By Patrick Winderl
In an effort to find the best - and worst - rides at the Great Northern Fair, several Havre Daily News staffers took to the skies, after sampling large quantities of fair food.
After enduring long lines and, later, bouts of motion sickness, these staffers have determined that the fair's attractions offer an accommodating variety of rides. There is something for everyone, regardless of age, size, or ability to withstand high rates of speed and bone-crushing G forces.
The Zipper is an odd-looking ride consisting of a number of cages attached to a pair of arms. As the arms windmill in circles, the cages spin around like a car on loose gravel. The Zipper is appropriately named - sometimes it's up, sometimes it's down, but you always hope it's not left open.
Not for the weak-of-stomach, the ride has secured itself in carnival lore by keeping dizzy riders coming back for more.
Another favorite ride at the fair is the Kamikaze. The ride seems to elicit louder screams than any other attraction. It consists of two passenger cars that rotate vertically in giant circles. This ride is fun - it's fast enough to be exciting, but does not employ gut-busting gyrations that lead to lost lunches.
This ride is arguably the most fun at the fair and well worth the admission. Riders, beware, however - carefully secure the contents of your pockets before you ride or you may lose them.
The Yoyo consists of several dozen chairs swinging by chains that are attached to a rotating tower. While circling lazily above the other fair-goers, the riders are treated to a pleasant view of the surrounding areas and the grizzled but friendly carnie operating the ride from the comfort of his lawn chair.
This one is a sure-fire hit with the whole family. Friends Lance Stinson, 12, and Colby See, 10, said the Yoyo is among the best rides at the fair.
"It's fun," said Colby.
"Fun," added Lance. "You're flying around and around and around."
The two were not as kind in their expert reviews of the Spider, a giant black monstrosity that vaguely resembles an arachnid.
The Spider consists of about a dozen oblong pods attached to arms that rotate around a central base. Each of the individual pods is also set on a swivel, so that they spin in unpredictable directions as they are slingshotted around the base. The arms are slanted at a 45-degree angle, meaning the rider is alternately thrown skyward and rapidly dropped at each side of the rotation.
"It's just all right," Lance said. "I like the Yoyo better."
The Spider takes among the longest to load awill have to wait in line to get airborne. Expect delays commensurate with any modern airport. This is not an entirely bad thing if you have recently consumed food. Treat this ride like you would a swimming pool - do not use within 30 minutes of eating.
"I didn't like waiting so long," said rider Trent Jackson, 19. "Other than that it was a lot of fun. I give it one thumb up."
The Mardi Gras is your average carnival funhouse, complete with a hall of mirrors, moving walkways, a slide, and mildly obnoxious music. The attraction does make an admirable bid to faithfully recreate the ambiance of the famed New Orleans carnival, as the gaudy yellow exterior is festively adorned with slightly scary clowns and semi-clothed women. This fair staple is destined to be a favorite among young children and tipsy adults.
Take a trip to Mardi Gras if you get a chance, but don't wait in line more than 10 minutes.
The ferris wheel is your classic go-to ride. After the furious excitement of the faster machines, this one will give parents a chance to rest or happy couples an opportunity to experience a romantic interlude. Among the tallest rides at the fair, this stomach-friendly ride offers the best view of the fairgrounds.
Grit your teeth and bear the wait, as no visit to the fair is complete without a ferris wheel ride. Two to a seat, please.
Picture a giant globe spinning at a dizzying rate of speed. Now picture that same globe with a half-dozen people plastered to the inside wall, and you will have an accurate vision of the Gravitron. The principle behind the ride is simple but effective - speed is fun. The tremendous amount of centrifugal force generated by this ride allows its occupants to contort themselves into all sorts of interesting positions. The gravitational forces have an interesting effect on the human body, making normally compliant appendages incredibly difficult to move.
This one is fun, but requires that riders devote a short amount of time to reacquainting themselves with solid ground. Probably worth the admission if for no other reason than to push your gravitational limits.
The carousel is a colorful gazebo of rotating animals that is popular with both young children and their parents or baby sitters. A respectable stable of horses and unicorns travel in a circle while bouncing up and down on poles. Kids will be fascinated by the music and animals, and parents will appreciate the mild range of motion the ride offers.
Those with disposable incomes will no doubt enjoy the games of "skill" the carnival offers. The games include a BB machine-gun range, the traditional dart booths, the Milk Jug, and a squirt gun race. For a fee of $2 to $5, players compete for prizes. Most booths offer posters or stuffed animals to winners.
One booth requires only that the participant reach over and grab a rubber ducky floating in a pool. Everyone who plays is rewarded with an oversized inflatable baseball bat that becomes a serious weapon in the hands of youngsters.
These booths are fun, but gamers beware - it is easy to spend more money than you intended. It is not uncommon to see lovelorn Casanovas squander wads of cash in quest of that perfect stuffed animal for their sweethearts.