State Fair visitors who don’t care for shuffling through crowds may have another option for getting around the fairgrounds this fall: soaring through the air over everyone’s heads.
State officials plan to build an “aerial lift” or chairlift that would carry people to key parts of the fairgrounds. They are seeking proposals from companies willing to build the system and recoup their money by selling tickets to ride.
The ride, with double-seated chairs strung along cables as high as 40 feet in the air, will serve two purposes, said Kent Yelverton, director of property and construction for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Not only will people get a nice view of the fair, the kind you find atop a Ferris wheel, but they’ll also get where they’re going with less fuss.
“It is strategically located where it will transport people over some pretty tight walkways, areas that get pretty congested at the fair,” Yelverton said.
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State Fair officials envision a chairlift that eventually loops the fairgrounds in four segments. They want at least the first leg built in time for the fair this fall, to carry people from near the grist mill to near the Jim Graham Building, over one of the worst choke points on the fairgrounds near the rabbit barn.
The chairlift will move in one direction, counter-clockwise around the fairgrounds when all four segments are completed.
It’s not clear yet how much a ride would cost; that’s one of the variables that the bidding companies must specify, Yelverton said. With four segments, it’s possible the prices may vary, depending on how far riders want to go.
The winning bidder would be required to operate the chairlift only during the fair but would be free to run it any other times it wants as well.
Proposals are due June 4. Yelverton said a consultant who works with the State Fair says he has heard a lot of interest in the project.
“We feel like there will be a number of companies interested in this,” he said.
This won’t be the first chairlift at the State Fair. James E. Strates Shows, which ran the midway at the fair for decades until 2002, brought in a portable sky ride that carried people over a part of the midway.