Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Georgia State Fair 2015 Really $h!tty Fair...literally







When I was a kid, the only time I ever saw a carnival, it was at the fair. When I moved to Atlanta, I found that many carnival companies often set up in parking lots and spots not affiliated with fairs. To me, a fair is more than just a carnival, it's also about the exhibits, the judging of crafts, homemade items as well as livestock and concerts. The only 2 fairs in the Atlanta area that feature events of that nature are the North Georgia State Fair in Marietta and the Gwinnett County Fair in Lawrenceville. When the Georgia State Fair made the jump from Macon to their new home at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, I thought it be a great addition to the fairs in the area. I'd been to the Georgia State Fair in Macon the year that Midwest Midways won the contract for the fair, though it was a mid-sized fair, they did have exhibits but nothing on a grand scale as the Georgia National Fair in Perry or the North Georgia State Fair. Other events in the Atlanta area that tout themselves as fairs but offer nothing more than just carnival rides are the Atlanta Fair at Turner Field, Fayette County Fair, Walton County Fair, Spalding County Fair and the list goes on and on. While these "fairs" offer fun rides and great food, they aren't events you could call a full day experience.


Terry and I haven't done much in terms of carnivals since we got our butts whooped by the Space Roller at the Georgia National Fair in Perry in 2014. We were overdue for carnival action when I got a notice in my email from Groupon. Admission for 2 and VIP Parking at the Georgia State Fair at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for $13.50. The Speedway is about 10 miles from my house so it's not like we would go far if it ended up being a disappointment. I checked out the events online, Pig Races, Monkey Races, Helicopter Rides, Petting Zoo, Tiger Display, Wolf Encounter, Corona's Hollywood Circus, The Freakshow Deluxe and the carnival company playing the date would be Amusements of America. We had seen Amusements of America several times many years ago at the Gwinnett County Fair and my memories of them remained pretty good. I bought the passes and planned on going on Tuesday, found out shortly before arriving that we chose a great day to go, the unlimited ride handstamps were just $10 each.








Another shot from the Giant Wheel, you can see people avoiding the muddy areas 
 

The week leading up to the fair, we got a lot of rain but by Monday, the rain had moved out. Due to the weather, I'm sure Amusements of America had a hell of a time laying out the midway and setting up the rides. Though the fair is at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, it's not actually set up IN the Speedway, it's set up on the front lawn. When we pulled in to the parking area, we were herded into a field next to a drainage pipe where the attendants were not taking payments, when I told the attendant that we paid for parking, she said there is no paid parking. OK good going Groupon. We had a good bit of a trek to the front gate and both Terry and I noticed a smell in the air but we thought it was just the animals from the petting zoo. We later found this not to be the case. To use the Groupon passes, we still needed to check in at the admission booth, which was a 5 or 6 window trailer set at an angle next to the gate. There was a problem with this, 15 feet of mud leading to the trailer. Not just mud, it was slick with no traction, essentially a mud pit rather than a puddle. 
As we walked into the gates, the smell we thought was coming from the petting zoo got stronger but as we passed the animals, it became obvious that they were not the source.

The lot was certainly set up in a very odd manner. Shop Vendors were next to the gate, if you took a left once you got to the petting zoo, the food vendors could be found. The Banana Derby, Pig Races and Corona Hollywood Circus were set up next to and across from the petting zoo and animal exhibits. Hand stamps were being sold at the ticket booths in the middle of the food vendors, as Terry and I paid for our stamps, we noticed a few people arguing with the booth attendants that they paid up front, apparently there are some people that don't understand the price of admission doesn't include all the other extras...I always thought that was common sense though.

As we entered the midway, we realized the smell was getting stronger and it was not animal feces, it was sewage. The closer to the larger rides we got, the more the midway became a MUDway. No matter what carnival I go to, there is one thing I have to do before I ride anything else, I have to ride the Giant Wheel or whatever the largest Ferris Wheel is set up. I want to see everything that's on the midway and see how everything is set up. Once we got to the Giant Wheel, we realized that the corner where it, the Wave Swinger, Fireball, Crazy Mouse, Cliffhanger, Gravitron and Alpine Bobs were set up, the smell of sewage was the strongest. This was extremely off putting, the mud was a mixture of mud and sewage. I'm not sure if it was from a backed up septic tank, a broken sewage line or overturned Port A Potties from a previous event but it was obvious that it was not JUST mud. We weren't the only ones that noticed this, most people were slipping and stumbling through the muck. I felt really bad for the people that chose to wear flip flops, sandals or open toed shoes as well as those that were pushing strollers or getting around in wheelchairs or with walkers.

Anyway, we paid our admission, we might as well make the best of the shitty situation.
We rode the Giant Wheel and crossed over the mudway to the Wave Swinger. Both rides looked a little rough, Amusements of America is usually really good at keeping their rides fairly decent but I guess the mud and whatever may have been a slight impact but definitely not enough to effect the faded paint, scratches and even the worn look to the tops of the Wave Swinger, Alpine Bobs and the Musik Express. Carnivals go through refurbishment phases, those might be in line for a bit of fresh paint and also, carnival season is almost over and these rides have been out for almost a whole season so I completely understand they aren't gonna look factory fresh. The ride on the Wave Swinger was most likely the smoothest I've experienced on one since I rode the one set up at the fair in Mobile, AL either owned by Conklin or Cumberland Valley Shows back in 1990.

Our next ride we decided to ride sort of put us out of commission from riding anything else for a minute, the Crazy Mouse Coaster. We both knew it would be rough on us, not because it's a rough ride but because those sharp turns on the corners will definitely throw you around on any mouse coaster. After we got off the Crazy Mouse, we both navigated as best we could through the mud to get to the other side of the midway, hoping to ride something a little more gentle, but the Vertigo was broken down. We decided to head over the the circus to watch the show so we could at least have a seat, the smell of the midway was permeating in the tent and we made it through the first act before I told Terry I was done but wanted to walk the midway one more time before we left.

As we passed the Musik Express, I decided I wanted to ride it, mainly because I'd never ridden one built by Majestic and wanted to see how this one trailer ride compared to the one trailer Wisdom Himalaya. To be perfectly honest, I preferred the Majestic Musik Express over the Wisdom Himalaya, though it is smaller, it has deeper hills and feels more like a traditional Himalaya or Music ride. We rounded the bend again, between the Giant Wheel and the Wave Swinger and it seems the mud issue was under a little more control because they had been running a tractor over the walkway for a while. We still managed to ruin our shoes, reminding me of the Greater Gulf State Fair in Mobile, Alabama when I was a kid, before they paved the midway walkways. I told Terry that I was hungry but didn't want to touch any of the food at the fair, it just felt too icky and dirty to try and eat there and the smell was definitely not making the matters any better.
I decided to ride one more ride that I'd not ridden before, the Bertazzon Rock N Roll, pretty much a ride similar to the Alpine Bobs but much more colorful. No clue why both the Alpine Bobs and the Rock N Roll were set up because they offer the same ride. Same goes with the Scrambler and the Sizzler, most people see them as the same ride. I'm assuming Amusements of America needed to fill a contract obligation and those two rides brought the count to that obligation. While there was a new ride set up that I'd never seen before called Experience, built by KMG, there were a couple of rides missing that I always felt were carnival staples, Zipper and a swinging ship of some sort, like a Sea Ray, Pirate or Pharaoh's Fury.

Other than a few shots that Terry and I both took from the Giant Wheel, I didn't really feel compelled to take photos of each and every ride like I usually do when I visit carnivals. I didn't think the rides were set up in a manner where they would be very photogenic and the fact that I had to concentrate on where my feet were going also put a damper on photos. As we made our way out of the fair, we did drop by to see the Tigers on display, 2 very beautiful white Bengal tigers that seemed more house cat than wild cat. We also stopped in to see the Wolf Encounter. The wolves were beautiful, one was completely black and the other 2 were exactly what you think of when one says the word wolf. As for the freak show, let's just say that it was more performance art than a freak show. I expected a 10 in 1 but it was a free show under a canopy featuring a fire eater, a sword swallow-er and a couple of other novelty acts. Nothing impressive that can't be seen on TV.

All in all, I would have to say this fair is fair at best. Nothing more than a carnival, circus, food, games and a petting zoo and it could not compare to the greatness of the Georgia National Fair or the North Georgia State Fair. Not worthy of the title of "State Fair" and definitely not a fair we will return to if given the chance. Terry and I both agreed that next year we will be at the North Georgia State Fair, especially since it will be the first spot I will see the Velare Space Wheels set up since I last saw them when I was 4 years old. The Georgia National Fair might be on our agenda also.

The main ride list, not including most kiddie rides:
Alpine Bobs (Chance)
Banzai
Carousel
Cliffhanger
Crazy Mouse
Experience (KMG)
Family Swinger
Family Wheel
Fireball (KMG)
Hard Rock Palace Fun House
Giant Wheel (Chance)
Gravitron
Mardi Gras Glasshouse
Musik Express (Majestic)
Rainbow Rock Fun House
Ring of Fire
Rock N Roll (Bertazzon)
Rockin Tug
Scooter
Scrambler
Sizzler
Speedway (Zamperla)
Tilt A Whirl
Tornado (Wisdom)
Vertigo
Wave Swinger

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