Words & Deeds

‘You only live once’: Western Idaho Fair ride costs $30 for 30 seconds. Worth it? Watch

Riders launch on the Slingshot ride at the Western Idaho Fair. (Warning: profanity)

The spendiest carnival ride at the Western Idaho Fair isn't part of the carnival. It's the Slingshot, which costs $30 per person. Tanner Nelson, 28, of Boise, rode with his neighbor. "That was #@$ing badass, dude!" he exclaimed afterward.
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The spendiest carnival ride at the Western Idaho Fair isn't part of the carnival. It's the Slingshot, which costs $30 per person. Tanner Nelson, 28, of Boise, rode with his neighbor. "That was #@$ing badass, dude!" he exclaimed afterward.

As is the case with most carnival rides, Slingshot has a minimum height requirement: 48 inches.

And if you’re pregnant? Or have health problems? “DO NOT RIDE,” the sign warns.

But there are no age stipulations for the spendiest thrill at this year’s Western Idaho Fair.

“You’re only as old as you feel,” proclaimed 69-year-old Richard Hensley Sr. of Boise, who had just survived the two-seat ride with his 15-year-old granddaughter, Isabella Hensley, of Meridian.

The most ominous carnival ride at the Fair isn’t part of the carnival. Slingshot sits alone near the grandstand. At $30 per person, it’s a significant commitment for a single thrust 250 feet into the sky. After the initial blast-off, there’s about 30 seconds of spinning and bobbing — maybe 40 if you include the dangling and giggling before you start getting lowered back to Earth.

“It’s a rush,” Hensley Sr. said after climbing down the steps. “Best ride in the carnival.”

So good, in fact, that they did two launches in a row without getting unstrapped. The second was half price, for a total of $90 for their experience.

“We’re just on the way out,” Hensley Sr. said. “We saved this till last. I wrote a will out, too. It is a ride of rides. It’s worth it. It’s a jolt.”

Besides Slingshot, the Fair’s most expensive ride is Turbo. New this year, it costs 10 tickets — or around $10 — at the carnival.

Turbo is no Slingshot, though. “We haven’t had something like that for probably — it’s been at least 10, 12 years ago,” Fair Director Bob Batista said. “If you really want an adrenaline rush and (to) throw up, you want to take the Slingshot.”

He’s joking. (Right?) Nobody wants to upchuck a Pronto Pup. But Slingshot is an astronaut-style stomach churner. It claims to reach speeds up to 100 miles per hour with up to 5 G’s of force.

Smiling afterward, Isabella Hensley survived just fine. “I kept my eyes open,” she said. “It was just kind of a rush of quickly going up, like an elevator.”

“A FAST elevator,” her grandfather chimed in.

Still, for 30 clams? This fast elevator ride ain’t cheap.

“It only comes once a year, pardner,” Hensley Sr. said. “And you only live once.”

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