Thursday, February 22, 2018

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

Associated with loggers and hipsters, Oregon is a ecologically diverse and physically large place. There's a big city (Portland), there's some smaller cities, there's miles of sometimes treacherous coast line, there's forests, there's huge desolate treeless landscapes in the east; it's pretty wild. This wild history also means that Oregon has trended low historically; only 4 million people live there today, more than half of which are in the Portland area. It shouldn't be a surprise that most of the history of the industry revolves around Portland then. The primary park there was Jantzen Beach, which eventually closed in 1970 after years of dwindling attendance, migration away from the flood plagued area surrounding it, fires that ravaged the park's attractions, and freeways that moved traffic away from its gates. It's worth noting that it had a competitor for 3 years during the Great Depression called Lotus Isle - that park may not have even sought to be even exist, but simply be bought out of competing by Jantzen Beach only to wind up actually being built. In one of the wilder stories in amusement history, a plane crashed into its heavily themed scenic railway coaster in 1931, leading the park's elephant (named Tusko) to go on a rampage and destroy several rides. The park's ballroom burned down and it closed in 1932.

That's all in the past. What about right now in 2018? Well, there are two primary parks serving the community. One is the Oaks, which also happens to be the oldest park in Oregon. Ed Bollinger ran the park from the 30s until the 1980s when he created a non-profit to operate the park and donated the facility to it. See, progressive, futuristic thinking isn't just a recent trait in Oregon! Oaks has a famed roller rink and a small collection of rides being joined this year by a brand new Gerstlauer Eurofighter coaster; that's the park's largest capital investment in decades.

The primary competitor is Enchanted Forest in Turner, a classic story book park that's got extremely unique rides. There's the one of a kind shooting dark ride Challenge of Mondor. There's the Big Timber Log Ride, who's steel coaster based drops and uphill sections earned it a place on RCDB. There's the Haunted House walk through. And most famously of all, there's Ice Mountain Bobsled. What is Ice Mountain Bobsled? Well, it was originally designed as a heavily themed alpine slide, but transitioned into being a unique, in-house built roller coaster with full enclosed three car trains. Enchanted Forest certainly mixes the traditional with the novel.

Oregon has some other more orthodox, but still unique, attractions elsewhere in the state. Seaside, Oregon is a classic beach front town which still features a few indoor attractions after the closure of the one amusement park here in the 1980s. Of most notability is what Google Maps indicates is "Interstate Amusements Co." on Broadway, home to what is often referred to as the best set of Lusse Auto Skooters on the planet. These are the same sort of super heavy bumper car in use at Knoebels, and previous sets have disappeared during my lifetime from Hoffman's Playland (now Huck Finn's) in Upstate NY and Oaks in Oregon. The heft and speed of these cars makes the hits exceedingly violent; there's nothing else comparable. The area also has a small carousel, a more modern set of electric bumper cars, a Tilt-A-Whirl, indoor mini golf, and a Fascination parlor (a great electromechanical game I've detailed before). I'm not quite as enthusiastic over the existence of Prehistoric Gardens near Eugene, but as far as static models of dinosaurs made primarily in the 50s and 60s go, it's in great shape. This is an old school sorta roadside attraction that we're losing left and right.

Like almost every state with something approaching a real population, Oregon has some stand alone attractions. Modern wood carousels have opened in the state in Salem and Albany as community focal points. Occupying the "Independent FEC and Pizza Restaurant" niche is Roaring Rapids Pizza Company, which has a metal CW Parker Carousel, mini golf, and arcade games. Train Mountain Railroad  is not only a rail museum with the largest private collection of Cabooses, but features ride-able scale trains. None of the county fairgrounds have anything too exciting, but the Oregon State Fair does have a permanent sky ride that runs during the event, and the local rides company of Funtastic Shows and Davis Amusements Cascadia often travel with interesting pieces like the Schwarzcopf Flitzer and Funtastic's Herschell wood carousel.

While there's no really great outdoor water parks in Oregon, there is a really interesting indoor one. Wings and Waves Waterpark features an aeronautic and space theme, with a real life Boeing 747 mounted on the roof that serves as a platform for slides.

No comments:

Post a Comment