Friday, January 5, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....North Dakota

I've known one person who ever worked in North Dakota and they basically said it was hell. They were a well paid nurse doing their initial contract for experience and money and it probably ruined them and sent them into anarchoprimitivism. Mind you, they were probably always going to find anarchoprimitivism, but this likely accelerated it. And anprims have a consistent ideology. You might not like the whole "people die because there's no meds" but at the heart of it, anything else ultimately has us still chewing through the world's resources and leaving it a destitute hulk sailing through space.

This is a dark intro to a blog post when the longest segments may revolve around Lawrence Welk and a giant slide. North Dakota though is no normal state. It is flat and desolate. Vast, empty, largely undeveloped in every way both ancient and modern. It hides nothing. Aside from transportation of materials from Minnesota to the west coast, it doesn't even have much in the realm of traffic. Only the city of Fargo is home to more than 100,000 people, and while the state is the 19th largest in mass, it is the fourth smallest in population. Population density here is 1/100ths of Rhode Island. For a brief moment, fracking in the Bakken formation made this a modern day gold rush, with rents into the thousands a month for mediocre facilities and 6 figure salaries being thrown out left and right. The petroleum speculation bubble burst, and many of those jobs are now already a thing of the recent past.

With permanent settlement never particularly exciting given the brutally cold winters and sometimes bleak appearance of the landscape, native populations like the Mandan didn't bother to go agrarian here until somewhere between 1000 and 1300 AD; well after the Yucatan had gone through several civilizations. The promise of fertile land again attracted European immigrants in the early 20th century, but as farming technology progressed and family farming eroded as a successful business strategy, they stopped coming. From 1920 to 2010, the population of North Dakota only changed by 4% due to the consistent migration of educated, high-skilled jobs out of the state. That changed with the fracking boom, but how many plan to stay now that wells have shut down is a whole different story.

I've spent three paragraphs summarizing several hundred years of North Dakotan history to tell you that as far as the amusement industry goes, there's no real background. There were 4 competing state fairs until 1965, at which point the one in Minot took the prize of being given the lone fair with the title by the state legislature. There's no history of defunct parks in the state or parks which have operated way in the past. There's one legitimate amusement park that operates today: Bismarck's Super Slide Amusement Park. It's been operating since 1967, and the titular attraction (a fiberglass multi-lane super slide) is as you'd expect to be present. The only permanent coaster in the state is also here, and it is an American made Wisdom Dragon Wagon. Not that exciting.

So what of the fairgrounds? If you've read this series before, you know that fairs occasionally have strange rides. North Dakota is such a state. The State Fair itself has a midway provided by someone: who? I have no idea. Murphy Brothers used to until the company went under in 2012, and now it might be Heart of America Shows. Or NAME. Or someone. Whoever it is packs up two coasters including a super rare Chance Toboggan (it would be the third in the continental US) and a bunch of flat rides.

Speaking of flat rides: The Tri-County Fair in Wishek, ND appears to have an independent carnival owned by someone in the community - perhaps the race track adjoining the grounds? There's a mix of kiddie rides and a couple of larger attractions, but of most interest is what appears in photographs to be a Flying Carpet attraction from the 1950s. If indeed it is still running in 2018, it would be the last operating such ride in the world.

Given the extreme cold, it shouldn't surprise anyone that there's not a ton of outdoor water parks. Raging Rivers is right across the Missouri from Super Slide Amusement Park, and is the only notable outdoor water park in the state. There's also a few indoor facilities like Splashers of the Seven Seas in Grand Forks, but if you're hoping for funnels and water coasters, you need to head elsewhere. 

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