Our first decision, when we got to the hotel the night before, was which park to visit on Saturday. We were extremely close to Conneaut Lake Park, but only about 45 minutes from Waldameer, well in range for people who will go to Cedar Point. We figured Conneaut Lake Park for Saturday: the forecast was for worse weather Saturday, and we figured that was the park we could see more fully if we had to cut the day short. It transpired the rain did come, and we lost some precious time in the park. But Conneaut Lake Park is the one that could take more lost time.
I'm a touch giddy that I drove from our hotel to Conneaut Lake Park --- and back --- without needing the satellite navigator. Granted, this is because the path was ``follow this street down past the main town, then turn where the sign points to Conneaut Lake Park''. Still, this makes five parks I could drive to from home base without assistance.
First thing we saw at the park: well, the parking lot. We were there first thing in the day and it was empty apart from the abandoned Toboggan roller coaster that had been removed from the park/hotel grounds but that the actual owner hadn't paid to dispose of. It's just sitting there, rusting, and that's a shame as this extremely small, portable roller coaster was never very common and it's only getting more obscure. We've ridden its twins at Lakemont Park in Altoona, and travelling in a fair in Michigan (alas, it doesn't come to our nearby counties anymore). We learned that apparently the main parking is in a different spot from where we'd gone, but that's all right. They're able to support multiple parking lots these days.
Second subtle new thing: a sign right past the big gate that promises all their rides are inspected, per law, and approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. (I think it was Agriculture. Amusement park rides often are.) It was almost playing to the stereotype of Conneaut Lake Park as trying to get past its reputation as a surreal, impossibly dangerous, lawless post-apocalyptic land.
This was part of a theme, though. Besides the branding of the place as the New Conneaut Lake Park --- down to their preferred URL including 'New' --- there were repeated signs about how the park was safe and inspected and approved by the appropriate state agency. Part of the fun of Pennsylvania amusement parks, I admit now that I have an opinion on the things, is that they feel a little dangerous and wild. But given the long stretch that Conneaut Lake Park spent past the brink of doom it's understandable they want to emphasize the ways they are a normal and not-at-all crazypants expression of unreality.
One of these concessions that saddened us: on Blue Streak, their 1937-vintage wooden roller coaster, a ride saved from the elements partly by a Pepsi charity project, partly by the labor of Amish carpenters, partly (says Wikipedia) from lumber salvaged from the defunct Geauga Lake Park's Raging Wolf Bobs coaster, they installed seat belts. Seat Belts. The ride had already had a restraining lap bar, and that was really, objectively, plenty. I'm not aware of there ever being any safety incidents on the ride. But the seat belts are an advertisement of safety, of normality, of health at the park. So some of the wildness and chaos and strange exotic charm has to give way that the park can have a less wild and chaotic and strange future. I suppose the trade is wise, and I will accept it. But alongside the news that the Rollo Coaster at Idlewild Park is losing its unrestrained cars, it's been a sad time for the illusion of park chaos.
But the third big new thing was a major one, and a fantastic one. I mean, one that would have seemed a fantasy when we first discovered the park. It was water. Like many amusement parks Conneaut Lake Park has a water park side, but until August of last year it had been defunct. They were able to open some of it, finally, in 2016. This year they had the lazy river and two of the slides running, and we could see, actual, normal-looking, chlorinated water flowing through structures that seemed impossibly derelict four years ago. The short time the water park --- with so little of it running --- was operating in 2016 gave the park its best year in ages. This year I assume it was better still, as the water park was running basically all summer.
The park hasn't lost all its strangeness. The posted certificate from the Aquatic Training Institute, confirming one James E Muma as a certified Pool and Spa Technician, was still the old one expired the 21st of July, 2015.
Trivia: Egypt's national debt at the time of its April 1876 bankruptcy was about £90 million. Source: The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848 - 1918, A J P Taylor.
Currently Reading: Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field: How Two Men Revolutionized Physics, Nancy Forbes, Basil Mahon.
PS: Have some more Fun!
Playfield detail from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a late solid-state game based on just what you think. It wasn't part of the bank of competition games, nor was it turned on at all, so I couldn't try a table that I had heard about but never seen.
This is a little on the nose, guys.
Close-up of a detail on the Elvira and the Party Monsters pinball game. The second-from-the-top pizza is labelled Pinball Pete, a reference to the East Lansing-based chain of pinball operators. Probably some of the other pizza names mean something too.