austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Between now and then

We expected Kennywood would be busy because amusement parks tend to be busy on Saturdays and, of course, we were there because we had rain checks. Kennywood issues rain checks, for evening or for full-day admission, all summer, and in their last weeks of validity --- September weekends --- people get to using them. We expected a bit of a crowd, but thought hopefully we might be able to park in the free lot a short walk from their entrance gate. No. Well, maybe up the hill a bit to the second level parking lot. No. Up all the way to the third tier of parking, remarkably far from the gate, far enough that there's a ski lift to bring people to and from the front gate. It wasn't running --- bunny_hugger hasn't seen it running --- but apparently on the most busy of days it does indeed go into service, including (we would learn) back on the 26th of July, when we were discovering Knoebel's. We were dreading the long walk down (and worse, back up) when we saw the courtesy shuttle.

We didn't get there just as the Starlite evening admissions began --- we'd stolen a bit of time from Kennywood in favor of Idlewild --- but near enough, and got to see that there is, as we suspected, some pattern to the color of tickets they give out. We had (still in the car) orange tickets representing full-day rain checks. There were tickets with a base of yellow and green (as I remember it) stripes representing Starlite rain checks. There were also solid green (I believe) representing special-price military admissions, and I did see someone with blue tickets of no meaning I caught. Possibly they're group sales. Bizarrely to me I can't find a master list of what Kennywood ticket color codes signify; what are you doing out there, Internet?

As at Idlewild, Kennywood was preparing itself for Halloween weekend openings, with things like haunted carriages set out in the midst of the lawns, and occasionally people striding up to the hearse props (or whatnot) to photograph it better. It was a fairly packed day, which suggested good things to us since it made it more likely the park would stay open late and the more night time the better, as I only got to see the park in the start of its evening glow last time around.

Among our early priorities was getting fries. Their fresh-cut French fries are one of Kennywood's signature items and something park enthusiasts and apparently everyone in Pittsburgh thinks about the perfect food ever. We'd missed them back in July but now, at the famed Potato Patch fries stand, was ... a line about fourteen weeks long. bunny_hugger did her research, though, and knew of two other stands selling the same fries, one of them inside Lost Kennywood, the part of the park that mostly resurrected older rides and has the theme of a vintage 1920s park. This is a touch odd in a park that's already got a lot of important rides from the actual 1920s but there you have it. The Small Fry's shop was considerably less crowded and the fries were .. well, we're probably going to get in trouble for this, but while the fries were good they didn't seem exceptional. They're great, but we're not convinced they're worth waiting in a line longer than any of the roller coasters demand.

Kennywood loves its history, which is part of what makes the park so wonderful, and little bits of it keep catching the eye. In one of the food courts within Lost Kennywood I noted, near the top, a couple of tiny carts that looked like miniatures of the wagons animals are kept in in old cartoons featuring circuses. A plaque, tucked between the pizza-and-sandwich menu boards, explained these menagerie wagons were used in the early 30s, when the park tried to carry on through the Great Depression by including live animal exhibits. Let me quote the plaque so you may enjoy the head-scratching wonder I had:

The animals obviously were small --- rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, etc. Such displays were common then as road-side attractions.

And I'm stuck by imagining the family come out to the park in the 30s and Mom saying, ``Oh, I don't think we could take the Racer coaster. Why don't we look at some squirrels instead?''

I also can't see how the squirrels wouldn't have just escaped these wagons, but perhaps they had those in a tighter-mesh cage. Also, Kennywood kept its menagerie wagons around for sixty years on the off-chance they'd find a use for it again someday. I really have to find a way for my father to start hanging out with Kennywood folks, as they're plainly his natural people.

While we figured Saturday would be a day mostly of seeing things there were a couple rides we wanted to be sure we got on, the Bayern Kurve the most important of those. This is another surviving example of a near-extinct ride --- both Great Adventure and Cedar Point used to have them when we were kids --- and it's got a nice classic simplicity. The cars move on a circular track that's itself got a twist, going up and down, past an Alpen facade. Kennywood also decorates with with some neon trees that switch colors in different parts of the ride, and, as befits a classic flat ride, there's a horn that blares when the ride gets up to full speed. You can hear the horn from halfway across the park and that adds such a lovely touch to the fun. We'd missed it in July and fixed that this time, not without some awkwardness: it turns out the two of us couldn't fit into the same car, not with my legs taking up so much space, and since the ride was filling up we ended up riding on pretty near opposite ends of the train.

This would bring us into the wonderful nighttime at Kennywood, with the park all lit up and shrouded in darkness, and with the joyful news that the park was staying open to 10:30 pm, weather permitting.

Trivia: New York City classifies pigeons as livestock, a holdover from the days when the animals were mostly used as a food source. Source: Superdove: How The Pigeon Took Manhattan ... And The World, Courtney Humphries.

Currently Reading: Sputnik and the Soviet Space Challenge, Asif A Siddiqi.

Tags: amusement parks, kennywood, rain check trip
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