Lileks: New heights, new frights at the fair

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 26, 2012 - 7:06 AM

I was at the State Fair when the Stratosphere ride stranded 24 people high up in the air. You say: Be more specific, please.

OK, I was there Thursday. It stopped on Friday as well. By the time you read this they may have changed the description: Enjoy a calm, motionless, Zen experience as you float above the fair for 45 minutes or longer!

Or call it the StratosFEAR, and once everyone's up, have the staff whistle loudly, wave goodbye, then stroll off to the Beer Garden.

They could do this with other attractions. Turn that negative into something fun.

Tilt-O-Whirl. We've loosed the bolts for a new ride experience! Select cars will fly off due to centrifugal force, bounce off a tractor, careen through a tent that sells plaques made of lacquered tree slices, and screech to a spark-shedding halt in front of the propane exhibition. Will yours be the lucky car?

Cow Barn. From 1 to 2 p.m., fairgoers will have the opportunity to stand behind a cow while it's milked and catch a hoof right in the sternum. It's a real kick!

Pig Barn. Getting sick from touching pigs? Let's make a game of it! "Old MacDonald had a pig, H-1-N-1-O! And from this pig he got the flu, H-1-N-1-O! With a cough-cough here and a shiver-shiver there -- here a cough, there a cough, everywhere a racking, shuddering, diaphragm-shearing cough-cough..."

But back to the Stratosphere. When I showed a picture of the stuck ride to people, the reaction was unanimous: OHGODOHGODOHGOD and so on until I put the picture away. It's everyone's fear: You get high up, the ride stops, and you discover there's no quick way down unless you start unraveling your pants and rappelling down the string.

When people got off the ride Thursday I was surprised no one had unraveled his pants, so to speak -- but even more surprising were the number of people who queued up to take the ride. These are the people who'd watch a car fly off that thing that goes waaaay up and spins around, then get on and say, "Someone picks us up on the other end and drives us back, right?"

Here's a solution to the Stratosphere. Change the sign: YOU MUST BE THIS HIGH TO RIDE THIS ATTRACTION. And the line's 200 feet tall.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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