The Mighty Thomas Carnival brings the midway to the 2016 Montana State Fair in Great Falls July 29-August 6. This traveling carnival presents thrilling rides, fun games, and tasty carnival treats at the Expo Park fairgrounds for the 23rd straight year. Founded in 1928 in Lennox, South Dakota, by Art B. Thomas, the show now winters near Austin, Texas, and is providing its 89th season of summer fun and excitement for fair-goers at 51 events in 12 states. The 2016 tour began at Pearland Winterfest in Texas on January 30, and then continued at fairs and festivals throughout the Lone Star State for the next four months before heading north for appearances in Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana. After leaving Montana, the show will operate at events in Idaho, Utah, Arkansas, and Louisiana before returning home to Texas in late October.
A brand new family roller coaster was added last year; the “Wacky Cowboy” made its first appearance at the Missouri River Festival in Bismarck, North Dakota. The coaster features bright colors, a flashing LED light package, and a lead cowboy wearing a cowboy hat and a sheriff’s badge. The Wacky Cowboy was manufactured by Fajume in San Salvador, El Salvador.
There will be two “Extreme” riding attractions at the Montana State Fair this year: The Speed and the Ejection Seat. The Speed is huge and sensational. Just eight people can experience it at a time, sitting in back-to-back twosomes at either end of a beam that stretches half the length of a football field. As Speed moves through its orbit, the seats spin vertically as well. The Ejection Seat launches riders vertically into the air at the end of a recoiling bungee cord. Utilizing a twin tower design, participants experience the thrills of “riding a rocket” as they are propelled safely into the air. “I’ll do it, if you do it!” Share the experience with a friend! Pricing on these two attractions is separate from the normal carnival tickets and wristbands.
The centerpiece of the midway is the towering Century Wheel, a 70 foot Ferris wheel with gondola-style seating designed to be enjoyed by the entire family (the Century Wheel is Thomas Carnival’s most popular ride.) Other thrilling rides include the spinning Thunderbolt, the exhilarating Zipper, and the swinging Pharaoh’s Fury. Swinging in an arc 54 feet high, the Pharaoh’s Fury takes passengers from horizontal to vertical. You’ll witness 48 to 60 riders screaming as the boat rises high into the air and plunges down.
Adventurous riders also enjoy the exciting wave action of the Moby Dick and the thrill of the Super Shot, a 90-foot tall drop tower that always draws a crowd to watch the hilarious reactions of riders who have just completed the free fall to the bottom. Thomas Carnival classics include the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Merry-Go-Round (check out the artwork on the carousel horses), Crystal Lil’s House of Mirrors, the Dodgem Bumper Cars, the Dizzy Dragons, Tornado and more. In the children’s midway ride area, look for the Barnyard, the Speedway, and the Rio Grande Train, where the operator often wears an old-school engineer’s cap and rings a bell as the train departs the station. The whole family can enjoy the Up Up and Away, the U-Toob, the Wiggle Wurm, and the Airport.
The exciting Cliffhanger amusement ride with spectacular lighting is the only ride that flies customers through the air like Superman. And the Tornado has been upgraded with a new light package that can be seen for miles. Its open-air tubs spin under the control of the passengers.
Other featured attractions on the Thomas Carnival midway this year at the fair:
Monster Trucks: Wisdom Rides of Colorado built this popular children’s ride featuring realistic monster trucks with a pop-a-wheelie motion. Each car has sound effects and each rider has a steering wheel. Adults may accompany youngsters.
Martian Maze: Adorable Martians are pictured on the scenery of the Martian Maze. Young children climb ladders, cross bridges, slide down slides, and walk through a rotating barrel. Martian Maze is found in the Montana State Fair kiddie park, a family-friendly area with trees, shade, benches, and picnic tables.
Frog Hopper: Another popular youth ride, this one with a hopping motion, was made by Utah’s S & S Sports. Adults may ride with the youngsters on the Frog Hopper, as well.
More returning favorites include 100 foot Fun Slide, the Mini Jet with 8 bold ships shaped like barrels melded into fantastic flying airplanes. The ride’s air compressor sends the ships hissing into the air for the imaginary trip over the fairgrounds. The crafts glide smoothly back down the ground after a 90 second flight. Fun Zone Fun House walk-through starts with fresh and friendly fun cartoon figures painted on the front’s façade. Inside, look for easy obstacles, visual tricks, spinning disks, and an exciting Barrel O Fun at the exit. Happy Face Bounce: Children under 42 inches enjoy jumping in the Thomas Carnival bounces. Our air-supported jumpers feature Beetles and Happy Faces. Gopher Golf: a round of challenging miniature golf is included with each day’s wristband. Look for the tall red, orange, and blue canvas on top of the carnival caddy shack. Keep score and ask about weekly tournaments.
The Scrambler is a carnival classic produced by the Eli Bridge Company out of Illinois. The seats interlace with each other as they spin, but they never touch, much like a giant egg beater. The Starship 4000 is Wisdom Manufacturing’s latest update of the archetypal space ship simulation. The feeling of weightlessness never gets old as the ship races around at over 20 revolutions per minute. This ride features groundbreaking technological advances in its mechanical operation as well as dazzling new lighting and scenery packages.
Popular carnival games include water races, the duck pond, balloon pop, basketball, break-a-bottle, big ring-o-bottle, grab bag, fish ’til you win game, bulldozer-token push, and the rope ladder. Everyone enjoys the colorful prizes: teddy bears, dogs, frogs, picture mirrors, computer portraits, buttons, t-shirts, wall-hangings and a fantastic array of neat trinkets and novelties. Stuffed Emoji’s are new, Smurfs are back, and Owls are popular this year. And an old favorite returns: Fool the Guesser—if the Guesser can’t guess your weight within 3 pounds, your age within 2 years, or your birth month within one month, you win a prize!
Enjoy tasty traditional fair food items on the midway, including corn dogs, foot long hot dogs, cheese steaks, caramel and candy apples, nachos, pickles, funnel cakes, pizza, hamburgers, popcorn, cotton candy, sno-cones, and soft drinks. The Midway Pastries has a new-age automated lemon squeezer device made of clear plastic–you can watch the fresh juice being produced and delivered to your own cup. The other stands have catchy names and logos, including the Sugar Barn, the Sweet Spot, and the Midway Grill.
Thomas Carnival facilities include generators and wire, light towers, benches, rest and shade areas, trucks, and trailers, repair shops, laundry and uniform facilities, offices and living quarters in addition to the rides, games and food concessions seen by the public on the midway. One hundred fifty traveling workers are joined by locally hired employees and helpers to set up, operate, and then dismantle the show after State Fair closes late on August 6.
Thomas Carnival has been named to the OABA’s prestigious Circle of Excellence. Carnival operations and procedures were audited by an outside evaluation team, and found to meet the rigorous standards for entry into the Circle.
Dozens of dedicated carnival workers make it possible to move and operate the show at over 40 locations each year. Ride operators work hard to load and operate amusement rides with care. Ticket sellers are trained to have general information about the fair, and they answer hundreds of questions every day. All Thomas Carnival midway workers participate in a pre-season and random drug screening program.
The main carnival office is located on the midway and administrative staff is always available for questions and comments. Credit cards are accepted at our box offices, and ATMs are located on the midway. The carnival maintains a corner general store open to fair customers, stocked with a small variety of personal items they might have forgotten for their long day visiting the fair.
For further information, contact John Hanschen at 512-914-0395 or Andrew Hanschen at 512-297-0537, or visit Mighty Thomas Carnival on Facebook.