Sunday, August 16, 2020

2020 Kennywood Trip Report during ACE's KennyKon

Today we take a look at our visit to Kennywood this past weekend during ACE's annual KennyKon event. I am glad to say that it was a great time! As we all know, the logistics of holding an event like this. I am glad to say that it was flawless! The park does a great job at enforcing safe masking policies, ride sanitation, social distancing, and more. For the most part, the patrons of the park, and all of the ACE members, were following all of the safety protocols. In difficult times like these, the familiar things, like visiting an amusement park, are even more meaningful as a means of escape. I am glad to say that the park has stepped up to the challenge. This year is a milestone year for the park. The legendary Jack Rabbit wooden roller coaster is entering its hundredth year of continual operation. A century of thrills and memories have been born on this terrific roller coaster.  
The day for ACE started with ERT (Extra Ride Time) on Jack Rabbit and Thunderbolt, an hour before the gates opened to the public. I managed to snag five rides on Jack Rabbit, with a ride in each of the distanced rows on the train. 
The park's amazing carousel is within its 93rd season. I love how this grand machine serves as the heart of the park.
Thunderbolt's midway is so beautiful. Between seeing and hearing joyful riders as the trains traverse the wickedly twisted track of Thunderbolt as it elegantly swirls through the midway, along with seeing Phantom's train drop down its massive 228 foot drop down a cliff and subsequent rush back up, and seeing and hearing the classic Turtle ride, this spot is just so mesmerizing.
For me, just taking in everything in this spot is one of my favorite things in life.
Note how the riders all safely rode with their masks on, throughout one of the most intense sections of any coaster ever built.

The took out the fisheye lens for this shot. I rarely use it, but this is one of those rare situations that is perfect for it. Steel Curtain has not opened for the season, though the core of the park, its three wooden roller coasters, countless classic rides, and the epic Phantom's Revenge, more than made up for the loss. 
On this visit, I believe that Racer offered the best ride of the three wooden roller coasters at the park. My opinion on favorite wooden roller coaster at the park varies with each visit.
Phantom remains as my overall favorite coaster in the park. 
After ERT ended, I did not end up taking too many shots. I was too busy riding and catching up with old friends from ACE. I was just not able to focus both physically, and with my camera. I had not gone to an ACE event in a while, and I am glad that I did. I realized my favorite parts again of being involved with that group all while having a great and safe time at the park. 

It is that time of year and we have now released our annual Roller Coaster Calendar!

Our 2021 Roller Coaster Wall Calendar features roller coasters from many amusement parks, including Knoebels in Pennsylvania, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in California, Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia, Holiday World in Indiana, Belmont Park in California, Waldameer Park in Pennsylvania, Kentucky Kingdom, Carowinds, Cedar Point in Ohio, Family Kingdom in South Carolina, Conneaut Lake Park in Pennsylvania, Kennywood Park in Pennsylvania, and Kings Island. These calendars are custom made with photos taken exclusively by us. The calendars open up to be 17 inches tall by 11 inches wide (8.5 by 11 per page)

To purchase, use the PayPal drop down menu at the bottom of this article, or through the top of the page. For more information, check out this link.

2021 Coaster Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Options

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

2021 Roller Coaster Calendar

It is that time of year and we have now released our annual Roller Coaster Calendar!

Our 2021 Roller Coaster Wall Calendar features roller coasters from many amusement parks, including Knoebels in Pennsylvania, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in California, Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia, Holiday World in Indiana, Belmont Park in California, Waldameer Park in Pennsylvania, Kentucky Kingdom, Carowinds, Cedar Point in Ohio, Family Kingdom in South Carolina, Conneaut Lake Park in Pennsylvania, Kennywood Park in Pennsylvania, and Kings Island. These calendars are custom made with photos taken by the authors. The calendars open up to be 17 inches tall by 11 inches wide (8.5 by 11 per page)

These calendars make great gifts for other people, or for yourself.

Also available is our book on Pennsylvania's historic amusement parks, Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip. It features Knoebels, Kennywood Park, Hersheypark, Dorney Park, Waldameer, DelGrosso's, Lakemont, Dutch Wonderland, Idlewild, and Conneaut Lake Park.

Purchases of both items can be made through the PayPal menu at the bottom of this page, and at the top of this page. 

Thanks for your ongoing support!
2021 Coaster Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Options

Thursday, July 9, 2020

2020 Knoebels Trip Report: A Safe and Fun Time

Knoebels is our happy place. It has has been and always will be. When we saw that the park would be opening in July during this year of uncertainty, we just had to go. We ended up spending the July 4th weekend at the park, camping in the campground, and strolling over to the park. If this is something you have not experienced, we highly recommend it, especially in these tough times. In the midst of this stressful summer, visiting Knoebels was a lovely respite in the midst of devastation. 

As far as safety and sanitization protocols in the midst of this pandemic, they did a wonderful job. They ensured that everyone properly wore a mask and they set out guidelines for guests to socially distance. For the most part, people cooperated well, knowing that if they did not, the park may not be able to operate. Rides were shut down every half hour or so for a deep cleaning involving spray disinfectants and wiping down. Every other row on the coasters was alternated each ride cycle. Markings were placed on the ground to ensure proper social distancing. Some carousel horses were kept empty to ensure proper distancing was achieved and the trains had alternating rows as well. Knoebels acted like the wonderful community citizen that it always has been, by acting responsibly and faithful to the needs of the community. This time is not optimal for anyone, but in the midst of a deadly pandemic, Knoebels has risen to the challenge to ensure that guests have a great time and that a safe environment is achieved. It is clear that Knoebels cares about its patrons and the overall safety of the community, which should not be news to anyone who has ever visited the park.
I love that the Lawrence Knoebel Covered Bridge welcomes you into the park from the camping area. 
Breakfast! Breakfast is served every day starting at 8:00AM in the International Pavilion, near the log flume.
Since we brought our dog CeCe along with us, our first ride was on the antique cars. The track that the ride travels on, weaving in and out of the structure on Phoenix, is easily the nicest that I have ever experienced. 
Heading over for a ride on Phoenix!
It was a terrific ride as always!
Next up was a ride on the Pioneer Train. I absolutely love the views you get of Twister's immense structure.
The carousel always looks so stately. 
Flying Turns is in the process of a big rebuilding project on the last half of the ride. The back half almost looks like a brand new ride!
Day 2! Here you can see Twister and Phoenix getting in their morning test runs while we go pick up some breakfast.
First ride of the day was the carousel.

CeCe did not know what to make of it at first, and then thoroughly enjoyed it. 
Both of the park's carousels are absolutely lovely.
Ole Smokey is the park's second, and shorter train, but it still has a really long course, and even crosses a classic iron bridge across the creek. 
Back to Twister!
The cutaway here frames the twisted nature of the coaster so nicely.
Now for a little afternoon swim with CeCe in front of the park's historic Lawrence Knoebel Covered Bridge.
Looking up at the helix after the end of the second lift hill is really impressive. Twister's structure is so enormous.
Derby Race time!
Closing out the evening with a ride on Phoenix!

And back for another morning ride on Twister.

CeCe loves taking in the coasters as much as I do!
Overall, I have to say I was very impressed with how Knoebels has struck a safe balance between doing too much and doing too little. In a time where parks could easily throw in the towel for the season, Knoebels has opted to open up, but with logical and safe precautions to protect us in this pandemic. The mask policies, the spacing methods in the queue lines and on the rides, the sanitizer stations across the park for guests and employees, and the frequent deep cleaning stops on the rides help ensure that this virus does not spread. Most of the visitors were following the protocols pretty well. The park struck a balance between doing too much and too little, and is taking the threat of this pandemic very seriously. 

As always, we are grateful and appreciative of what Knoebels is able to accomplish. When tough times have struck this 94 year old park, whether it be during the Great Depression, wartime, and the complete collapse of local industry, the park has not only survived, but thrived. Knoebels needs our support in these times, for it has always been there for us, including now with keeping our safety as their first motivation. The decent crowds over the weekend were very encouraging, but we need to keep it up. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Tough Pandemic Times in the Amusement Park Industry: Some Thoughts Moving Forward

Water becoming aerosoled from the water dummies on RMC's newest coaster at Walibi World

I generally like to keep things light on our page. Unfortunately this is one of those times that we have to go more serious. In watching discussion around the hobby since the coronavirus situation began, I am reminded of a time at an event that a park was hosting for coaster enthusiasts where at the start of an ERT session (extra ride time) an enthusiast was yelling at and berating an entry gate height check operator about how the ride was not open right at the start of the ERT session. A number of us within our hobby of visiting amusement parks feel entitled and are demanding that the parks need to open right away and like normal, which is not an option right now due to the preservation of safety within the greater community. With some safety measures, there may come a time in the future where it is feasible to reopen the amusement parks, but we have not reached that point yet, as the death toll from the violent virus approaches 85,000 people, with strict measures in place to prevent its spread.
World War II motivational poster
This year, and possibly years going forward, are going to be very difficult for the amusement park industry, as with any recreational and non-essential industry in this country. Our country has bigger things on its plate right now in fighting against a virus that has killed roughly 85,000 people in America alone as of May 14th. Mass congregations of people as we know them will no longer be feasible in the foreseeable future, and when they are prudent to have, they will not likely look like anything we have seen before. Throughout the history of this country we have battled enemies and come out stronger after those battles. Conflicts that immediately come to mind include the Civil War, World War I, the 1918 Spanish Flu (a pandemic claimed half of my family that had emigrated here just before that point, along with millions of other Americans), and World War II.
An informational graphic from the 1919 Spanish Flu Epidemic that killed millions in this country

I mentioned World War II last because that is the first situation that comes to mind in when it comes to the shared sacrifice that the nation needed to make to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. More than 16 million young men were sent to fight. Those who stayed behind in the United States had no option but to focus their efforts upon building equipment for the war effort, rationing their food and materials to send to our troops fighting overseas, and shutting down businesses that distracted from this goal. This included sacrifices from non-essential businesses like amusement parks.

Rocky Point's "Short Turns" PTC Flying Turns Coaster. Photo courtesy of Amusement Parks and Beyond. This coaster was built in 1931 and PTC would not get a chance to build another Flying Turns until 1942 at Hersheypark, as the country was clawing out of the Great Depression. That project ended up being cancelled after the outbreak of World War II and the associated rationing and need to focus labor upon winning that battle. 

PTC built more than fifty coasters during the roaring 1920s and ended up building just 11 coasters through the 1930s as the Great Depression raged on, with many cancelled projects over the decade and into the 1940s when World War II began. As with everything though, the tough times passed and PTC built projects that were bigger and better than ever.

Hersheypark had planned to build a new Flying Turns coaster from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1942, but the rationing from the war and need to focus those efforts upon winning the war were much more important at that time. We face a similar kind of enemy to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan with this horrendous virus. The tightening of our belts to fight this virus is similar to these efforts. While a PTC Flying Turns addition would have ended up being great, there is a strong chance that it would not still be with us today. After World War II was over, the park went big and added a brand new coaster in 1946 with the addition of Comet. We will come back bigger, better, and smarter after the conflict with this virus passes, just like we did after the Great Depression and World War II.

A look back to the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918 can give us some insights on what to do going forward. Lockdowns were put in place after the first wave of the pandemic killed a whopping 3-5 million people. Following reopening, a second wave ended up killing 20 million plus. Crowded cities and places of mass congregation are the pipeline of transmission for these infectious diseases.

The following essay from the NIH talks about measures that needed to be put in place and kept for the 1918 pandemic. Cities that jumped on board with these aggressive measures more quickly ended up losing much fewer lives than the cities that delayed and things ended up going back to normal sooner for them as well.
"To explain what made influenza so hard to control, public health commentators found the concept of a “crowd disease” increasingly useful. Of course, the idea that cities, crowding, and epidemics went together was by no means new in the early 1900s; for centuries, observers had noted that where many people packed in together, diseases often followed. Yet in size and complexity, the new industrial cities of the early 20th century posed an extreme challenge. The scale and scope of public gathering places increased dramatically between 1890 and 1918. The second industrial revolution directly or indirectly led to a vastly expanded public school system, huge factories and office buildings, extensive public entertainments (amusement parks, nickelodeons, dance halls), and, last but not least, mass transportation systems that connected all these elements together. By the early 1900s, the interlinking of public spaces created a vast highway along which the deadly germs could quickly travel.
The influenza pandemic underlined the difficulty of policing those public spaces. Influenza was a “crowd disease” as opposed to a “house disease” (an illness rooted in defective household plumbing or careless housekeeping). Although the term “crowd disease” did not become a familiar part of the public health lexicon until publication of Major Greenwood's Epidemics and Crowd Diseases in 1935, commentators routinely marked the association between population density and influenza's spread. From its outset, the pandemic was linked with crowded places, from troop ships to movie theaters. Although isolation of the sick was essential, quarantine measures had to be accompanied by broader measures aimed at regulating the congestion of public spaces.
For the full paper, “Destroyer and Teacher”: Managing the Masses During the 1918–1919 Influenza Pandemic by Dr. Nancy Tomes, visit this link.

Following the end of the pandemic crisis, amusement parks had one of their best decades of all time, with more roller coasters getting built in that time period than any time before or since. The core of what makes up Kennywood was built in the 1920s. Crises and the markets ebb and flow like tides. As a nation, we will rise back up when the time is right. If we do not take precautions to prevent the spread of this virus, things will only get worse instead of better. As with anything, it will pass and things will go back to normal in due time. 

Times are undoubtedly tough, and we are likely to have even tougher times ahead, especially for those of you grieving losses of loved ones from this virus, or those that will deal with that in the near future. I gained some perspective on this last week and do not wish it upon anyone. When parks do reopen, extra steps will be need to made to ensure that it is prudent, logical, and safe to operate. 
Here is a POV video of the new RMC coaster at Walibi Holland making test runs with their water dummies. Note the flow of the water and how that mimics the flow of germs and viruses that are transported as an aerosol directly from our mouths form in sneezes. If coasters are to open in this time where we have a violent respiratory virus going around, at a minimum, masks are going to have to be worn, likely tighter fitting ones that are supplied by the parks themselves that will stay intact during a coaster ride and will need to be immediately disposed of once off of the ride. Rows of seating will likely need to be blocked off, with the addition of possible windshield style protectors to keep potentially infected aerosol spray from other guests away from the rest. They will likely need to keep at least one or two rows between groups of riders, with plastic shielding, and use of a steam cleaner with disinfectant or some other disinfectant to clean the train between each ride cycle. Do parks have the staffing and resources to make this safe, logical, and profitable to carry out? Or will this season need to just be held off? The problem demonstrated in this video also shows us how much more will need to be done aside from having more hand washing stations, hand sanitizer kiosks, and mandating masks. 

I want the parks to open as soon as safely possible and with utmost attention paid towards ensuring that the spread does not happen at the parks. South Korea recently reopened their bars and nightclubs. One guy visited several clubs and bars and came into contact with thousands of people. That man went on to test positive a few days later and it has ended up with a new cluster of infected individuals that visited those bars and nightclubs. This is a situation that could easily occur within the confines of an amusement park, where there are similar close confines between guests. There are ways to go about doing business without having huge groups of people congregating together. Some developments that have been announced by Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and Disney regarding having reservations to enter the park, and then reservations for virtual queuing, additional hand washing facilities, use of masks, and more, show promise on being able to fight the spread of the virus, but if not done right, the potential for spread of the virus is still a huge risk. For parks in areas where infection rates are low, opening a park for tourists from other places where virus rates are high could lead to spread to these otherwise spared areas. If these parks are in more rural areas and the regions become coronavirus hotspots, can their small and often cash strapped rural hospitals be able to handle a rapid influx of cases? Rural hospitals have been closing at record numbers over the last few years. If a rural area that has largely been spared from the coronavirus so far ends up becoming a hot spot due to their local amusement park reopening, can their rural hospital systems handle a local outbreak? Is this risk necessary to take at this time?
Pennsylvania informational poster on how people could band together to fight World War II

I don't have the answers for this, and it hurts me and breaks my heart as someone who loves this industry and the people within it. We have to move forward in a prudent way and listen to the health and science experts. I am not an expert in the field of public health and microbiology, and it is likely that you are not either, so we should leave these decisions and points advice to the people that are. The business losses as a result of this situation are horrendous, but in the end, if we reopen everything too fast and either we die, or more vulnerable people end up dying because of this violent virus, is it worth the cost? Is that our choice to make? If you die from this virus, you will not have to worry about working or running your business anymore, and you will not have to worry about being able to visit amusement parks either. As with any tough situation that our country has faced, it too will pass. Take the necessary precautions to avoid passing along the spread of this virus and in due time, things will slowly work their way back to normal.

I trust that parks will make the right decisions when the time is right. Parks do not want to take actions that are not in their best interest when safety is on the line, especially in an industry in which safety has to be the number one priority. In due time, parks will reopen and you will be able to get your thrill fix back in. In the mean time, you can get your amusement park fix through watching some POVs on YouTube, checking out photos, and reading up on related stuff. It will also help if you can just find another hobby to take your mind off of things until these tough times pass. I wish good health to all of you and speedy recoveries for all of you that are afflicted. I wish strength and resiliency to all of you that have lost people in this pandemic. This all became real for me last week and the families of 85,000 others, as of May 15th, are dealing with the same thing. We are all in this together. Regardless of our beliefs, we all want things to get back to normal as quickly as is safely possible and want the people in our community to be safe.

Just after we published this article, DelGrosso's announced that they will defer opening this season and wait until next season. I suspect we will be hearing more plans like these coming up. Cedar Fair has also hinted that if needed, they have enough cash reserves to sit through two seasons. Tough times like these are the epitome of the necessity for saving money for rainy days.