TR: State Fair Of Texas

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Sunday, October 21, 2012 9:21 AM

TR: State Fair of Texas
Date: 10-19-12
Weather: Cool, with temperatures in the upper 70s
Crowds: Light at the start, but becoming moderately crowded.

Note: This report is purely academic, as the fair ends today, October 21.

This is my first tr since 2009. I know it has been a long time since I have posted on here, and a lot has changed for me. I was able to make it to the fair two years ago on two separate occasions, but I decided not to document them as there was not time. Due to my school schedule I was unable to make it last year and really have not done much in the way of amusement parks and carnivals for a while. I hope to change that. However, this year I was able to go to the fair for a good while on a day I did not have classes.

Those of you that read my reports in the past will know that my grandfather used to take me. This year, it would be my dad that accompanied me. I also have a new audio system for on-ride recording that is a lot more secure and can withstand rides that flip. So armed with it and my cane, we headed out. On the way over, we heard about the fire that burned Big Tex to the ground, leaving his arms still standing. Rather than use the main entrance, which was blocked off, we parked at the back of the Cotton Bowl. Parking in that lot cost $15. THe major advantage was that the midway was pretty much right there. We were given tickets by someone so used those to get in. Security was making everyone empty out pockets before going through metal detectors this year. I don't remember seeing that in the past.

So we get onto the midway. Instead of the usual walking tour I used to take, I decided to do rides as Dad saw them. After purchasing coupons, it was time to start riding. First up was the Stratosphere, which is KMG's version of the tower swing ride. Some of you may know this as the one whose power was lost Friday night,, stranding riders at the top of the tower for 2 hours. I do not understand why these rides are fun to people. I think the whole gimmick of this type of ride is to get you high in the air for a view. As a blind person, that is just not appealing. I prefer the Wave Swinger and its variants; there is a lot more movement in them. I would ride a Wave Swinger later in the day. The last time I was here, they had the Zamperla Vertical Swing, which was my first exposure to this type of ride. THe Zamperla version scared the crap out of me. The chains felt like they were meant for playground swings, and it felt like it was going to collapse. I came off of it and said, "That was not worth it." I was not expecting much from the KMG High Swing, but was surprised. The swings are hung with cables instead of chains, so I felt a lot safer. It also moves at a fair clip and gets to the top pretty fast. I must say that I enjoyed this one, but I still prefer rides like the Wave Swinger and the Yo-yo. I would not mind riding this again if it came back, but only once. This one also had pretty snug restraints. However, I still do not understand what makes these rides so appealing to people. I'll ride it once for the experience. On to the next ride please.

The second ride was the Windstorm roller coaster. I absolutely love this thing. This is the Windstorm from Fun Forest in Seattle, which S&J bought and converted into a portable coaster. This ride never fails. The first of two rides I took was in the front and it was intense as usual. I love the twisting dive in the middle of the ride. This one was kept up very well and the crew was doing a great job with dispatch.

Next it was back to the spin rides with a trip into Zero Gravity. This ride never fails either and is a nice zippy ride. I just wish the cycle was longer and that we got more spinning at the top. I had this entire ride to myself. This would be a pattern; there was only one line I had to wait in the entire day.

Next it was time to ride the other two coasters. First up was the Reverchon Crazy Mouse. This one is always a consistent performer; I am always amazed at how much spinning I always get, seeing as I do not weigh that much and am always a single rider. This thing would be a great substitute for a Tilt-a-Whirl.

Next up was the Zillerator. This was formerly at the PNE and now travels with Butler Amusements. I always ride this ride out of habit. I ride it one time to see how well it is being maintained. I'll say it again and I've said it many times in past reports. THe buzz bars have got to go. This Zyklon isn't very fast, and I've heard that some companies now just have seatbelts on them. The buzz bars make the ride uncomfortable. This, coupled with the fact that I have very long legs, always makes for a not-so-comfortable fit. This year there were two noticeable jolts, one after the first helix and one after the third drop. Ok, I've taken my habitual ride. Time to move on from this boring Zyklon. At least this year, I got a good recording.

Then it was off to take a ride on the Dartron Cliffhanger. This one was also running a really short cycle. That was a nice nap.

Next it was off to the first of two dark rides. This one was the Haunted House and it first debuted two years ago. I find this one to be entertaining as there is an audio clip that plays with each stunt. Not only do you get a visual gag, but there is an audio clip that plays when a stunt is triggered. These range from evil cackles to a guy screaming for help in a torture scene. This one also reminds me of the old Pretzel rides because of its constant curves. This is not a bad one as far as carnival dark rides go.

After that, I boarded the Techno Power, which is basically an Orbiter with suspended seats. I had forgotten how intense this ride is compared to the Orbiter. All the blood went to my feet and it was actually a little painful. That did not stop this from being a fantastic ride. The guy who used to run the Tivoli Scorpion at other carnivals I've attended was running this and he was playing rap music instead of techno, which I felt kind of messed up the ride. Every past op has played appropriate techno music on the Techno Power.

We then took a break so Dad could have one of the fair's legendary homemade corn dogs. I never eat while at carnivals; I am there to ride and I do not want to get sick on rides, so I do not eat. I was going to do my annual ride on the log flume, but there was a bit of a line full of small children, so I decided to come back to it. So, we headed to Scary Park. This is a remake of a dark ride called Lumalusion, which I have loved for years. This is a permanent ride which is on the grounds and was originally designed by Bill Tracy. Well, not much has changed visually according to what Dad told me. What they consider a rehab is the addition of several live clowns that jump out at you in certain rooms. I'd dare to call it Lumalusion With Clowns. They are also no longer playing Pink Floyd tracks throughout the ride. That was a big mistake; that ride has long had a tradition of playing Pink Floyd tracks throughout and I was irritated that they stopped doing it. Other than that, it is largely unchanged. I don't know why I ride dark rides; I just find them interesting rides even though I cannot see anything in them.

After that, I headed to the Wisdom Starship 3000. I must say that the new starship has an awesome sound system. I also noticed that it seems to spin a little faster; I actually felt like my cheeks were going to pop out of my face as the forces were pushing on my face. On the older Starship 2000 rides I ride more often, I have never felt like that. Somebody said that the 3000 was so smooth you hardly knew you were spinning. It was smooth, yes, but you could definitely tell you were spinning. Little did I know what I was in for later on that would eclipse this type of ride in my eyes.

Anybody who as read my past reports about carnivals knows I am a huge fan of funhouses; I like them about as much as I like thrill rides. My favorite funhouse is the King's Circus, which is a 4-story one. Of course, it was at the fair this year and we had come to it. Time to enjoy some funhouse goodness. It is amazing how one idiotic attendant can ruin an entire experience. No, this was nothing like the infamous incident in 2006 when every single stunt in a small funhouse was turned off because the ops were worried that I could not navigate it as a blind person. The crew of the King's Circus has always been really awesome to me. However, an attendant who is also a part-time cab driver insisted on publicly embarrassing me by being a loudmouth and yelling that there was a blind person in the funhouse Also, he referred to the school for the blind as an assisted living facility when asking my dad about me. I tried to get away from him by walking to the spiral slide, but he followed me. Now let me make this clear. I appreciate help getting through that funhouse as it is a big one. In the past, the attendants have always followed me at a distance and have let me explore, only providing directions if I ask for them or if I need help getting through a stunt, for example the turntable at the entrance. However, I do not tolerate or appreciate it when somebody insists on getting in my way, not letting me explore, or shouting out the obvious. I have decided to let it go this time, however. I had been through this five times before yesterday and knew my way around fairly well. On a more positive note, most of the stunts were operational this year and new ones have been added. One set of crazy stairs was not operational, and the conveyor belt across the second-floor balcony was not working, as usual. The glass maze that made up the third level has been removed and replaced with a web of ropes that you have to work your way through. It appears that the air jet on the exit ramp is gone. There is now also a trapdoor illusion where the floor drops a few feet. The buckling bridge that was on the second level is also no longer there. It was nice to see most everything working. I found out later that the guy who I referred to earlier was not actually with the company that brought the funhouse; he was hired to help. If he is there next year, I am avoiding it. As much as I love that funhouse, I did not like his actions. I'll do the Bubble House instead. It was still a good walkthrough though.

Well after that horrible experience, I headed to the Zamperla Backflash, aka Wind Surf. I hadn't ridden this in a few years and it was as good as I remembered it. There were only three of us on the entire ride, so the water effect that is used at the apex of the ride was on for only a short time, about 7 seconds. That was a bummer. I love the unpredictability of this thing and the flips are incredible.

Next I decided to go to the new funhouse that made the press coverage of the fair. This is the Big Bamboo,, a two-level one that is themed to summer, complete with beach chairs out front and the Beach Boys playing over the sound system. This was an attempt to modernize the funhouse and add some touches you normally would not associate with them. For instance, before you go inside, you have to walk under a series of water arches. No you do not get wet and if you do, it is just sprinkles. There is also a rope bridge between the first and second levels. Yes, you read that right. I was surprised myself. Apparently, at the top of the funhouse, there are props you can take photos in, such as a VW bus and a hammock you can lay in. There was also a tribute to funhouses of the thirties and forties in the form of air jets strategically placed throughout the interior. There were two nonoperational spinning discs and two sets of walkways where the two halves move in opposite directions. I liked it. It is not as good as the King's Circus, but then again, what is? The Bubble House is the only one that even comes close to matching the Circus and even it falls short.

Next it was off to do another of my habitual rides, this one being the Sparkletts Splash log flume. This is an Arrow log flume that is on the midway year-round. This is also the only one I know of where somebody can get a log to himself on a slow day if he requests it, which I always do. It is a short one, being only about 2 minutes or so. It is not a wet one, so I called my friend up on my phone and we chatted throughout the ride.

And now we come to the surprise hit of the fair for me. I had heard for years about the old Rotor rides. I had always wanted to ride one, but SFOT removed theres before I was born. I had heard that Dartron had resurrected the concept and it debuted at our fair last year. Now here was my chance to finally check out one of these. Dartron calls this ride the Rave, and it is themed to, well, a rave, complete with electronic dance music and lights. I honestly was not expecting much from this, just a tamed-down Rotor with more padding. I asked the attendant to ride with me this time so he could tell me what to expect. This was actually a good thing. So first you climb up a set of stairs to an observation area that doubles as a queue, walking around the outside of the barrel. You then go down a curving staircase before turning left and stepping into the barrel itself. The floor is at ground level when you board. You then take your place against the wall. It appears that there is not enough padding for your entire body. The floor is raised up at the start of the ride, and it is then that you go higher up the wall and realize that there is padding all the way down your back. Then the ride starts. It seems to get up to speed pretty quick, then the floor drops and you know dang well it has dropped because you feel it slip away. The wall also doubles as a subwoofer, so the rave music that is playing is vibrating your whole body and you feel the bass beats. All too soon, the floor is raised back up as the ride slows down. You slide onto it and then the floor is lowered back to ground level and the barrel is rotated to face the exit. My guess is that the curving staircase you use to get in folds up to enclose the barrel, then is unfolded at the exit. What did I think? Well sorry Wisdom, but your pathetic little Gravitron rides do not compare to this. This was seriously one of the best rides I have ever ridden and I could not say enough good things about it. I hope these become as numerous as the Zero Gravity rides did. I will now ride a Gravitron only if it is the only ride at the carnival where you stick to the walls. Otherwise, if this is there, I will not hesitate to do it over the Starship.

After that it was off to ride the swing ride I actually prefer, the Wave Swinger. This one never disappoints. While on the ride, a rider apparently unbuckled herself, so we were lowered back down before the fun had even started. We all got a second ride because of it though. After that I went back to the Rave for more of that awesome ride and music.

Then it was off to the ride I had come to the fair specifically to ride. THis was new this year. The ride features a turntable with a bunch of round 4-seat tubs on it. I am, of course, talking about the Huss Flipper. I had high hopes for this ride; I've been a fan of Huss for a while now. I get on the ride and notice that I am only going to be restrained by a lapbar. Oh dear. So the ride started and in a few seconds I was screaming in pain. THe ride is extremely violent. I kept getting walloped in the stomach by the lapbar with every rocking movement, as well as get thrust into the side of the car with every spin. THe motions of this ride are really good, and I can see a full car getting a lot of flips. But for me, the ride was painful and I actually almost threw up. If it had gone on for much longer, I guarantee you I would have thrown up. Somebody asked to get let off before we went backwards; I should have as well. Finally, it was back to the Windstorm to take a back seat ride before heading out. THe back of this ride is a heck of a lot more violent than it used to be but it was not uncomfortably so.

Overall, this was a great trip. THe midway was awesome as usual except for the absence of my favorite ride, Space Roller, which they replaced with a greenhouse. I usually also ride the Texas Skyway to record a soundscape of the midway, but I was not buying this year and did not want Dad to spend too much. I also missed the Wisdom Tornado and the bumper cars. The Fabbri drop tower was closed. However, this fair is always a great one.

Thanks for reading.

Here's a little bonus. This is one of the many recordings I made, this one being my second ride on the Windstorm. I highly recommend that you wear headphones to enjoy it. http://audioboo.fm/boos/1017447-the-windstorm-roller-coaster-at-the...r-of-texas

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012 12:43 AM

I used to love to go to fairs and carnivals, in fact, I went to the Allegan County fair in Michigan in September. But, the only reason I went was to see KISS and Motley Crue. (Awesome Concert by the way) But, lately, I find the fairs to be kinda boring and expensive. The also had a tower swing, and a drop tower, but the carnival was pretty much void of any other thrill rides. This is the first year that they didn't have a hymalaya, which is my favorite. The only thrill was the zipper. There was one fair in Michigan that took me by surprise. That was the Michigan State fair, which used to be held near Detroit. They had a huge Midway, with 3 roller coasters. (Galaxi, Toboggan, Mouse) they had some cool thrill rides, including a cobra and a sky diver. I so wanted to ride the sky diver, but the friend I was with, did not want to go on the rides. Instead we went to see the free concerts. (A bit dated) Color me bad, The party, and Salt-n-Pepper. FREE!! If we would have waited a day we could have seen Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Unfortunately the Michigan State fair was nixed by the Governor Jennifer Granholm. That, and The city of Detroit no longer wanted to pay for it.So, the only large fair in the state is in Ionia, and that one has really gone downhill. I used to go to that every year, but the ride selection has been mostly for kids. I think I have been there once, recently when they had a lot of really cool rides, unfortunately they were all closed because some handicapped kid died on the fireball. They kept telling that kids dad not to let him ride, but he insisted, and when the ride ended his kid was dead. Heart attack.So, the local carnivals and fairs have sucked ever since.

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