5/28/06 Gaithersburg (MD) Youth Festival & Strates=awesome!

Associated parks:
None

Monday, May 29, 2006 4:01 PM
I’ve seen two carnivals already this year by chance, but the Gaithersburg Youth Festival at the Montogomery County Fair Grounds in the D.C. suburbs is one I’ve actually had bookmarked. The reason being is because Strates–the only carnival company to travel by train–was providing the rides. I looked at their ride catalog online and decided they had some pretty good rides. I was just hoping that those pretty good rides were actually there. Obviously due to space limitations, budget etc., you may not see everything at anyone site. So it was with anticipation that I planned a trip down to Gaithersburg, MD. One thing that is somewhat interesting about the Montgomery County Fairgrounds is that they have two big ride events a year, with the second one benefiting the agricultural society later in August. This one was animal free.

My friend Mike went with me and he was eager to go since his elderly mother had just gotten out of the hospital for foot surgery. She was staying right around the corner at a rehabilitation center for senior citizens. He doesn’t drive so I didn’t mind taking a small detour time-wise for him. After being up since 6 a.m., it also gave me a chance to nap as well. He knows all the back roads, and from Baltimore City, we got to the area somwhere in around an hour or so. Try that taking 95 S. to 495 W. to 270. Sadly, the one thing the rehab place reminded me of was that there will be a day where we won’t be able to ride anymore:(

After eating at a rare (but coming back) Roy Rodgers fast-food restaurant, Mike went to ATM behind the fair to get some money, and that’s when I caught IT flipping overtop of the Borders bookstore–the Top Spin! Strates carries the only portable Top Spin in America because of the weight issue on American roads (my Dad tells me European roads are constructed at a much higher quality). The only other portable Top Spin I’ve seen in America is at SFNE. Waiting to get into the facilities, I see some more cool items–KMG Fireball [aka Afterburner/Wild Claw], Zipper, and a Huss Enterprise. Parking was only $2. That was a total shock. I think the August fair was $8 the last time, and the Boy Scouts were getting a cut.

Before we rode anything, I wanted to walk around to see what was there and burn off a roll of film since I had great lighting conditions before the sun went down. It’s then that I spotted the Remix. Check another one off the list of cool rides I was hoping would be there. Since there was no POP option tonight, we decided to purchase the $30 for 40 tickets option, splitting it up 50/50. It wasn’t too crowded yet, but that would change later on.

Mike asks what we should ride first. Since we just ate, I recommend the KMG Fireball first. Since this was Mike’s first time on a ride of this sort, I asked him to sit across from me so I could see his reaction. There was a shorter young woman who was having problems getting up into her seat, so the ride op brought out a plastic step stool. There were actually radio-type pre-recorded announcements too, something to the effect of “Riders, please take your seat soon, we’re about to start the ride.” These pre-recorded announcements were made at many of the rides.

So, Mike enjoyed the Fireball alright but he actually wanted something a little bit more hardcore, so we rode the Top Spin next. Due to my “highly” technical skill acquired from the online Top Spin simulation, I determined that the control op was running in manual mode. I could see him using different switches and knobs to control the spins–which were numerous.

It was now our turn, and it was absolutely crazy. During the course of our four-minute-and-thirty-second ride, we flipped somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty times! One thing I noticed was that the control op switched over from manual mode to one of the programs about halfway through the ride. At one point when I thought the ride was coming to an end, a big burst of mist came out and strobe lights were going off and we kept on going. This of course looks great at night with full lighting.

I had seen pictures of the Tivoli Remix before I arrived to the fair, and it wasn’t exactly what I was thinking it was. Sure, it looked like the Orbiter, but it had OTSRs, so I thought for sure that it went upside down too. That would be a solid no. The Remix is similar to the Orbiter, but like the Spin Out has the KMG restraints. It's very difficult to get up into the seats, even for me at 5'8" (I had to jump), so there lots of those plastic stepstools again. So while it was fast and furious like the Obiter, there was only one really scary element to the Remix–the backwall. I didn’t bring my tape measure, but I would say that our feet were maybe a foot from the wall on some of the turns.

Running out of tickets, we hopped aboard the 4-ticket Huss Enterprise which was in excellent condition. The ride was great and it reminded me why I would love to have Sky Escaper working again at SFA. While the g-forces didn’t piledrive you through the floor like the Sky Escaper did, the Huss Enterprise nevertheless delivers the goods. Again, this was another ride that you won’t see at too many carnivals, and the cycle was fairly long (around 2:30).

We were down to four tickets and one final ride–the 4-ticket Zipper–so we purchased $4 more of tickets. Suprisingly, even though the fairgrounds were absolutely packed and the lines were getting quite long for everything, the Zipper’s line was actually short and we waited one cycle. Was it that the other bigger, brighter rides were luring people in? So did we save the best for last? Oh yeah! How is it that a flatride that is so ancient by today’s standards still scares the crap out of me and other fairgoers and will continue to do so into the future? Since many of us have lost the Chaos, we’ll have to ride the roots of that ride to get the same thrill. Just remember to bring a partner, as this is a no single rider ride at almost every carnival you go to.

The G.Y.F. runs through June 3rd and there are POP options during the week.

Other major rides: Thunderbolt, Musik Express, Wave Swinger, Cliff Hanger, Larson Fireball
Unusual kiddie ride: A fairly large baby pool contains four little pods which are self driven with grooved wheels on either side

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006 10:39 PM
I remember the Fairgrounds when my brother lived in Montgomery Village. It was practically within walking distance. That was so long ago, 355 was only four lanes wide.
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Tuesday, May 30, 2006 11:16 PM

We were down to four tickets and one final ride–the 4-ticket Zipper–so we purchased $4 more of tickets. Suprisingly, even though the fairgrounds were absolutely packed and the lines were getting quite long for everything, the Zipper’s line was actually short and we waited one cycle. Was it that the other bigger, brighter rides were luring people in? So did we save the best for last? Oh yeah! How is it that a flatride that is so ancient by today’s standards still scares the crap out of me and other fairgoers and will continue to do so into the future? Since many of us have lost the Chaos, we’ll have to ride the roots of that ride to get the same thrill. Just remember to bring a partner, as this is a no single rider ride at almost every carnival you go to.


The zipper is one of the greatest flats of all time. That ride is just SO much fun. I think I'd rather ride a zipper than a Chaos, anyway, though some zippers look on the old side. Wouldn't it be cool if they could somehow come up with a giant zipper-type ride that could operate at a park? Not sure exactly how they'd do that, but what a ride!

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006 3:40 AM
To be honest, I thought the rides were dirtier than the carnies themselves. You could see mold on some of the ride canopies, parts of the restraints and seats on the top sping were black, the mixer was charcoal grey. Not to mention Montgomery County Police could have had a field day on serving outstanding arrest warrants on the crowd. Very disappointed. Thought it was interesting that one of the kiddie coasters didn't pass inspection.
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