We havent been to the State Fair in a number of years, so we decided to get together with some family and do it this year. The past 5 or 6 years, we've never found a day that worked out but it did this year. The fair is running for only 12 days now - July 25 through Aug 5.
We drove into the parking area a few minutes after 0900 and ended up just about 15 or so rows away from the main entrance. Exchanged our Kroger discount tickets ($6 instead of $10 at the gate) and walked through the metal detectors after waiting in a short line. The Sky Glider, renamed Sky Slider from sponsorship by White Castle, had no line at this point so we forked over $9 for the 3 of us to ride it. We used it to get an overhead view of everything there this year. Including the double Ferris Wheel, so we were e***d they had one. It's tucked away in a corner of the kiddieland, over by the swine barn and the indoor dog agility course.
Exiting down at the far end, we had some time to kill before the rides opened at 10. You exit the sky ride at the beginning of the kiddieland section. As usual, Amu***ts of America is doing the midway rides, although the double Ferris Wheel is from Belle City, and the bumper boats are from someone else (couldn't tell who had them.) We dragged Ben through the cattle barn and over into the swine barn, although the swine barn was almost empty. They must be bringing Babe in later that week, since it was only day 4 of 12.
After getting through the stinky barns, we bought 2 ride wristbands ($22 each) for Matt and Ben, and $10 of tickets for me ($1 per ticket). First ride was the traditional Giant Slide, which was fun and pretty zippy. We got some airtime on the last couple of jumps/bumps. I spent 2 tickets and took 1 ride, and they ended up going 3 times. Then we walked over again to the double wheel (which we noted was ride #007) but the operators were still working on getting it operating for the day. They estimated another 20 to 30 minutes.
We headed into the "big kid" rides and noted food booths to try for lunch. Ben spotted an obstacle course/fun house walkthrough but he was too tall. It was located in the area between kiddieland and the regular midway but it was really for little kids, so they probably should have put it more into kiddieland. But not to worry - there were another 5 or 6 fun houses that he could do. I lost count.
Amu***ts of America seems to have a lock on this fair - I'm not in Columbus so we don't get any news coverage of the fair other than "Fair is now open". The rides were good, but kind of shabby. Most of the fun houses weren't working 100%, and the rest of the rides seemed just run down. Lots of them had seats or cars roped off. Also, I remember years when there were multiple roller coasters and this year they only had 1, plus another one in kiddleland (a Whacky Worm.) The big thing this year seemed to be variations of spin-n-barf, including some that looked like portable traveling versions of a Huss Frisbee but with slightly different seating.
At this "early" in the morning (about 1100), there was no line for the Crazy Mouse (spinning mouse ride, possibly the same one they've had in the past) so we rode. The op wouldn't let pre-*** Ben have a car to himself, so he got 2 pre-*** girls put in with him to ride with. We rode with a dad and daughter from the town next to us, and the girl screamed on all the sharp curves like she hated it, but then immediately wanted to ride again. The ride was running well but didn't have many mice on the track and the dispatch was taking a long time. There were more mice that could be transferred, so maybe they did that before the crowds started in the afternoon.
The next ride we tried was the Tomb of Doom, a really bad dark ride that made all 3 of us squeeze into 1 car, and then was like a blast furnace inside. The ride was only a track that twisted around and then there were set pieces in the corners that would light up as you went by. It was so tight in there that I really did have to keep my arms inside the car, or they would have rubbed or gotten caught between the car and the walls.
Then Ben rode the Rock N' Roll - a rebranded Musik Express which ran the cars both backwards and then forwards while blasting rock music at more than full volume. He also rode the tower swings ride - and again got put in a double seat swing with another pre-*** girl. We loved that. Matt and Ben did the bumper cars, which crammed a lot of really slow cars into a really small bumping area.
We wanted to do the bumper boats, but they required tickets and we didn't want to spend the money. They didn't look good enough to justify the extra cost. There were no lines still for any rides. We walked on everything, including the Giant Wheel, a pod car Ferris Wheel. It was a nice ride, with a bit of a breeze and temps in the high 70's. And still no crowds at that point.
Ben then went and did the Tilt-a-Whirl but it wasn't good (was a portable Sellner, not an Ely.) He ended up with a queasy stomach, but did a couple more fun houses. Earlier, before we started on the bigger rides, we had gone to the "Texas On Tour" attraction just off the midway, and we still had our "access passes" so we went back and saw the movie. The attraction is basically a publicity vehicle for the state of Texas, located right next to the publicity vehicle for the state of North Carolina (or was it South Carolina? It was something to do with custom choppers and BBQ.) The Texas attraction is that first you register an email address to win a trip to Texas, then you can do 4 things - answer a quiz via touch screens about what is in Texas, see a 90 second movie, do a virtual reality kayak tour, and get your pictures taken with virtual backdrops of various parts of Texas. Not a bad thing to do to kill time or get to sit in an air conditioned theater while your stomach is queasy.
At this point, Ben's stomach had calmed down and he got pizza for lunch. Matt tried a roasted turkey leg from another stand close by, but got his money back after he took 1 bite and tasted nothing but salt. I chose to go into the Taste of Ohio food court, which is the round building at that end of the fair. There were lines for all of the food booths - chicken, beef, corn, pork, and lamb, plus other booths for ice cream, wine and beer that had no lines. I mistakenly decided to get a lamb gyro. While I was in line, Matt was able to figure out what he wanted by looking at all the booths, get a pork tenderloin sandwich, wait around for a free table, sit down and eat his sandwich + baked beans + chips + cookie, and then send Ben out to find me, thinking I had disappeared. I swear the line was 20 minutes long when I got in it, and it was 3 times as long by the time we left. At least the gyro was excellent. The main problem was that it was taking forever to get gyros out, due to one older lady who was handling the toppings and taking a sweet little old lady's time to do it. But these booths are all volunteer-run from the various associations, so they didn't really have any professional food workers or managers to be working and notice the bottleneck.
During lunch, Matt's sister Peggy and her family arrived. They live east of Columbus but had other stuff they had to do that morning, plus Matt's brother and his daughter were just getting into the park after driving down from Cleveland for the day. We split up - the guys all went back to the midway, and the women folk went out to meet up with David and his daughter Brooke. We did the heritage crafts and the Di Salle Creative Arts Center, then went to see the sheep/lambs, then the horses, and finally the dairy cows. We got to see them photographing the championship cows, who all looked absolutely miserable. They had not been milked on their regular schedule so they would have very full udders for the photos, and they needed to be milked, like an hour or two ago.
We walked through the Dairy Building to pay homage to this year's Butter Cow and Butter Birthday Cake (for the 200th anniversary of the founding of Columbus.) The lines for ice cream were insane. There was a petting zoo outside, so Peggy and David took the girls and did that while I sat on the low wall surrounding a fl***display and waited. Pretty soon the guys showed up and we sort of got back together.
The last thing I said to anyone was that Matt and Ben were going to get ice cream and I would wait for them here. Then everyone disappeared. I knew it would be a long time before they came out with the ice cream, so I pulled out our fair guide and read it. Then sat and people watched. And sat. And did some more people watching. And sat. After 30 minutes, I tried calling Matt but as I was calling, they showed up. They had gotten their ice cream, left out the side door, ate the ice cream, then went out to the midway again. When they found out I wasn't with the rest of the group, they came back to the Dairy building and found me still sitting, waiting for the ice cream. Which they had already finished. Matt was very apologetic.
We called and found out that the rest of the group were in the Ag-Hort building, catching up with Peggy's son and his girlfriend and we said we'd meet them there. But I was desperate for something to drink, so we walked around until I found a real lemonade stand. It was so good drinking that, after sitting for a half hour in the sun, vainly waiting for ice cream. By this time, it was 4pm and we were ready to head out, since we'd seen pretty much everything we wanted to.
Matt and Ben described how the midway had just exploded with people, with some waits being an hour or more (the Crazy Mouse). They also got to do the double Ferris Wheel, which is the first time Matt has been able to ride one since the 1980's, and Ben's first double. He loved it, especially since they scored that one car that always seem to be at the top of the wheel when it crests over the highest point of the ride.
We followed the parade out, which was the State Fair band followed by an antique fire truck that was squirting water out of hoses on each side (it was a safety themed day at the Fair.) By this time it was hot, with temps in the mid 80s. Ben wanted to try a corn dog, so we got him one and he liked it. We also got root beer and cream soda from the Original Root Beer Man, who is unfortunately located just as you get in the front gate. I'm sure his business would be better down near the midway. It was really good stuff. Matt chose to ride his bike home (about a 70 mile ride, took him 4.5 hours) and we were each exiting the fairgrounds at 5.
Sharon "Butter Cow" Bond