There's something weird and special about being at an amusement park its last day of the season. We try not to miss Michigan's Adventure's last day, and have got to Cedar Point's regularly. Waldameer, the Sunday before Labor Day, was ... not having its last day. That would be Monday. But we were close. If it were really important we could have stopped in on it, since parking and merely entering the park are free. You just have to pay for rides, which you can get a la carte. But were were staying at the hotel in Conneaut Lake, 45 minutes away. We figured it was easier to get up an hour early than to move from hotel to hotel. Plus this had let us choose which park to take Saturday and which Sunday, based on the marginal weather forecast. We called this one right; Sunday would be chilly, but not rainy, and we could get enough time to appreciate both parks.
The thing we couldn't predict: how busy would it be? Amusement parks get more crowded in August as people realize they're running out of summer. They tend to be less crowded on Sundays because I have no idea. Maybe people figure they have to be up early Monday. But in this case Monday was a holiday. The weather was chilly, making the water park unattractive. Indeed, it didn't open, and park announcements apologized for that but promised (correctly) that Monday would be a better water-park day. Water parks draw in a lot of paying customers and put them somewhere that doesn't add to the roller coaster queues. So would there be more people in the amusement park area, or would the folks who mostly wanted the water park just not come at all? We had no way to handicap all this and in any case there weren't other days we could go. We'd just have to hope for the best.
It turned out rather well, in fact. The park felt crowded, but not in the queues. Best of possible cases, really; a nice, busy park naturally feels more alive. Ravine Flyer II, their big, world's-top-ten wooden roller coaster, never had a lengthly queue, which makes our efforts to get to it early in the day before the place was mobbed seem like wasted concern. Well, we had no way to know the park would work like that. If I were to guess at the phenomenon it would be that maybe there were more family groups that were appreciating the kids and junior rides, or that were going to things that don't have a really tight capacity such as the walk-through haunted house. So people were there, just not where we hoped to be.
The park is open-admission, so we were able to walk about and appreciate the landscaping before any of the rides were open. Waldameer is a gorgeous place to visit. It's not a large park, but it's one that's landscaped possibly better than Cedar Point is: lush trees, flowers, statues everywhere. It feels heartening to just walk around. There's something everywhere. It's the sort of park that makes me play Roller Coaster Tycoon differently, spending time putting decorative elements in every bit of otherwise unused space, and finding space to put these decorations in. Also they have a drinking fountain for dogs, since, as common at Pennsylvania parks, non-service dogs are welcome too.
The one thing we did rush to near opening, before the lines could be too bad, was the Whacky Shack. This is a Bill Tracey-designed dark ride, all psychedelia scenes and goofy stunts. As you ride through in little single-car trains that seat four people at most it gets a line early in the day and keeps it, and that is how I remember it working out. We would get a couple of rides on it over the day, including one that would feature a most special hat.
Waldameer has a pair of mascots, the teddy bears Wally and Wendy. Both were out, giving hugs, through the day. Wally we learned is the same model mascot costume that's used at Canobie Lake Park as one of their at-least-four mascots. Wendy we haven't seen elsewhere. But discovering there are mascots like this used at multiple parks was eye-opening in a way that matched only our discovery that Lake Compounce used much of the same acrobatic stunt show as Cedar Point. Even experienced amusement-park-goers can be naive. Wendy and Wally are slightly raggedy teddy bears, showing patches ad with button noses with big fake stitches to suggest their fragility, and they look really good. Large heads, so they look small even as they tower above the kids giving them hugs. I think the scrim for the wearer's eyes are in the hats of the costumes. It's a really good illusion of smallness in what are, objectively, tall suits.
So by the time we'd been there 90 minutes we'd already had a good day.
Trivia: The cannon used by Venetian gunners in the late 14th century was so unwieldy that crews would not use them more than once per day to fire stone balls weighing up to 200 pounds. Source: A History of Venice, John Julius Norwich.
Currently Reading: The Complete Peanuts, 1995 - 1996, Charles M Schulz. Editor Gary Groth.
PS: our last poking around Fun! for the year, possibly forever, depending on how future national/women's world championships work out. Or the search for future pinball glory, perhaps.
The forbidden zone: a whole balcony full of tables, shrouded in darkness, teasing us with the thought of going up and at least taking snaps of the art.
Putting it all together: working out who did well enough in the pin-golf to make finals the next day. Neither bunny_hugger nor I would, which was fine, as we wanted to do something else.
And then very late on I noticed they had this for sale. Neat, but can you rip MP3s from it?