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A Week of State Fair Infographics, Day Five: Guide to Midway Rides

The State Fair is a combination of quotidian and extraordinary, and it’s always interesting to discover what you find to be perfectly ordinary and what you discover to be astonishing. If you were raised on a farm, there probably is no real miracle to birth, and you may find yourself gaping in wonder at some of the newer technology on display. In the meanwhile, if you work at the University of Minnesota’s robotics department, there may be nothing quite so curious as how a calf is born. So it ever was.

But a fairground’s Midway has long promised something exceptional for everyone — at least since 1893, when the word first came into fashion at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, with the Midway Plaisance, which is smack dab between Washington Park and Jackson Park. This was reserved for refreshment and amusements, including Buffalo Bill’s famous Wild West show and the world’s first Ferris wheel, named after its creator, George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., which was intended to “out-Eiffel Eiffel,” and his creation was genuinely monumental, rising 264 feet into the air, and it could carry 2,160 people. As the fair ended, Ferris claimed he had been bilked of profits that were rightfully his: The wheel had pulled in more than $750,000 in profits. He died a few years later of typhoid fever, and his ashes went unclaimed for over a year.

And this has always been the way of the Midway — a puzzling mix of extraordinary invention and squalor, where rigged games of chance set up next to dazzling rides, which, in turn, were set up next to fortune-telling tents, Little Egypt dancers and sideshows. Whatever was to be found on the Midway, whether genuine curiosity or fraud, it was nonetheless liable to astonish you.

I’ve decided to focus on the current group of Midway sights — or, at least, the ones I really like. I have noticed a sort of taxonomy of Midway mechanical amusements, in that they tends to be about moving the body in certain ways — somersaults, and spins, and lifts into the air. There are only a few basic movements, but they can be coupled in seemingly endless variations, and then, for extra excitement, can be sped up or doubled. So here it is, my last infographic about the State Fair, my taxonomy of amusement rides.

Click here for infographic PDF.

Click on chart to enlarge


Click on chart to enlarge

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