austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Wondering how to begin

The Rain Check Trip we figured to be a chance to visit Kennywood again, and also to give Idlewild at least a half-day so we could see it in an un-rushed and non-frantic matter. The choice was should we see Idlewild on Saturday morning or Sunday morning; which day would be better to use our free entry to Kennywood? Consider that amusement parks tend to be more crowded Saturdays than Sundays. We decided finally to start Saturday in Idlewild, and get a Starlite admission to Kennywood that day, and use our rain checks for a full day Sunday. This decision turned out to be exactly correct.

Idlewild, in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, is about an hour from Pittsburgh (which was why I figured we were better off going Saturday: we'd surely be more tired Sunday morning and would rather sleep an extra hour then). Amazingly to me I realized I was able to recognize good parts of the path from the one time we'd been there before. Things like that happen to me a lot; I suspect I'm part ant. We got there pretty close to its soft opening. The park has a couple of areas, opening at staggered intervals, and we were able to walk in the park ... this actually kind of threw me. The park doesn't seem to have a big opening gate, apart from the parking gate, where we bought our tickets and got the wristbands they use to see who's just sneaking in. We actually entered through a gap in the wooden fence between the parking lot and some of the rides.

The first area to open and the one we went to was the Story Book Forest. This sort of attraction opened a lot in the 50s, particularly, and used to be fairly popular but examples have dwindled; Idlewild's one of the survivors, as maybe befits a park that's one of Kennywood's corporate kin. It's a walkable park of little scenes from various fables and nursery rhymes and fairy tales and the like, and you even enter by walking through a huge plaster story-book that invites you to meet your story book friends. Through the opening in the book is Mother Goose, one of the live actors, sitting in a tiny house and tending a goose puppet, who thanked us for coming in and encouraged us to be children again. We're quite able to do that.

Many of the settings are self-explanatory, such as the Crooked House (with a Crooked Man and his Crooked Cat and Crooked Mouse out back) that you can walk through, or Little Miss Muffet sitting just where you think. Huckleberry Finn's presented on a raft that I suppose fits the general universe of immortal childhood literature characters but he does seem to be an odd person to have just past the chair the Giant that I suppose Jack kills might have sat on. There's other lovely bits like a giant pumpkin house or a destinations sign that just lists ``Hither'' and ``Thither'' and ``Yon'' and so.

Several of the exhibits have live actors, such as Little Red Riding Hood, although we didn't see her in character. She and a grandmotherly type --- who'd left some kitting on her station's chair, leaving us to wonder if they actually knit enough to produce something useful or if they just go through the motions on an article never to be finished --- were busy stringing up cobwebs for Idlewild's own Halloween spectacles. (They went back in character when some kids approached; apparently they're not afraid of breaking the magic in front of us. But we also like seeing behind the magic.) So this is about when bunny_hugger decided that what she really wants to do is become a performing character at Idlewild or an equivalent amusement park. She has got fursuit and we've both got puppet experience, after all.

Many of the dioramas feature animals --- three billy goats, for example, by a pedestrian bridge and wandering around a pleasant enclosure, including the Troll's house, that allows us to suppose they're appropriately gruff. There's three little pigs in an enclosure that clearly used to let them go into a brick house and maybe kept them inside, but they're given more space than that now. This seemed to be one of their original Story Book Forest props, of which they have a good number and which are marked with cute little signs. One animal that baffled us was a hen, who was there for a nursery rhyme neither of us could remember hearing before, and that bunny_hugger's parents couldn't remember either: ``Hickety Pickety/ My Fat Hen/ She Lays Eggs/ For Gentlemen''. That's one of those nursery rhymes that people assume has to be some kind of satire of some forgotten early 18th century English politician because otherwise it's just some nonsense verse and goodness knows English children's literature doesn't support the existence of nonsense verse.

Some animals we had to admire were a quartet of rabbits, representing Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter Rabbit, in a cute little hutch that drew attention and awe from everyone running past. They were a cute set, certainly, and one of them was very determined to burrow his way through the bedding, digging and redigging channels. It's easy to spend time just watching rabbits in groups, but when one of the rabbits is on such a mission it's all the better. Another rabbit did a familiar flopping over to rest pose, and then found that it wasn't quite flopped enough because it them flopped some more over.

I trust all this is conveying what a charming place this is. If not, well, consider that instead of Keep Off The Grass signs the tiny signs instead read such messages as ``I Want To Be A Lawn'' or ``Careful --- Chipmunk Crossing''. (It also has a sign identifying an American Elm amidst the trees, which bunny_hugger noted might be rarer than the elves the signs warn are in the area.) Anyway, while the place isn't as lavish or as animated or as well-kept as d'Efteling is, this is nevertheless a wonderful and charming place, and if I had kids (or care of kids) and were anywhere near the area I'd be hauling them off here every summer.

What appears to be a snack stand (it wasn't open while we were there) was decorated with verses built around ``There Was A Jolly Miller Who Lived On The River Dee/ He Worked And Sang From Morn' Till Night No Lark So Blyth As He'', another one that's new to us.

There's also a several-piece installation of a dragon holding ``Sweet Gwenevere'' captive, and ``the brave knight'' charging off to rescue her, although from the way the characters' eyes are lined up it sure looks like Gwenevere is looking more wistfully at the dragon than at the knight. It was here that we saw our chipmunk for this Idlewild visit.

Inside Geppetto's Workshop is a copy of the book Pinocchio. No idea what to make of that.

Trivia: In the late 1960s Ford hired Alejandro de Tomaso of the Ghia car design studios to adapt the Mangusta (``Mongoose'') sports car into a two-door sports car, Pantera (``Panther''), to be sold through Lincoln-Mercury dealers. Source: Ford: The Men And The Machine, Robert Lacey.

Currently Reading: Images Of America: Conneaut Lake Park, Michael E Costello.

Tags: amusement parks, idlewild, kennywood, rain check trip

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