Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Slide On Down to The Big E

I don’t know about you, but when I think about The Big E, the Giant Slide is one of the first things that crosses my mind. The slide is a tried and true characteristic of New England’s grandest fair and a ride down is the cherry on top of a great day.

Who doesn't love the classic appeal of a giant slide? Being one of the few rides with no moving parts, the slide truly captures the simple joys of a state fair.

For those of you who aren't familiar with this iconic structure, it is a big yellow slide on the East side of The Big E fairgrounds. Unlike most modern rides, there aren't any seatbelts or body restraints. All you need is a burlap sack to sit on and the common sense not to try and stand up.

The trek to the top of the slide might present a slight obstacle, being that it is 46 feet tall, but the 135 foot descent down is well worth it. Granted, it probably only takes less than 20 seconds to ride down, but there is something about the sensation of sliding that people just love. I would go on it time after time if I could. It is fun for all ages!

The Giant Slide was brought to Eastern States Exposition in 1969 when it was owned and operated by a man named Jack Barham. The Big E’s slide was one of about 30 built. Our slide’s sister has a permanent residence at the Minnesota State Fair.

When the design of the slide was completed, the scaffolding, stair and decking components were manufactured. The parts were all made by separate companies, including Boeing Aircraft. At the time, Boeing was the only company that was able to manufacture the grooved aluminum exterior.

The slide surface, or “skin,” was specifically designed with four waves to prevent riders from picking up too much speed. The grooves were added to keep people on a straight path and prevent collisions. Also, since it is a metal structure, the slides were painted yellow given that the color attracts the least amount of heat. 

When originally constructed, the slides were meant to travel from one location to another. The Big E’s slide became an exception, remaining on our grounds year-round. The Exposition eventually purchased it in 1972 and have been operating it ourselves ever since.    

Initially, the Slide was located at Gate Five, where the Flag Plaza now stands. It was positioned there until the front entrance to the fairgrounds was reconstructed in 1983. The slide was then moved to the East side of the grounds, behind the Better Living Center. In 1996, it was renovated, moved and centered in its current location.

The slide is now called the McDonald’s Giant Slide, after the restaurant chain became its official sponsor in 2012. Despite the sponsor addition, the Slide remains the same traditional thrill that has been a signature attraction of The Big E for the last 44 years.

The family favorite ride has even been the site of several marriage proposals. If that doesn't shout how much love we have for this Big E symbol, I don’t know what will.

Next year when you come to The Big E, make sure you take a ride down the Giant Slide.

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