Every late June to early July the parking lot of the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, NJ is home to a gigantic carnival known as the State Fair Meadowlands, or just Meadowlands Fair. It’s not actually the state fair; the real state fair occurs in August up in northern NJ, but a group named State Fair financially backs the Meadowlands festivities so hence the name.
The fair ran from June 22 to July 8 this year and marked the first year that the midway went independent, meaning that various ride operators came together instead of just one. However it seemed that the two main ride providers were Amusements of America and Strates Shows, the former bringing in a majority of the rides with Strates providing some extra equipment. The fair had…
- Space Roller
- Crazy Mouse
- Sky Ride
- Musik Express (Bertazzon?)
- Musik Express (Majestic)
- Wave Swinger
- Cliff Hanger
- Scooters (x2)
- Giant Wheel
- Bumper Boats
- Double Decker Carousel
- 3x Dark Rides (Tomb of Doom, Haunted Castle and some unnamed one.)
- ?x Funhouses (Cuckoo Haus and Club Scene I remember.)
- An incredible number of kiddie rides
- A vast array of foodstuffs
- A large number of vendors
- About a million carnival games (yeah, that’s about right.)
- Multiple shows (racing pigs, shark show, tiger show, hypnotist, etc.)
- Petting zoo
In terms of size the midway pretty much blows away every other fair in NJ with multiple large attractions. As usual I went with two of my cousins who live about 15 minutes from the Meadowlands. We arrived at like exactly 6pm on June 28 and parked ($4) in one of the expansive
Giants Stadium Metlife Stadium parking lots. I had ordered a ‘megapass’ online prior so I went to the will call booth to pick it up; my cousins had received theirs ahead of time by going to the State Fair place in Belleville, NJ.
First thing we did was take a walk around the midway which, being opening, was devoid of anyone other than carnival workers; some rides were still testing it seemed. So instead of riding anything at that point, we headed back to the vendor/food area and grabbed something to eat. I got two slices of pepperoni pizza and a soda for $10. I always found it odd that the plain and pepperoni slices at most fairs I go to cost the same, not that I’m complaining.
The first ride we went on was Crazy Mouse, a Reverchon spinning wild mouse ride. I noticed that a couple of the cars weren’t spinning but luckily we got on one that did. I rode solo in a seat so I was basically tossed mercilessly from side to side at certain portions of the ride…you know, like every single turn. We actually got some pretty wicked spins on the lower half with the car pointing outward around one turn and then whipping around as it rounded the curve.
Next we hopped on the Bertazzon (I think?) Musik Express, which actually had no name at the fair since a smaller Majestic Himalaya on the opposite side of the fair already had a ‘Musik Express’ sign. I beleive this larger one was a Strate’s book in. We all took different cars and with one half of the ride full (literally, one half of the cars on one side were full with none on the other) the ride started. There was a few things I liked about this ride, first was that it was fast! The ride op actually slowed it down a few times, only to speed it up to lateral hell for a bit. Another thing I liked was that the restraint consisted of just the lapbar with no seatbelts or netting that other Musik Express rides have now. The final thing I liked was that after we exited the ride I noticed that there was a sign that said “no single riders.” Perhaps the ride ops realized that we weren’t a bunch of idiots and let us ride solo…or maybe they just didn’t care.
Afterwards we hopped on Scooters, a larger bumper car ride than most I’ve seen. At one point, I slammed into this one kid’s car pretty hard head on causing him to fly forward before being abruptly stopped by the safety strap. Am I a bad person for thinking that was hilarious? Giant Wheel was next which had a few car wait. This wheel had a really good view of the fair and stadium to one side with a view of New York City on the other. The wheel also gave a great view of the Xanadu/American Dream/vacant giant ugly building that sat next to the fair. When they’ll do something with that, I have no idea. It was nice riding a wheel for once after the whole single rider crackdown occurred.
Next we walked to the left side of the fair and went on Orbiter. Now, something seemed to have been done with it this year but I’m not sure what. The sign now has purple lights but everything else seems the same, only cleaner. Anyway the ride lasted less than a minute which was fine since I had a pay one price handstamp. Afterwards we got in line for SkyFlyer and waited one cycle. As luck would have it they got on while it looked like I had to wait, then apparently one more seat was open but the ride op let the two behind me on instead of me who was solo! Wtf? I just left the line, I didn’t feel like making my cousins wait while I took a spin on a ride that’s basically everywhere now (including the 200 foot one at Six Flags now!)
We left the midway for a bit and went to the Commerford petting zoo among other things. I’ve seen this thing around for as long as I can remember now and they still seem to have the same animals including a camel, a bunch of goats and a kangaroo amongst the selection of other animals. I always feel bad seeing them in their small fenced in areas but it seems like when not traveling they’re living on a large plot of land, so that’s good. They had a live elephant ride next to the petting zoo.
We also checked out a couple of shows, the first one being a shark show. Basically this guy talked about sharks and then dove into the tank to hold them and play one like a guitar. Who would have known that sharks make great instruments? I’ll tell you what, being that it was about 95 degrees plus that day, I would have loved to jump in that tank as well, sharks be damned. We also checked out the Tiger Show (Big Cat Habitat) featuring white tigers, bengal tigers, and a liger (lion/tiger hybrid.) The liger kind of stared off into space when it wasn’t doing anything, possibly wanting to feast at the nearby pig butt on a stick stand. What’s up with these carnival foods nowadays? First it was fried pickles, then fried butter, then fried gum as seen above. Then to cap it off I saw fried KOOL AID. How the hell do you even fry Kool Aid? What’s next? Deep fried grease?
Back to the rides, I think a dark ride was first, Tomb of Doom probably. It was pretty much your run of the mill dark ride that, after entering the double doors, rounded a series of S curves before exiting. At the end of each curve was a stunt, most simply just lit up and had a buzzer or recorded sound. Next up was Zipper, Strates’ ride I beleive. While waiting we tried to flip the pod but just couldn’t get it going enough to flip. We got some flips during the ride but got more than a few moments of being launched off the seat as the car barreled around a turn pointing straight out. Once it stopped, I once again tried to flip the pod but didn’t get too far before it was our turn to exit. Rock & Roll was next, one of those Bertazzon Matterhorn rides. The ride started backwards first before ending in a faster forward cycle.
We walked to the opposite side of the midway where I got on Enterprise. This was another ride brought in by Strates. I remember seeing it at the Meadowlands fair years ago when Strates had the spot but it took till now for it to return. The ride had multicolor lights on the sweeps along with a backwall featuring images from the Star Trek reboot including Starship Enterprise, new Spock, new Kirk, and some Klingons. It actually looks like some of the art was inspired straight from the movie poster. As for the ride…man it was long! Usually Enterprise rides rise up, stay there for like 10 seconds and then start lowering; this one stayed up for probably a good minute and a half to two minutes. Also twice during the cycle the arm jerked very slightly but enough to cause the cars to sway a bit…I almost crapped myself when that first happened with visions of my pod spiraling out of control. I don’t know if that can even happen, really.
Next was another dark ride, it may have been the Haunted Castle one but all these dark rides kind of mesh together. This one had four seater cars, I took the back while my cousin was in front. I did this so A. I could scare her easily and B. so that any nasty spiderweb props (ie. strings/cloth hanging from the ceiling) would hit her first allowing me to dodge them. The notion of 1000s of other faces/mouths/hair sailing through them scares me more than the ride. This ride was a little more elaborate with some moving props as well as stationary light up ones. While exiting the ride op stamped his foot on the ride deck, scaring the hell out of my cousin. Well played, sir.
We did a once around the fair again before coming back to the Mondial Space Roller. I did this one myself since one of my cousins simply can’t take inverting rides and my other cousin was feeling a bit nauseous. I took a center seat for a change and ended up getting a somewhat long ride with lots of flips and strange negative G coupled with lateral G moments. What a ride! Defiantly one of my favorites. Next one of my cousins and I hopped on Wave Swinger, a majestic looking Zierer model with white lights and plenty of artwork. It didn’t go as fast as some Wave Swinger rides I’ve been on (Dorney Park’s one comes to mind) but it was good fun nonetheless. I decided to take another spin on Space Roller afterwards, this time taking an outer seat. On this cycle the ride op briefly had the boom and seats spin in opposite directions before reversing the seats for the rest of the ride. Again, great ride!
Finally we all went on Zyklon, a Pinfari Zykon coaster. I think this too is Strates’ ride as I know that Amusements of America’s Zyklon coaster is named Avalanche. This one had a bit of a wait, maybe 10 minutes in total. While waiting, I admired the flora around this ride; is there a functional reason for this? The ride itself simply had a seatbelt for a restraint which is about all these really need (as opposed to the newer Zyklon coasters with shoulder harnesses.) The drops on these coasters are always pleasantly abrupt; like, they don’t send you rocketing off the seat but are abrupt enough to make even my stomach get butterflies which is a tough feat to achieve; hell, some drop towers don’t even give me that feeling anymore!
After that we called it a day (night?) as it was approaching 12am, the closing time for that night; on weekends the fair is open till 2am! I wonder if the crowds are still around by that time. Before leaving I picked up an iced tea at some beef tips stand for $2. That’s pretty damn cheap for a big iced tea (which was literally tea with ice in it to cool it down.) We also walked around this gigantic candy stand to see what was there. They were actually selling Fruit Stripe gum and Big League Chew; I used to love that stuff when I was a kid! They also had jawbreakers the size of baseballs, like I’m not even embellishing their size. How the hell do you even eat that? I don’t even know how to eat a gumball sized jawbreaker let alone a massive baseball sized one. Finally, on the outside of the stand, they had a 27 pound gummy bear, claimed to be the worlds largest. We left at about 12am.
Mega photo dump below:
Finally, here’s a music video of Space Roller.
And a no BS version with original sound