Fair’s Giant Slide, run by a Roseville family, turns 50


More than 9 million fairgoers have traversed down the slide’s 5 valleys since its debut in the 1960s, Giant Slide officials say. (Amy Felegy photos)

“Not many things in life can give you the same exhilarating feeling whether you’re young or old,” said Giant Slide inventor Fred Pittroff. “But the slide does.”

It takes only five seconds to travel down the five-story slide, but riders make the most of it.

The Pittroff-Barona family, which lives in Roseville, owns and operates the Giant Slide today with the help of 100 employees.

The iconic Minnesota State Fair attraction boasts local roots 

 

The Minnesota State Fair is in full swing, but one fair attraction is in full slide. 

Aug. 22 marked the 50th anniversary of the Minnesota State Fair’s Giant Slide, celebrating inventor Fred Pittroff and his family for bringing the slide to the fair in 1969.

Half a century after the slide’s installation, the Roseville family’s first, second and third generations continue to own and operate it with the help of some 100 employees.

 

Beginnings

When Pittroff was just 15, in 1953, he started working at amusement parks in California. In the late 1960s, Pittroff and his late wife Beverly opened two of the first giant slides in the Golden State, after being inspired by smaller slides at other fairs.

Their first slide in San Bernardino proved to be too steep and was reconstructed before reopening the next year.

From there, the family sold 10 more slides at a trade show in Chicago, going on to build and sell more than 40 Giant Slides in the next 20 years to fairs across the U.S., Canada and Australia. 

 

A family affair

Family members say they plan to continue owning and operating the business for at least 50 more years, deepening their roots.

Throughout her married life with Pittroff, Beverly handled permits, contracts, insurance and other administrative tasks for the Great Minnesota Get-Together’s Giant Slide.

Pittroff and Beverly’s daughter, Stacey, joined the slide business at age 14 in 1988 after a childhood of helping out at the fair. She ran her own slide at the Wisconsin State Fair that year.

Eight years later, Stacey married Robert Barona at the top of the Minnesota Giant Slide in 1996. More than 5,000 fairgoers attended the public ceremony during that summer’s opening day of the fair, slide officials say. 

The couple met a few summers earlier at the fair, Barona working at a hamburger concession stand next to the slide where Stacey and her family worked.

The Barona family is now in the Giant Slide business with the Pittroffs. Stacey and Robert’s daughter, Isabella, rode the Giant Slide in Australia at just 10 days old. The couple now has two daughters in the business, who have helped out with the slide since preschool. 

 

Slide legacy

Pittroff was named a Living Legend by the National Independent Concessionaires Association in 2015. Two years later, he was inducted into the Minnesota State Fair’s Hall of Fame for his slide contribution.

While Pittroff, now 81, continues to live in Balboa, California, his family remains local and operates both the Wisconsin and Minnesota Giant Slides. Slide officials say he remains very involved in the business, by managing slide maintenance and upgrades from home.

Fairgoers can ride the Giant Slide for $2.50 throughout the fair, which runs until Labor Day, Sept. 2. 

 

–Amy Felegy can be reached at afelegy@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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