|Exclusive News and Interviews
DESPITE LOSS OF KENTUCKY KINGDOM, KY STATE FAIR ROLLS ON
NAME adds rides to fill gap
By Lisa and Robert Limerick
P.T. Barnum once said "the show must go on" and that,s just what the Kentucky State Fair did after the closing of the popular Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Six Flags informed the Kentucky State Fair Board on February 4th that there would be no agreement on the lease dispute that had been hanging over their heads during the company,s bankruptcy restructuring process. This was the first year that the State Fair ran without Kentucky Kingdom since 1989, but the fair board made changes to help make up for the loss of the park.
The fair worked with midway partner North American Midway Entertainment, NAME, to expand the Thrillway. This year,s Thrillway had eleven more rides than in previous years and helped to make up some of the loss of the missing Kentucky Kingdom. Lawerence Bochelli of Paducah commented on the changes, "yeah it,s different without the roller coasters and some of the other stuff but they have done a great job making up for it on the Thrillway, they,ve made it feel like more of a fair". Total attendance was slightly less in 2010. The fair had a gate tally of 602,897 guests, slightly down from 2009,s total of 621,795.
NAME had help on the midway from 4 other booked-in companies but maintained the majority of the show with equipment from their units. NAME had 30 rides on the grounds while Cumberland Valley Shows had 14, Geren Rides had 5, Christiani Amusements had 3, and Amusements Of America brought their Crazy Mouse Coaster to the event for a total of 53 rides.
NAME brought 15 adult rides, and 15 Kidway rides including the Century Wheel, 1001 Nachts, Cliff Hanger, Fire Ball, Inverter, Matterhorn, Power Surge, Scooter, Sizzler, Spider, Starship 3000, 2 Tilt A Whirls, and a YO-YO. Several of the kid rides were the All Star Airport, the Circus Train, Dizzy Dragons, and the Family Swinger to name a few. CVS brought eight adult rides and 4 kid rides. CVS rides were a Himalaya, Sea Ray, Wisdom Tornado, Zero Gravity, Downdraft, an Eli Wheel, Bumper Cars, and the High Energy. Kid rides were Hampton Boats and Combination and a Little Eli Wheel/Scrambler combo. Geren had four majors and a Mini Himalaya. Majors included the Ring Of Fire, the NASCAR themed Spin Out, a third Himalaya, and a Zipper which was not operating during our visit. Christiani had three rides, the Bumper Boats, a Funhouse and a Dark Ride. Amusements of America had their wildly popular Crazy Mouse that helped ease the loss of Six Flag,s coasters.
Entertainment is always a big part of the Kentucky State Fair and this year,s lineup didn,t let guests down. There was a heavy emphasis in 2010 on country music due to rock acts not being available or affordable during the event. None of the top billing acts in Freedom Hall sold out surprising many considering the caliber of acts that were in the lineup.
The shows started with Sugarland bringing their high energy Incredible Machine Tour along with special guest Little Big Town. They then turned the stage over to funnyman Jeff Dunham and his crazy cast of characters on the second night. Jeff Dunham and friends are working their way across the state fair circuit this summer and you can always hear people repeating Achmed the dead terrorist,s slogan "I,ll Keel You". Other major acts in Freedom Hall included Tim McGraw and his Southern Voice Tour with Montgomery Gentry, and closing the fair was Rascal Flatts with Kellie Pickler and Chris Young.
Ten free concerts were also held at the fair and they were well received by fairgoers. The Oak Ridge Boys made their 34th appearance at the Kentucky Fair with their greatest hits and the crowd went wild when they played one of the biggest hits in all of music, Elvira. The Charlie Daniels Band returned to the spot where they played 20 years ago and the fans still flocked to him. Playing along with Daniels were the Kentucky Headhunters. Billy Currington played a standing room only show that broke a 20-year record that had been previously held by the Charlie Daniels Band with over 20,000 fans in attendance. MC Hammer brought the crowd to their feet with his super smash hit Hammer Time. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts brought their sassy old school music to the crowd and even some new fresh music. Other acts included Jake Owens, Eli Young Band, The Band Perry, and heavy metal acts Jackyl, and Slaughter.
New events were found all over the 520-acre property this year and some will probably become fair staples. Making their Kentucky State Fair debut were Kristen Johnson and Kevin Ridgeway presenters of the Ridgeway And Johnson Show. Johnson is an escape artist who bills herself as "the world,s premier female escape artist" and Ridgeway, her husband, is a master Illusionist who has traveled the world and has been featured on Inside Edition. Kristen does the world,s only full view water torture cell escape, where she is locked and chained into a tube of water and has to try and release herself. She is able to hold her breath for over three minutes but it still keeps audiences on pins and needles during the performances.
Teenagers had their own area during the fair in the new Youth Center. Teenagers ages 14-20 had the opportunity to hang out with their friends in a safe environment. Some activities included Corn Hole tournaments, a songwriter contest, Friday Night dances, and a photo booth. The highlight of the teen center was the return of the Battle of the Bands where 16 bands performed. Louisville teen Mary Bledsoe stated "its kind of nice to have a place that my little sister can,t come to, it gives me a chance to be a teen".
Two new roving acts could be spotted touring the property, keeping guests entertained. Greg Frisbee, one of the roving acts, brought his comedy, and mind reading along with juggling, balancing acts, and a bottomless trunk of props. Frisbee also played match maker by setting arranged dates with random people on the midway. The other new roving act was Break Shop and they were a group of people would one minute be walking through the midway posing as guests and the next minute would be on the ground break dancing, spinning on their heads and performing other types of hip hop dance moves. This group gathered quite a large following no matter where they went on the grounds and even let fairgoers join in and learn the skill of break dancing.
Discovery Farm was new this year and allowed city folks to step in the country with a behind the scenes look at a working Kentucky Farm. There were interactive exhibits and learning stations to teach everyday life on a farm. Some students in this exhibit had never seen some of the animals on the farm so this gave a great opportunity to expand their knowledge of farms and animals. Fairgoers had a chance to watch cows being milked and saw chickens producing eggs. Other animals in the exhibit included pigs, goats, sheep, and llamas.
Mobile marketing tours made several stops during the fair with a wide variety of products and displays. Tours included the AARP/Walgreens wellness tour and the Breyer,s All Natural Sundae Showcase. The Wellness Tour gave fairgoers the opportunity to have up to 18 different checks to make sure they weren,t at risk of any health problems. The Breyer,s Tour was promoting the new real cream Ice Cream and guest could sample the ice cream and add sundae toppings free of cost.
Everyone had a chance to enjoy the Kentucky State Fair, even Senior Citizens. Humana hosted the Humana Heritage Hall for senior citizens to give them an opportunity to enjoy the fair in a cool, air-conditioned atmosphere. Bingo for snacks, dance contests, poetry writing contests, and live music kept seniors busy during the fair. Humana also hosted Senior Day at the fair and 9,000 seniors took advantage of the 50 cent admission fee.
Returning events also gave fans plenty of chances to have a little fun and even learn new things. Dock Dogs and Miller,s Border Collies really showed off during the dog days of summer. Dock Dogs and their fondness for water shows exhibited the dogs, strength and agility while Miller,s Collies demonstrated working dogs, herding skills.
Balloon Masters professional Balloon Sculptors also returned this year and showed their incredible talents with simple party balloons. They created everything from a single balloon puppy to a full beach scene with a life size octopus. Main Street Kentucky showcased Kentucky,s government and Natural Resources including the State Police with their alcohol related car crash display featuring a Camaro that had been involved in an accident.
With over 1.2 Million square feet of indoor space there was plenty of room for commercial exhibits and competitive entries. This year,s fair featured over 350 commercial vendors and organizations, fairgoers could find everything from Jesus to Jewelry, including new vinyl siding, hot tubs, purses, Corn Hole Gaming Sets, bedding sets, belts and so much more. One of the most popular booths was the Kentucky Lottery Booth where customers could purchase scratch offs, pull tabs and pick games. For each purchase of $5 dollars in tickets customers got to spin a wheel for a prize ranging from bags and shirts, to free ticket vouchers.
In the competitive entry categories there were 30 departments and more than 5,000 entries. Competitors could enter a wide variety of items including food, quilts, tropical fish and farm animals.
Other interesting events included the Annual Ugly Lamp Contest and the 46th Annual Kentucky Ham Breakfast and Auction. This year,s Ugly Lamp Contest broke a record with 114 lamps of all shapes and sizes. The contest had two categories, purchased or homemade. Lamps included a Jersey Shore themed lamp, a toilet lamp and a recycling themed lamp among many others. This year,s Ham Breakfast and Auction also broke a record. Two guests made a total donation of $1.6 million dollars for two 16-pound Country Hams. All of the money raised went to benefit local charities.
The fair sits within a mile of Churchill Downs, home of the biggest horse race in the world, so you have to expect there will be horses, and horses the Kentucky State Fair had. Over 2,000 elite Saddle Bred horses competed in Freedom Hall in multiple categories. Horse competitors were competing for $1.2 Million dollars in cash and prizes and the respect of the horse world. Also on display was information regarding the upcoming World Equestrian games to be held in Louisville.
2010 was the 106th edition of the Kentucky State Fair and from the attendance numbers and broken records it will be deemed another successful event. A few complaints were heard about the $8 parking fee but most guests seemed very satisfied with their experience. Next year,s fair is already in the planning stages. Early reports indicate Kentucky Kingdom will reopen during the 2011 under new management and will once again offer additional rides to fair guests.