austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide

I have to pre-empt my regular posting schedule here for what counts as breaking news, namely, an interruption from what I was really up to much of today. bunny_hugger and I visited Crossroads Village, in Genesee County, to visit an historical village that previously she'd only ever seen in winter, for the Christmas decorations. I'd only ever seen it in winter too, but I'd only had the one chance to see it. Our goal, besides finding what the village looks like in daylight, was to see the Venetian Swings actually in operation.

They're always closed in winter, you see, and we could find vague descriptions of them online, but not a particular outline of what a person riding a Venetian Swing might expect to experience besides perhaps swinging. So I'm including this in order that maybe someday Google will allow people who want to find out ``what a ride on Venetian Swings is like'' or ``how Venetian Swings work'' will get a clear explanation.

The ``Venetian'' part is a confound, by the way; the only vaguely water-suggested element here is that the ride cars are made to look vaguely like boats for reasons which the explanatory pamphlet admits are obscure. According to the pamphlet, too, the Crossroads Village swings have an origin dating back vaguely to the early 20th century, although the ride attendant told us they date to 1991. 1991 seems to be when the ride was brought to Crossroads Village, if the pamphlet is to be believed. Anyway.

This is a Venetian Swing ride: two riders sit in the gondola, facing each other. There are two ropes dangling from the metal frame on which the gondola hangs; each rider takes hold of one. The attendant starts things off by pushing the gondola into a swinging arc. On the descending part of each arc the rider who faces forward pulls on his or her rope, increasing the speed of the swing. The rider facing backward does nothing.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? It is. It's purely human-powered and the only limits to the ride are the riders' muscle fatigue and ability to endure endless swinging. The attendant told us we may ride as long as we wanted, possibly secure in the knowledge we could not, actually, ride all day in this. But for the simplicity of concept the ride is great fun, with that pleasant feel of free swings (Genoan Swings?) from elementary school, and a clear conceptual line to the Pirate Ship motorized rides of bigger amusement parks.

It's a great ride, particularly for the simplicity of concept and the ease with which it fits just what the riders are up to.

Trivia: Mars Inc bought the land for its Chicago factory in 1927 for $45,000, a location which had been the 13th, 14th, and 15th holes of the Westward Ho golf course for thirty years. Source: The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, Joël Glenn Brenner.

Currently Reading: Giants Unleashed, Editor Groff Conklin.


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