Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 8.13.2009

Finding the Funky at the Fair

Gettin’ Funky at the Fair
Progress and pastimes at the Lane County Fair

Make it Snappy

Beauty and the Beasts 
Animals compete at the County Fair

How Not to Go Green at the Fair



The sunny, hot August days of the Lane County Fair are nostalgic gems that citizens of Lane County can remember fondly: Ah the fried foods, the games of skills and chance, the rides. 

Unless you puke. Or worse yet, you get somebody else’s puke on you. It’s strange how vomiting can create a lasting, if unwanted, memory of any event. To better understand this unfortunate reaction to food and fun at the fair, we turn to science.

Motion sickness (or kinetosis) is the result of a broken alignment between a body’s perceived motion and the vestibular system (part of the inner ear). To put it another way, the eyes will believe the body is not moving while the body is actually in motion. This can sometimes occur when a person is placed into a carnival ride with limited visibility and sudden, quick movements, such as, let’s say, the Zipper, El Niño or the Inverter, just a few of the many entertaining and possibly nauseating options at this year’s fair.

Unfortunately for those suffering kinetosis and those near them, vomiting will usually not relieve the nausea. Therefore, if a ride doesn’t come to a stop immediately after a person vomits, it’s very likely they will expel their stomach’s contents again and again without mercy. Good luck with that.

Fortunately, sailors suffering from centuries of seasickness have come up with a solution: Look to the horizon. Although it’s not a surefire way to cure nausea, it can relieve symptoms by allowing what the eyes perceive to line up with how the body is moving. Passing this helpful tip about the horizon onto an ill-looking stranger in line for a ride could save you a trip to the dry-cleaners, and with some consideration for Newtonian mechanics, the nightmare straight out of The Exorcist can be easily avoided. 

Centrifugal and centripetal forces (the forces that make a potting wheel work) are what to keep in mind when you decide to hop on the Starship 2000 (once known as “the Gravitron”), a ride that basically spins very fast and plasters its passengers against its padded walls. Note the direction the Starship 2000 spins while you’re standing in line, and get ready to choose your position. If it is spinning clockwise and an ill-looking person decides to stand at the three o’clock position, then standing in the two o’clock or even the one o’clock position could create a terrible mess for you. However, standing in the four o’clock position will probably be fine — you’ll be ahead, not behind anything that comes flying out of your weak-stomached fellow passenger. The same principles can be applied in reverse if the ride is spinning counter-clockwise. Keep in mind that centrifugal force, sometimes thought of as a reaction to centripetal force’s inward pull on an object in a spinning environment, will throw the vomit almost directly against the wall, where it will remain until the end of the ride. 

With the help of science, the average fairgoer can remain splatter-free this summer, and once again enjoy the spinning and flipping the rides at the Lane County Fair have to offer. — Shaun O’Dell