State Fair's new thrill ride Vertigo lives up to its name

07/12/2013 12:00 AM

07/12/2013 9:27 AM

Those considering a ride on the California State Fair's newest attraction should take careful note of its name.

Referencing a particular classification of dizziness (or the classic Hitchcock thriller, for the more cinematically minded), Vertigo is truth in advertising, according to fair spokeswoman Michelle Prater, who was able to take a spin on the ride before its debut at Cal Expo today.

"I'm not going to lie – it makes your knuckles a little bit white," Prater said. "It was more than I had anticipated."

Standing 100 feet tall, Vertigo towers over most of the midway at this year's fair, even topping carnival mainstay the Giant Wheel, which measures 10 feet shorter than its new neighbor.

Still, the title of fair's tallest ride eludes Vertigo. That distinction belongs to Turbo Force, a whirling arm that takes passengers 140 feet into the air.

However, it's not just in stature that Vertigo finds itself placed in between those two returning attractions. Prater – who strapped herself in for a go-around at the Alameda County Fair in June – said Vertigo represents a nice mix between the thrills provided by Turbo Force and the aerial views offered by the Giant Wheel.

The new ride begins with patrons secured in a swing-style seat by an overhead bar and a lap restraint. After that, Vertigo lifts passengers off the ground and spins them at a relatively quick 11 revolutions per minute.

It's at this point that knuckles whiten.

"You're not going completely sideways, but you are going at a pretty decent speed," Prater said.

However, because the ride isn't a roller coaster and doesn't flip passengers upside down (like Turbo Force), patrons can still enjoy the surrounding neon vistas, Prater added. Double seats allow passengers to sit next to friends or family members, which isn't true for many swing-style rides.

All this positions Vertigo as a more adventuresome alternative to the traditional Ferris wheel ride.

"The Ferris wheel is a classic – it's a romantic ride, I think," Prater said. "You go in a bucket with your entire family, sit down and chat. And it's certainly not a thrill ride. It gives you a great aerial view."

Reaching a similar height, Vertigo offers a glimpse of those same views, but also provides an adrenaline rush.

Butler Amusements, the carnival provider for the State Fair, purchased the ride last fall for around $700,000, according to the company's marketing director, Andrea Owen.

In addition to the ride's entertainment value, Owen said, Butler was drawn to Vertigo because of its high capacity. The ride can hold 24 passengers at a time, and service 480 patrons in an hour.

The latter might come in good use on Tuesdays this summer when all rides at the fair are $1.

Vertigo has seen a lot of action in the first half of the year. The company premiered the ride in February at the Riverside County Fair and Date Festival, and it has appeared at eight fairs since.

"Whenever we purchase something new, we try to keep it as busy as possible," Owen said.

Angel Moore, a spokeswoman for the Alameda fair, said that Vertigo was a "a big hit" with patrons.

Call The Bee's Kurt Chirbas, (916) 321-1030.

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