Exploring the Oregon State Fair: Rides and Games

That Unique Carnival Experience

A Rock-O-Plane carnival ride
Daring Rock-O-Plane riders spin their cages as the entire ride circles like a Ferris wheel. (Wikimedia Commons)
So, after walking by countless livestock pens perfumed by the smell of manure, eating way too much rich fair food, and seeing a lot of weird stuff, what could be better than to hop on board a wild ride specifically designed to scramble your mind and stomach? One of these rides is actually called the Scrambler, so don't say you weren't warned. The Rock-O-Plane, manufactured in Salem, Oregon until 1985, is another prime example. It looks benign enough, like a Ferris wheel at first glance. But then you'll notice that the riders sit in cages that can spin end over end as the cage goes around the wheel. Devilish! Yet, in addition to making many people dizzy, these rides also offer thrills and excitement while putting big smiles on the faces of most riders.

And what would a State Fair be without the carnival games? Shooting games, ring tosses, racing games, the "Dime Pitch" and Whac-A-Mole are just a few of the common contests of skill or chance. Across the country, some ingeniously dishonest carnival operators have been known to rig their games to make it next to impossible to win. But that never happened at the State Fair.... Right? Regardless of the historic reputation attached to these games, they provide a lot of entertainment for a few quarters. Not a bad deal.

People play a shooting game

Kids of all ages play a shooting game at the State Fair. (Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center)

Men drive go-karts

The faces of these grown men show the strain of competition as they race go-karts at the circa 1962 State Fair.  (Oregon State Archives, Oregon Fair Exposition Center)

A girl rides the merry-go-round

A gleeful girl rides the merry-go-round ride at the 1980 State Fair. (Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center)

A woman looks at the bright lights of the State Fair at night

As shown here in 1963, nighttime in the fairway with the lights on the rides and games is an especially fun time to experience the State Fair.  (Oregon State Archives, State Fair Photos)

Fairgoers ride the swing ride

Fairgoers enjoy the swing ride at a circa 1980s State Fair. (Oregon State Archives, State Fair Photos)

Children ride a roller coaster

It's all smiles for kids on the rollercoaster during a circa 1980 State Fair.  (Oregon State Archives, State Fair Photos)