Our original New England Parks Tour plan was to bring us to Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut, on Sunday, and to Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury on Monday. This had geographic sense to it: we'd be moving ever-southwestward from where we were. But we had decided to swap the order, because Lake Compounce's big roller coaster --- Boulder Dash --- had been struck by lightning and had been out of service. It was reported back in service but we figured every extra hour helped working out bugs. Also, we had to drive from Cambridge to the Bristol-Middlebury area early Sunday anyway. (The cities, and the amusement parks, are surprisingly close together.) Massachusetts is about 25 feet from the north to the south end, but it's still not easy driving. And Quassy is a smaller amusement park, so we supposed that we'd be able to get up not so riotously early and still enjoy the full park. And the decision looked only the wiser after our sleep got so disrupted.
Quassy is built on the shore of Lake Quassapaug, which was the park's name from 1908 to 1982 when apparently the park gave up on expecting people to pronounce ``Quassapaug''. It's a family-owned park, and a former trolley park, on the outskirts of Middlebury, traits that promised the place to be small and quirky and homegrown.
So as a tiny park we were startled to pay for parking. We hadn't been asked for it at other parks (though had we gone to Six Flags New England --- the first thing cut when visiting my brother was made the anchor of the trip --- we would have, there), and I had been grooving so on the small Pennsylvania-style parks vibe of the four previous parks I didn't see that coming. On the other hand, the park is a free admission place; you can just wander in and out, buying either a wristband or individual ride tickets.
The park has an atmosphere that reminded us of Coney Island Cincinnati, an ancient park that went through an extinction-level event and is recovering. But that seems to be a false impression. The most I can find about the history of the park suggests that it didn't get abnormally pinched by either the 30s or the 70s, the times that most trolley parks were ruined. The park's official history suggests it was more of a resort until the 1950s, when it grabbed onto the Kiddielands craze, and has grown gradually but reliably since then. This seems to match with what we observed but it is still an odd trajectory for an amusement park.
One thing that did worry us going in was a vague description of one of the park's attractions: the Quassy Zoo. Zoos are inherently problematic. Small zoos, and zoos at amusement parks, are generally worse. That doesn't require malice; it's just that taking care of animals is a lot of hard work, and it's very different work to running amusements. I imagined it might be a petting zoo, with kids given the chance to touch rabbits and guinea pigs and goats and whatever other animals survive two weeks of that without biting too much. And in fact it was none of that; the Quassy Zoo is just a cedar-chip-lined area with fiberglass animal sculptures that kids can climb on, or in. So if you want to get your picture inside a kangaroo pouch or within the coils of a large serpent, there you go. No real harm done.
Trivia: Both Elvis Presley and Hank Williams weighed 4.98 pounds at birth. Source: The Uncyclopedia, Gideon Haigh.
Currently Reading: Moon Bound: Choosing and Preparing NASA's Lunar Astronauts, Colin Burgess.
PS: What People Did Like In My Mathematics Blog In September 2015, because people did, even if it wasn't enough for my tastes.