Renovated Classic Coaster and anticipated Rainier Rush debut at Washington State Fair

Staff writerSeptember 5, 2013 

The newly rebranded Washington State Fair is offering roller coaster enthusiasts the best of both worlds, historic and hip, when it opens Friday.

The marriage of new and old is a common theme for the annual event known for decades as the Puyallup Fair. It will offer longtime favorites and new attractions to a predicted million-plus visitors through Sept. 22.

The new coaster, Rainier Rush, makes its debut on the same midway as the wooden Classic Coaster near the Orange Gate when the fair opens at 9 a.m.

First-day thrill seekers can expect to get wet as heavy downpours are expected, according to the National Weather Service.  

Early riders of both coasters say the new ride lives up to its name and the wooden mainstay has only gotten better. 

Rainier Rush is the first modern, looping-inversion coaster at the 113-year-old fair. It has a top speed of 50 mph and hits a G-force of 5.8, comparable to a Formula One racecar during heavy braking. 

The most notable feature is a loop that tilts at an 80-degree angle, which is rare. 

The wooden coaster has an increased top speed, from 32 mph to 38 mph, after a five-year, $1.25 million renovation completed this summer.

Joseph Culley, an operator for Rainier Rush, has gone on several test rides and on a scale of one to 10, he rates the new ride about seven.

“I’ve ridden a lot of rides,” he said Thursday. “It’s probably one of the better compact coasters I’ve seen.”

Culley, who has worked for Funtastic on other fair coasters such as Kersplash, said the new ride has been tested off and on for about two weeks and will be fully operational opening day.

Fair spokeswoman Karen LaFlamme could not be reached Thursday to provide details on maintenance and tests on the new ride.

Rainier Rush was popular before it even had a name. 

More than 1,600 entries were submitted in a naming contest earlier this summer. It was originally named the Typhoon, but fair staff said that wasn’t a good fit.

Several people, including the two contest winners, suggested a moniker that incorporated the iconic mountain. 

Down the midway from the new ride, the Classic Coaster is a longtime fairgrounds favorite.

Built in 1935 by John A. Miller, known as the Thomas Edison of roller coasters, it is one of about 20 wooden coasters left in the country. 

Fair staff maintained its original design; the only change is the type of cars used. It’s been renovated several times, but the recent upgrade is the biggest restoration. 

John Hinde supervised the project. He said the ride is faster and was built with materials sturdier than the original timber.

After dozens of hours testing the new tracks with sand buckets and, most recently, humans, Hinde said the Classic Coaster checks out for eager riders on opening day.

“Everything’s ready to run,” he said.

Hinde, who went on another test ride Wednesday, has ridden it about 2,000 times since coming to the fair in 1988; he’s tested it 10 times since the renovation was completed.

Although the top speed has increased with its smooth new tracks, Hinde said riders get the most out of its hills and dips at 32-34 mph. 

“I try to get it to go the best speed for the customer,” he said. 

Puyallup police were on the fairgrounds Wednesday using a radar gun to clock the speed of the wooden coaster trains. It was just right by Hinde’s standards, running at 34 mph.

LaFlamme said they don’t normally have officers check speeds, but staff wanted to see just how fast the ride was going ahead of the debut Friday. Speeds for Rainier Rush were unavailable.

Fair CEO Kent Hojem said he’s looking forward to unveiling all the hard work that has gone into the rebranding effort, roller coasters included.

“I’m excited to open the gates and show people what we’ve done this year,” he said. “So many people put in so much hard work and passion. I’m proud of them and proud of the work they’ve done.”

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682




Rainier Rush

Year built: 1998 in Italy

Height: About 62 feet

Top speed: 50 mph

Total length of track: About 1,772 feet

Trains, cars: Three trains, three cars per train

Cost to ride: $6 (at nondiscounted ticket prices)


Classic Coaster

Year built: 1935; renovated 1950, 1970, 1999, 2009-13

Height: 55 feet

Top speed: 38 mph

Total length of track: 2,650 feet

Trains: Three (Ol’ Yeller, Blaz’n Blue, Or’nry Orange)

Cost to ride: $6 (at nondiscounted ticket prices)


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