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Valleyfair is open! Let's make our way to the midway!

Columnist Steve Lange truly believes he can win a giant stuffed gorilla wearing a T-shirt.

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Tickets to Valleyfair, which are not inexpensive, give you access to 75 different rides (including eight roller coasters), dozens of live shows, IMAX movies, and a room where you can throw and shoot soft rubber balls at other people. Even the Soak City Waterpark is included.

I mean, once you’re inside Valleyfair, once you have that wristband on, there is so much to do that, outside of food or treats, there is absolutely no reason to spend any other money.

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At least that’s what I make very clear to my kids when Lindy and I take the family to our annual trip to Valleyfair.

Then, of course, we see the midway games, and all bets are off. Or, more accurately, ALL BETS ARE ON! Because, all we have to do is toss a softball into an old-timey milk can and we can win a giant, stuffed gorilla wearing a T-shirt!

Valleyfair opened this past weekend, so we hope to be there soon. And, this year, we hope to learn our lesson and avoid the midway. But I've said that every year for the past 20, and we never learn.

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When son Henry was 10, he had never wanted to win anything more in his life than that stuffed gorilla wearing a T-shirt. And while I tried to downplay it, while I explained how these games were next to impossible to win, I have never wanted to win anything more in my life.

LINDY: "But Henry, that gorilla would take up one-quarter of your bedroom."

HENRY AND ME: "YES!"

And all we had to do was toss a softball into an old-timey milk can!

We couldn’t. I really don’t want to reveal how much we wasted on the game (at three balls for two bucks), but when I looked it up later, we could have used that money to buy an actual gorilla.

We did, though, dominate the game in which you toss ping-pong balls into floating teacups.

I spent more than a few minutes studying the game and making mental notes of which tosses were successful, and why. Then, after calling a quick family meeting so I could explain in excruciating detail to each kid my ping-pong ball tossing method (including ball height and spin amount), we won three small, stuffed snakes — one for each kid! And it only cost us $30! Per snake!

Midway games may seem like an odd way to bring a family together, but it was a midway game, in fact, that played a major role in starting our family.

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Twenty-five years ago, then-girlfriend Lindy and I were at a small carnival when the marriage proposal urge struck me.

I saw a large, green plastic ring – the kind that lights up when you push a button on the setting – inside that game in which you drop quarters down a slot and hope a tiny bulldozer pushes quarters and prizes over the edge. Lindy was off at the restroom. Forty dollars in quarters later, I finally had to slip a carnie five bucks to open up the back of the game and give me the ring.

I caught up with Lindy and – thanks to a game at the midway – proposed.

Lindy immediately burst into tears.

Mainly because she thought that was going to be her actual wedding ring.

Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.

Related Topics: PEOPLEODDCHESTER
Opinion by Steve Lange
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