November 26th, 2015

krazy koati

Will things ever be the same again?

So Conneaut Lake Park looked functional, even almost normal, albeit with a harvest festival dropped down along its main roads. This made it crowded. It also meant there was plenty to eat. We'd get a sampler platter from one of the fair-food stalls, something with pierogies and fried cabbage. (My father was envious that we were going to a park that sells pierogies; I had broken it to him that pretty much every Pennsylvania park besides Dorney and Sesame Place sells them. Dorney and Sesame Place are the parks he goes to.) We ate and felt weirdly dislocated, given the crowd.

Now here bunny_hugger was exhausted, from how long we'd been on the road and how lousy a night of sleep she'd gotten, and how we'd been standing for roughly two hours while Shriners paraded by and all that. She'd go in to rest a while in the car. I wasn't so tired. Remember that I work from home, so can sleep in as long as I need most every night, and so have only a tiny sleep deficit anymore. While she got her rest I went on to examine stuff.

Well, first I went to the gift shop to buy a T-shirt and a coffee mug. We have a good number of coffee mugs, but these actually had the park's actual logo on it. They also had the park's new web site,, on them. We had wondered about the registration of the domain, and speculated that maybe they didn't have access to the old domain anymore and couldn't update it. If there's anything we know about Conneaut Lake Park it's that everything related to it is this bizarre soap opera of long-running deeply political fights and tangled loyalties. But, no, the old web site changed to pointing to the new site. It looks more like a rebranding effort, as the new trustees of the park --- who'd been in office barely a year --- try to emphasize how they're under new management and please give them a chance. My t-shirt was formally for ``the park after dark'', reflecting some summer nights where the park was open abnormally late. We didn't get to the park for that, but we did make it to the park's Pumpkin Fest evening activities that day, which gave it enough legitimacy for me. Plus it was the only t-shirt they had that listed the year, and I wanted that memorial. I'd break the shirt in wearing it to pinball league.

I did my best to scout out the park. The Blue Streak Roller Coaster, for example, seemed to have parts of its tunnel repaired. The roof still had some big scary-looking holes in the tunnel, but much of the tunnel had new roofing. In the Kiddieland section --- well, the most interesting thing there was in machinery. The gate to the Kiddieland section has a big round head, and there's machinery on the inside. It clearly looks as though the head had rotated, maybe the eyes looked back and forth, that sort of thing. I saw the machinery going. I didn't see the head turning or the eyes moving or anything like that, as best I could tell, but at least craggly old gears were able to turn, and did.

Also in Kiddieland: bathrooms! One of the last significant arsons to strike Conneaut Lake Park had been a couple of years ago when the Kiddieland bathrooms burned. They were replaced now, though. They were set into what looked like outfitted containerized cargo boxes, the ten-foot units, better than a port-a-potty but not an actual building. Still, this was another moment to mark the park as a functioning, working entity.

One of the Kiddieland rides was absent and I'm not sure which one it was. Some small thing on a round track, which could be any flat ride. The Little Dipper roller coaster --- the oldest steel roller coaster in North America, if Coasterpedia is to be believed --- was running with groups of delighted-and-scared kids. It doesn't allow grown-ups to ride, but I could at least watch it. All the other rides, though, seemed to be running, including the horse rides. For our 2014 visit that was closed, partly because a recent storm had knocked a tree over into the horse's path and clobbered the fence. This was all cleaned up and people were riding inner and outer tracks.

In the back of Kiddieland, towards the Blue Streak, was the scary wooden bridge that leads to abandoned areas of the park. The station at the edge of the bridge was better-cleaned-up than it'd been before, and the fence blocking off the bridge was higher and better maintained. I did get to see inside what looked like an old ride, some kind of path through the interior of fake rocks. The fake rocks had been there before, just with the door closed.

Back outside Kiddieland nearly all the midway games seemed to be running. There were a few closed-off fronts, but those looked to be connected to the haunted-house trail that runs at the park in October. Conneaut Lake Park rents its location out to be what's billed as the largest haunted house attraction in the world. That's such a natural thing to do it's almost like casting Mister Magoo as Don Quixote.

And, blocking off the view of the other main bathrooms and the bumper cars --- they're down to four working bumper cars, albeit ones that can go quite fast --- they had a stage set up. This was for live music that'd be going pretty continuously through the day. There's a permanent stage, just off the edge of the park. It's where the bikers had gathered for that Journey/John Mellencamp tribute band the first time we ever visited Conneaut Lake Park had been. But it's possible those are the grounds of the Hotel Conneaut, with whom the park has a contentious, difficult relationship. That stage wasn't being used for anything as best I could tell.

Across the street from the stage, and in back of the gift shop, in the spot that once held the park's Yoyo swinging ride, they had a crane set up. Later in the day they were to do a Giant Pumpkin Drop. This would make a thousand or so pounds of pumpkin drop onto a car, as is only natural.

Trivia: William Kemmler, the first man sentenced to die in the electric chair, had the legal bills for his appeal paid by some unknown party. Though it was widely assumed to have been paid for by Westinghouse, this is unproven. Source: Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World, Jill Jonnes.

Currently Reading: Giving Good Weight, John McPhee.

PS: The Set Tour, Part 9: Balls, Only The Insides, another familiar old domain that turns up often for functions.