Monday, November 8

Fun of the fair: or The Louder You Scream the Faster You Go!

I love fairground rides with a passion - and very disappointingly I find myself almost alone in this among my friends and family. I usually have trouble enticing the Curse to even visit a fairground, let alone go on any rides. My folks enjoy visiting the fair but are very cautious in the type of rides they will go on - these days the Golden Gallopers (carousel) is about the most adventurous.

As a child, one of our annual family outings was to visit the massive Goose Fair in Nottingham - one of the largest travelling fairs in Europe. It was one of the highlights of my year, I can still remember the smell of the candyfloss and hot dogs, and the excitement of seeing the bright lights of the fair emerge as darkness fell. I love the smells, the noise, the combination of Euro pop and traditional organ music, the gaudy art that adorns every surface of the rides, and the cut and thrust of fighting for a seat on one of the horses on the outside of the carousel.

The Goose Fair had every imaginable ride and I could have stood for hours just watching them spinning, lurching and twisting, anticipating the thrill and terror of the ride. In those days my dad or sisters would accompany me on the rides but as we got older and the rides got scarier, this happened less and less. Among all the scary modern rides was a selection of vintage rides, including an enduring favourite - the Cakewalk.

At the Chesterfield Markets Festival a couple of weeks ago we got the chance to relive the 'thrill' of the Cakewalk as part of the vintage fair in Queen's Park. It's a very simple ride, apparently named for the motion of people on it, which mimics the steps of the Cake Walk dance, a rag-time dance dating back to the era of slavery in the USA. This particular machine was built way back in 1895.

Here's a You Tube film showing the very same machine in operation at the Goose Fair a couple of years ago, and some pics taken in Chesterfield.

We had such fun we went on it twice - and had a ride on the Golden Gallopers in between!

Meanwhile fellow fairground junkies might be interested to browse this resource I found while searching out the history of the Cakewalk - the National Fairground Archive which quite coincidentally is based at Sheffield University. Just browsing these pages raised my adrenaline level a couple of notches as I remembered some of the vintage rides that we used to see at the Goose Fair when we first started going - the Steam Yachts (one of which has a Union Jack on the base and the other has the Stars & Stripes on the base) and the Dive Bomber being just two of them.

Faves? Definitely the oldies - the Octopus, the Round-up (or Meteorite), the Waltzer and the Paratrooper all rate highly.


colleen said...

Can't stomach those big rides these days though I'm very fond of gallopers and like the very ordinary names the horses are given. I found a John this summer - John the Horse? Really?

The link to the history was great. Thanks!

Cosmo's mum said...

I love fairs! I love fast rides! I don't like scary ones even if they're not really scary. Next time you want company and I can walk, count me in.

I got in a fight with Matt when I dragged him to the traveling fair in Leigh and he refused to go on any of the ride with me. He's actually scared stiff of them.