Iowa State Fair has new midway rides, separate amusements for children
Thrill seekers can expect some new and bigger midway rides Aug. 10 when the Iowa State Fair opens its 11-day run in Des Moines.
The fair's contract with Belle City Amusements ended last year, and rather than hiring another company, organizers booked each ride individually to offer better quality and more variety, Iowa State Fair CEO Gary Slater said.
One highlight is the Space Roller, which "flips you upside down and will shake the change out of your pockets,” according to Slater. A drop tower will be 20 feet higher than in previous years, he said.
Additional changes include the creation of two new amusement areas on the southwest side of the fairgrounds.
Thrill Town, or the “kidway” as Slater called it, will feature games and rides for children 42 inches and shorter on the lawn near Jacobson Exhibition Center.
The kid-friendly area will separate parents and their young children from the “hustle and bustle of the teens and adults in the midway,” Slater said. “That’s what it’s all about — trying to see that we have rides that will be comfortable and fun for all age groups.”
Similar moves have been made by fairs in neighboring states, he said.
Another area, dubbed the Thrill Zone and featuring “breathtaking, heart-stopping, hair-raising adventure," according to the fair website, will be located nearby.
On Wednesday, a ride accident at the Ohio State Fair killed one person and injured seven others. The Fire Ball ride malfunctioned, throwing riders at high speeds into the air, officials said.
In response, the Iowa State Fair reiterated its commitment to safety by issuing the following statement:
"Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families involved in this tragedy and to our entire Ohio State Fair family. The ride involved was not scheduled to be at the Iowa State Fair, nor has it been at the Fair in the past. As we prepare for the 2017 Fair, know that we take very seriously the rigorous multi-level ride inspection process implemented during set up, testing, and operation. The safety of each and every one of our guests is our top priority."
Changes to the Iowa State Fair's midway layout have been in the works for three years, Slater said, and were not a reaction to a stabbing last year on the fairgrounds.
An 18-year-old man was stabbed on the last day of the 2016 fair near the southwest corner of the midway. The stabbing, which was not fatal, prompted a massive law enforcement response.
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Midway changes, however, will provide more open pathways, better lighting and easy access for law enforcement, Slater said.
The Des Moines Fire Department will take over two first aid stations this year that were previously operated by the Red Cross.
Other changes to the fairgrounds include eight new shuttle trams and a new road that connects to 20 acres of parking near East 40th Street that will make getting to the fair easier, Slater said.
2017 Iowa State Fair includes Thrill Ville, Thrill Zone and Thrill Town for the little ones.
Updates also have been made to the outdoor commercial space at Jacobson Plaza, including a new boulevard, lighting and walkways near Gate 10, south of the Varied Industries Building.
“The commercial exhibit folks will love it,” Slater said. “It will give them more exposure they’ve never had before.”
The changes are part of a three-part improvement plan for the 131-year-old fairgrounds.
Phase two involves updates to the Grandstand concert stage and seating and will start immediately after this year’s fair.
The concept for phase three, slated to begin after the 2018 fair, involves an outdoor entertainment area west of the Grandstand that would allow more flexibility in scheduling and setting up the musical acts and other outdoor events that currently all take place at the Grandstand.
Midway to feature wristbands
Fairgoers won’t have to worry about paper tickets this year, thanks to a new system allowing them to load credits onto wristbands that are scanned at rides and games. Unlimited ride wristbands are available in advance at iowastatefair.org, but not at the fair. Discounted advance fair entry and tickets are also available.
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