For fifty years, thousands of kids, parents and grandparents have grabbed a mat, climbed the steps and slid down the iconic yellow and green slide at the Iowa State Fair. The 2021 Fair marks the 50th anniversary and generations of fun.
In 2021, the iconic Butter Cow will share the butter cooler in the Agriculture Building with a one-of-a-kind Giant Slide made out of butter. Each year, the companion sculptures crafted by Sarah Pratt feature a special person, event or anniversary. This year, the special sculpture will symbolize not only the anniversary of an Iowa State Fair icon, but also all the generations of Fairgoers who have taken a ride down the Giant Slide during the Fair.
50 Facts about the Giant Slide:
1. Fred Pittroff installed the slide at the Iowa State Fair in 1971.
2. Vester Crutchfield operated the Giant Slide for 39 years until he sold it to the Fair in 2014.
3. The Crutchfield family is still present at the Iowa State Fair. Don Crutchfield owns three food stands.
4. The slide was originally purchased for less than $100,000.
5. In 1976, the Giant Slide only cost 25 cents per ride.
6. Today the slide costs $3 per ride.
7. The slide has 5 bumps.
8. In 2014, Crutchfield sold the slide to the Iowa State Fair.
9. Several famous people have taken a ride on the slide, including Barbara Eden of "I Dream of Jeannie," the American Pickers, Martha Stewart, former Gov. Tom Vilsack, and Gov. Kim Reynolds.
10. Democratic Presidential candidate Martin O'Malley took a ride on the Giant Slide in 2015.
11. In 2020, the Giant Slide was moved to a new location southeast of the Varied Industries building after decades of being located in the middle of the fairgrounds.
12. In 2013, the Fair gathered 112,797 rides on the Giant Slide from Fair goers.
13. The slide moved from its previous location in 2020 to provide more space for Fair goers around the slide and to shore up the structure underneath.
14. There are microphones strung over the slide to amplify the screams of excited sliders.
15. One woman recently celebrated her 91st birthday by going down the slide. She has ridden the slide every year for over 40 years.
16. In 2019, Presidential candidate and South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg took a ride on the giant slide.
17. In 2015, the slide was renamed as the "Reichardt Family Giant Slide".
18. It takes a revolving crew of 20 employees to operate the slide, 8-9 at a time.
19. The slide made over $1,000,000 from 2013 to 2019.
20. The slide and its workers are inspected and scored based on appearance, sanitation, service, help and attitude.
21. The first insurance policy on the slide was $300,000.
22. The slide sits on a block of land that measures 40' x 160'.
23. In 1973, the slide changed ownership to Dave Barham.
24. There is a storage space under the slide that is used in the off-season.
25. In 1997, tickets were $1.50.
26. The most popular day to ride the slide is the last Saturday of the Fair.
27. The slide is 50 feet high, 170 feet long, and 30 feet wide.
28. In the 1970s, the Giant Slide neighbored Diamond Jacks.
29. The mats used to be made out of burlap, but they are now made out of felt.
30. Other rides owned by the Iowa State Fair include the Ye Old Mill and the Sky Glider.
31. It takes five seconds to travel down the slide.
32. Riders climb 71 steps to the top.
33. One hundred thousand riders slide annually at the Fair.
34. In its 50 years, more than 5 million guests have ridden the slide.
35. The slide's green and yellow paint make the attraction an icon of the Fair.
36. The rules of the slide are "Keep legs straight. Lean slightly forward. Ride at your own risk."
37. The slide is painted yellow because it's the coolest color, reflecting the heat of the summer sun.
38. Pittroff attended the Park & Fair Convention in Chicago in 1967 and sold 10 slides at its trade show. He would go on to build and sell a total of 42 Giant Slides over the next two decades.
39. Parents are advised to hold their children in their laps, not by hand; otherwise, they'll go faster and pull their child off the mat.
40. Pittroff started his career at age 15 selling hot dogs on a stick at Balboa Fun Zone amusement park in California.
41. He was inspired by a smaller slide at a Santa Cruz, Calif., amusement park when he learned it was the most popular ride at the park.
42. The slides were popular because they were low-maintenance and something all ages could enjoy.
43. His family operated 10 slides for several years, but now only have two, at the Minnesota and Wisconsin state fairs.
44. Employees wax the slide with a bar of paraffin wax to keep it slippery.
45. Rain closes the ride because damp mats don't slide well, and soaked mats slide too fast.
46. When the weather clears, employees squeegee the slide and blow it dry. Heaters underneath combat dew and humidity.
47. Other VIPs to ride one of Pittroff's slides include former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Walter Mondale, actor Morgan Freeman, singer Janet Jackson and actor Russell Crowe (who allegedly complained about having to pay).
48. The most common injury on the slide today is akin to a rug burn, when sliders' elbows rub the slide on the way down.
49. Head-first slides are banned, as are selfie-sticks. A repeating message to sit up, legs straight hammers the rules into the riders' brains on their ascent.
50. In 2015, Pittroff was named a Living Legend by the National Independent Concessionaires Association.
Visit iowastatefair.org or download the official Iowa State Fair App to find a schedule of events or purchase tickets.