Ohio State Fair

August 7, 2005

I don't get to the Ohio State Fair often, I think my recent visitation record is something on the order of a visit every 4-5 years. Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on the chance to check in on the Ohio Fair. I grew up going to the fair on an annual basis when I was growing up, and for one reason or another we stopped going as often.

Mom and her friend were going to Columbus to see German Village, and they were willing to drop me off at the Ohio State Fair, so let's get it on. By a strange coincidence, the weekend I was in Columbus, OH, literally just a few miles from Rideman's house, Rideman was busy entertaining guests at Paramount's Kings Island, which is in my part of the State. Call it a city exchange program. We got a late start, and so I arrived at the 11th Ave "OHIO Gate" of the fairgrounds right around 12:15 pm. I knew I would have to be back at this same drop off zone at 4:15, so it would be a brief visit to the State Fair, but hey a short visit to the Fair is better than no visit to the Fair.

I see they have made changes to the OHIO gate. The word OHIO used to be written above the gate in big tacky block letters, it seems those have been replaced by a more classy looking ironwork sign. The Ohio gate is the bus and car drop off zone, with the parking lot serving the Cardinal Gate (the state bird) on the north end of the fairgrounds.

I had planned carefully by purchasing advanced sale tickets at my local Kroger store. This meant I would enjoy 2 off the regular gate admission of $8, and $3 off the regular midway wristband price of $18. I would have the two for a total of $21, a combined savings of $5 off list prices.

The Ohio State Fair (OHSF) is a pay one price show, yes they do offer ride tickets for $1 each, with rides taking from 1-3 tickets, but in reality with wristbands under $20, its mostly a pay one price show. Ohio is firmly in Pay One Price territory, with county fair patrons used to receiving free midway rides with paid general admission, and when I was growing up the OHSF was the same way, free rides with paid gate. A friend related a story to me of a season when the OHSF tried to not only discontinue free rides with gate, they also wanted to discontinue pay one price entirely. He tells me it was a spectacular failure, culminating in the fair director getting on the nightly news standing in front of the round up on a deserted midway basically saying "My fellow Ohioans - We really screwed this up" Ride wristbands have been a part of the OHSF ever since.

So I proceeded to take my free admission voucher directly to the ticket taker at the gate, but was informed that I had to take the voucher to a ticket window and exchange it for a real gate ticket. So I dutifully go back and get in line at the ticket booth, when I get up to the head of the line, the ticket seller was just as confused as I was. "What we have here is a failure to communicate" I explained the situation to the ticker seller, who kept my prepaid voucher and handed me a gate ticket. I noted the ticket claimed it was good for "Courtesy Gate Admission" I took the courtesy ticket to the ticket taker, and was finally allowed to enter the fair. Reports from friends who went to the fair said that they were all able to give their prepaid vouchers directly to the ticket taker, so I happened to get the one guy who was out of touch.

The Ohio gate is at the south end of the fairs main thoroughfare which runs clear through to the north end of the fair, where the Cardinal Gate is located. Immediately to my left was the Kidway, and the fair is setup so most of the animal related facilities are along the western side of the fairgorund, along with the main commercial building, and the 4H youth exhibits. The fine arts, DoT, and model railroaders have buildings in the far northern tip of the fair. The center of the fairgrounds where the grandstand used to be is now an indoor concert venue where the big name shows are held. To my right as I enter the fair are the agricultural/horticultural exhibits, antiques and some commercial dealer space. The eastern end of the fairgrounds houses the main rides midway, the disused Buckeye Building and the natural resources park.

I proceed down the main path and decide to take a shortcut through the commercial exhibit shelter. Well you know what they say about shortcuts. My way to the rides was first delayed by a vendor selling slot machines, but I was able to make it to the service road on the other side of the shelter, with the natural resources park right in front of me, I instead turned left and headed along the service road to the midway. The next interruption in me beeline to the midway was an exhibit that looked like a big petrified tree on a trailer. Upon closer examination it claims to be a tree that has been hollowed out and made into a house. A tour of the house costs only a freewill offering, with signs noting that "Admission is NOT free" Signs also indicate the money goes to support a charity, so I take a walk through the house. Cute.

Next to the log tree house, is big semi trailer sized aquarium, the fair is offering bass fishing demonstrations with the fishing taking place in this big aquarium. You can insert your fishing out of a barrel jokes here. A bit further along I reach the marquee that tells me I am at the Amusements of America Midway (with noted book ins by Belle City and Durrant) I proceed to the midway ticket booth and exchange my wristband voucher for a rides wristband, and walk under the marquee and onto the midway.

Ohio's midway is setup in a LARGE oval configuration with a huge service area in the middle of the oval. I think it’s a clever way of disguising the fact that the midway isn't what it once was. A sentiment I feel about the fair in general. Maybe its because I'm older but the fair just doesn't seem as big or special as it once did.

I pass the large ferriis wheel and start to just taking a walking tour of the midway. I note I am on the western side of the rides oval, with rides to the right of me, and game joints to the left. I note, in no particular order, that this stretch of midway includes:

* Century Wheel

* Trabant (dubbed "Rave-Up")

* 2 Skooters (bumper cars)

* Zipper

* Rock-O-Plane

* Orbiter

* Tornado

* Flying Bobs

* Bonzai

* Musik Express

* Drop Zone (Fabbri free fall tower)

I do stop at Drop Zone for a view. It’s a free fall ride, not much to say about it except that this one is unusual in that it only has seats on three of the four sides. It’s a Fabrri so the seats are super huge, and I was soon on the ride with no wait. The seats go slowly up the tower, pause for a bit, then come falling back down, its as simple as that. From high above I get a better appreciation for just how much dead midway space that service area in the middle of the oval is taking up.

I proceed to the end of the midway which is headed up by a Spin Out. The eastern side of the midway contains, again in no particular order:

* Spin Out

* Tornado (#2)

* Rock And Roll (Musik Express)

* Scrambler

* Cliff Hanger

* Ring of Fire

* Swinger

* Crazy Mouse

* Crazy Surf

* Tilt A Whirl

* Power Surge

* Avalanche (Pinfari Zyklon)

* Round Up

* Musik Express (yes another one)

* Raiders

* Merlin's Castle (ride through)

* Thriller

* Ghost Pirates

* Video Fun House

* Mardi Gras

* Arabian Daze

* German Fun House

I take a couple of rides on Spin Out. Hey its pay one price, Spin out is what you get when you take the cr off of an Afterburner and attach is to a taffy puling machine. The whole thing rotates, then the claw starts twisting such that you get flipped upside down. It's an odd sensation, but it is a good wild ride to get things really moving into high gear. I was supposed to meet Don Flint at the Spin Out around this time, but suffice it to say we never did meet up with each other, mainly due to the fact that Don arrived at the fair very late and we were never both on the midway at the same time.

From the Spin Out I head down to the Crazy Mouse. It has a bit of a line, what with being POP and all, but the crew was good at matching up riders and keeping the line going. The Crazy Mouse may also be one of a very few rides where riders are instructed NOT to wear their seatbelts. The overhead drop down lap bars should be sufficient. I am glad to report that my tub was loaded good and so we had a nice spinney ride. I headed down the length of the midway still honestly in a looking for Don mode.

At the far end of the midway a tent grabs my interest I never did go inside, but evidently the idea is that they put a lot of game system games inside a tent, and were charging admission to enter the tent. I then started to do a comprehensive sweep of the midway. I started at the Round Up, which gave a nice long ride, then I moved past the Musik Express which was down for maintenance, and took a ride on the Avalanche. There was a bit of line for the Avalanche, and I'm sure we will get a better ride when we purposely overload the car on this thing at the MNSF. I next come across Crazy Surf. Its one of those platform rides were the platform goes around in circles vertically, yet never inverts, at a decent rate of speed. This particular mode; had one long row of seats with individual shoulder bars which were backed up by long communal locking lapbars.

I took a seat, and the shoulder bars came down, and I thought "Not a bad fit", then he big group lapbar came down, hard and tight. Crushing the shoulder bar down into my shoulder blades. I don’t think I have been dealt this much punishment by a shoulder bar since that ride on Quantum Loop up at Seabreeze. Then ack, they had to raise the big lapbar to let more riders in. Here I found out the shoulder bars do lock independant of the lap bar as there was to be no temporary relief to be had. I did get the very compassionate loader, who before slamming down the big group lap bar again, asked me "Are you ready for this?" SLAM. The ride started, I could tell it was a fun ride, filled with interesting laterals and a little air. Might have been enjoyable if I weren't in pain. At the end of the ride the compassionate ride operator unlocked the big group lap bars, and instead of releasing the shoulder bars starting at the end and working his way across, he went directly to me and said something like "Let's get you out first, I KNOW you must be in pain right about now" I thanked said operator profusely as I was walking down the exit stairs.

Time for a nice ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl. Not many riding the Tilt, in fact I think there were only two of us on the entire ride. Ohio, as a whole has done a lot this year to update their ride fencing and gating requirements, causing grief to both the traveling show and the fixed site park as they scramble to bring their rides up to the new code. At the same time, this Tilt was operating with its exit gate wide open. As I exited I tried to close the exit gate, but the spring on it was such that it pushed the gate right back open.

I next headed to the Power Surge. I had an entire arm of the ride to myself, which meant I had a very interesting ride once the tubs unlocked, then a very active ride that offered more insane action than the Spin Out. At the end of the ride I came in almost upside down when the tubs locked again. A wonderful ride to be had. I continues down he midway riding most rides as I came to them, with the exceptions of the Swinger which looked like it would fall over if I leaned on it, much less if I tired to ride it, and the Scambler which I never did see operate. I took another Spin Out ride or two, then headed to the western leg of the midway, where I did most rides but skipping both the Zipper and the Rock-O-Plane as they were running No Single Riders rules.

From there I took a ride break passing through was passes for Challenge Park at the OHSF. I see the BatCopter helicopter ride concession is still there, and there is a Giant Maze and a Euro Bungee trampoline experience, but no real extreme rides like slinghosts, skyscrapers, skycoasters, or bungee jumps.

It was a scorching hot day, so I took a walk through the main exposition hall. Man the aisles get wider, the booths get larger and the food court in the middle gets bigger every time I come, seemingly to hide the fact that there isn't nearly as much in here as their used to be. Some things never go though, like the guy demonstrating the telescoping flagpole.

I grabbed a giant iced tea. The OHSF has the vendors that specialize in LARGE containers of freshly brewed icea tea, at reasonable prices. What's not to like? I walked through the Dairy building to see the butter sculpture, then walked through the Kidway just to check it out. Wacky Worm coaster and a smaller kiddie coaster back there. A smaller friend of mine had trouble fitting into their Wacky Worm so I didn't even try. I was a bit disappointed that I did not see the Kite Flyer, I was wanting to try that ride face up.

Finishing my tour of the kidway, I did another tour of the midway rides then went to visit the Charmin Bathroom. Okay its now just a bathroom, but at least its still air conditioned. In this northern tip of the fair, they were preparing the Budweiser Clydesdales for a parade. Interesting that they would parade a replica vintage beer truck though a fairgrounds that prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages. Time was getting short, and I knew we were going to have a large dinner at the Golden Lamb Inn (Ohio's Oldest Inn) in Lebanon, OH so I skipped getting a snack to eat, instead taking my third and last trip around the rides midway, and then stopping at the water race game (about the only kind of game I play anymore), where I won a large stuffed Mighty Mouse, before heading back to the pickup area. I did grab another GIANT iced tea for the ride to the Golden Lamb.

The meetup at the drop off area went flawlessly right at 4:15 and thus ended the day at the State Fair.


Back to Trip Reports