State Fair visitors will have the opportunity to ride one of the largest traveling Ferris wheels in North America when the Great Big Wheel arrives at the 2017 Great Minnesota Get-Together this summer.
The debut attraction will take riders 156 feet into the air, but that's not the only thing big about it.
It weighs 200 tons, takes 12 trailers to transport and features 36 enclosed gondolas each holding six people. It's also dazzling with more than 500,000 LED lights that can be programmed to display thousands of designs and colors.
Fair officials say they've wanted a marquee attraction like this for more than a decade, but until now they had been too expensive. But with the dollar's continued strength against the euro, this year was a good time to bring the Netherlands-made Great Big Wheel to the fair.
"We've been working for years to land a spectacular ride like the Great Big Wheel," said State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer, adding that it will give "everyone a whole new perspective of the fair."
The last new major ride at the fair was the Sky Glider, which was built in 2001.
The Great Big Wheel will spin all 12 days of the fair on the southwest corner of Randall Avenue and Cooper Street, across from Family Fair at Baldwin Park.
The Ferris wheel can handle 1,800 people per hour and will take riders on an 8- to 10-minute ride, said the fair's deputy general manager, Jim Sinclair.
Tickets will be $5. The fair will receive a percentage of ticket sales, starting with a 5 percent cut, Sinclair said. The revenue arrangement is similar to those that the fair has with operators of other attractions such as the Giant Slide, Ye Old Mill, the haunted house and Midway and Kidway rides.
Minnesota will be the third stop on the Great Big Wheel's U.S. tour. The first stop was earlier this year at the Florida State Fair. It will visit Wisconsin before coming to Minnesota in August.
The wheel will arrive about a week before the fair opens on Aug. 24. It takes 720 man-hours with a 12- to 15-person crew using a 120-ton crane to set the ride up, Sinclair said.
"It's going to be spectacular," Sinclair promised.
This year's fair runs Aug. 24 to Sept. 4.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768