Saturday, October 9, 2021

Two Pennsylvania Amusement Parks - Dorney and Delgrosso's

Today's post is on two Pennsylvania parks - at opposite ends of the state - that I was able to visit for the first time this year. First up is Dorney Park in Allentown near Philadelphia. Dorney Park is one of the oldest amusement parks in America, with beginnings in 1884. It was fatefully purchased by Cedar Fair in 1992, who removed the majority of the park's historic attractions, including all of its darkrides. Today, Cedar Fair shows interest in honoring their parks’ histories, but it’s honestly too late for Dorney. That's not to say it isn't still a pleasant park to visit, though!
The ride seen below is the main reason I wanted to visit Dorney Park. Debuting at Cedar Point in 1983, Demon Drop was among the first drop towers ever opened.  Today, it's the last of its kind in America. Cars are lifted up an elevator, moved forward, and dropped down a track, which puts the cars (and as a result, the riders) on their backs when they level out. A funky mechanism then moves the cars back to the station level.
As you can see, Cedar Fair relocated the 26-year-old Demon Drop to Dorney Park in spite of the fact that the park already has a more modern drop tower. The other is driven by compressed air, however, so the experiences are completely different. Demon Drop is a pretty rough ride, but I wanted to make sure I got to experience one of its kind.
Thunder Creek Mountain is a really weird log flume - just look at that lift hill! The drop has a similar, gradual slope.
Here you can see some of the park's roller coasters: the giant Steel Force hypercoaster, the classic 1924 Thunderhawk, and Possessed, relocated from Geauga Lake.
Dorney Park has a long history with carousels, but their current ride came from Cedar Point in 1995. At Cedar Point, it was known as the Frontier Carousel and was one of four classic carousels in the park, so they were able to give it up.
The gift shop has lots of park historical pictures. I really appreciate this touch. Sadly the Whacky Shack is long gone.
That's it for Dorney Park. It was kind of a one-and-done for me.
Moving to Western Pennsylvania, I got the chance to visit Delgrosso’s Amusement Park in Altoona (Lakemont Park is just a few minutes down the road). Opened in 1909, Delgrosso’s has had a humble existence. Originally known as Bland’s Park, it was bought by the Delgrosso family - who run a well-known local tomato sauce company - in the 1940s, but they did not rename the park until 2000. Despite its former name, Delgrosso’s Park has some of the best amusement park food in the country.
I made sure to ride this Casino ride, as according to the park website, it came from Kings Island. I'm not sure if that's true, though, as when it was at Kings Island, it didn't have the decorative signage and perimeter lighting.
There are a bunch of classic carnival rides at Delgrosso's, including a Super Round-Up.
It's nice to see one of these original Tilt-A-Whirl signs.
The park is also home to a classic Herschell-Spillman carousel from 1924.
It's a wonderfully quaint machine with a great band organ.
The band organ is seen in the background of the below photo. The carousel is actually the highlight ride at Delgrosso's. Anyway, now that I've been here, I have only one park in Pennsylvania left to visit.

Next second Sunday and next post - November 13th!


TokyoMagic! said...

So that is where Cedar Point's Demon Drop ended up! In 2009, Cedar Fair announced they were moving it to Knott's Berry Farm. However that never happened, and I was SO happy that it didn't! The rumor was that it was going to go into Calico Square, which would have ruined the sight lines for the Calico Mine Ride, the Log Ride, the Calico R.R., and the Calico Saloon....basically, every single direction you would look in Calico Square.

I remember riding a version of Demon Drop (Freefall), when it opened at Six Flags Magic Mountain, in 1982. It was a very "rough" ride, even when it was new! I'm glad that you got to experience it, since this is the last one in existence.

If that Casino ride is from Kings Island, then it's the very same one that the "Bradys" rode in an episode of The Brady Bunch, back in 1973!

I love the art deco (or is it streamline moderne?) style of that Tilt-A-Whirl sign. I wonder how old that is?

Thanks for sharing more of your park visits with us, Andrew!

Andrew said...

I forgot about that story, TokyoMagic! At Knott's, Demon Drop wouldn't have been as egregious as Silver Bullet, but it still wouldn't be the best fit for the park. They probably would've rethemed it as some type of mining apparatus, but I'm sure the shorter distance to Pennsylvania and the extra cost of a retheme job caused Cedar Fair to send it to Dorney.

I don't know how old the Tilt-A-Whirl sign is. It probably dates from between the 40s and 60s.

Melissa said...

I've never made it to Delgrosso's, but it looks right up my alley! Love that old signage.

K. Martinez said...

I love these pics of Delgrosso Amusement Park. Especially for the vintage/classic flat rides. I love the Tilt-A-Whirl in it's original colors and graphics with clown faces, crescent moons and the red, blue and yellow color paint scheme.

We used to have a Super Round Up at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It is gone now and replaced by the newer generation "Cyclone", same type of ride, newer version.

Yes, I heard King's Island's "Wheel of Fortune" was moved to Delgrosso and renamed "Casino. Always thought it was the best variation of the Chance Trabant besides the classic "Chance" colors of Yellow along with red, blue, yellow and orange ride vehicles/seats.

Thanks for the post, Andrew. Always love a traditional amusement park that still has classic flat rides.

Andrew said...

Melissa, it's nice, but nothing amazing compared to a park like Knoebels.

K. Martinez, I've actually never ridden a Tilt-A-Whirl with those old clown decorations, but I know exactly what you're talking about! There's a Trabant in pristine condition at Dutch Wonderland... a post about that park will be coming eventually.

Chuck said...

I see a similarity in font signage between Dorney Park and Cedar Point. Alas, Cedar Fair under Dick Kinzel was big on roller coasters and acquisitions but not so much about preservation or theming. In retrospect, it’s amazing that Knott’s didn’t lose more, particularly in light of what happened to Dorney Park. I am glad to see that an appreciation for their past (and for the revenue that nostalgia can generate) has led them to pay closer attention to their heritage.

Demon Drop! That was my first drop tower, back in 1984. I still remember the whole family strapped int those cars, looking at each other on the way up, and wondering what the heck we had just committed ourselves to. And you’re right, that return mechanism is funky. Glad to see it’s still operating somewhere…and that it’s the last of its kind.

That log flume lift hill looks like it’s on an actual hill. That’s pretty cool…unless the rest of the ride is level until you drop back down the hill. I’m all for incorporating natural features into ride designs, but occasionally they lead to odd results. Adventure Express at King’s Island is a case in point; its station is located on a ridge line and spends most of its run dipping into and running around a valley. To get out, it has to use a lift hill, which is themed with this climactically building temple, complete with drumming idols and a vat of molten lava about to be poured on you. You reach the top…and then you’re at the unload station. Major let-down.

I think I’d like Delgrosso’s Amusement Park. Neat rides and lots of shade. Remind me again why I don’t visit Pennsylvania?

Glad you had a lot of fun on that trip, Andrew, and I appreciate you sharing it with us!

Andrew said...

I was hoping you'd comment, Chuck! Demon Drop is kind of living out its "retirement years" in PA; it was front and center at Cedar Point, where I'm sure many people like you questioned its structural integrity.

The log flume has a small drop on the hilltop, but it mostly stays low to the ground before the big drop (actually more like a ramp) back down the hillside. It's a unique ride, and it surely costs a lot less to build and maintain. Also, Adventure Express is an awesome ride, but that anti-climactic ending can make you forget the rest. It's actually pretty hilarious once you know about it!

Major Pepperidge said...

It makes me sad that Dorney Park tore out all of their dark rides. Was it just to make room for more roller coasters? I can’t imagine that dark rides cost that much to run or maintain. If they were still around, they would be at the top of my list to see, especially if they managed to preserve their original appearance! Perhaps the general public wouldn’t care. Thunder Creek Mountain actually looks kind of neat! Why isn’t there an osprey nest on the Steel Force hypercoaster? I wonder if those “haunted shacks” were considered too dangerous? You know, people falling over and hurting themselves. Who knows. I wish I had some of Delgrosso’s amusement park food right now (I’m on a diet). Thanks Andrew, I’m sorry I don’t comment more often, but I love your blog!

Andrew said...

Yep, Cedar Fair was on a dark ride "purge" for a while, Major. They do cost more to maintain than most rides, especially if it's an "Old Mill" like Dorney had. And like you mention, fun houses are a "liability concern." Don't worry about not commenting... I appreciate anytime you chime in!