July 13th, 2014

krazy koati

It's the thrill of the fight

Waldameer Park has many great things about it: it's a beautiful location on the edge of Lake Erie, with a number of old rides and many grand new ones in beautiful shape, with home-grown mascots performing in fun shows. Something it lacks is an antique carousel. They sold theirs off in the big antique carousel boom of the 80s, though to help fund expansion into a water park that's kept the park thriving rather than to stave off total collapse. (The water park continues to expand, too: signs at it promised 2015 would see the park's biggest expansion ever.) It's a great park to be in, even if the carousel is a modern fiberglass thing without much of interest past a couple sea dragons.

But we started riding with the carousel, which was nearby and did have the sea dragon after all, and then to the adjacent Comet roller coaster. That's a junior roller coaster that we could just fit into. Until a few years ago they had hand brakes so we could see the mechanism at work, but we've only been there since they had the automatic, magnetic brakes. This maybe improves the flow of the ride, since they can probably run the cars a little closer together safely, but it's a shame to see old-fashioned mechanisms give way to stuff that doesn't really need people involved.

Outside the roller coaster was a roughly human-sized statue of a frog in swim trunks and fins and sunglasses. We'd see basically the same frog statue several more times in Erie-area locations the next day so we've stumbled across some local thing we can't really hope to understand. I was also able to point out to bunny_hugger something she'd not noticed, a tree with a diamond sign on it that reads, ``I'm Not A Kite-Eating Tree, I'm An Ash Tree'', which is as far as I know the only tree so labelled at the park. Again, this means something, but I don't know what. There's also a number of birdhouses tucked around the trees, ones sized for purple finches, a kind of bird bunny_hugger noted gets houses at amusement parks all over the place, but which (n.b.) she'd never seen.

The park has its own mascots, Wally and Wendy Bear, who've got a really wonderful air of home-grown eccentricity to them. It isn't enough that they're bears --- the name of the park almost but not quite suggests it --- but that they're teddy bears, and raggedy ones with button noses and patches on their arms and bodies and the like. We'd see Wally and Wendy walking around the crowd several times, and would overhear one of their shows --- the Swingin' Safari --- repeatedly. As show structures go it's fair enough: Wally, Wendy, and the tour guide are looking for animals in the jungle, and find an orangutan (puppet), who's got a friend, Ty Tiger, who's too bashful to roar. So they suggest, maybe if they sing a song about the noises various animals make that would help Ty remember how to roar. I failed to follow the logic of how a song about the noises chickens or dogs make help a tiger overcome bashfulness, but it succeeds and Ty roars. The show then spends about three hours singing about how with the help of friends tigers can roar. Put that way I sound snarky, but, it was fun as it was and the kid audience was generally delighted.

Another show we overheard while waiting for other attractions was a tribute to the movie industry, which featured songs of praise for such beloved-by-children performers as Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin. They're great names, certainly, and performers, I just question whether the kids in the audience had even heard these names. It's a fair question whether their parents had ever seen any of their movies. It just smacked of something having been written decades ago and not really thought about since.

I did notice that the posted schedule for shows disagreed by two hours with what shows were actually airing, but this seemed to match the park being open earlier and closing earlier than its regular posted hours for the day. My guess is they started the whole thing two hours early for the visiting schoolkids.

I want to say another thing about charming stuff of Waldameer Park: while they didn't have any really big new construction for 2014, they did have something minor. The park's always been open to people bringing their pet dogs in, and now, they've got a water fountain for dogs. It's a cute thing, maybe six inches off the ground, and it's advertised with a sign showing the dogs ``Franklin and Tucker'' that proclaims ``Drinks are on us! Need a drink to wash down those French fries you just ate off the ground? Fill up a bowl and drink as much as you like. This one's on us!'' This is all a lot of wonderful to pack into a single park.

Besides the park's statues and gardening there's a little park, near the north end of the park, tucked just within the tracks of the Ravine Flyer II roller coaster (one of the all-time great roller coasters). This one is signed as ACE Memorial Park, ``Dedicated to American Coasters Enthusiasts'', which confused us a little bit, not just because it gets the name of ACE a tiny bit wrong (it's ``Coaster'' Enthusiasts, which admittedly doesn't make much difference). As far as bunny_hugger's aware, though, ACE hasn't had any particular affiliation with or support for the park, past acknowledging and publicizing Ravine Flyer II as one of the all-time great roller coasters, and acknowledging Comet as an ACE Coaster Classic. Inside the tiny park are some small trees and a bench, and a statue --- Waldameer has more statues than any other park I can think of --- of a kid holding up a dog --- and a pair of plaques devoted to Nancy Carrigan, 1946 - 2009, and Thaddeus Lewandowski, 1954 - 2009, both identified as ``Coaster Enthusiast'' and ``Loyal friend of Waldameer''. I'd like to know more of this, but it's another point in the park where you're invited to watch and reflect and see beautiful things. It's part of what's great about this park.

Trivia: The overgarment which France's King Louis XIV wore in 1715 had 123 buttons, each fashioned from a solid diamond. Including the diamonds on his shoe buckles and garters her showed at least 1,500 carats of diamonds. Source: The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafés, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour, Joan DeJean.

Currently Reading: A Call To Arms: Mobilizing America For World War II, Maury Klein.