austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

The one place to go when you're out for a lark

bunny_hugger asked me a couple weeks ago to name something we hadn't done this summer; I anticipated that the thing we'd overlooked doing was ``go to Michigan's Adventure''. This wasn't the answer she expected, but it was correct. She's been to this amusement park --- a small one, still, grown out of a deer park, with the deer several decades gone but the place still cozily small, and which has sold at least one of its rides to Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch --- every year, best she can recall, for a decade at least. It's just in the rush of activity this summer that we hadn't managed to get there, and she hadn't gone herself. It was also running up very close to the closing day of the park; Michigan's Adventure doesn't truck with this open-weekends-through-September thing or with the fad of putting up Halloween livery on its rides for October nights.

So we got to the last weekend the park would be open and the question: do we go on the Saturday or the Sunday? My inclination would be to think Saturday, since if it rained or some modest disaster happened we'd have a spare day; but the forecasts for rain were under 20 percent both days (with morning, rather than afternoon rain), and so we set Sunday for the day. Saturdays are the busy day for amusement parks, apparently, and Sunday morning seemed to really want to rain without quite committing to it, but it was the last day of the season; surely that'd draw a crowd of people getting their last rides in?

Well, when we got to the park --- past a bunch of road signs just reading ``Amusement Park'' and pointing direction, by the way, as if Muskegon weren't too sure this park wasn't going to dry up and blow away in the winter season --- we found no traffic in the approach roads, no traffic in the parking lot roads, and the lone parking gate attendant had to run back from the side of the road into the toll booth when she saw us arriving. The parking lots are not incredibly huge for an amusement park --- about the right size for a suburban mall, really --- but they were also empty. There were perhaps, and I say this without exaggeration or hyperbole, a hundred cars in the lot. In context, it looked like there might be literally several people in the park with us.

We'd figured to eat once we got to the park, with kettle corn being a priority, but the first thing we went for was fries from one of the handful of remaining-open vendors. He was happy to chat with us, possibly because it was such a slow day, and we talked about things like the customers who blamed him, personally, for the prices of food. We took the fries over to a bench near the swinging-ship ride, and saw the evidence of early-morning rain in the puddles on the other plastic tables, and realized we'd been so amused chatting with the guy we'd forgot to get the soda we'd bought.

Sadly, food places would disappoint us by being closed during the day: the kettle corn stand closed while we were in the midst of rides, so we lost out on that altogether. We had thoughts of going to the 50s Diner for a root beer float, but so did everyone else, and the guy there reported that their ice cream machine wasn't working. These are the hazards of going on closing day. (Or any day, I suppose.)

Trivia: In November 1918 Milton S Hershey placed all his stock in the Hershey Chocolate Corporation in a trust benefiting the industrial school, a donation worth more than $60 million. (For the sense of scale, in 1919 the Coca-Cola Company was sold for $25 million.) Source: Hershey: Milton S Hershey's Extraordinary Life Of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, Michael D'Antonio.

Currently Reading: On The Laps Of Gods: The Red Summer Of 1919 And The Struggle For Justice That Remade a Nation, Robert Whitaker.


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