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Tulsa State Fair to stop offering popular Sky Ride attraction

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The Sky Ride, a popular attraction at the Tulsa State Fair since 1965, will no longer operate at the fair.

Expo Square officials decided to close the ride because it has become too expensive to operate and maintain, they said Friday.

“Due to the uniqueness of the ride, this type of specialized service is difficult to solidify, costly, and a limited number of providers are available in the United States,” Expo Square said in a news release. “The business decision was made to not operate the ride during the 2021 event, and Expo Square has pursued demo preparations in 2022.”

The Sky Ride is expected to be included in Tulsa County’s Public Surplus Auction in the near future, according to the press release.

Mark Andrus, president and CEO of Expo Square, said that if a new owner surfaces, the fairgrounds would consider allowing that person to operate the ride.

“Expo Square would be charter members of any ‘Save Our Sky Ride’ effort,” Andrus said.

2019 was the last year the Sky Ride was open during the state fair, he said.

Tulsa County Commissioner Stan Sallee is chairman of the county Public Facilities Authority, which oversees operations at the fairgrounds.

“We would prefer the Sky Ride to continue in operation, but at what cost to the taxpayers?” Sallee said. “We are looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars to get this ride in shape for 11 days out of the year — weather providing, 11 days. And so we are trying to be diligent with the taxpayers’ money.”

The county wants to give ample time for an organization or individual to present a viable offer that could keep the ride open, Sallee said, but it must be one that makes financial sense.

“The bulldozers haven’t started up,” he said.

The Sky Ride was built by Swiss manufacturer Von Roll, according to a 2019 Tulsa World article. At the time, it was believed that the Sky Ride was one of just 15 or fewer operating in the country.

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The Skyride was in its second year year at the 1966 Tulsa State Fair.

Tulsa’s Sky Ride debuted Sept. 14, 1965, when G.C. Parker, president of the Tulsa Exposition and Fair Co., took the first ride. Other test-drivers followed Parker in 12-second intervals.

The Sky Ride opened to fairgoers Oct. 1 of that year, but people who wanted to take a ride before the fair opened were allowed to hop aboard the week before the fair. “The ride is smooth, noiseless and breathtaking,” said a 1965 newspaper story.

The ride was constructed at a cost of $370,000. Riders initially paid $1 for one-way trips or $2 for round trips. Kids rode for 50 cents.


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