The Great Big Wheel lives up to its name.
It's 156 feet tall, made out of 400,000 pounds of steel, fiberglass, electrical wiring and lights. Michael Wood, one of the owners, said it cost about $4 million to build it in the Netherlands, haul it over to the U.S. and pack it onto 12 semi trailers.
"There are a total of 33,000 light modules, of which there are 19 LEDs, and within each LED module are three points of light, so there are a little over half a million points of light," said Wood.
The State Fair's newest attraction promises to be a true spectacle on the fair's north end, especially at night.
"This is fantastic! I wanted this!" said Bob Lambert, who works at the Fair as a reserve police officer.
Lambert was among the first to step into one of the 36 six-seat gondolas and go for a test ride.
The Great Big Wheel is only about half the height of the Space Tower on the other side of the fairgrounds. It stands on what used to be the fair's Machinery Hill, and at the top it's easy to see as far away as St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood. Riders can expect three turns • once around to load and unload, plus one more.
The $5 ride lasts only about three or four minutes.
The fair's deputy general manager, Jim Sinclair, said the giant Ferris wheel has been a long time coming.
"We've been working on getting an iconic attraction, and in particular a great big wheel, for about 12 years. For various reasons, we were not able to put it together until now," said Sinclair.
He said the recession, the challenge of building a portable giant wheel and the exchange rate for the U.S. dollar were all hurdles.
The Big Wheel came over by ship earlier this year, made a first stop in Florida, and was at the Wisconsin State Fair earlier this month.