August 23 - September 2, 2024

Colorado State Fair: How Carnival Rides Have Changed Over the Past 150 Years

Carnival ride at the Colorado State Fair

Back again this year, the Colorado State Fair will open its doors on Friday, August 26th, through Monday, September 5th.

The Colorado State Fair is finalizing preparations for the 150 years celebrations opening in late August. The attendance thus far has significantly ticked upwards with a growing focus on balancing longstanding tradition with new performances and vendors.

Some of these longstanding acts that are incorporated with new contributions include the carnival rides.  

Carnival rides are one of the most exciting things you can experience at the Colorado State Fair. Because it’s a favorite among children and older people alike, there are thrilling rides for people of all ages.

While the selection of carnival rides changes each year, the following are some of the most common rides seen in past years and expected in the coming Colorado State Fair.

Zipper Carnival Ride

Invented in 1968 by Joseph Brown of Chance Mfg. USA, the Zipper was first present in Kansas. Since then, more than 200 rides have been built and distributed worldwide, making it one of the most mass-produced present-day rides of all time.

The Zipper carnival ride is the standard measuring tape with which all other terrifying rides are measured. The ride is famous for being scary.

In the Zipper, multiple passenger cars are attached to a spinning oval boom, and as the boom rotates, passengers experience the sensation of falling. At the same time, the passenger cars swing back and forth on a swivel, creating in riders a sense of disorientation as they go round. If you are a fan of scary rides, the Zipper gives even the toughest thrill-seekers a massive surge of adrenaline.

No carnival is complete without a Zipper ride, and no ride even slightly resembles it. It’s quite unique and will always have a space in any carnival show since it never fails to hold appeal to a special minority of adrenaline-junkie riders.

Ferris Wheel

Ferris Wheel at the Colorado State Fair

According to George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., the Ferris Wheel first appeared in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A year prior, William Somers designed and built three wooden wheels of 50 feet in diameter each in New Jersey and New York. Both men contributed to the similar yet awkwardly named “wooden pleasure wheels” invented in 17th century Bulgaria.

The Ferris Wheel is arguably the most iconic and classic carnival ride, for good reasons. It is fun, exciting, and perfect for kids and adults alike. Unlike the more terrifying rides, the Ferris Wheel allows riders to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenic view of the State Fair from above without having a great surge of butterflies in their stomach.

On the Ferris Wheel, you can sit next to a loved one and have fun talking about various things while on the ride. This makes it an excellent choice for families with children, friends, and couples on a date.


Carnival ride at the Colorado State Fair

Carousels with wooden horses were first used to teach Arabian and Turkish cavalry members particular horseback riding lessons. When they returned to Europe, the crusaders brought the device with them. The spinning carnival attraction became especially popular in 17th century France where riders tried to pierce a target while moving at high speed with actual horses as the power source.

Today, the carousel is arguably the most “child-friendly” ride, with the lowest height requirement and medium intensity. It is a gentle carnival ride that has been a favorite among young children for years and is exceptionally great for children who aren’t tall enough or are too afraid of other rides.

While most children from five years and above can ride the carousel on their own, tiny ones must ride on the lap of their parents or an adult.

The carousel offers something for toddlers, babies, kids, teens, and even adults, and it’s one of the most well-loved and well-known carnival rides at the fair. It can even provide an excellent backdrop for family pictures.

Bumper Cars

Carnival goers enjoy various carnival rides at the Colorado State Fair

Electric cars may seem like a present-day advancement, but people have been driving and crashing them for years. The early versions of this road-raging carnival favorite were challenging to steer, but with the modern changes, it’s much more straightforward and enjoyable.

Of all the carnival rides at the State Fair, bumper cars are the biggest hit among kids. They are a fun ride that allows children to test their driving skills while competing against others in a safe and friendly way. Bumper car rides are a favorite among teens and adults too. Regardless of your age, there is a satisfying feeling about driving these small electric cars with squishy rubber bumpers and ramming into your competitor’s cars.


Carnival ride at the Colorado State Fair

Also known as the hammer, the Kamikaze ride is another scary carnival ride. It’s a pendulum with a hammer-like look that swings back and forth in a hue sweeping motion. Riders’ cars are attached at the end where the motion forces are highest. As it swings back and forth, the pendulum continues gaining momentum until it eventually flips over and completes an entire 360-degree swing. Each swing gives riders the feeling of a fall, making it a highly adrenaline-inducing ride that is not for the faint of heart.


The Frisbee is similar to the Kamikaze but with one big difference- there is a round spinning wheel at the end of a pendulum where the passengers are strapped in. The wheel goes in a circle while the pendulum rocks from side to side, creating the terrifying sensation of passengers spinning and falling simultaneously. It’s a ride certainly geared toward the bravest thrill-seekers as it’s one of the scariest carnival rides at the fair.

Pirate Ship

The Pirate Ship has a signature boat-like look and is considered a less scary version of the Kamikaze. The ride swings on a pendulum with less speed and doesn’t spin upside down with 360-degree swings. It is an excellent choice for those who want a moderately scary carnival ride. Remember, the ride will be more or less scary, depending on where you sit. The g-force is more significant at the end, giving you a more incredible thrill. But when you are closer to the middle, the force will be less intense, giving you a milder experience.


Carnival ride at the Colorado State Fair

While other carnival rides use many lateral and swinging spinning motions, the Hi-Roller ride is known for its upside-down rotation. Passenger cars are on an oval track that flips nonstop. It creates the feeling of being inside a drying machine where you constantly tumble around, making you feel completely disoriented and possibly nauseous.

Wave Swinger

Carnival ride at the Colorado State Fair

Although swing rides became popular in the 1970s, they’ve been present for decades. Wave Swingers are a more intense version of the carousel. While a carousel is relatively tame, the Wave Swinger takes out the horses, replaces them with swings, and raises the whole experience a few hundred feet.

Log Flume

The current Log Flume ride has been around since the early 20th century, although in more sedated versions. Traditional mill rides included guided boats that would navigate through dark tunnels and over bunny hills using tracks. But as rollercoasters became famous, those old mill rides had to get wetter. The modern versions of Log Flumes are splash-intensive.

Enjoy Your Favorite Carnival Ride at the Annual Colorado State Fair

Carnival ride at the Colorado State Fair

Carnival rides can be a thrilling and exciting experience, two feelings that make part of the Colorado State Fair. Luckily, there are rides for people of all ages and temperaments at the fair. Whether you want the most thrilling, scary experience or a milder thrill, the Colorado State Fair opens its doors to all carnival ride lovers.

So, if you are looking to have a memorable blast this summer, buy a ticket and bring your family to enjoy the Colorado carnival rides. You can also call us at 719-561-8484 for more information.

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