This year, California State Fair visitors can soar across the 350 acres of Cal Expo on the Sky Ride, the fair’s newest attraction and a permanent addition.
The $1.1 million project allows riders to criss-cross the fair at 70 feet above the ground, with two boarding locations and a 1,315-foot-long cable. A similar fixture existed in 2007, and was the fair’s most popular ride, said fair media director Sabrina Rodriguez.
The ride was taken down when the fair switched carnival operators, Rodriguez said. Current operator Butler Amusements has been working to install a new one for a couple of years. In addition to entertainment, the ride was a move by Cal Expo to offer comfort and convenience to guests, since walking around the sprawling fairgrounds can grow tiresome.
“People want to check out the carnival and the midway, but sometimes navigating the crowds can be challenging,” Rodriguez said. “Wouldn’t it be great and magical if you could be transported in the air from one area to the other?”
In past years, guests have traveled around the fair on foot, or via monorail. Though the monorail gives attendees an aerial tour of the grounds, it only has one pickup and drop-off location, so it’s not a convenient method to travel from one attraction to another. Last year, Off the Chain Bike Bus Tours began bringing its pedicab to the fair, picking up riders at various spots and taking them on a tour of the different craft brew stands the fair has to offer. Jason Blessinger, co-owner of Off the Chain, said bike bus tours would also be available at this year’s fair.
The Sky Ride has two boarding locations: the east side of the lagoon area and over by the carnival. The lagoon location is close to the main entrance, making the ride popular for guests who are getting ready to leave the fair.
Michael Hare, who’s been attending the State Fair on opening day for years, said he was happy to see the Sky Ride has returned. While on the ride Friday with his wife, Hare said that he was trying to figure out whether it used the same poles and equipment as the old one. Hare and his wife eventually reached the conclusion that the ride is completely new.
“It’s an incredibly smooth ride,” Hare said. “The old one, when we used to go over the pulleys, it would jar you. You would feel like you were going over bumps in the air.”
He added that his favorite part of the attraction is the smell. As fairgoers fly over the different food stands, the scent of funnel cakes, kettle corn, burgers and cotton candy envelope them.
Rick Pierson, who also shared fond memories of the old Sky Ride, said that nothing beats the overhead view of the fair that riders get to enjoy. During the Sky Ride’s nine-year hiatus, Pierson and his wife simply settled for the monorail, but it was broken Friday morning, he noted.
Riders can pay $5 for a single ride, or $7 for an all-day pass. Pierson opted for the day pass Friday, adding that it’s a great way to get around the park while staying cool in the breezy air. During certain hours of the day, motocross performers jump and flip beneath Sky Rider passengers’ feet, adding another element of entertainment to the new attraction.
Jerry Hall, who works for Butler Amusements and installed the lift, said that roughly 100 people rode the Sky Ride within an hour of the fair’s opening on Friday.
“Everyone I’ve talked to has said they’re glad it’s back,” Hall said.