Fair Games: Not really fair

Every year, the North Carolina State Fair acts as a playground for the hundreds of thousands who attend. Fair-goers enjoy hopping on rides and digesting greasy food, but never find the courage or luck to win at the booths.

I have gone to every NC State Fair since 1996. As a fifteen year veteran, I have attempted it all. I have experienced many of the rides, exhibits, foods and traditions that continue to visit the fair every year.

When I travel from place to place, I hear the constant bickering of a carny on the side of the road. They advertise their little booth as challenge, an easy win or a fun time. These stands, though, are just a money pit.

I may have tried every now and then, but never did I walk away with a prize.

I have ignored them every time by adverting my eyes to a ride or a food stand, but not any more. This year, I am going to look straight into their eyes, take up that challenge and walk away a “winner.”

“Most of the games seem like an easy win,” said Bailey Metcalf, sophomore. “But are really hard in reality.”

Fair officials check each booth to prove that the fair-goer is not at a disadvantage. Luckily, The Frugal Yankee points out that the larger the fair is, the fair-er the games are. Each stand has a little trick to it that increases the odds exponentially.

For example, the treacherous climb-the-rope-ladder game requires the challenger to make their way to the end of a slanted rope ladder without falling off. Sounds easy, right? Nope.

Designers attached both ends of the rope ladder to a rotating mechanisms that reacts to any slight unequal weight distribution. While the rungs may sound like the safest course of action, the trick is to shimmy up the sides to create uniform pressure.

Other games will purposely use poorly made tools and materials. The balloon dart throwing game is one of the most famous games of this type.

In the balloon dart throwing game, participants must pop a balloon on a wall of balloons with a dart. The dart tips are quite dull and the carnies under-inflate the balloons so that the dart tip slips to the side.

The key to winning against the carny is to screw accuracy. Instead, chuck the dart with maximum velocity and a balloon will pop. Remember to aim toward the outer edges of the balloon wall to walk away with a “good” prize.

All fair games are underhanded attempts to legally steal people’s money in my opinion. Why do people spend hard-earned money for a three-dollar stuffed animal?

There are several occasions.

The Frugal Yankee suggests that most people desire a fun experience at the fair, and the carnies take advantage of that.

“It’s fun until you’re fifteen [dollars] in the hole,” said Teddy Elshof, junior. “Winning is the only way out after wasting that much.”

Another situation would be like my experience where the carny continuously attacks passer-bys.  It happens to all who attend the state fair.

“It’s kind of like a punch in the face,” said Daniel Nance, freshman. “After a while, all you can do is cave to the pressure and go for the win.”

Other participants give it a shot in order to impress either friends or that special someone.

To get the best results, players should aim for the easier games to start out with. Games like the weight guess, duck pond and any other game that requires luck are “easier” wins.

After that, water-shooting and milk bottle games work well. Typically, many people consider ring toss and basketball shooting to be the most difficult to win. A larger collection of prizes can help determine the difficulty of games.

“It mainly depends on what you would rather go for,” said Elshof. “Do you go for the easy small prize, or do you take a chance to get the big ones?”

It is crucial to pay close attention to winners and any demonstrations given by a carny. Note their placement, technique and any angles they use to win.

“No matter what your intent is, you have to go up to a booth with confidence,” said Nance. “Otherwise, the carny is gonna get what he wants and you will have to leave a loser.”


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