Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Georgia National Fair 2014 Review

Terry and I both love going to carnivals and fairs but both of us have completely different reasoning behind our love for them. He loves the massive thrill rides that flip turn and disorient you and my favorite ride of all time is the Sky Wheel, also known as the double ferris wheel. Terry would be more inclined to play a few games until he wins and I just don't play them at all. We both love looking at the animals, exhibits and the stuff vendors bring in for sale. We also love "fair food" though we tend to lean on the side were we are more practical to cure our hunger than choosing the more exotic fare that leaves us hungry after consuming more than our daily recommended count of calories.
2014 Georgia National Fair Logo
Tuesday, Terry and I decided to check out the Georgia National Fair, a fair we'd last been to over 7 years ago. Though we live in Atlanta, there are no fairs in the area that are as massive as the Georgia National Fair. The Georgia State Fair at the Atlanta Motor Speedway is less than half the size of the Georgia National Fair. The midway features Reithoffer Shows' blue unit. Reithoffer's is the same company that took over Pensacola's fair after Gooding's Million Dollar Midways when out of business in the early 1990's so the Reithoffers midway has a little sentimental value just because I remember them as a kid.
Reithoffer Ticket Booths, not my photo
So we got up early and were out the door before 11:30, made a stop at the UPS Store to drop a few packages off and arrived in Perry, Georgia around 1 pm. Parking is free at the Georgia National Fair, the fairs around Atlanta charge $5 and sometimes up to $10. The lots are so massive that our walk was around 4 minutes to make it from the car to the gate. Admission was $8 for each of us. Lines for unlimited ride wristbands were MASSIVE in the front. I told Terry we shouldn't waste our time in the front because there are usually ticket booths spread randomly throughout the midway. Sure enough, the ticket booth we came upon, just about 100 feet from the long line booths had NO line. $16 each for a wristband and we were all set for the rides but of course, we were hungry from not eating so we had a hamburger, hot dog and a Coke each. BTW I found that diet drinks at carnivals just don't fit the atmosphere so I do actual sugary drinks. While we were eating, we look over at the table next to us and there's a redneck teenager, keep in mind we were in South Georgia, snorting powdered sugar and then blowing his nose into the air.
Booger Boy In A Pink Shirt Guy, What a Pig!!!
Our first order of business was to get from one end of the fairgrounds to the other, so we jump on the Agri-Lift. The Agri-Lift is not owned by Reithoffer, no wristbands accepted but the cost is $3 one way or $5 round trip. We got a pretty good birds eye view of the grounds and midway, though the lift is across the lake from where the midway is set up. We make it to the other side and go straight for the rides.
Agri-Lift at the Georgia National Fair, not my photo.
Our first ride we decided to ride was one that I'd last saw and rode when it was brand new, when I was about 17, called Flip N Out. Terry and I are standing in line and are 2 rides away from experiencing Flip N Out and it broke down so we headed directly across to the Wild Mouse Coaster. We'd ridden this coaster and the one owned by Amusements of America many years ago and remembered it being a gentle thrill ride. The line was pretty long and it took about 15 minutes to get to the front. BTW there is one thing I can honestly say I don't like about this fair, the amount of gnats flying around. The guy that were were behind, I can safely say he'd not seen a shower for at least 2 days, was swarmed by gnats, which meant we were getting them to a lessor extent. The sun was blazing and we had already begun to fell the burn from the south Georgia sun. Once the Wild Mouse car started up the lift hill, we realized that either our tolerance had changed or the Wild Mouse isn't as smooth of a ride as we remembered, Terry's back ached right after we got off, I think I got saved from a head on bump because I was in the outer seat and facing slightly sideways and he was in the middle facing directly forward.
Flip N Out just before it broke down the first time.
Wild Mouse
From the Wild Mouse, we decided to try a ride we'd never seen before called Air Race. This looks like a moderate thrill ride, though once you're strapped in, moderate is an understatement. The first half of the ride is great, but when the car's change the swinging direction, we began to feel the dizzying effects.
Zamperla Air Race
I told Terry the next ride HAD to be a gentle one. As we passed the Haunted Mansion, I mentioned to Terry that I used to love that one so we jumped into a car and found we don't fit in the same seat so he jumped into the back seat and I took the front. Maybe it's more for kids but 60% of the scary elements had burned out lights and the black curtains that hide each turn throughout the trailer were completely visible thanks to the light from the outside coming through large cracks in the walls. When I was really little, I remember riding two and three story haunted dark rides that were completely dark and also cool inside. Either the air conditioning was broken, or the manufacturer didn't opt to install one. It was like 150 degrees inside.

We decided at this point, we'd check out some of the animals and exhibits. Goats are one of my favorite animals but I could only stand to be in their enclosures for a short time thanks to the gnats that seemed to be everywhere. The 3 exhibit halls, were well air conditioned and definitely a great change from being in the blazing sun. Throughout the exhibit hall, I found a lot of awesome crafting ideas...I'm such a 70 year old woman at heart but there's only so much of crafts you can take with screams from the midway in the background before you want to be back out there. So we took the long way around, grabbed 2 bottles of Coke for $5, which was pretty cheap considering most vendors were selling the bottles for $4.00. Anyway, we saw 2 mobile homes parked on the grounds and decided to walk through them. I actually had thoughts of burning my house down and replacing it with one of the trailers. I have NEVER seen a trailer as nice as these two homes. In fact, while Terry and I were house shopping back in 2003, not one house beat the awesomeness of the insides of those two trailer homes. We also looked at travel trailers, which I've also fallen in love with. I could totally live in one of those also.
Inside of a trailer.
The bathroom in a trailer.

Just like the travel trailer I want.

Flip N Out was back in operation so we stood in line but Terry decided it really didn't appeal to him so I ended up riding it alone. I think the fact that it broke down right before we were able to ride it earlier sort of put him off from it. My memories of this massive ride have always been good, it was a gentle thrill ride. The ride was refurbished a few years ago and has only been used at a few of Reithoffers larger spots so one would think the condition of the ride would be better than what it appeared. It's time for a new refurbishment. The guys operating the ride spent more time fiddling with the controls than we spent in motion and we flipped about 7 or 8 times and the ride was over. Throughout the ride, a lock of someone's hair that was snatched out and stuck in the restraints kept tickling my head, neck and ears. I looked like I was swatting flies and gnats but it was actually someone's hair. The riders after me were the last group before the ride broke down again. Like I said, time for refurbishment.

Our plan was to do a thrill ride, then gentle ride and check out exhibits and vendors then do it all again to keep us from overly exerting ourselves. This plan was thwarted by a thrill ride that independently travels to large fairs called the Space Roller. I've known of this ride since it was with Cumberland Valley Shows. I'd never ridden the ride but seen countless photos and videos of it. The ride was built in Holland by Mondial and is extremely popular throughout Europe. After riding this ride, I can't understand how it can get TUV approval yet rides like the American built Zipper or Sky Wheel cannot. I was in an outer seat, Terry was next to me in the second seat...I'm sure his seat was slightly less of a thrill than mine...None the less, the ride started and I knew it was something that I underestimated. This was the first ride that I ever saw Terry freak out on, he couldn't breath and was extremely uncomfortable. I had discovered when I was a kid that you can't tense up and "fight" a ride so I just went limp and let the contraption sling me around without fighting because it was gonna do it anyway and I knew it would be over soon. I felt like a fucking ragdoll. When we got off, Terry hobbled off looking like he was either gonna throw up or pass out. I was a little better but we both had to sit for a minute. All in all, as spectaclar looking as the Space Roller is, neither of us will ride it again. I discovered when I got home that I have bruises that stretch from the top of my shoulders to just under my chest and arms. Terry's got bruises on the tops of his shoulders. We now refer to is as the Death Roller.
Mondial Space Roller
Bruising from the Space Roller
More Space Roller Bruising

We went down to the Georgia Grown exhibit hall, had a seat for a few minutes in the air conditioned building and hatched a plan. We were thinking of heading to a hotel with a pool, renting a room and sit in the pool for a little while, come back and enjoy the fair a little more and go back to the room and come home in the morning. We couldn't get a decent net connection on either of our phones so we couldn't priceline it. Terry knew that I had to get some pics so I left him there for a few minutes to walk the midway and get pics of the larger rides. I've gotten really good at taking pics as I walk, at fairs like this one you have to be as quick as you can because people will step in front of you and stop with no care in the world. If you look at most of my carnival pictures, you'll see that I tend to take pictures of certain rides from the same angles...Many of the rides were in congested areas that it's only possible to get side or angled shots. It only took 15 minutes to get every shot I wanted and back to Georgia Grown I went. If you're interested in checking out all the photos that Terry and I took at this fair as well as many others, click here to visit my flickr photo pages.

We headed to the car an drove north on 75 looking for a hotel with a pool...found a few but they were either too much for us to justify the expense or the pool was closed. We decided to just head home, after a stop at a Wal-Mart for sunburn relief lotion and swim trunks which we never found. We were exhausted, beat up and sunburned and already satisfied with the amount of fun we experienced for the day and it didn't make much sense to rent a hotel room less than an hour and a half from home. We stopped at Denny's in Locust Grove, ate dinner and within 20 minutes we were back at home slathering Ocean Potion all over our sunburned extremities.

Other cool elements that set this fair apart from others I've been to is the amount of strolling performers that wander throughout the grounds. One act in particular reminding me of clowns which sent me walking faster than usual AWAY from them and Terry wanting to go closer towards them. That particular act was called Mango & Dango. One was walking on stilts and the other driving a contraption called the Magical Flying Umbrella Ship while wearing stilts. It was creepy as hell and I couldn't bring myself to get close enough to take pictures. Other strolling acts were Ed & Geraldine's Old Time Music and an older couple with a cart selling wooden Jig Dolls. An act that we watched for a few minutes featured some super cute guys being pulled across 2 pools by a truck mounted winch doing wakeboard stunts called Rail Jam! Wakeboard Show. Unfortunately, we didn't really see half of what the fair had to offer thanks to the our levels of comfort quickly dwindling due to the sun, heat, gnats and body discomfort from the Space Roller.
Mango & Dango, not my photo

All in all, I'd say that the Georgia National Fair is one of the most amazing I've ever been to. The only things I'd suggest they improve upon is controlling pests and adding more air conditioned or at least shaded areas that people can sit without having to go from one end of the grounds to the next. As for Reithoffer's midway, it's as amazing as I remembered though I've never liked their color schemes of some of their rides orange is one of their main colors which looks like brown to me. Having grown up seeing their show, there are elements of their midway that I do miss. They used to have a Sky Wheel, though it was not as nice as most as well as 2 amazingly well kept rides built by Huss, Rainbow and Enterprise. In my opinion, if they added these 3 rides back to their line up, it would be the perfect carnival line up.

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