time taking photos of the rides midway, From the rides midway we toured the Heritage Square area. This is more of a historical area, you can visit the blacksmith shop, the newspaper museum, see some classic cars and more. We went to the train. The train itself is from Royal American Shows, which was an old train based carnival that had the fair midway before they went indepedent. Outside the train car they have some old ride cars, like a car from a Herschell kiddie coaster, a very vintage tilt a whirl car, an old kiddie carousel, a Pretzel dark ride car, and some old sideshow canvas that looks remarkably similar to the canvas being used by the sideshow that is on the midway this year.

Inside the train, the first few cars are full of carnival lore, posters, photos, memorabilla, including an old gaming wheel, some sideshow props including a blade box, just like the one being used this year in the sideshow, the second half of the train is full of railroad exhibits. At least this year, I remembered that the watch your step sign is mounted right above the step, not an advance warning for the step. After the train, we went through the Minnesota State Fair History Museum, which has a lot of photos and artifacts from the history of the fair. A popular exhibit is a 1928 sale model of the fairground. There is a whole section on the hipprodrome and the old ice shows they used to have. Also in there are grandstand searchlights that have a military history behind them, old mascot outfits and more. A more disturbing artifact is a length of bungee cord from the 1992 bungee jump. The good news is I have now felt a bungee cord, the bad news is it did nothing to reassure me.

From the museum, we left Heritage Square, I saw a gourmet soft drinks stand, but no birch beer. Jerry and I continued our photo safari, making our way past the grandstand, through the arcade, and then up Machinery Hill. We opted NOT to take photos on the Kidway due to problems others have had with that related to parents seeing men without children taking photos of kiddie rides (and by connection kiddies). We did stop in a hardware store booth to get a photo of a t-shirt making fun of the whole Fair on a Stick craze "We also sell things on a stick, they are called Sledgehammers", and a dining hall "Absolutely nothing served on a stick". We got some photos of some farm and home implements like tractors, mowers, snow blowers, etc.

We continued around Machinery Hill, got some photos of trick skateboarding in the skatepark like area, noted the baseball exhibit is looking a little worse for wear after its run of the fair. I did stop at Giggles for some watermelon sherbert but they were out, so I settled for raspberry sherbert. I was eating my sherbert right when the lumberjacks climbed the two flag capped telephone pole like things at the lumberjack show. This area has some rustic buildings like Giggles, a kettle corn stand, a bbq rib pit, the lumberjack show, and the Minnesota Bound store which is flanked out front by both American and Canadian flags.

We then took a break for a slice of Green Mill pizza each with soft drink. It was actually pretty good pizza, with some unique seasonings. We then took photos of some of the WPA era buildings. The Fine Arts building, Creative Activities Buildings, 4H building, and more were all provided when the fairgrounds were built courtesy the WPA. They are classic art deco buildings that are now architectural gems. The 4H building also has the military recruiting display, and a snowmobile display. Man those things have spedometers calibrated to 200MPH !!! I saw a booth featuring Beer Pizza. Jerry assured me they were two seperate products. We walked through another expo hall, and at about the same time my camera batteries died. My photo safari is over.

We finsihed up our circle tour stopping at the Empire to see the butter heads (they do popular Minnesotans heads in butter), we also stopped past Playworld Arcade to get photos of me playing Turret Tower. From there, we finished our lap, and Jerry offered to return cameras to car while I partook of the Dairy Farmers booth,. This booth features fresh milk for only $1, with free refills. It's the "All You Can Drink Milk" booth. I must have had like 6 or 7 cups, 12 oz. each. I do like fresh milk, and I have a tip for you. The milk flows from the refigerated tank and down nearest the windows facing Clough St. It is noticeably warmer by the time it hits the windows facng Judson Ave, and the windows on the other side were closed. I also noted several people turning the milk booth into the All-The-Milk-You-Can-Dunk-Cookies-In booth. Great idea, that. For my last cup I tried the chocolate, it had a nice rich chocolate flavor.

Jerry and I returned to the midway ready to ride. We have ride ticket sheets left, and only about 2.5 hours to use them. We took an educated guess, and were able to locate Cameron and Loren,however we never did see Paul again. Sorry Paul, I meant to ride more with you.

We took Cameron over for our much hyped Tornado ride. This time Cameron was willing to ride. 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 6. The ride starts, and as soon as the tub brakes release we have the tub spinning at a nice clip, however we got one of the tighter models, so we didn't get it spinning as fast as we know we are capable of.. During most of the ride, the outside world is a blur, and all I can see clearly are Jerry, Cameron and the wheel. To be sure, it is tiring to keep the tub spinning, but its worth it.

From Tornado, we got to Techno Power and Jerry, Cameron and I ride. It was mostly the same as usual except at the end of the ride, after the sweeps lowered, but before the ride center lowered, the unit poles stopped spinning. Not a bad feeling just different.

After Techno Power, Cameron and I were going to ride Space Roller until we saw the line. Yeah, it was probably at most a 1 or 2 cycle wait, but hey we are spoiled by walk on rides at the fair, plus a line probably means less effort into getting me onto the ride. Instead, Cameron and I walk over to Extreme.

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. I board the ride, take a seat, and the bars drop. Of course, it doesn't lock by itself, but it I got a tighter seat than Thursday as it took a lot harder push on the part of the loader to lock the bar. 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, all four of us go for a ride on the Crazy Mouse. 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, we put Cameron, the lightest of us by far on one end, 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. The operator also makes special note of how obviously unbalanced we have the tub with the heaviest people together. 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 keeps to its Wild Mouse roots. We roll out of the station, make a left turn, and on every turn I think it was Loren and I that shouted "OPA!" in tribute to the Mt. Olympus ride, 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. . 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.

Cameron and Loren are out of ride tickets, but they watch while Jerry and I show off on Magnum. Yes, we got good tubs, no we weren't paired up, yes we put on pretty good shows. At this point Cameron needed to go meet a friend over at the Haunted House. Jerry and I head over to the 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. Jerry and I feel the lapbars click into place when the operator pressed in on them, we saw the alert lights go off. The ride starts. The claw makes it first big twist where it turns the claw upside down and spins it. Well, that's what it does normally this time I flipped upside down, then quickly righted itself, then the ride stopped in midair. What? Thats not supposed to happen. We stayed stuck up in the air for a few moments until a crew member started working with the mechanism at the base of the arm that holds the claw. Once he did that the ride returned to the load position.

As you can expect, there were a lot of cries of "Is that it?". Well that was it for Jerry and I as a crew member came up on the ride deck, opened our lapbars, gave us some ride tickets and sent us away. We didn't catch what happened due to the fact we could not really understand the attendant. All we could catch is that there was a problem with the safety bar. Oh great, just what we want to hear. Now, if I had to venture a guess, I would say the safety bar was locked the entire time and was not the main cause for alarm, we suspect we had seats with finicky sensors and the first time we went upside down and all our weight was on the safety bar, it send a false positive to the console that it thought there was a lapbar malfunction. Which means, in the end, that everyone and everything responded appropriately to the alarm, and so it was all a big non-incident really.

So we take the walk of shame, and head right on over to Techno Power for one last ride on it. Now, Extreme, Spin Out and Techno Power have basically the same seat design, but they don't act the same.

After the Techno Power ride, we go take one last ride on Roc 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.

By this time, we were recognized by the crew and given the VIP escort to the tub with the longest seatbelts. Unfortunately, we did not return the favor with a good performance, I think both of us were starting to get tired out and we just couldn't seem to muster up the energy to hit spin dryer mode.

After Roc N Rol, we crossed over to the Zero Gravity, the Zero Gravity being Darton's take on modernizing their classic round up ride. They manged to do lots of things, they gave the ride a bit more midway flash, they souped up the engine so it gets up to speed and slows down a lot faster, allowing for more actual ride time. The filled in the seldom used back exit with some more berths, they removed the potential hazard of a rider being hit by an unfastened chain, by replacing them with belts that don't even have buckles. A loop in the belt fits over a peg to secure it. They improved access by having a nice wide stairway, and they secured the ride exit against premature exiting while the ride slows down. Now the stairway folds up and completey blocks the exit. All in all its a real nice update on the classic stick to the walls as the ride tips up to a steep angle while spinning ride. .

From the Zero Gravity, we try another of Darton's updates, the Downdraft. The Downdraft is an attempt to give their famous Hurricane ride the more open floorless cars. It wins points for using an overhead lapbar, and not shoulder bars, but it loses points for haing a not to comfortable seat mold, particularly once the ride starts spinning at full speed. Of course the cars do still bounce in and out, controlled by compressed air. For the Downdraft they have you exit out the back stairs, then have fences which force you to walk around the ride and make your final exit at the front of the ride.

From Downdraft, we took a ride on the Skywheel, commonly reffered to as the double ferris wheel. This ride set out to solve the ferris wheel problem, by having one wheel always in motion while the other one was going through its load/unload cycle. This culminates in the main ride cycle where both wheels start going around in a giant circle, as both small wheels are still spinning away. There was a bit of a line to ride the Skywheel but it was well worth it to ride such a well maintained example of this piece of history.

From the Skywheel, Jerry went to ride Magnum, and I went to ride Space Roller. The line for Space Roller had died down, and to make things better I found a slightly bigger seat that took a bit less force on the part of the operator. What's more I think I managed to get my best ride on it yet, for the 2007 season. From the Space Roller I went back to the Magnum and Jerry and I finished up MNSF 2007 with our final ride being on the Magnum.

We both managed to get great cars, he got 20 and I got 18, which meant we got a lot of flips and spins with little effort on our part. What made this ride particularly special was that the ride ran about as long at it usually does, and the ride had then almost come back to a full stop when I noticed the song Ride Spinners start on the sound system. Sure its a song about spinning hubcaps but it fits the crazed spin ride fanatic as well. "We ride spinners, ride spinners, they don't stop" In fact someone else took a clip from that song and made a YTMND out of it. Check it out for yourself: http://monsterspinnaz.ytmnd.com/

Anyway, right when the chorus of that song started up, the ride went back into high gear for another cycle, that would make it a double ride on Magnum in a great tub. What a way to end the fair! Jerry reports that the fair had a television commercial where they show somebody on the midway, and he is chanting "Lights!, Sounds! Motion!" over and over except each time through he starts sounding a bit more woozy, and it ends with "Lights! Sounds! Motion?, I'm getting too old for this"

Our version would end "Lights! Sounds! Motion? We're getting too tired for this!"

So we checked in with all our various friends along the midway, before heading out of the Mighty Midway. I did make a stop for some hot out of the oven Sweet Martha's chocolate chip cookies on my way out of the fair. Hmm, some of the best chocolate chip cookies you will ever eat!

We then headed back to the parking lot, and headed back home for the night.


Back to Trip Reports