The rides dazzled in all their rusty, well-worn glory when I visited the North Florida Fair this past weekend. For a few hours of pure nostalgia, I had the opportunity to forget the responsibilities of being a college student and return to my childhood, where The Graviton was my biggest fear to overcome.
From the moment I entered the North Florida Fairgrounds I could smell the funnel cake and chicken on a stick and I could see the dull shine produced by the mobile attractions. Immediately drawn to the brightly colored rides and booths, I had to slow myself down long enough to buy ride tickets. Tickets are sold in pairs for $1 with bulk packages sold at a slight discount. Or, you can opt for what I chose to buy, a $20 unlimited attraction wristband. We were bound to spend at least $20 in tickets, so we figured we might as well.
After purchasing my wristband and marveling in the fact that I had just dropped $20 to ride amusement park rides, I darted to the first ride in sight, Musik Express. If you remember this one at all from your childhood midway days, this ride is the one on which you and a partner sit in a small cart that travels around on a circular, topsy-turvy track at high speeds, forcing the both of you to slam into each other on the outer edge of your cart. After riding it once more and squishing my friend, I can honestly say I’m not sure why that one is as fun as it is, but I enjoyed every minute of the intensity.
Once we exited the ride and recollected our composure, we moved on to ride a few more of the spinning rides: The Scrambler, The Hang Glider, The Tilt-A-Whirl, and all the rest of the staples. The swings ended up being our next stop. I don’t know about you, but during my childhood, any chance to ride the swings meant you were about to have the best day of your life. Riding them now at the age of 18 pretty much meant the very same thing. In a giddy few minutes of sheer excitement, I gripped the plastic-covered chains and was sent flying through the air to look down on the midway in spectacle and awe. Despite the dirt field it was resting on, the fair appeared just as marvelous as it did all those years ago.
Sadly touching back down after the swings came to stop, we moved on to the other side of the fair. Before riding a few more iconic rides you can’t skip over—The Ferris Wheel, the Haunted House and the one sketchy roller coaster without a name—we stopped to get something to eat. The bulk of our thrills was completed, so we assumed it was a safe time to consume something deep-fried and unexpected. Chicken-on-a-stick, buckets of fries, deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried lasagna, funnel cake and German sausage were options on our list of choices for the afternoon’s sustenance, most of which we ended up eating by the end of the day.
On our final stretch of thrills and throwbacks, we passed a ride that will always hold a special place in my heart, The Enterprise. Before I knew how fun roller coasters could be, riding an upside-down ride seemed to be a treacherous obstacle I did not even want to look at. My mom, knowing I would most likely enjoy it despite my fierce opposition, had me ride it with her. It ended up being my favorite carnival ride for many years after that. After consuming several deep-fried, doubly unhealthy foods, I decided to pass on this one. I did, however, make sure to watch it go around a few times, the only reason being to revel in the nostalgia.
All in all, the North Florida Fair is one to not miss. Depending on which day you choose to go, tickets and rides can be a bit pricey, but it’s worth it for the nostalgic thrill and weirdly magical atmosphere. The fair is located at the North Florida Fairgrounds on Paul Russell Road in Tallahassee. Regular admission for adults is $7, youth (6-12 years) is $4 and children under 5 are free. Each day there are different specials and package options, so if you think you would like to go, be sure to check out the fair’s website before choosing which day works best for you. For more information, you can visit northfloridafair.com.
by ALLISON P. COUCH / contributing writer