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.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Happy Thanksgiving!
 Busch Gardens Williamsburg, opened in 1975, has been called the world's most beautiful theme park, and this picture certainly illustrates that fact. Themed around European countries (the park's original subtitle was "The Old Country"), the mock Rhine River seen here includes a riverboat ride.
 Escape From Pompeii is one of the best "Shoot-the-Chutes" rides out there, and it features fire and other special effects illustrating the city's destruction.

 The Loch Ness Monster is one of the country's most legendary roller coasters, and although the ride is over 40 years old, I still very much enjoyed it. The intertwining loops featured on the ride could once be found in a few places across the country, but this is the last example of the element remaining. The park's Sky Ride, which travels in a triangle shape, can also be seen in this picture.
Griffon, a modern dive coaster, has a commanding presence over most of the park.
The feeling of being held at the top of the ride's 200-foot drop is an experience that needs to be felt to be believed!
One of the things I was surprised by at Busch Gardens Williamsburg was the heavy theming inside the Festhaus restaurant, which is in part of the German section. It has a huge capacity and a large stage, but I guess such a venue makes sense given that the park was built by Anheuser-Busch. (You can still see the factory from the top of Griffon; there was a monorail for brewery tours for many years.)

Like all good classic theme parks, a multiple-stop train line circles the park and includes multiple trestles.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Cedar Point

To people across America, Cedar Point is an amusement park that is synonymous with one thing: roller coasters! I had the chance to visit this park this past summer, and it was a truly amazing experience for a roller coaster lover like me.
Millennium Force (blue track) and Rougarou
 Although coasters are the park's specialty, (there are 17!) there are a few other attractions of historical note. One of these is the unique Derby Racer carousel, relocated from Euclid Beach Park.
 For those who don't know, a Derby Racer is basically a super-charged carousel. The platform spins around at an alarming rate, and the horses "jockey" forwards and backward. There are only three of these rides left in the world, and it's great that Cedar Point has one!
 Steel Vengeance is the world's tallest hybrid (wood structure, steel track) roller coaster in the world, and it gets this park a huge amount of attention. On my visit, I was able to ride three times, and it is incredibly intense and fast-paced.
 The park only has one all-wooden coaster, the 1964 Blue Streak, which is a shame for a park with such a sheer amount of roller coasters, in my opinion. The Blue Streak is also the park's oldest coaster (but the park opened in 1870!).  I found Blue Streak to be a fun ride, but nothing more than that.
A Sky Ride typifies a classic theme park, and the Cedar Point version travels directly over the main midway, providing nice views of the park's coasters and Lake Erie, which is the body of water that surrounds the Cedar Point peninsula.
 We'll close with this shot of Corkscrew, which was the first-ever roller coaster to go upside down three times when it opened in 1976.
Thanks for visiting Cedar Point!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Classic Darkride Round-Up

Old-school amusement park haunted house attractions, or darkrides, are one of my favorite things, so I figured that for this Halloween, I'd share a collection of pictures of ones that I have visited while looking closer at the finer points of each one. Let's jump in!

Starting off with one of my favorites, and for good reason... the Waldameer Whacky Shack is one of the best classic darkrides anywhere. Beginning with the memorable recording that repeats over and over in the queue (Hello, Earthlings!), almost every scene, designed by the late Bill Tracy, is original to the ride. The playful fa├žade is a classic example of the creativity that Bill Tracy brought to the table in the design of dark attractions; it's altogether original, yet the twirling eyes somehow hint at the spooks that are found inside. The Whacky Shack will also turn 50 years old in 2020.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to have visited both of the best remaining Bill Tracy darkrides in the country today, the aforementioned Whacky Shack and this, Trimper's Haunted House. As far as darkrides go, this one uses an interesting mix of visual tricks and purposely scary scenes. It is a ride that has been constantly evolving over the years, but it has maintained the majority of its Tracy stunts remarkably well. Like the Whacky Shack, Trimper's Haunted House is two stories, but the Haunted House has a very long track length that gives the ride a five minute run time.

Compared to the two examples above, Knoebels' Haunted Mansion and Black Diamond have relatively un-inspired facades. However, the content that is found inside both of these attractions is far from mundane. Both were designed in-house by the park, and both form two sides of the equation for a perfect darkride: Haunted Mansion specializes in many theatrical techniques, with expert use of diversion and lighting, while Black Diamond is a heavily themed and detailed (I probably rode it five times this year, and I noticed some new effects every time) hybrid darkride/roller coaster. Both are stellar and among my all-time favorite park rides.
Laffland at Sylvan Beach Amusement Park in New York is a little off-the-beaten-path, but the trip is worth it. This is the textbook example of a classic Pretzel darkride - the cars even still have those big pretzel-shaped counterweights on the front. After seeing the slightly run-down appearance of the rest of the park when I visited in 2017, I wasn't expecting a whole lot, but boy was I surprised; Laffland is chock full of vintage stunts, most all of them in perfect operating condition. There's even a large assortment of car-activated "noise makers" that add the most down-home of sound effects. 60-some years old, Laffland is a gem that I can't recommend enough.

 Finishing off this list is one of my local rides, the Devil's Den at Conneaut Lake Park. Like Laffland, it's a Pretzel creation, except this ride runs solely on gravity, with a chain lift and small dip utilized for the cars to gain momentum. The stunts inside are mostly modern, but they are all hand-built tableaus that are very detailed and thought-out, especially considering how fast your car whips around the turns!
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Conneaut Lake Park's Abandoned Toboggan

Conneaut Lake Park in Pennsylvania was home to a Toboggan portable roller coaster for a number of years in the early 2000s. For those not familiar, a Toboggan is a flat ride made by Chance Rides that involves a vertical climb through an enclosed tube in a small coaster car, after which riders spiral around the outside of the tube to ground level. At this point in the ride, there are a series of small dips, which the guests traverse before returning to the station. From 2002 to 2006, it ran at Conneaut near the lakefront. In 2007 and 2008, Conneaut Lake Park didn't open, and when the park reopened 2009, the Toboggan didn't, so it was abandoned and left to rot at the same location through 2013.
 In 2014, the Toboggan was collapsed into its "trailered" position (as it is a portal model) and moved to the Conneaut Lake parking lot, where it sits to this day. In 2018, my dad and I made the walk back to it to take some pictures of the ride. Although it appears to be in a state that will not allow it to operate again, it's cool to see this relic of amusement history past nonetheless.
 Much of the track is stacked haphazardly on an adjacent trailer to the one with the lift tube. 
 Seen here is the ride's sign, light bulbs intact!
 Some plant life is starting to cover the ride.
 One of the cars (and maybe more) remain in the tube.
 I hope you have enjoyed this unique look at a Chance Toboggan!