Western Fair opens with traditional midway treats, beloved Zipper's return

It’s a birthday Adison Peacock will remember.

Celebrating her sixth birthday at the Western Fair that opened Friday afternoon, she was looking forward to cotton candy, her first ever taste, the swing ride and roller coaster, she said, between bites of the sticky stuff.

“I used to come here as a kid with my parents and now it is our daughter’s birthday today,” said dad Thomas Peacock.

“It’s a lot of fun, we are all looking forward to going on the rides. That’s what we’re here for.”

Well, not all the are there for. They did not have to go to the fortune teller – an unexpected site in a parked, nondescript recreational vehicle – to see they would have Pogos and deep-fried Mars bars for dinner.

If they had changed their minds for something even meatier, Kurt Smith has them covered. At Gator BBQ he figures he will go through more than 1,000 pounds of pulled pork, 300 pounds of beef brisket, and 600 racks of ribs, this weekend alone.

“This is a good fair for us, it is consistent. People expect to see us here,” said Smith, adding he has been here 12 years.

“We are real BBQ, there is no bull, and it’s delicious as hell.”

As for what’s new at the fair, it will feature the return of a legend.

The Zipper, that weird vertical carnival ride where victims, or riders, flip and flop up and down in a cage in a pattern resembling, well, a zipper, is back at Western Fair.

It was retired and absent from fairs last year, but North American Midway Entertainment was stunned by the reaction, as a hue and cry rose for its return, said Scooter Korek, vice-president of client services.

“There was a real, strong response. There is like a cult following for this thing,” he said.

The company ended up rebuilding the entire ride and returning it to this year’s circuit, he added.

“It is kinda weird, it is super popular,” he said of the demand. “But we have a brand new, out of the box, zipper.”

The Zipper is 50 years old, having debuted at the Kansas State Fair in 1968. It was retired last year as it did not fit the company’s formula as a “high capacity ride,” meaning it can’t fit as many screaming people as they like.

The Midway at this year’s fair will feature 46 rides, 30 game booths and 16 food stands, said Korek. It will have more than 400 staff at the fair.

“Over the last few years we have been doing very well here, our product has caught on. We are looking forward to a good week,” he said.

“This is a really well-rounded out event. We are happy to be part of it.”

Next stop for this traveling show is Tulsa, Oklahoma and it just spent 18 days at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

IF YOU GO

  • What: Western Fair 2018
  • Where: Western Fair District, 316 Rectory St.
  • When: Until Friday to Sept. 16
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