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Going Behind The Scenes of MN's Skyride

Updated: Sep 2

Every year, as summer's final days blend into the hues of fall, a sense of anticipation fills the air in Minnesota. Both Locals and tourists alike fill the ground of the Minnesota State Fair, seeking food, laughs, and awe over the fair's twelve days. Amidst the sea of colorful booths, everything on a stick, and joyous laughter, there's a unique attraction that provides not just a ride but a chance to soar above the fairgrounds and take in the fair from over 60 feet from the ground: the Skyride. In a special behind-the-scenes video, I had the privilege of chatting with its owner, Don McClure.

Don & The Skyride

Don is a ski industry veteran who started working at Buck Hill in the seventies. He would eventually work his way up to co-owning the ski area, but recently has stepped away from that venture and is focusing on the Skyride.

Built-in 1964, the Skyride has become a staple for fair-goers for almost sixty years, and Don wants to make sure that staple is firmly attached, as he has completely refurbished the machine since taking ownership of it back in 2001. We have not seen many lifts as meticulously maintained in our travels as the Skyride. Each part of the lift has been meticulously cleaned or replaced, giving this 1964 Von Roll 101 the look of a machine half its age.

I had a lot of fun hearing all of the improvements Don has made to the lift over the years, including installing its own generator to ensure it can stay operational even if there is a grid failure (which there have been a few over the years.)

Don's Onsite Apartment

Despite plenty of stories and laughter, one of my favorite moments of the visit was checking out Don's apartment, which he lives in during the fair. Even though it is only about 100 square feet, this micro-apartment boasts a shower, futon, washer & dryer, TV, and much-needed air conditioning for the bolstering fair days.

And you might be asking yourself, why would Don need to stay onsite during the fair? The simple answer is that they are on the clock almost 24/7 during fairtime. Don explained that "most businesses have 12 months to turn a profit - we have 12 days. So every day is essentially over a month of business for us." That said, they work long hours and have a backup plan for their backup plan because any downtime results in lost revenue.

Ride It For Yourself This Week!

The Skyride is a staple among the hundreds of thousands that visit the state fair each year, and it was such a great experience to catch a glimpse of all of the work that goes into making this machine run so efficiently during the fair.

A huge thank you to Don and his entire crew for showing me around and taking the time out of their busy day to discuss all the work they put into this machine. If you want to catch a bird's eye view of the state fair - hop on over to the Skyride, which will stop spinning for this season on Monday, September 4th.


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