Thursday, February 6, 2020

Main Street Electrical Parade


In 2014, I was extremely fortunate to get to see the infamous Main Street Electrical Parade on my first visit to Walt Disney World. While you're reading this post, here's the necessary music to get you in the mood:
This version of the MSEP was created for Disneyland in 1972, where it played until 1996. After a brief trip to the Magic Kingdom, the parade played for a stint at Disney's California Adventure to try and bring awareness to that under-performing park, but it left for the East Coast once again in 2011. However, the parade famously returned to Disneyland for a limited time in 2017, and it again played there in 2019.
Opening the show is both Casey Jr. and the famous "drum," which at this time still read "Disney's Electrical Parade," as DCA doesn't have a Main Street! Interestingly, the proper name was restored when the parade conducted its return at Disneyland in 2017.
                                                                                                                  Here are two of the memorable spinning creatures from the Alice in Wonderland unit...
...along with the Caterpillar and his mushroom:



Next up are Cinderella and the clock tower striking twelve.
Peter Pan's pirate ship is one of the highlights.

 The variation on "Heigh-Ho" that accompanies Seven Dwarfs is quite the earworm and like the rest of the parade, pairs very well with the main theme, Baroque Hoedown.

I remember seeing a picture of this giant, smiling face leading the Pinocchio Pleasure Island floats as my first exposure to the parade. I was quite intrigued, to say the least!
I would warrant to say that most people can agree on Pete's Dragon, Elliot, being the most famous unit of the MSEP.
A remnant of the show's 1970s heritage is the awesome "To Honor America" flag float, complete with fireworks and an eagle at the end.
I especially love the little details, like the lights in the performers' hats!
Both before and after the Electrical Parade's first short engagement in Florida, SpectroMagic, a very unique version of the nighttime parade, ran. Of course, I never got to view it, but it looked to be a superior show to the MSEP, so it's a shame that it will likely never have any "limited time returns." The Main Street Electrical Parade has played scores of thousands of shows over the past 45+ years, but the truth is that while charming, it can't hold a candle to the impressiveness of Disney's latest "nighttime pageant of magic and imagination," Paint the Night, which is also not currently performing at any stateside Disney park. One has to wonder if the MSEP will ever return to an American Disney park, or if it will truly now "glow away" forever. My vote is with the latter, but the memories that the parade has created for millions will never fade away.
To round out this post, here's a shot of the Electrical Water Pageant on the Seven Seas Lagoon at Walt Disney World, which was the inspiration for the MSEP and is still chugging along today.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Vintage Knott's Berry Farm Souvenir Book Pt. 2

This is Part 2 of old Knott's souvenir coverage. Check out Part 1 too! Click on pictures to see bigger.

There's a lot of material to cover in this post, so let's get into it! Of course, dining has been a cornerstone of Knott's since its beginning. With the debut of Marion Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant in 1934, Knott's began its rise to power as a tourist destination, with the dinners famously commanding multi-hour waits.
The box with the "Record Days" totals is really fun. Unsurprisingly, Mother's Day reigns supreme, although there is a humorous Father's Day right in the middle. Thanksgiving also dips its toe in at the end of the list. The right column shows that the amount of dinners served had increased every year through 1961, which might be when this book was published.
The kitchen almost looks like an industrial assembly line! Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant remains legendary to this day, but I have to wonder whether the number of meals today remains consistent with the totals of 55 years ago.
The Steak House restaurant gets considerably more text coverage than the original Chicken Dinner, which is surprising. I believe that this restaurant remains in operation in some form, but I bet all of these creatively themed rooms are gone. It would be fun to choose where to eat your "swordfish dinner:" Garden Room, Indian Room, or Family Room? Blog reader "TokyoMagic!" has very generously shared some images and information regarding an auction that Knott's had a few years ago, which included some of the Indian pictures seen above. 
TokyoMagic also shared that "Stack's Liberty Ranch," which is hopefully to be a theme park museum one day, acquired some of the Indian paintings in this photo.
Bringing the focus into the amusement area itself, the Chapel by the Lake exudes a "Spell of Peace." Inside, visitors could watch a short presentation called "The Transfiguration of Christ" that involved an illusion of a picture of Christ opening his eyes. Almost ironically, this tranquil area is now home to the super-intense Silver Bullet coaster.
TokyoMagic is back with more pictures, this time of the actual painting of Christ that was inside the chapel, along with the comment that Stack's Liberty Ranch also received many pieces of the Little Chapel before it was torn down. Thanks to TokyoMagic for sharing!
Quoting TokyoMagic: "In this photo, you can see the doors on either side of the framed piece of glass.  These are the doors that would open at the beginning of the show, to reveal Christ and then close at the end of the show."

Looking at these pictures, aside from the Ghost Town and Calico Railroad hiding in the back, you would be hard-pressed to label Knott's as a theme park. It all looks very relaxing. What happened to the cute Chapel by the Lake... was it just bulldozed? Looking online, it appears that the "Church of Reflections" was relocated, but what about the chapel? Notable is the mention of Paul Klieben, an artist who did much graphic work for the park. 

This page has some of the great attractions that look like they were some of the things that made Knott's truly unique. An authentic streetcar in the parking lot? Why not?!? You also gotta love the gigantic redwood stump, with attached placards that I really hope told you what was happening in history at that time.
The Ghost Town logo here is pretty cool; I have to wonder if the park has utilized it on any modern merchandise as of late. The text here really sets a clear mission statement for the area, as well. Why go to Disneyland to see Mickey Mouse when you can go see "The Old Prospector" at Knott's? (with his mules as an added bonus!)

Pardon my terrible job at stitching these two pages together - I know you'll get the idea! The panorama of this Ghost Town street is quite remarkable. Surrounding this image are some of the characters, lifelike and otherwise, that inhabited Ghost Town, including the infamous Sad Eye Joe, who is still locked up all these years later. In fact, I'd put my money on Main Street looking almost identical too!
Here are the final two pages to finish today's post. "Whether you're 8 or 80, whether you remember those glorious days, or you don't, you'll remember them forever, after a day at Knott's." Like Disneyland's Main Street, it's really cool thinking that people visiting the park at the time could've actually had personal memories of the historical period being depicted.

With an ending line like that, this book could've been done, but there's still enough left to fill one more post on this souvenir!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Kings Dominion Winterfest

I got to visit Winterfest at Kings Dominion on one of the last days of 2019, and I had a fun time. Enjoy the pictures and captions!
Kings Dominion is located in Doswell, Virginia, right outside of Richmond. Approaching the park, it's impossible to miss the 300-foot tall, 1/3 scale replica of the Eiffel Tower that serves as the park's centerpiece. During the regular season, it is used as an observation deck. And of course, the opportunity to turn it into a massive tree is not lost at this time of year!
 Unlike Kennywood's Christmas event, Kings Dominion actually runs a couple of their coasters in the winter weather! This is Dominator, a floorless coaster that is always a good time. The "interlocking corkscrews" seen here are quite intense.
The main reason I wanted to visit Winterfest, though, was for this ride, Twisted Timbers. Designed by Rocky Mountain Construction, Twisted Timbers is a truly wild ride that is one of my all-time favorites. In 2018, RMC took Kings Dominion's old Hurler wooden coaster, which was getting quite rough, and gave it an all-new treatment with their steel track. This included a new and unique "barrel roll" first drop. Although the majority of the ride stays close to the ground, Twisted Timbers is a ride that shouldn't be underestimated.
 At 5:30, the Eiffel Tower was lit in Christmas lights to really kick off the event. Right behind the sign in this picture is a large ice skating rink on the fountain that typically occupies this area ("International Street"). One of the cool things about the Eiffel Tower as a Christmas tree is that you can walk underneath it, which gives you this view:
It's quite the sensation in person!

One of the other rides that is operational for Winterfest is the park's antique car ride, in this case enhanced with lighted displays corresponding to the "12 Days of Christmas" carol.
 To end this trip around Kings Dominion, I present you with the Singing Mushrooms. A component of the park since its opening, these animatronic mushrooms (and accompanying cigar-smoking frog) left in the 1990s, but they returned for the park's 40th anniversary in 2014.  But wait a minute... animatronic mushrooms? I know that sounds really weird, but that's what makes them cool! They are a gem of theme park whimsy and always make me smile.

Kings Dominion puts on a great and well-polished Christmas event that's a fun time. Although only a portion of the park is open, there's still plenty to do, but be warned that lines can get long on the weekends.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Vintage Knott's Berry Farm Souvenir Book Pt. 1

A few years ago, I picked up this old Knott's Berry Farm souvenir book on eBay for cheap. Calling this a book is a stretch, as it is really more of a 30-page, oversized pamphlet. However, this book is a very nice throwback to the park's early days that I'm sure some of my readers will enjoy! Having never visited Knott's, there's only so much that I can say on these pictures, but I'm sure that there will be some people who will be happy to chime in with some of their personal thoughts. Of course, you can click on each image for a larger view.
The cover features this dusty street, complete with prospector and mule. The Ghost Town Railroad billows steam in the background.
The book opens with a word of thanks and welcome from Walter Knott himself and also reveals that the book was put together by a "Mr. Matt Gibson."
A lengthy essay on the Knott's origin story starts the large historical section of the book; I wish theme parks always paid tribute to their roots so completely in this way! The invention of the Boysenberry is briefly overviewed, as well.

 This "then and now" section provides a brief timeline of the farm's first 30 years or so as a roadside attraction, starting with as a simple berry stand, progressing through the famous chicken dinners...
Hooray for the farm's 900 employees!

...into the start of Ghost Town. Given that "today" comes right after 1946, this book is definitely from the 1950s. I wonder if it might even pre-date Disneyland?
It's obvious that Knott's was a business heavily focused on their roots and family origins at this time. What other park devotes a two-stage spread in their souvenir book to the family members of its owners? Certainly not Disney.
Of note is how the book breaks down which family member heads what division of operations. With such a large family, there has to still be some Knotts out there, I assume?!
The section on "Markets and Gift Shops" includes lots of large color photos. According to the Knott's website, a shop still carries the name of the Berry Market outside the park today.

Virginia's Gift Shop apparently survives today in some form too. I hope they still carry gag gifts!
Of course, the Knott's don't miss an opportunity to promote their gift baskets in the book. I love Santa with his cowboy hat and stagecoach full of gifts. 
 Here's a bonus: blog reader "TokyoMagic!" was kind enough to share some recent souvenirs that Knott's has put out with the "Santa and stagecoach" artwork.
This is a Christmas card with story of the art included. It's great that Knott's has souvenirs like this! Thanks again to TokyoMagic!

There will be two more parts of this Knott's souvenir book in the future! We haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet. I hope that you enjoyed my first go at scanning some old amusement park memorabilia and that you had a good Christmas.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Kennywood's Holiday Lights

Kennywood, my "home" amusement park in Pittsburgh, does a Christmas light display every year. I haven't visited since 2015, but I still have some nice pictures to share!

Titled "Holiday Lights" here, these displays have been popping up at parks all over the country in the past few years - they're a great way to extend the season by several weekends. Kennywood has been doing theirs since 2011.



 Kennywood doesn't run any of its roller coasters during the event, but there are some smaller flat rides, like the Paratrooper, Carousel, and Pirate, available.
This giant snowman is not an inflatable!
 This "tunnel" of lights is one of the first things you see when you enter the park, but I took this shot at the end of the night when everyone had left.
 There's a miniature train layout, of course with a miniature amusement park; it even features a model of Kennywood's own Thunderbolt as well as a working replica of the Turtle!
 Almost every lightbulb is changed in the park to Christmas colors, and lots of trees are wrapped in strings of lights. It must take quite an effort to transition between Halloween and this so quickly.
 The state's largest Christmas tree is a sight to behold - 90 feet tall!
Thanks for reading, have a great Christmas, and don't forget the reason for the season! I'm hoping to maybe visit Kings Dominion in Virginia's Winterfest by the end of December, so lookout for a possible post from that.