Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair 3-1-03

Associated parks:

Saturday, March 1, 2003 5:45 PM
I’ve lived in Ft. Myers virtually all my life and honestly, I’ve never been to the fair. For one, the Lee Civic Center is way out there and a long drive from my home. Secondly, I felt like a chicken when I saw the rides. I just wasn’t interested in going. This year, I’m more courageous and decided to go.

I also decided to go to bring up my coaster count. My coaster count was 89 coasters and it wouldn’t hurt to add another one. I need 11 more coasters by July when I will make my 100th coaster Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point. I sometimes have nightmares that it will be broken down during my visit, but I have alternates. I hope I don’t have to make Gemini Jr. my 100th!

I went on March 1 and arrived at 2:30. I stayed for about 2 ½ hours. The entrance fee was $6. It got you into the Lee Civic Center where you could see exhibits from big companies and crafts from individuals. Pepsi was giving out free samples. Who knew that you could get free soda outside of Holiday World? Altel was giving out free Frisbees and an individual was showing off his knife collection. I don’t remember much else. I was busy heading to the important stuff – the midway! The midway was the Reithoffer Midway. I didn’t care who put on the midway. All I want is a ride on the coaster! I saw a picture in the paper for an Indy 500 coaster and that was my main objective to ride today.

The Midway’s ticket prices were $1 for one ticket, $10 for 12 tickets, $20 for 25 tickets, and $50 for 65 tickets. I bought 50 tickets. 65 tickets seemed way too much. About half of the rides were kiddie rides and even if I could fit into them, I don’t ride very many of them. Rides were plentiful and so were the carnival games, but here are my impressions of what I rode…

INDY 500 ROLLER COASTER (5 tickets)

This coaster is like Fitzer at Morey’s Piers. I loved Fitzer and I was disappointed that I didn’t ride it more. Today was my chance to ride it. The ride was seatbeltless, but I didn’t see anyone flung into orbit. The ride was pretty smooth and gave some nice laterals. It moved you back and forth without being too aggressive. I rode this one three times. I think it was worth 5 tickets.

ORIENT EXPRESS (3 tickets)

This was a dragon-themed kiddie coaster. Unlike Dragon Wagon though, the dragon was a Chinese dragon (keeping with the theming of the ride). I don’t know why, but I swore to never ride any dragon-themed coasters other than Dueling Dragons. Perhaps this dragon coaster hatred started because the Flying Dragon coaster is at one of my most hated parks, King Richard’s Park in Naples, FL. Then again, the Orient Express had a different dragon and hey, I’m Chinese, so I’m riding something from my culture. OK, so that was a lame excuse. I rode it for the credit. I know -- I’m shameless. The coaster was actually a good kiddie coaster. It had some steep banked turns. The track was short, but the ride op gave me 3 laps around. I would have paid 2 tickets for it, but I’ll give one extra for the credit.

SCRAMBLER (3 tickets)

I had never been on a Scrambler, so I decided to try it. The ride wasn’t too bad, but the g-forces were pretty strong. I was plastered against the right side of the ride vehicle! After the ride, I was so dizzy that I almost couldn’t get out. The ride must be doing something right! A good ride worthy of 3 tickets.

TORNADO (3 tickets)

I had been on a Tornado ride at King Richard’s Park and I didn’t like it. The Tornado at the fair wasn’t any different. No matter how hard I spun, it didn’t do much of anything. I was riding alone and I didn’t eat my Wheaties, but even the other pods that had two people didn’t get very much spinning. They eventually grew tired and stopped spinning. I did too. This ride should have been named “Light Breeze.” What’s most notable about this ride is that the ride op was playing Tetris on his Game Boy as the ride was in operation. Hmmm…what if someone tried to escape the ride or got sick? Pay attention, boy! I would have given 1 ticket to ride the Tornado.

ALPINE BOB’S (4 tickets)

I remember an Alpine Bob’s at Six Flags America. It was named something like Penguin’s Cold Ride, but the ride sign still said Alpine Bob’s on it. I had never rode one before, so I decided to do it. It felt like a Super Himalya, but you got to go around in the circle forwards and backwards. It was hard to get in and out of the car too. The ride tilted down when you put your feet on the left or right hand sides. I guess put your feet in the center for stability. I think it was worth 4 tickets.

TILT-A-WHIRL (3 tickets)

I’ve been on a Tilt-A-Whirl at Old Town and this one wasn’t any different. It did get me dizzy and I had trouble walking in a straight line to the exit. It gets 3 tickets for making me dizzy!

1001 NIGHTS (4 tickets)

I remember Morey’s Piers had a similar ride named Moby Dick. It wasn’t too bad, so I rode 1001 Nights. It spun you around vertically. It wasn’t too bad, but the spinning got kind of tedious. The ride could have been half as long. The ride did give a great view of the midway. It was right at the end and you could look down and see all the other rides in operation as you spun around. It was worth 4 tickets.

SLING SHOT (5 tickets)

I kept on calling this ride Drop Zone because it looked so much like the one at Paramount King’s Island. Sling Shot should have been called “Rip-Off.” It was like a poor man’s Power Tower. Cables brought you up to the top and then dropped you down. There was no airtime and no slam in your gut feeling. The ride had no thrill at all. I’d give this ride ½ ticket.

POWER SURGE (5 tickets)

I had seen a Power Surge at Knoebel’s, but I chickened out on it. Now was my time to conquer it. The Power Surge seats reminded me of those from a Vekoma SLC, but no as linebacker padding thick, though. The ride spun you around vertically as your seats spun around. It sounds like fun, but it was a painful ride. I should have been saying, “Whoo-hoo-hoo!” as I spun around, but it was more like, “Ouch, ouch, ow, ow, that hurts!” I was bumped and battered around too much on this ride. I’d give it 5 tickets anyway, but I wouldn’t ride one again.

WILD CLAW (5 tickets)

I had never been on a ride like the Wild Claw. I had seen one in a video of Thorpe Park in the UK and I’ve always wondered what it was like to ride one. It was my chance to do so at the fair. The Wild Claw strapped you into inverted seats and they were laid out in a circle. The seats attached to a big pendulum and it swung back and forth. It went higher as the ride went on. The ride op really pushed down on the restraint and stapled me in! Good thing that he did or I may have been flung into the parking lot! The ride was pretty thrilling. The spinning didn’t get to me, but as the ride hit the maximum point of the pendulum, I could feel my gut bounce inside of me. I’m glad that I didn’t eat anything before riding! I think Wild Claw was worth 7 tickets. I didn’t get the X-Men painting on the ride, though. Maybe they were referring to Wolverine, but I didn’t see him in the painting.

I didn’t eat at the fair, but there was the standard fair stuff of pizza, Italian sausages, turkey legs, and other eats. The most unusual food item was pork chop on a stick! I’ve seen hot dog on a stick, corn on a stick, but never pork chop on a stick. How do you eat around the bone?

Some exhibits there had the world’s smallest horse for 50 cents admission or see two-headed babies and turtles for $1.00. I have better things to do at the fair.

The only problem I had with the fair was the carnival operators were always trying to get you to play their game to win a cupie doll. I don’t know how many times I was asked. I just tried to keep a big distance between the operator and me so they wouldn’t bother me. Carnival operators seem to be big smokers because I saw a lot of them smoke. The smoke wasn’t very annoying though, but it was unusual to see people smoking on the job. You wouldn’t see this at Disney, Universal, or even Six Flags! I did see someone eat a sandwich and check the roller coaster restraints at the same time at Knoebel’s, but never smoking!

I had a good time at the fair, but I kept on thinking the price that I paid to have it. I paid $6 for admission, $40 for 50 tickets, and $2 for bottled water. I spent $48 for 2 ½ hours of fun. In comparison, Disney and Universal charge about $50 for a bigger and better experience. Indiana Beach charges $17 for a pay one price admission, Holiday World charges $27, and Kennywood charges around $29 for an armband. Those operations also have bigger and better rides. Of course, you don’t have to fly and make hotel reservations for the fair, but in just admission and tickets alone, the bigger theme and amusement park operations don’t seem as expensive.

The fair has an armband special on Friday from 10 pm to 2 am for $17 (admission included). There are also other deals going around for the weekday, but I work then. Maybe I need to schedule a day off for the fair next year.

With the two coasters at the fair, my coaster count increases to 91. Nine more until 100…

Wednesday, March 5, 2003 1:25 PM
Nice TR. Sounds like a decent fair as they had 2 coasters there--it is amazing how much fairs cost compared to your average theme park--now I remember why I avoid fairs! I might be willing to hit one if it came around here and had 2 coasters though. Good luck in making TTD your 100th coaster :)

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