Florida has its own share of fairs, but one of the very best and certainly one of the largest is held every year in Pensacola...long after summer has passed. The Pensacola Interstate Fair arrives on October 16th for ten fun-filled days of top-notch musical entertainment, exhibits, wild animals, great festival food and over 60 thrilling and hair-raising rides! Autumn in the Panhandle is one of the nicest times of year and the temperature is just about perfect for a day...or night on the 147 acres of fairground entertainment-Pensacola style!
Bring the whole family of course-fairs have always been family oriented events. In 1863 the secretary for the Iowa State Fair wrote, "Do not be afraid to bring your wives and daughters. Parties having ladies in company will receive special consideration from the superintendent of the camp!" Some things never change and today more than ever, the Pensacola Interstate Fair is a favorite for young and old alike. It's also one of the best places to bring a date...in fact, few places are more romantic than high above it all on the Ferris Wheel.
The first Ferris wheel was designed by George W. Ferris for the 1893 World's Fair, which was held in Chicago to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's landing in America. The Chicago Fair's organizers wanted something that would rival the Eiffel Tower, originally built for the Paris World's Fair of 1889, which honored the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. George Ferris' bold new design was first scribbled on a paper napkin before it caught the attention of the Chicago committee. Everyone was in agreement...the design would indeed rival the Eiffel Tower, but could it be built?
When finally completed, the "wheel" was considered an engineering wonder: two 140-foot steel towers supported the wheel, connected by a 45-foot axle, the largest single piece of forged steel ever made up until that time. The wheel section had a diameter of 250 feet; a circumference of 825 feet and two 1000-horsepower reversible engines powered the thirty-six cars that held up to sixty riders each.
George Gale Ferris probably never dreamed of the trend he was starting, even though his first wheel grossed $726,805.50 during its short time in operation...at 50 cents per ride. The profit of approximately $300,000 was of great benefit toward balancing the books of the exposition. The wheel was dismantled after the fair in mid-1894, and then used again at the St. Louis exposition in 1904. Due to its enormous size and lack of portability, the Ferris Wheel was finally scrapped in 1906. It took the Eli Bridge Company to develop a practical, portable wheel and today, this marvel of engineering and entertainment is a staple at fairgrounds, theme parks and carnivals around the world. The world's largest Ferris Wheel, London Eye, built in celebration of the millennium, now stands on the bank of the Thames River in London.
There are those who love the Ferris Wheel and others who pine for the spine-tingling chills and thrills of a roller coaster...or scream machine as they were often called! According to legend, a coal miner who had been speechless for many years took a ride on the Cyclone, one of the most famous roller coasters in the country at that time. While going down the first drop he screamed and said "I feel sick" as his train returned to the station—then promptly fainted after realizing he had just spoken!
Healing powers notwithstanding, the Cyclone was originally built for a reported cost of $146,000. When it opened on June 26, 1927, a single ride cost twenty-five cents (thirty-five on Sundays). On June 13, 1991, the ride was named a NYC Historic Landmark, and then on June 25—the eve of the 64th anniversary of its opening—the Cyclone was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Its 70th birthday was celebrated in 1997 with a tightrope walk by Tino Wallenda between the ride's two highest points; that year a single ride cost four dollars. The ride's top speed is 60 mph and it takes about one minute and fifty seconds. The current cost is six dollars with a four-dollar "reride" option. Many avid riders often choose to reride and reride...and reride!
But it's the carousel that is most beloved by children of all ages and riders with a much calmer disposition. The sound of a calliope puts smiles on faces everywhere and brings back fond memories of childhood. The carousel however was not an American invention. Its origins were in Europe, but it reached its greatest fame in America during the 1900's. The first carousels featured gondolas, carts, menagerie animals, and horses. In one variation, riders would try to spear gold rings with lances while the carousel rotated at full speed. This undoubtedly led to the phrase, "catching the brass ring" on later carousels.
During the late 1800's, many skilled European carvers immigrated to the United States to produce carousels. The carvings of these immigrants were a great improvement over the first efforts of unskilled carvers. In the beginning, only the side of the carousel horse facing the audience, the "Romance" side, was adorned with carved decorations, while the inner side received little attention. Today carousels are still one of the most adored sights...and sounds at any fair.
Where will you be in October? High on a Ferris Wheel, reeling on a roller coaster or riding a brightly painted carousel horse? If you're anywhere on the Emerald Coast, don't miss the Pensacola Interstate Fair. Bring the kids, the grandparents...even your in-laws...there's something for everyone. All the sights and sounds of the fair are a true part of Americana...and not to be missed, time and time again! You can never stay too long at the Fair!
For more information, please call (850) 944-4500 or visit PensacolaFair.com