In 1967, Fred Pittroff had spent more than a decade working at fairs around California, selling food on sticks and the like, when he invented the structure that would become a beloved tradition at fairs across the country, including Minnesota’s.
Inspired by a large slide built by the father-in-law of a friend, Pittroff built a bigger one and set it up at a couple of fairs in California. They were such a hit he built 42 of them, installing them at fairs all around the United States, Canada and even Japan and Australia. Most he sold right away, but Pittroff operated 10 slides himself for a while. Now, at 76, he’s down to two, in Wisconsin and Minnesota — “the best-run fair in America, by far,” said Pittroff, who has worked at fairs since the early ’50s.
“The slide is the most popular ride at the fair at every fair in the country every year,” he said. “More people ride the slide than any other ride on the fairgrounds on all the fairs.”
Attracting some 200,000 a year, the slide is a bargain — at $2.50, “it’s the cheapest ride out there,” Pittroff said — and a tradition that gets passed down through generations. “I’m riding grandparents with grandkids now.” □