Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....Oklahoma

Their college team wears Red, the state's name is derived from Choctaw for "red people," the capital is the popular pick for America's best conservative city, and yes, they almost always vote Republican. Oklahoma lives the gimmick. Home to possibly the most avoided stretch of tollway in the nation (I-44), the state is most famous for it's weird shape, white supremacist terror attacks, Russell Westbrook, T. Boone Pickens commercials, and Jim Ross' BBQ sauce. It's a bit like Kansas except their voters are practically destined to approve medical marijuana (even if they can't afford to regulate it because their taxes are really low). Fracking income is down but wind farms are getting built like crazy. Its what you think of it, and then it's something else too.

Oklahoma City's population has skyrocketed, while Tulsa's city population has been flat and its suburbs instead absorb the humanity. If one inspects that further, you can see how amusements mirror that reality. Frontier City was the park from which the whole Premier Parks empire grew to absorb Walibi and Six Flags: it's back in the hands of Kieran Burke today as their flagship. There's several decent size coasters here, though none are all that wonderful (the Wildcat wood coaster has been neutered; the steel coasters are basically 70s era production models) and there's a dark ride and some halfway decent theming. That's more than I can say for Bell's Amusement Park, Tulsa's classic facility that managed to get kicked out of its home on the Tulsa Fairgrounds. There's a long back story about that you can read here, but let's just say that the space isn't generating revenue for the public of Tulsa. Politics rule.

Speaking of abandoned parks: Eagle Park. You can show up and get tours of the last Comanche chief's house along with lots of pictures of the decrepit rides. It's a regular stop for urbex types looking for soft adventure.

So before we get to the really deliciously obscure stuff, let's get to the stuff that's easier to Google: Lots of facilities in the state have a ride or two that aren't really full parks. Incredible Pizza Company in Warr Acres has a SBF Spinning Kiddie coaster. Elk City has a city park with a nice modern carousel. Oklahoma City Zoo does the usual zoo thing and has both train rides and a newer carousel to hit up: Tulsa Zoo has, well, the same sorts of things.

"What about kiddie parks?," I hear from the back. Oklahoma has you covered with three significant ones: Meadowlake Park in Enid has a Eli Wheel, CP Huntington Train, and a classic carousel. Quartz Mountain Fun Park and Water Slide doesn't have a coaster, but has something way rarer - the nation's other Eyerly Fly-O-Plane. There's this one (which was acquired from Eagle Park) and the one at Lake Winnie outside Chattanooga, and that's it. There's also an adapted concrete slide too, so you've got the best of all worlds. Finally, Kiddie Park in Bartlesville has 17 rides, most of which are vintage 50s pieces that are indestructible.

But wait! There's more. If you follow this series, you know that the states around Oklahoma (Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas) have fairgrounds with community owned attractions. Oklahoma is no different. The largest of them is, unfortunately, not operating any more - the old Observation Tower at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds is static and will probably never run again. The other state fair in Tulsa however rehabbed their scenic attraction: a Von Roll Skyride, just like the ones Disney used to operate or that runs at Cedar Point today.


There are also 5 other community carnivals in the state of Oklahoma, and they have some gnarly stuff:

Carnegie Tri-County Free Fair: 5 rides in total; Ferris wheel, Pirate Ship, Space Train, the Swing Ride, and the Fish Ride.

Geary Tri-County Fair: Tilt, Ferris Wheel, Scrambler, kids rides (kiddie train, Astrojet, Swinger)

Hinton District Fair: Ferris Wheel, Train, Tilt, Scat, some other rides

Hydro Free Fair: Ferris wheel, Hustler, Octopus, Loop-O-Plane, kiddie rides, pool. City also has a carousel.

Mountain View Free Fair: CW Parker Ferris Wheel, Carousel (? vintage), Kiddie car ride, possibly Italian

Many of the kiddie rides are probably worth 10X whatever the fair boards think they are at auction, while stuff like the Parker Wheel and Scat are rare, lucky-to-see-them-twice-in-a-lifetime pieces. Who knows how long they'll keep on running though, which makes them all the more important to record and see in real life; few pictures or video exist of any of these.

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