With all that was going on at the Aug. 22-Sept. 2 Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, that drew a record attendance of 2,126,551, the Giant Slide of Fred Pittroff and his daughter, Stacy Barona and her husband, Rob, is still one of the top attractions, according to General Manager Jerry Hammer.
This was the 50th anniversary of the Giant Slide. It is estimated that more than nine million fair guests have ridden the Slide since its debut. “It has been our great privilege to make memories for the last five decades,” said Pittroff.
“The Giant Slide is simple fun that has stood the test of time. There aren't many things that can give you the same exhilarating feeling whether you're young or old, but the slide does.” The Giant Slide stands 50 feet high at the back and runs 175 feet in length with five peaks and valleys. Rides cost $2.50 each. Lines are always long.
Pittroff, who for many years assisted former Minnesota State Fair GM Mike Heffron with preparations for Midwest Fair Association meetings, said the first Giant Slide debuted in 1966 at the Orange Show in San Bernardino, California. Over the next two decades, Pittroff and his late wife, Beverley, built a total of 42 Giant Slides for fairs, festivals and amusement park operators across the U. S., Canada and Australia. Slides still operate at the Minnesota and Wisconsin State Fairs. Pittroff is now married to the former Carmel Dyer who has Australian Battered Potatoes. For many years, Fred was the only American to book at Australia's Royal Easter Show.
Minnesota broke last year's previous record attendance of 2,046,533. despite rain falling sporadically on three of the 12 days. There were six record days that included the opening Thursday, 133,326, both Fridays, 157,224, and 209,789; Tuesday, 136,987, the last Sunday, 245,243, and Labor Day, 184,740.
The grandstand lineup included Hootie & The Blowfish, with Barenaked Ladies, Why Don't We, with MAX and EBEN and Taylor Grey; Dierks Bentley, with Caylee Hammack; Trace Adkins and Clint Black, with Terri Clark; Tommy James and The Shondells and Happy Together Tour; Weird Al Yankovic; Daryl Hall and John Oates, with G. Love and Special Sauce; Logic, with Prof; Lionel Richie, with Lauren Jauregui; Brandi Carlile, with Mavis Staples and Savannah Conley, and ZZ Top, with Cheap Trick.
“Hats off to Renee Alexander, who books the talent,” said Hammer, who finished his 23rd year as GM. There were six sellouts of 13,000 or more. Hammer said, “They included Hootie, Dierks Bentley, Weird Al, Lionel Richie, Hall & Oates, and Brandi Carlile.”
Hammer said he had just finished talking to three local reporters, trying to explain the phenomena. “They get it. You've been here, you know. I can say great marketing and promotions, a super independent midway, excellent weather, but it's all of that, and much more. It takes a cast of thousands. People just love the fair!
“We had seven days of rain last year and set records. Heat might keep people away, but not cool temperatures or drizzles. Rain was only significant on one morning this year. People don't care.”
I asked how Pittroff's Slide did this year. Hammer laughed and said, “Everybody you can think of, (and I specifically mentioned Aunt Martha, with the cookies; Brad Ribar, with the roasted corn; Dave Cavallaro, cheese curds, the Netterfields, with popcorn) some I never even got to see, all did the usual business, and more.” Hammer said the food gross, not including beer sales, had already surpassed last year's $32 million figure before the last day's numbers were in.
The New York State Fair, Syracuse, which ended Labor Day, set an attendance record for the fourth straight year, drawing 1.33 million during its 13-day run, topping last year's figure of 1.28 million.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a single day record of 147,749 was set on Saturday, Aug. 31. A special promotion offered gate admission for $1. Entertainment included Rick Springfield and Theory of a Deadman. The fair was founded in 1841.
Fair Director Troy Waffner praised Frank Zaitshik's Wade Shows for bringing in new rides, including the Frisbee, Charlie Chopper, Downdraft, Dalmatians and NASCAR. Wade offered a wristband good for 10 rides for $10 on Monday, Aug. 27, and all rides were $1 on Labor Day. Mega Passes, good for unlimited rides, were $90.
Free shows in the Chevy Court included Mike Powell & The Black River, Bad Company, Devinne Meyers, Grace Potter, CNY Songbirds, Lindsey Stirling, The Brownskin Band, with Joe Driskoll, Smokepurpp, Jimmy Allen, Dropkick Murphys, Herman's Hermits, starring Peter Noone, Midland, The Mavericks, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Farruko, Ice Cube, Why Don't We, and Vince Neil.
Also, Country Swagg, Atkins Riot, Sheila E, The Roots, Lovelytheband, and Gavin D!!br0ken!! The Experience Stage lineup included Grand Funk Railroad, Jackyl, Brand New Sin, Pop Evil, 38 Special, and Rick Springfield.
Attendance at the July 19-27 North Dakota State Fair, Minot, the 53rd annual, was 293,145, according to Renae Korslein, who has been with the fair since 1974, the last nine as manager.
She was thrilled about “our new carnival, Crabtree Amusements. It was so clean and well run. The crowds loved it, and the midway gross was up by more than $150,000.”
Talent was booked through the Bob Romeo Agency, and included Rascal Flatts, Justin Moore, with Chase Rice, Midland, Ned Ledoux, Rick Springfield, with Starship, featuring Mickey Thomas, Tim McGraw, Weezer, and Greg Kuhn. Korslein said McGraw sold out with 15,000 in attendance, and Rascal Flatts had a near sellout.
Crabtree, which took over from Murphy Brothers Exposition, which had held the contract for many years, offered Pay-One-Price unlimited ride wristbands for $35 and a Mega Ride Pass for $70.
Other entertainment included Magician Jared Sherlock, Shark Encounter, Hypnotist Chris Mabrey, All Star Stunt Dogs, Daryl's Racing Pigs, and High Dive. “We had a great fair,” said Korslein.
North American Midway Entertainment had good runs at the Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky State Fairs. The Aug. 2-18 Indiana State Fair had attendance of 878,857. up two per cent over last year's total of 860,131, according to Executive Director Cindy Hoye.
Entertainment included Lance Bass, O-Town, Aaron Carter, David Nail, Ryan Cabrera, Tyler Hilton and One Tree Hill on the Pop 2000 Tour; The Happy Together Tour, featuring The Turtles, Chuck Negron, formerly with Three Dog Night, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, The Buckinghams, The Classics IV, and The Cowsills; Indian Wind Symphony, Air Supply; Ace Froelich, Boyz II Men, Everclear, the Guess Who, Switchfoot, Sixteen Candles, Francesa Battistelli; Chase Rice, Melissa Etheridge, and KC and the Sunshine Band, Gospel Music Fest, with Mary Mary, and The Big Top Circus, featuring Bello Nock and Dinny McGuire, ringmaster.
Kentucky State Fair officials said attendance for the Aug. 15-25 event was 589,170, down from 614,470, but revenue was up.
Temperatures were in the 90s. A change in policy for minors may have been a factor in the crowd decline. A disturbance involving fireworks led the fair to require minors at night to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
The concert lineup, again booked by Dave Snowden's Triangle Talent, included Montgomery Gentry, with Exile and Layla Spring; the Oak Ridge Boys, for the 44th straight year, with Lee Greenwood; Sheila E, with Rose Royce; Black Stone Cherry, with Tim Bryant and The Shakedown and The Josephines; For King and Country, with Young Escape; Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone, with Gary Lewis and The Playboys, and Mitch Ryder; Granger Smith, aka Earl Dibbles Jr., and Brandon Lay; Lovelytheband, with the Mowglis; Dylan Scott & Mitchell Tenpenny, with Jake Rose; Vince Neil of Motley Crue, Kix, and Lauren Daigle, with Ahi.
A lot of people are heading to faraway places such as Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, New Mexico, West Springfield, Mass., and summer is just about gone. I hope yours was a good one.
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Have all great days, and God Bless!