The Midway at the Indiana State Fair is bright and shiny, an enticing sight for excited 7-year-olds and college students alike.
Since there are nearly 30 of us participating in class, our trailer gets cramped quite often, so we decided to blow off some steam and ride a few rides. Naturally once she heard the word, Tommy Steffen Sparrow, our professors’ 7-year-old kid, wanted to tag along.
So we decided to let Tommy make all the decisions behind which rides to ride. She gave us her often enthusiastic rating on a scale of 10. The adults’ puke scale is like a golf score, the lower the better.
Tornado: 10/10 on Tommy’s fun scale, 6/10 on the puke scale
Tornado seats four people per car and everybody faces each other, which makes the puking much more interesting. And puking is a real possibility on the Tornado, since the ride swings, spins and goes up and down. To top off the spinning torture, riders can increase how much their individual cars go around—slower is definitely better if you don’t want to see your lunch again. Tommy found it to be an enjoyable first ride, a suitable introduction to the spinning misery she’d introduce us to later.
Cuckoo Haus: 7/10 on Tommy’s fun scale, 1/10 on the puke scale
The Cuckoo Haus is one of many “fun house” style attractions on the Midway with trick floor pieces, staircases and a rotating drum at the exit. It’s a fun break from the spinning rides, but they’re pretty dull for adults. Kids love ‘em though. Between showing off her skills on the sliding sidewalk and navigating the spinning exit tunnel, Tommy told us she could do this all day. We could too, but there was more fun to be had.
Cliff Hanger: 8/10 on Tommy’s fun scale, 4/10 on the puke scale
Cliff Hanger is a rare bird when it comes to Midway rides. Riders lie face down on foam pads, a cage drops down over them and the ride begins. We were thinking positive thoughts about the Cliff Hanger. That is until we hovered over a puddle of puke, then we got nervous. Although, much to our surprise, we found the Cliff Hanger to be a fun ride with minimal disruption to our gastrointestinal comfort. Tommy really enjoyed the ride, even though she had her eyes closed most of the time and at one point we thought she passed out.
“I was just closing my eyes,” she said. “I don’t like looking down at the ground like that.”
Cliff Hanger does pick up some height, but it is yet another spinning ride. We’ll also note that Tommy found it worthy of a re-ride.
Thunderbolt: 10/10 on Tommy’s fun scale, 6/10 on the puke scale
A Matterhorn-style spinning ride sets itself apart from the storied Midway ride with individually swinging cars. Starting out slow, at an actually acceptable rate of speed, Thunderbolt slowly begins to pick up speed and in turn, raises its score on the puke scale. The whipping sensation toward the outside of the ride is what gets the stomach, but still, we all found it to be a fun ride. Tommy found it to be so much fun that she rode it three times within half an hour.
Tilt-A-Whirl: 10/10 on Tommy’s fun scale, 11/10 on the puke scale
A ride with a name many people may recognize. However, none of us remember the Tilt-A-Whirls we rode on as kids being this violent. Centrifugal force mixed with ups and downs, whipping and high speed made us come extremely close to losing our lunch. About the middle of the ride, us adults were praying for it to end, thinking the operators had us in for a 10-minute ride. But unfortunately the ride is only three minutes, and it was then that we realized we’re officially old. Tommy greatly enjoyed the ride and wanted to go again. We think she really just wanted to see us puke.
State Fair Fun Slide: 8/10 on Tommy’s fun scale, 2/10 on the puke scale
Tommy wanted to finish her day of rides on the State Fair Fun Slide, which is just a huge fiberglass slide. Climbing to the top with your burlap cushion in tow could cause some to hyperventilate, seeing as it’s a narrow staircase dangling at the edge of the super tall slide. However once at the top and seated correctly on the burlap, the descent takes mere seconds. Fun, gentle, spin-free seconds. Some of us swear we caught some air on the bottom drop and Tommy really thought the slide was fun.
“I like it because I can go fast and I’m the one going fast, not the ride,” she said after challenging us to a race. Which she won.
This is a gentle ride for kiddies and older folks alike, and with multiple slides, it can be a fun ride for the entire family.
Mega Drop: Tommy (too short), 5/10 on the puke scale
If you want a great view of downtown Indianapolis and the surrounding area, Mega Drop is a ride for you. Granted, you should also want to drop down from that view at a high rate of speed as well. Mega Drop doesn’t bounce or repeat, it’s a quick one-and-done ride, but since it doesn’t spin, we’re fans. Unfortunately, Tommy was too short to ride it, but we don’t get the feeling she was heartbroken since it took some convincing to get her to try it in the first place. She won this round.
Speed: Tommy (too short), 8/10 on the puke scale
The signature ride for the Midway, Speed can be seen all around the Fairgrounds whipping people into the sky and hurtling them back down to the ground. The ride does spin, but it’s a vertical spin, so it’s much worse. Spinning at its center as well as the individually spinning seat pods, there is a lot going on. But once you get the hang of it, you know what to expect. Although, about the time you get the hang of it, the operator decides it’s time to stop the ride and reverse it. The views from the top are great, and we hope you like heights because there’s plenty of time spent waiting at the top while they load and unload riders. We enjoyed the ride, but would definitely only ride it once. Tommy just shook her head when asked about Speed.
Joe Grove is a writer for Ball State University Journalism at the Fair, a group of 30 students telling Indiana’s stories from a trailer somewhere between the cheese sculpture and the state’s biggest sow. This BSU immersive-learning project works for elephant ears.