Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Lakemont Park

Last year, I did a post on Leap the Dips, the world's oldest roller coaster, at Lakemont Park in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Since I focused on that specific ride last time, I figured I'd do a post showing the rest of the park's (limited) attractions. Opened in 1893, Lakemont Park is the 8th oldest amusement park in the United States. The park was purchased by the Boyer Candy Co in 1986, a local business famous for the Mallo Cup. They only owned the park for two years yet did some damage to its history and reputation, such as cutting down many of the trees in the park and letting Leap the Dips fall idle. Lakemont is now operated by the county who was been trying to get it back on its feet for years and years now.

In the satellite image below, you can see two of the parts left over from Boyer's failed plan. The street on the left was meant to be a shopping and dining district - it's nothing like Disney's Main St! Today, it's isolated from the rest of the park. They also built a gigantic entrance on the right, which now sits as an attractive but unused structure. 'Coz 'ya know, it's not smart to try and develop a major theme park with limited funds in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania!
The Boyer Candy Co's intentions to turn Lakemont into their own version of Hersheypark failed, and soon carnival rides were brought in that would be a staple at Lakemont for several decades.
However, when the park was closed in 2017 and '18, the majority of rides were removed and replaced with more common recreational facilities, like basketball courts and mini golf. I'm not a fan, but I understand that it's a necessary move to maintain the park's wooden coasters.
The Skyliner is a 1960 coaster (on the newer side of woodies) that was moved to Lakemont from Roseland Park in Canandaigua, New York. The Boyer Candy Co. brought it in, but it was left unfinished until after they had left.
The side of the train has "GO CURVE," painted on it, a reference to Altoona's minor league team (itself a reference to the railroad engineering triumph of the Horseshoe Curve). You'll see why in a second...
It's a rough ride that has had minimal track replaced for a while, but I still love it!
There's "Peoples Natural Gas Field!" Hm....
The Skyliner serves as a scenic backdrop to the ballpark. Remember the painted message on the train? Well, the only problem is that it was painted on the wrong side... just kidding!
Scenes like this are why I think Pennsylvania is great...
Another attraction retained after the renovation was the Antique Cars. Check out the red guide rail...
...exciting, right? Anyway, these cars are by far the fastest I've been on in any park!
The Miniature Train is the last considerable ride in the park. The engine is a standard Chance Rides C.P. Huntington, still being manufactured after 60 years!
A really old-looking engine sits on the siding.
Here's the Ponyshoe Curve! I can't handle the drama!!
As you can tell by these pics, it was a ghost town when I visited last year. A big reason why they removed a lot of rides is because of low attendance.
That's it from charming Lakemont Park. Surprisingly, there's another vintage park just a few minutes down the road from Lakemont that is much more prosperous but remained closed last year. I'm hoping to visit this summer.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Noah's Ark - Kennywood

The 1936 Noah's Ark walkthrough attraction at Kennywood is one of the last old-time amusement fun houses remaining. It was refurbished most recently in 2016 with the return of its whale-themed entrance and the restoration of scenes to be more reflective of the Ark's "fun house" roots. In 1995, Kennywood removed the whale to try and re-theme Noah's Ark into a Disney-like experience. While they had good intentions with some impressive results, Kennywood fans lamented for years the loss of the light-hearted whale to such a serious retheme.

 As you see in this video, the defining thing about Noah's Ark is its rocking boat. A portion of the path you walk is rocking back and forth, which can be quite disorienting!

Noah's Ark was constructed during the biggest flood in Pittsburgh's history, which occurred on St. Patrick's Day. However, the refurbishments in 1968 and 1995 were also delayed by area flooding!

This is what the exterior looked like from 1995-2015. The tower at left was for the "Elevator of Doom," a faux elevator whose narrator said was "in place for almost a century." It was "sealed shut for 50 years," but just as you were told that "no one has actually gone down into the shaft," the voice faded out, the lights turned off, and the car started to vibrate. It totally got me the first time I did it, but of course, halfway through the walkthrough, you come out on the balcony that leads to the "front door," so the illusion was ruined.
For some context, here's the other extant Noah's Ark attraction at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in England; it's been closed since 2008 but still serves a decorative purpose above the park's entrance.
The back side of Noah's Ark

The current first scene is a room of fluorescent crates. Some rock back and forth, and if you move your ear to each, then you'll hear the animal that's on the crate's label. There's even a skunk scent! They reuse the same stink smell later in the attraction in the scene at below right... you can guess the sound effects. There is one nice smell, though, near the end - honey in a bee tableau. 

The waterfall scene was a memorable part of the 1968 Ark that was resurrected in 2016. Of course, I thought the water lillies in the pond looked a little like a Hidden Mickey! 

Once you enter the Ark itself, you see Noah. The scene above is the 1995 version. Noah used to be an impressive animatronic, but he had become static by the theme's later years.
In 2016, Noah's wife was added. The bat is not a regular part of the attraction; it's a special prop for Kennywood's Halloween event, Phantom Fright Nights.
Here's an unrelated picture of the Kennywood carousel lit up for Halloween just because it's cool. Below, you see the contrast in one of the scenes between the regular season and Halloween.
The shaking floorboards were the last of the Ark's true fun house "stunts," but they were sadly deactivated a few years ago after a kid's fingers got stuck in the gap - note the metal plates, the current solution.
They ruin everything!
This room is a classic "mystery spot" with a tilted floor. The seesaw rocks back and forth, with the metallic ball going "uphill."
Other than the "Elevator of Doom," one of the other notable aspects of the 1995 retheme was the  "Bathmosphere," which aimed to provide the illusion of a return to the Earth's surface, but of course, something went horribly wrong, and water started pouring into the chamber. Luckily, the ride's exit doors opened and you escaped. I never go to experience this, as it was already decommissioned for good by the time I first saw the Ark in 2012. The more I think about it, though, the more forced the Ark's old "storyline" seems. So a mine shaft took you underground, but by the end you were somehow underwater?! In contrast to this, the current state of Noah's Ark is something you can tell was done on a budget, but it fits the atmosphere of the park much better than the theme that came before it.