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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Conneaut Lake Park 2013-2015


Conneaut Lake Park has been a huge part of my life. While Kennywood has always been my "home park," Conneaut is only about an hour away from me. In 2013, I made my first visit in September and returned in the fall of 2014 and 2015. The most memorable thing about these visits is that the park was completely dead on these weekends. I thought that it would be interesting to show some pictures of a surreal, desolate amusement park.

In my own world...

Conneaut has low prices (given its few attractions), and on the second Sunday of the month, they've traditionally sold $5 wristbands. I've been on a summer $5 day twice, and the atmosphere then is the complete opposite of these pictures. Just take a look:

 However, the first time my family visited, we got $5 admission for bringing a used coat!

There are several unique rides at Conneaut Lake Park, but the star attraction is the Blue Streak, a 1938 wooden roller coaster that is one of my favorite rides. The best thing about this coaster is the way it is buried in the woods, so it might require its own post in the future!


The other two unique rides at Conneaut are the Tumble Bug, one of two left in the world, and the Devil's Den, a gravity powered darkride, meaning that it is more like a roller coaster, with a chain lift and a small drop to give the car momentum. Pretty much every US park in the early 1900s had a Tumble Bug, but now the only two are in Western Pennsylvania!

The history of Conneaut over the past 25 years has been a roller coaster itself, so hold on tight!

Conneaut almost closed prior to the Great Depression, but the state of the economy meant that redevelopment plans for the park fell through. After several decades of successful operation, plans were announced at the end of the 100th anniversary in 1992 for the park's rides to be removed or demolished, moving the focus to a family entertainment center. (Happy 100th...) There was an auction of all of the park's attractions, but local businessmen bought many of the rides and later purchased the land, keeping Conneaut alive. 

The park lost money under the new ownership and closed in 1995. Reopening in 1996, Conneaut Lake continued to try unsuccessfully to find its footing. In 2007 and 2008, the park remained shuttered. However, most of the rides reopened in 2009, with the Blue Streak following in 2010.


I loved this gift shop. They had tons of old Geauga Lake souvenirs and maps from parks around the country for a quarter!

In 2014, Conneaut Lake Park's growing debt caused them to move toward a Sherriff's Sale. I didn't realize the severity of the situation at the time, but I now see that Conneaut came very close to finally closing forever. However, the park filed for bankruptcy and made improvements in their debt load through last year.

In late May, Conneaut the decision to cancel their 2020 season, citing that their "business model has been built on a crowded midway" and the open nature of the park's borders meant that it would be difficult to regulate attendance. Most other amusement parks in Pennsylvania did open this summer, so I do wonder if Conneaut called the summer off a little prematurely, especially with the park's precarious financial situation. I can only hope that they will open next year. In a way, Conneaut is a "zombie park" that has refused to die!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Kennywood's Four Defunct 2020 Rides


The Kangaroo opened in 1962 and was the last of its kind in the world. Known as a "Flying Coaster," this was the ride I thought of when I had to name a ride that everyone loved and made people happy the most. I had not ridden the Kangaroo since 2016, but like all of these attractions, I am blessed to have experienced it as much as I did.
There have been four Bayern Kurve rides at Kennywood since the first debuted in 1968. This model came from Miracle Strip Amusement Park in Panama City, Florida in 1994. It lasted ten years before being removed for refurbishment from 2006-2008; the Kurve came back in 2009. (Kennywood was sold to its current owners at the end of 2007.)


For those not familiar, the Bayern Kurve had a unique motion where the cars tilted to bank with the track. Although it was a rough ride, its loud horn made its presence heard from literally every corner of the park.

The last Bayern Kurve in the US is at California's Great America, but it runs slow compared to Kennywood's and lacks all of the European decorations.
Kennywood had an Enterprise ride (made by HUSS) on this plot starting in 1978. In 2015, it was replaced with an identical 1986 ride from Lake Compounce in Connecticut, one of Kennywood's sister parks.

 
 Paratrooper, opened in 1976, was the third ride of its type at Kennywood. It sat adjacent to the Kangaroo. Like the Volcano, there are still quite a few Paratroopers across the country, including one at Idlewild.
On another note, the Eli Bridge Ferris wheel at Idlewild, an hour away from Kennywood, is also getting removed. Although this is not a rare ride like the Kangaroo and Bayern Kurve, it used to be at Kennywood, and it gives Idlewild a net flat ride loss of three when combined with those lost over the past few years.
This picture is from my first ride on the Bayern Kurve in 2013. I guess that my blog can just as well now be called "empty plot blog." 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Kennywood Auto Race

The Auto Race (then known as the Auto Ride) opened at Kennywood in 1930. It was designed by Harry Traver, the mastermind behind the Tumble Bug ride and some of the most extreme wooden coasters of that 1920s "golden era." Today, the Auto Race is the last of its kind in the world.


The ride's facade has an animated, neon mural. The flashing wheels are neat... when they work. The below picture was taken more recently following a repaint. 


It's inevitable to compare this 1930s car ride to the type that popped up at parks all across the country in the vein of Disneyland's Autopia. Kennywood actually added a steerable ride of that kind called the Turnpike in 1966 (with no gas pedal). However, it closed after 2009 for a new roller coaster. As far as the Auto Race goes, its cars run through a wooden trough and are powered electrically.


It's great that the Auto Race still exists, but sadly, is not as good as it used to be. Kennywood, citing their desire to preserve the attraction, now has the cars go about 10 miles per hour compared to the 20 mph or so they went before 2014.

Before the current cars were installed in the 1950s, there were even small hills along the track. 



The 2014 update also resulted in a computer system to keep track of where the cars are on the track. That is what the "bumps" on the sides of the trough (not seen in the above picture from 2012) are for.


One last fun fact: the cars' numbers are based on local highways, though there is no question what the "98" here recognizes: Kennywood's founding year of 1898. (Though they opened in 1899, you see "est. 1898" emblazoned everywhere.)

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Cedar Point 2020

I only visited Cedar Point for the first time in 2019, but I was grateful to return this year to what's one
of my favorite amusement parks. Opened in 1870, Cedar Point is the third-oldest amusement park in America and had its 150th anniversary in 2020. However, the 150th anniversary celebration - planned to include a parade, new boat ride, and updated park museum - was pushed off until next year. It's nice to see a park that has been notoriously ruthless in getting rid of the old paying some tribute to its history.
A positive about this bad year is that I got to ride Steel Vengeance again, my #1 steel coaster. Maverick, another awesome ride, is in the foreground.
Even though it's most known for its asphalt midways, Cedar Point has a nicely wooded Frontier Trail that leads to Frontier Town, the only themed area in the park.
One of the best parts of Cedar Point is Boneville, the skeleton-filled town you pass through on the train.
The structures in these scenes are from the late 60s, but Cedar Point does a great job at maintaining all of the animations and effects in them. 
I can't help but have a smile on my face when I see something like this...
There are real flames and water in the firefighting scene!
The main reason I wanted to visit Cedar Point again this year was to ride Top Thrill Dragster, which was closed on my 2019 visit. Traveling 400 feet high and reaching 120 miles per hour, Top Thrill Dragster is the second-tallest and third-fastest roller coaster in the world.
I have an embarrassing but memorable story from my first ever ride on this coaster. I'd only experienced launches of at most 70 mph, so I really had no clue what 120 was going to feel like. I was in line when the ride went down (as it often does), so I sat in the hot sun wishing I had something to drink for 30 minutes. By the time I was getting into the train, I was not my most alert self and wasn't really thinking about the speed I was going to reach. After all, Top Thrill Dragster is just one hill, so how intense can it really be? 
Well, as soon as we blasted off I realized that this was unlike any coaster I had ever been on before.  Of course, I was too thirsty to think about holding my mask - which wasn't tightened enough - to my face, so uh... yeah. Luckily, I had an extra in my pocket, so I left the ride without missing a beat. They probably deleted my photo for not following the rules, though. (Cedar Point was actually doing that!) A search around the launch area for my missing mask was not successful. :-)
Until the novelty wears off for me, Top Thrill Dragster is my second favorite ride in the park... but we can't forget about good old Corkscrew!
                    Cedar Point would've gotten rid of this ride years ago if it wasn't so iconic.
The park sold bricks over the winter for $100 that you could have engraved and placed here in the main midway. 
That does it for Cedar Point! I felt safer there than I have at the grocery store, even better, people actually followed the ground markings in the queue lines. ;-) My season pass is still valid, so I'm sure that I'll be back at least once next year.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Hersheypark

This post is in memory of the Bayern Kurve. RIP 2020

Hersheypark is the largest amusement park in Pennsylvania and was one of the parks I got to go to this year, although I had visited before. The building with the faux smokestacks on the right is separate from the park and is definitely not the Hershey factory, but we'll come back to that at the end of the post.                                         

Given that this is a park named after a world-famous candy company, a lot of people think that Hersheypark will be filled with chocolate-themed attractions, but the reality is that it is a pretty typical amusement park with roller coasters not related to chocolate (e.g. "Fahrenheit" and "Skyrush"); however, the new Chcolatetown expansion has made the chocolate theme your first impression of the park. The old main entrance, seen below, anchored the former "Tudor Square" area, which was among the remnants of a 1970s retheme that gated the park and gave it a Pennsylvania "cultural exposition" theme with areas based off of coal mining, the PA Dutch, and European heritage.                                                                                 

Being the highest attended non-chain park in the country, Hersheypark needed a larger entrance, so this year they added a large addition that also included a new, 210-foot tall roller coaster. I like the new entrance, but it clearly lacks the tree growth that the old one had.
...but they did throw a couple bricks from the old entrance in!
Here's the new "hypercoaster," which extends out into a former golf course adjoining the park. And yes, "Candymonium" is one of the most puzzling names ever.
The other attraction in Chocolatetown is the park's 1919 Philadelphia Toboggan Co. carousel, which was relocated from a different area in the park.
This is actually the second time the carousel has been relocated, as in the early 70s it became the center of "Carousel Circle," an area surrounded by family rides. Moving the carousel to the very front of the park looks good, but this isolates it from the park's other family attractions. The statue of Milton Hershey in the foreground honors the man who founded the park in 1906 as well as the surrounding town of Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Although Hershey retains only a few vintage rides, the setting of the park shows its age and reminds you that it was originally established by Milton Hershey to give his employees someplace to enjoy themselves in his company town.
Hershey has 14 roller coasters, and seen below is sooperdooperLooper (actual spelling) and Great Bear, an inverted coaster that has some wacky supports to clear Spring Creek.
This elk statue has been in the park since 1913. In the background, you can see "ZooAmerica," the old Hershey Zoo from 1910 that is now integrated with the theme park.
Storm Runner is a launched coaster, but given that it's built by Intamin, the coaster manufacturer most famous for their rides' downtime, it remained closed this year. In front of it, you can see the beam of the park's 1969 Monorail that uses parts from the trains of Six Flags Magic Mountain's old monorail. It operates as a roundtrip. Since I visited on one of the first days Hersheypark was open this year, they had not yet gotten it running.
Lightning Racer is a racing wooden coaster with two tracks. It's really a wonderful piece of coaster design, with the tracks crossing over and under each other at multiple points during the ride. There are even "dueling" moments where the trains run towards each other head-on.
Lightning Racer is part of the "Midway America" themed area of the park, which is home to attractions that pay tribute to turn-of-the-1900s amusement parks. Seen below is "Laff Trakk," an indoor, spinning roller coaster decorated with painted, blacklight flats to create a disorienting experience.
However, a visit to Hershey isn't complete without riding the Chocolate World Omnimover ride.
This ride is free, outside the gates of the theme park, and is part of a complex that includes several gift shops and other upcharge attractions. And you even get a piece of chocolate at the end. :-)
The tour ride is constantly refreshed to remain up-to-date (take these singing, animatronic cows), but there are some scenes that have stayed virtually the same for decades.
The fake chocolate factory you ride through was built in 1973 when demand for tours at the actual Hershey factory became so great that they were interfering with operations.
As you can see, Hershey has spared no expense with these scenes. ;-)
                                       
That does it for this visit to Hersheypark. I look forward to returning!