Classic rides have been popular since their development in the mid 1800s, when roundabouts and big wheels were invented that were powered by steam or horses. Electric rides were created from about 1910, but the First World War nearly put a complete stop to their production.
Games of skill and chance at the fair have an even longer history. Travelling fairs date right back to the medieval period. At first they were focused on sale and trade, but soon the entertainment element became popular and by the Victorian period people couldn’t wait for their town to be visited by the fair with its exotic selection of wild beast acts, freak shows and waxworks.
We’ve come a long way since then. Our Christmas parties feature full sized fairground rides in our larger venues, like Birmingham NEC, ACC Liverpool and Manchester Central. All of our parties, including Athena Leicester and the Derby Roundhouse also have a range of carnival games on offer, so you can relive the best days of your youth showing off to friends and colleagues the skill that you have in the rarefied art of lobbing balls at coconuts.
In homage to the venerable fairground tradition, here is our rundown of the top six fairground attractions we couldn’t imagine life without.
Who doesn’t enjoy the chance to crash sideways into their boss? Since the 1920s, the opportunity to crash tiny cars without fear of reprisal has proved irresistible. Did you know that Dodgem was actually a brand name, one of the biggest names in the bumper car industry in mid 20th century America?
The lure of a brightly coloured, striped booth with coconuts on stands can bring out a kind of competitive madness in even the best of us. Throwing a wooden ball at the coconuts in an attempt to dislodge them from their stands sounds so simple in principle, doesn’t it?
The ‘shy’ in the name refers to the throwing of the balls. The reference to a coconut shy is first seen in print way back in 1884.
There’s very little in common with the grace and elegance of the waltz and the erratic twists and turns of a Waltzer car given a little extra spin by the ride attendant. Since the 1930s we’ve been willingly throwing ourselves to the mercy of the Waltzer, being crushed by friends and family as the centrifugal force slides us from end to end of the seat in these little tubs. At night, they turn in to mini nightclubs with pumping tunes and incredible light displays.
Test your Strength
The strength tester, or High Striker, involves smacking a lever as hard as you can with a mallet in an attempt to ring the bell and thereby prove to everyone in the vicinity that you are, in fact, hard as nails. Originally a mechanical device at the funfair, early games were fixed so that nobody, no matter how strong, could ring the bell. They were unremittedly marketed to appeal to men who would often have multiple tries to try and avoid being humiliated.
Now happily the game fixing has gone, along with the gender stereotyping and the introduction of digital technology gives you a much more accurate idea of the power of your swing!
The Miami Trip
The modern classic of the carnival offering, The Miami Trip swings a bench of seats around using two hydraulic arms. Just make sure you’ve given your dinner chance to settle before embarking on this one!
What journey to the fair isn’t rounded off without locking horns with the supernatural? Cross the palm of the Fortune Teller with silver, or a quid should do it, and you will get a cryptic glimpse in to your future. Of course, it’s all light-hearted fun that you can laugh off with your mates afterwards, because we all know that psychic powers don’t exist. Or do they?
What fairground classics are you hoping will make an appearance at your Vivid Experience Christmas party this year?