Denver has two major amusement parks. So which to visit on the first of our three full days in town? Lakeside had a high priority since we weren't too sure it would be around next year. Elitch Gardens, meanwhile? That's probably not going anywhere. (It just went somewhere 25 years ago, the whole park moving to a new location slightly less land-constricted.) Saturdays are generically the busier day for amusement parks, so if Lakeside was having staffing problems then Friday would probably make for better riding. But --- Lakeside's web site warned that the Friday would have groups. I think they warned school groups and maybe some corporate group. Fair warning. These make places crazy, busy and full of impossibly dense groups of slow-moving people who all want to be on the same roller coaster train but can't organize well enough to do that. So Elitch it was!
Elitch originally opened in 1890. In 1995, the landlocked park relocated to a new spot, downtown and beside railroad yards, but less constrained. It was owned by Six Flags for a decade, then sold to (ultimately) a real estate company, then sold to the guy who owns the Denver Nuggets. It's still operated by Premier Parks, a different company from the one that was Six Flags's corporate overlords. Premier Parks also owns Clementon Park, something I think we knew when we visited that South Jersey park back in 2013.
We got to the park on a blazingly hot, sunny day and were grateful to have a huge, pitch-black car to ride around in. The park is downtown; we had the weird sensation of driving towards the skyscrapers and over good-sized bridges before getting our first look at the place. And this was where they went because the old park had been landlocked. Well. We stepped through the entrance gate to a huge rotunda that was obviously the carousel building. It was not the carousel building. It was the gift shop. We started the day there, figuring to better scout out what we might want to buy. We ended up failing to buy anything, as we put of getting something --- the flat, brass Christmas ornaments bunny_hugger collects --- to the end of the night when it turned out the gift shop closed early. Had we known, we'd have done this thing differently.
The actual carousel building was behind this. It's Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel #51, installed in the original park in 1928. A plaque at the ride says it was ``to replace the original carousel purchased by Mary Elitch'' but doesn't explain what happened to the replaced one. (That one, PTC #6, relocated to the Kit Carson County Fairgrounds in 1928. Three horses and a donkey were stolen off it in 1981, but recovered.) It's in fine shape. In a novelty, the chariots are actually connected to the horses in front of them. At least, there's a yoke that leads out in front of the leading horses as if they were pulling.. You're not allowed to ride the chariot-pulling horses now, possibly ever (they don't have saddles). But it's a touch of realism to the chariots that stands out. The chariots themselves lean over backwards, slanted, so that if you sit in them (we did, one ride) you're on an incline. This might be more authentic to an actual two-wheel chariot's ride.
Elitch Gardens, like Kentucky Kingdom, was a Six Flags park and I feel like there's signs of that yet. Mostly in the decor of things like the building fronts around its entrance midway. Apparently Six Flags had built the Trocadero (``1917'', says the outright lie of its sign), a theater that uses the name of the old park's ballroom and dance hall. We would see a fine magic show there, one that did some nice metamorphosis and disappearance bits, and that also did a stunt about destroying and repairing an audience member's sneaker that was fun. But both of us realized the basics of how the shoe-replacement was done. And how they managed to have a destroyed shoe that looked like the volunteer's actual shoe. We don't go looking for chances to spoil the magic; sometimes, though, you just spot it. The Trocadero has pictures in the lobby of performers who'd done shows at the old Elitch Theater. Some of them are pretty impressive: Sarah Bernhardt, ``leading lady of the 1906 season'', co-starring with Douglas Fairbanks Senior. Edward G Robinson, 1922 season. Frederic March, the 1927, 1928, and 1929 seasons. Some sound more like jokes you might make: Chloric Leachman, 1982 (for the one-woman show Grandma Moses). Some have gone beyond all ability to appreciate except ironically: William Shatner, 1975 season, in a picture that could only be more 1975 if it were served inside a brick of Jell-O on top of a fondue pot as a Let's Make A Deal prize.
We really wanted to get to the roller coasters, naturally, but were distracted by stuff like Hollywood and Vine. This is a Breakdance ride, a spinning-cars-on-spinning-axles thing. This is a fun thing we've been on in a few places; what caught our eye about it particularly was that the park signs out front warned it wasn't running that day. So something went well for them that they weren't expected, apparently.
Also we wanted to ride Dragonwing, a Chance-made Aviator. It's this two-seater ride, with wings on the outside that you the rider can adjust, as in a Flying Scooters, to lean inward or fly outward. It's dragon-themed with these nice bat-like wings (apparently when the park was Six Flags Elitch Garden it was a Batman-themed ride), and a sweet logo of a dragon clinging to the word Dragonwing. As we were being secured we noticed a sign in front warning that the combined passenger weight in one car couldn't be more than 300 pounds. Not saying bunny_hugger and I are fat, but, the two of us are more than 300 pounds. The ride operator told us not to worry about it; the sign wasn't right anyway. ... all right, then. We weren't expecting the place to be quite such a Pennsylvania park. (The seats are sized for adults. No idea how they figure two adults could fit in under 300 pounds. 400 would be less unrealistic.)
The sun and heat was such that we expected it would rain. It did. Before that, we figured to ride the Ghost Blasters, another Sally interactive dark ride where your carful of people shoot lasers at targets and make stuff happen. The queue area suggested that when the ride gets a line it gets an enormous line, and it was one of the handful of enclosed rides, so getting on that before the rush was a good move.
And while we were nearby, we got to our first roller coaster of the day, Mind Eraser. Though we had never ridden it before we knew it well. It's the same model ride as Thunderhawk at Michigan's Adventure, where the restraints always batter our ears. Also the same ride as Infusion at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and Batman The Ride at Six Flags Mexico. We'll surely get to others of the ride; its twins are also at Darien Lake in New York and at Six Flags New England, Canada's Wonderland, and Six Flags America. It's a bit of a headbanger, just like the twins of it that we have ridden.
The ride queue's sign has a clock in it. It runs in reverse, something not so obvious at a glance as there aren't any numerals on the sign. It left me confused about just how it was earlier in the day than I thought until I did work this out. Then I could act all smug and ``oh yeah, didn't you know?'' when bunny_hugger noticed. (I didn't.)
Trivia: Britain's King William IV spoke constantly during, and walked out early from, the funeral service for King George IV. Source: The Invention of Tradition, Editors Eric Hobsbawm, Terence Ranger.
Currently Reading: Mission to Saturn: Cassini and the Hugyens Probe, David M Harland. It's comfort reading, for me, a lot of talk about what mass spectrometers found and trivia about stuff like those moons that keep swapping orbits and stuff. It looks like history but it doesn't even hint at answering, ``why did these people do this thing in this way at this time'' and that's sometimes what I need.
PS: How To Calculate A Square Root By A Method You Will Never Actually Use, a technically practical and useable post!
PPS: Getting into Storybook Land.
OK, but seriously, the entrance: bunny_hugger using the doorway in that was not roped off that morning.
The locking gates to keep your kids together until you've paid for their entry. Why yes, that mouse and that bird do look like they come from somewhere, somehow. The music that plays is, if I remember correctly, ``Hail to the Chief''.
And here's what's through the door at Storybook Land. Go ahead and re-create this in Roller Coaster Tycoon. Off center-right is the Little Red Schoolhouse where Mary brings her little lamb --- spot the lamb? --- and behind that a watering-can building that's a frozen-ice stand.