Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of...Georgia

Nestled in the deep of the American south, Georgia is the 8th most populated state and home to one of America's minor cultural hubs (Atlanta). Historically, like much of the south, there were limitations to infrastructure that prevented the sheer volume of trolley parks from opening. Wildwood Park in Columbus, OH and DeSoto Park in Rome were rare variants of these, but many like Lakeside Park in Macon and Lake View Park in Augusta were actually extensions of social clubs for wealthy Georgian residents. Few of any of these parks actually expanded to the point of containing significant numbers of permanent amusement rides. In fact, for footage of the most significant pre-Wynne family construction effort in Georgia amusement/theme park history, we must delve deep into the video archives. Yes, it's true: we have to watch Smokey & The Bandit.




Yup - the Lakewood Park/Fairgrounds coaster known as Greyhound was the one shown in the first film and destroyed in the second. It was a bad time for wood coasters in movies, what with the Ocean View Rocket also being toppled for 1977's Rollercoaster. But in fairness, things were better in 1980 than they had ever been in the region, and it is worth stating that they are probably even better now than then. Six Flags Over Georgia is still owned by the Wynnes, and it shows with the awesomeness that is Monster Mansion still operating and a second dark ride (a Justice League) coming soon. Is it perfect? Nah. But there's a ton of really good rides there and stuff that other parks don't have (like the Von Roll skyride). But it also isn't unknown. Neither are:

-Legoland Discovery Center has another dark ride for the good folks of Georgia (a Kingdom Quest much like the others)



-Six Flags White Water is the other Georgia possession of the chain in Marietta. This is a standalone water park actually designed by Herschend, but was dispensed of to the Six Flags ownership cabal in 1999. Small amusement park American Adventures was also purchased, which shared a parking lot with the Six Flags park, but was actually sold during Six Flags' period of divestment in the mid 2000s to a team that managed to run it into the ground for good and sell it back to Six Flags.

-Did I say Herschend? Because Herschend also operates the amusements at Stone Mountain Park north of Atlanta and the Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta (it has seven roller coasters! it used to have nine! yes that was a bad idea!)

MILITARY GRADE

Lake Winnie (Winnepesaukah) in Rossville is practically a Tennessee park serving the fine folks of Chattanooga, but falls on the Georgia side of the border. A great classic park, there's a number of highlights beyond the John Allen-designed out and back and skyride.

-Wacky Factory is a strange re-do of a Bill Tracy dark ride called "Castle" which kinda sorta was a flashback to the preceding dark ride at the park, another Bill Tracy creation called the Wacky Shack. It isn't a particularly scary ride and retains some new versions of the old stunts along with the re-imagined cars created by Bell's Amusement Park back in the 1970s.



-The Boat Chute turns 90 years of age next year, and has been the oldest operating flume attraction in the world since the Water Chute/Vikingar was demolished at Blackpool. The long dark ride out to the lift and subsequent splashdown is like little else in the world.


-The Eyerly Aircraft Company converted several platforms for flight training into actual rides, and many of these are still operational today at carnivals and small amusement parks. Attractions like the Loop-O-Plane and Rock-O-Plane are extremely common even today as they've managed to retain their extreme durability through the generations and be cost effective attractions. One that hasn't made it quite as long in the Eyerly catalog is the Fly-O-Plane. The last North American model of the ride operates here at Lake Winnie, providing guests a chance to control their vehicle's motion and get it to barrel roll consistently. The new Sky Roller and Sky Fly attractions from Gerstlauer are more modern interpretations of this World War 2-era design, but to see the original, you must go to Rossville.

Chattanooga has some other wacky stuff to check out, like the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, Ruby Falls, and a huge incline railway.

NORMAL IS A RELATIVE TERM

The NCA Census shows carousels in the spots you'd expect them; major amusement parks and zoos. And also at a facility owned by a dentist for patient parties.Wait, what? Yeah, so, Healey Family Dentistry serves the Atlanta area, and part of the deal is that a couple times every year, the kids who go to the practice get a free party to attend with all you can eat popcorn and carousel rides on a 1927 CW Parker. Seriously, look!


The construction of the Buford Dam created islands in 1956 located in the middle of a new reservoir named Lake Lanier. To manage these new islands as prospective recreation and residential real estate, the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority was formed to parse out various bits and pieces for construction projects of all sorts. LanierWorld, the water park here, has existed in various forms since the late 1980s. Yes: there is a concrete slide here. Hallejuah, the one true slide style in our world. And because it is concrete, they even run this as an ice slide in the winter when the park opens. It's probably very gnarly. There are a few newer fiberglass slides too, but the wacky old ground hugging stuff is best.

Not far from the airport is Fun Junction USA, a small amusement park that's gone by more than one name in its short existence. Looks are deceiving from the outside: the Miler Hi-Miler model coaster inside is one of the punchiest attractions of its sort pound-for-pound on the planet. The portable one operated by Ray Cammack was the de facto best portable coaster in the US with the disappearance of Conklin's Doppel Looping in the early 2000s, but now that the Hi-Miler has been parked at winter quarters, Georgia has two of your best options for checking out Miler's more exciting adult models (the other is a Star Jet, almost identical to the coaster that plummeted into the Atlantic from Hurricane Sandy, at Wild Adventures).

FAIRGROUNDS WHERE STUFF DIDNT GET BLOWN UP



While the Greyhound went kablooey, that doesn't mean that there aren't any rides standing sentinel at fairgrounds in the state. Drew Expositions has parked a Schwarzkopf Wildcat bought off of Conklin Shows at the North Georgia County Fairgrounds now for several years. You may also run into the Seattle Wheel should you go during the 10ish day run of the fair; it is a duplicate of the minimalist ferris wheel that appeared at the Seattle Worlds Fair of 1964.

Cumming Fair in Forsyth County also hits the list with their sky ride. Very few state fairgrounds would have an attraction like this, much less a smaller county/metro one. But here it is:



GENERAL PURPOSE STUFF

Two AZA Zoos in the region have permanent rides in addition to their animal collections: Chehaw has a CP Huntington train from Chance & tractor pulled trailer safari of sorts. Zoo Atlanta also owns a CP Huntington & a modern carousel.

The Georgia Museum of Agriculture & Historic Village celebrated its 40th year of operation in 2016, though unfortunately as I write this, their 0-4-0 narrow gauge train is down for repairs, but is hoped to be up and running again in 2017. They do have a large historical village with period costumes.



Netherworld is the pinnacle of Atlanta haunts: huge, tons of actors and robotic/animatronic effects, actual thought put into set design. Within the haunt industry, it has achieved national acclaim.


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