Midway manager grew up at fair, has seen it change over time
BY NOUR HABIB & NICOLE MARSHALL MIDDLETON World Scene Writers
Sunday, September 23, 2012
9/27/12 at 11:40 AM
The original version of this story contained an incorrect date. The International Petroleum Exposition Center, or IPE building, was funded by a $3.5 million bond issue in 1963 and opened in 1966. The story has been corrected.
Gerald Young hasn't missed a fair in nearly 50 years.
"I grew up here," Young said. "It's in my blood, in my family's blood."
Young's mother began working at the fairgrounds in 1964, in the food services department.
Come fair time each year, Young's older brother would bring him and his other siblings to the fair, or they'd catch a ride with a friend's parents. Young would strike out on his own, getting his fill of corn dogs and hamburgers and spending most of his time on the rides. When he ran out of money for the Skydiver or the Toboggan or the Zipper, he'd pay his mom a visit to reload.
"I've seen a lot of rides come and go," Young said, adding that the Zipper is the only ride from his childhood that is still at the fair.
Young enjoyed everything about the rides.
"It always fascinated me to see them set the rides up," he said.
The change that overcomes the grounds at fair time still fascinates Young, who now is an event coordinator for Expo Square and the midway manager of the fair.
"I enjoy the transformation from interim events to the fair," he said.
Young's first job on the fairgrounds was as a popcorn hawker at a Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty concert. In 1975, he got a part-time job in the food services department and was hired full time after graduating high school in 1977.
Since then, despite switching positions and cutting down to part-time hours again during some of those years, Young has worked every fair.
When the fair starts, working nights, weekends and long hours is part of the job. Although that means he misses out on the type of fun he had in his younger days, Young enjoys the fair differently.
"Driving around the midway and the barns, seeing the big smiles on people's faces, makes me feel good," he said. "Our No. 1 goal is to give the public a good time."
Young says he loves his job.
"Every day is a new day, every event a new event," he said.
The Tulsa State Fair is the grounds' yearly celebration. And Young, whose birthday generally falls at the start of the fair and this year falls on opening day, sometimes thinks of it as his own celebration.
NOUR HABIB World Scene Writer
Fairgrounds’ icons endure test of time
Rides, butter sculptures and corn dogs make
fleeting appearances for a few weeks during
the Tulsa State Fair in the fall.
But a few iconic fixtures at the fairgrounds
set the stage for the annual event.
For several years in the 1960s, the Tulsa
State Fair was the biggest in the state and one
of the largest in the country. And much of the
development at the fairgrounds occurred during
Here are the stories behind some of the
The Golden Driller
Much like the oil industry that he represents,
the Golden Driller has endured tough
times over the years.
Standing 76 feet tall and weighing more
than 43,500 pounds, the statue of an oil-field
roughneck has served as the sentry of the fairgrounds
Ken Boone built the Driller for Mid-Continent
Supply to give to the 1966 International
Petroleum Exposition. Earlier versions of the
Driller, which made cameo appearances in
1953 and 1959, were made of paper mache and
pipe, and were not intended to be permanent.
Although the Driller puts Tulsa on the map
by being the largest free-standing statue in
the world, that claim to fame apparently isn’t
enough to garner respect.
Newspaper clips show that he’s endured
shotgun blasts, regular beatings with blunt
instruments and poachers seeking souvenir
chunks. He’s been called ugly on more than
one occasion, the old stories show.
Yet, the Driller delights children and firsttime
visitors to Tulsa alike. You don’t have to
wait long to see someone snapping a photo
with the Driller, and it’s nearly impossible to
drive by without giving him a glance.
The fairgrounds wouldn’t be the same without
the big lug.
Just a year before the
famous Golden Driller found
his forever home, the Swiss
sky ride premiered at the
Made in Switzerland, it
was the only such ride in the
state with cars that could
hold four passengers in enclosed
gondolas. The course
runs over the central midway
In 1971, Bell’s Amusement
Park purchased the
ride, but the Tulsa County
Public Facilities Authority
bought it back when the
park left the fairgrounds.
At the time, it was estimated
that about 20,000
people get a bird’s eye view
from the ride during the
fair every year.
The Sky Ride is considered
an extreme ride at the
Tulsa State Fair, and a round
trip costs $6.
Built 1932, The Pavilion is
one of Tulsa’s celebrated art
The 10,000 seating capacity
auditorium was designed
by Leland I. Shumway, according
to the Tulsa Preservation
The building, made of
blond brick with terra cotta
ornamentation, has eight entrances.
Each entrance has
decorative terra cotta work
The roofline terra cotta
repeats a colorful pattern
depicting the heads of a
horse, steer and ram on a
background of flowers.
QuikTrip Center is one of
the largest clear-span buildings
in the world.
Originally called the International
Center, or IPE building,
the structure was funded by
a $3.5 million bond issue in
The building was renamed
the QuikTrip Center in 2007
after Tulsa-based QuikTrip
Corp. paid $2.6 million as
part of a 10-year naming
NICOLE MARSHALL MIDDLETON World Scene Writer
Tulsa State Fair
Adult, Friday-Sunday: $10
Adult, Monday-Thursday: $8
Seniors (62+)*: $6
Youth (5-12): $6
Children (younger than 5): Free
* = must have valid ID
Thursday: buildings 5-10 p.m.;
midway 5-11 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: buildings 10
a.m.-10 p.m.; midway 11 a.m.-
Sunday: buildings 10 a.m.-10
p.m.; midway 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Oct. 1-4: buildings 11 a.m.-10
p.m.; midway noon-11 p.m.
Oct. 5-6: buildings 10 a.m.-11
p.m.; midway 11 a.m.-midnight
Oct. 7: buildings 10 a.m.- 9
p.m.; midway 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
The Tulsa State Fair will offer
park-and-ride shuttle service daily.
Monday through Thursdays: 6
to 11 p.m.
Fridays: 6 p.m. to midnight
Saturdays and Sundays: noon to
midnight Park-and-ride locations are
Tulsa Promenade mall, 41st
Street and Yale Avenue
Tulsa Public Schools Education
Service Center, 3027 S. New
Nathan Hale High School, 6960
E. 21st St.
Free parking is available on
the north and east sides of the
fairgrounds complex, and $10
paid parking is available on the
south and west sides.
Mega-ride pass: The photo ID
pass allows unlimited midway
and kiddie rides each day of
the fair, excluding Extreme
Rides, the Sky Ride and Comet
Thursday is the last day to
buy the pass for $65. Prices
increase to $70 on Friday.
Passes can be purchased at Fair
Meadows South building at the
Original Print Headline: Lifetime of fairs
Nour Habib 918-581-8369, Nicole Marshall Middleton 918-581-8459
Gerald Young, the event coordinator for Expo Square and midway manager during the Tulsa State Fair, stands at the fairgrounds in Tulsa. Young has spent decades working and growing up around the fairgrounds. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Tulsa’s early version of the Golden Driller ishoisted up onto an oil derrick in 1959. Courtesy
Tulsa State Fair sky ride on Sept. 29, 1965. Courtesy