austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

The roller-coaster you and me; just try

Besides the new-old roller coasters it must be admitted Stricker's Grove hasn't got any real thrill rides; as fits a park designed around the rented-for-corporate-picnics model its rides are largely friendly, non-menacing flat rides, along the lines of the Tilt-A-Whirl. This is still plenty of stuff to have fun with.

The park has a carousel, of course, although we thought at first it wasn't an interesting one --- it appeared to be some fairly modern thing with fiberglass horses and fairground-style art spraypainted on in thick layers. But it's deeper than that: the horses seem to be cast metal, and as best we can figure, the machine dates to the 1940s or 1950s, when I think it was the Allan Herschel Company turned to making these cheaper machines for the growing number of kiddieland parks out there. So the carousel is surprisingly interesting, historically, even if it's not a classic wooden carved carousel. (It's also in a rather handsome brick shelter.)

And then ... it's got a band organ, a perfectly respectable one, which is actually the feature of the carousel that made us look more closely at it. It's a modern organ from the Stinson Organ Company, a modern company (operating since 1965) that provides new band organs which support MIDI operation and don't require scrolls of cut-out music dots. This sounds like it spoils much of the fun, and I guess it does in terms of how the organ operates, but the sound of the instruments is still there and vibrant and it speaks well of Stricker's Grove that they do make the modest place just plain better so.

And then ... the operator they had for the carousel, an elder man (of course it would), took the carousel from a surprisingly well-apportioned thing of historical vintage to the kind of ride you have as a kid and remember. He didn't simply let folks on and off and check that they were sitting safely. He marched in place to the music, he pointed to kids on the ride, he played with the attendees, as if performing the role of festivities organizer. The carousel might have gone at a routine four rotations per minute (and now that I think about it I'm not confident: it may have been doing five, and I really should start keeping track of this if I'm going to think much about carousel speed), but it turns out, a genial guy playing off the riders will make a ride much more fun.

The park has a miniature golf course, one complete with proper lighthouse and windmill with spinning blades, just like you never see in actual miniature golf courses. We could hardly resist, particularly since the path of the course took us right up beside the roller coasters, in touching range of the wooden supports. They had several quite good holes, too, and despite the pack of kids in the group ahead of us everybody moved along at a pretty reasonable clip, so we felt neither rushed nor rushing. The last hole, too, was in view of the shed where you return your clubs, and the guy leaned over to heckle people trying to make that last shot (a tall inclined ramp to a nearly-flat surface so that, if you shot too weakly, the ball dribbled back to you; if you shot too hard, it bounced off the back wall and rolled back to you. I managed to hit that one just right, so the ball actually drained as it should.)

The park did have a Super Round-Up ride, called the Electric Rainbow here, and while that was my favorite kind of ride as a kid, we missed this one. The line for it was too much early in the day; later in the day, it wasn't running.

The park has a train ride, which was supposed to stop for the day early because of the Fourth of July fireworks. So I suggested we take that ride before it stopped, since, presumably, we'd get to see some behind-the-scenes stuff. Actually, we got to see the employee parking lot most of all, because we were just too late to get on one train and had to wait through the whole ride cycle. The miniature railway ride, it must be admitted, isn't that thrilling or that scenic, since the park isn't very large so you don't see much stuff from behind-the-scenes angles, and it circles around the parking lot and you mostly see cars and cornfields beyond that. I didn't identify where the fireworks would come from, but I did see my car.

Now, the fireworks. We knew the park would have them for the Fourth; people talked about them, after all, and we heard the booming of one going off every hour, just about on the hour, all afternoon. I'm not sure whether this was meant to be a countdown or if they just had some issue in testing, but if it were a glitch why would it have happened every hour? On the other hand, if it were deliberate, why did it run a couple minutes behind the hour? In any case it made sure everyone was reminded regularly that there'd be fireworks to see.

But where would the fireworks be? We had no idea what the best vantage points might be, and saw no signs and heard no announcements about it. I supposed that if we went to wherever the crowd was gathering we'd probably be near enough, though bunny_hugger supposed that meant everyone in the park would be between us and the fireworks. Yet what better idea did we have?

Well, the better idea we had was to go back to our car so as to get our hoodies. It was a cool day, and it was getting colder as the sun set, and an extra layer seemed well advised. As we got to the parking lot we saw everybody had gathered around their cars, more or less, and especially around the rope my that our car was parked against. And as we pulled our hoodies on, the fireworks set off, from the roped-off space.

We were close. It seemed something like fifty feet from my car to the launch site (so I'd suppose it was actually at least twice that), and it felt so near it was easy to imagine the fireworks landing on us), and we sat and leaned against the car's hood to take in the show. Besides the skybound fireworks there were a number of ground-based sparklers --- a waterfall effect, particularly, with sparklers showering from a pole strung twenty feet off the ground, as well as a sparkler flag that fizzled along --- and in any case there was a good half-hour show of explosions which we were perfectly situated for.

And then the grand finale came, we thought, and the fireworks came to a stop, and a great many of the people in the parking lot took their cars and drove off. This was as we figured --- we thought that the park would thin out considerably between the fireworks and the close of the park and that we'd be able to get some more rides in. Our calculation was correct, and then boom there went another round of fireworks. A lot of people stopped and turned back to face where the fireworks came from, as a few more minutes of show went on, like they had forgotten. All right. First fireworks show I'd seen with an appendix.

So we were able to get back to the Teddy Bear and the Tornado and then boom a couple more fireworks. I don't know what happened there, but there were a couple of stray fireworks fired over the course of the next hour, as if they realized some of them hadn't fired during the main show and they might as well use them before the night was over. It produced a confusing effect, but it did give us the hope of being on a roller coaster while fireworks went off.

The most interesting and thrilling ride to us, outside the roller coasters, was the Tip Top. This is a kind of spinning-teacups-type ride with a main platform itself that rises to an incline and drops again, which we rode before the fireworks and again after. The cups themselves can spin freely, or you can grab hold of the center post and force them to spin, and the result is thrilling. You can end up so disoriented on the cup spinning that you don't even realize the whole platform has elevated, and we did, several times. There's also no seat belts or restraints, giving a very good illusion of either ``we're going to fall out of this'' or ``they didn't actually get inspected, did they?''. The ride is wild and thrilling and I'm surprised I haven't seen it in other places (that I remember) because it's so darned friendly to approach.

We picked it as the ride to get on as the park's closing hour approached, since we'd only had the one ride during the day and it was fun and different and exciting. And we picked well, we think, because as fun and genially disorienting as it is in the day, it's even more so at night, and as the last ride of the night the operator gave an extremely long riding cycle; we were probably the last ride going all night, at least other than the Tornado roller coaster.

And, that was the day: they closed off the rides and turned off the lights and the remaining crowd drizzled out of a park that's small but pleasant and that has some really grand parts to it. I have no idea if or when we'll ever be back, but, if you can be in Ross, Ohio, on just the right day, go for it.

Trivia: Vaudeville performer Lee Mose, a contralto with low register popular for the song ``Moanin' Low'' (performed on radio with the Blue Grass Boys), was sister to Glenn Taylor, a Democratic Senator from Idaho and vice-presidential candidate for the Progressive Party in 1948. Source: The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville, Anthony Slide.

Currently Reading: Descartes' Secret Notebook: A True Tale of Mathematics, Mysticism, and the Quest to Understand the Universe, Amir D Aczel.

Tags: amusement parks, ohio-indiana parks tour, stricker's grove

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