Saturday, April 28, 2018

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #147 - G-Force, Steel Vengeance, and Jerome

Alan, Alex, and Joe record two shows in one! Part one we talk about the IX Indoor Amusement Park and the hot spots around Cleveland, Ohio! For part two we review Steel Vengeance, talk about the needs of Cedar Point, and cover the latest news and rumors of the theme park world.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

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

In the middle of Canada lies Saskatchewan, a huge province that can basically be described "gigantic Nebraska + polar bears." With 1.1 million residents in a space nearly as large as Texas, Saskatchewan's two major cities of Regina (capital) and Saskatoon (most populated) frankly have a pretty poor history of permanent amusements. It's biggest draws are the two big fairs each year: the Saskatoon Ex and the Regina Fair. Both are serviced by the folks at North American Midway Entertainment, and were part of the Conklin Shows route up until the company's merger into NAME in the 2000s.

Historically, the only permanent park in the province of note prior to the present day was Saskatoon's Leisureland, a park that reportedly had a train, ferris wheel, dance hall, and more. There's no pictures, postcards, advertisements for the park in local magazines, notes about its operation, or anything else I was able to dredge up about it, nor is there anything resembling a tell-tale sign from images of the trailer park on it's location today. This isn't to say that it didn't exist: Obituaries suggest that Michael Egnatoff (1908-2012) founded the facility along with a number of art communities in the 1960s, and concessions were operated by Ede Burge (1937-2016) and her husband Jacob Getzlaf (???-1979). They ran the small carnival outfit Funtime Amusements, and were well suited to manage a small set of permanent attractions. Her husband's death was sudden and unexpected, causing her to leave the industry. That a ferris wheel, train, and carousel opearate at Kinsmen Park's Nutrien Playland is probably not a total coincidence: the company she was part of also operated concessions at the city park in the 60s and 70s.

2015 saw the rebirth of amusements in Saskatoon with the corporately sponsored Nutrien Playland. Along with the carousel that had been part of the park for untold years prior (NCA doesn't list it), a new ferris wheel was constructed (around 60 feet tall), along with upgraded play equipment and a splash pad. It joins the privately owned Wilson's Entertainment Park with its ropes course, electric go karts, and inflatables as the best options for dry fun all summer long in the province.

Let's get downright rural: Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village is located an hour west of Regina, and is a living museum showing the early 20th century farming way of life as well as a boat. The boat is a bewildering sight with an incredible story of loss and eccentric madness powering its builder to fashion it in the throes of the Great Depression. Along with the boat is a model town, antique tractors and cars, and the remains of Tom Sukanen, who's story is played out. Slightly less tear jerking is Corn Ways Adventures: there's a corn maze that's the big draw, but also zorbing, quad course (bring your own ATV...or rent!), ziplines, and bounce houses. Country Fun in Prince Albert doesn't have an active internet presence, but it still seems to be open in summers and has a train that used to run at Kinsmen Park (which in turn might have run at Leisureland...maybe?).

This far north, it isn't too surprising to see that there's not a lot of water park activity. The Travelodge Regina is a newer build and has a pair of newish slides along with some water play areas, while an older model Ramada in the same city has two slides of its own with a lower ceiling. Metro Saskatoon has the Battlefords Co-Op Aquatic Center, fulfilling both desires for community owned attractions and an indoor water park with a lazy river. And finally, we have Kenosee Superslides, a full scale outdoor water park that's primarily terrain based rather than being a bunch of towers, but has some wild speed slides too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....Rhode Island

It's small!

Really, really small!

"How small is it?"

It's half the size of the Toronto-Hamilton Metro Area!

"Uhhh, how small is that?"

There are 431 counties and parishes in the United States larger than Rhode Island. Brevard County Florida is bigger than Rhode Island. 

"That seems small."

That is small. Officially named "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," it also has the largest and totally not at all overcompensating name. 1.06 million people live there says Wikipedia, which is also a number that is now decreasing. Why the departures? It costs money to live in Rhode Island and things just aren't as fun now that Mayor Buddy Cianci is dead. Yeah, he was in the back pocket of the mafia, but look at how much rad stuff happened in Providence thanks to him. They got like, one of the few things I'm gonna list here!

So because this is a place without much happening today, I'm gonna go into the recent past, because there was a lot happening. Like, even during my lifetime. I could have gone to Rocky Point - I saw the commercials, and I could have asked to visit, but nah, it never happened. I wasn't a theme park fan or coaster enthusiast then, and it like Americana in Ohio and the Texas State Fair wood coaster are the ultimate "almosts" in my lifetime. When it closed in 1995, both of it's coasters (steel) were relocated - one to Prince Edward Island at Sandspit, the other to Wild Waves in Washington to become the Wild Thing. The most unique rides were argurably its sky ride and the gravity driven House Of Horrors though, and both were lost to time. The park followed Crescent Park in East Providence which had shuttered in the late 70s. Their death left the state with no full size parks.

The state's capital at this time was a mess. Providence, like many of the feeder cities to the megasized Boston and New York areas, resembled a warzone in a state of total collapse. Buddy Cianci was given the task of righting the ship there in a second time around as Mayor. The first time Cianci had been in charge, he had put out a cigarette on a contractor he believed was sleeping with his wife while his police escort watched. He took a felony charge and wound up getting to stay out of prison. He returned to prominence in 1991 on a populist campaign intended to spur action. Depending on what neighborhood you were in or who you were, Buddy's second run as mayor was either heroic or tragic. In some neighborhoods, people would call when the sidewalk was cracked and see it patched a day later. In others, mob affiliated henchmen stole city property in broad daylight for scrap. Cianci was accused of a multitude of crimes over the years: rape, intimidation, racketering. The last of those landed him a 7 year federal prison term and the effective end of his political career (though he would run again, even as cancer ravaged his body).

Cianci unquestionably found success with his plan to remake Providence's waterfront around artists. Artists, he thought, would attract people with money and talent, and people with money and talent invest and create businesses, which in turn stabilizes and sends the city into a growth period. The centerpiece of this was WaterFire, which now enters its 24th year in 2018. Peformance art, music, spectacle, WaterFire has become the symbol of Providence to the world. Cianci is a deeply divisive figure to many, but in this, his place as the man who led the city out of the dark ages has effectively been forever guaranteed.

Westerly is not exactly well known outside of the immediate area, but yet it's the center of the present day Rhode Island amusement universe. Misquamicut Beach draws people, and when you have crowds, crowds want to do things. In a tight space around Atlantic Ave lies the largest aquatics facility (Water Wizz; converted concrete terrain slides and some 90s era speed slides), Atlantic Beach Park (kiddie park with the state's only operating coaster and an arcade pavillion), and Bayview Fun Park (mini golf, go karts). I can't say that any of this is really worth rushing over to, but as someone who grew up visiting often, I know that it has a special place in my heart even if it isn't exactly Wildwood or Coney Island.

One thing Rhode Island does have that's pretty different are some rather spectactular carousels. Adults can't ride the Flying Horse Carousel in Watch Hill, a late 18th cenury ride that was driven by a horse and had a hand cranked organ when it first started running for the public in 1876. 142 years later, it has been given an electric motor to get the thing spinning, with horses suspended from the ceiling (leading to the age requirement to prevent big folks from boarding). Crescent Park's carousel stayed put when the park died, and it's a fantastic showcase machine featuring all different pieces from the Looff catalog circa 1895.

Aside from these, there isn't that much left to talk about in the modern day: Adventureland of Narragansett is a fairly expansive FEC featuring mini golf, go karts, bumper cars, and even a small carousel. Mulligan's Island has a mini golf facility to go along with Par 3 golf, Driving Range, and Pitch and Putt. Rhode Island is unlikely to ever get a big park again, but hopefully what it does have sticks around awhile. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Universal's Endless Summer Resort

Universal has give it's newest resorts a name: Universal's Endless Summer Resort. Thinking this was too easy, they split it into two sides with their own names, Surfside Inn & Suites and Dockside Inn & Suites. Universal's Endless Summer Resort Surfside Inn & Suite. That's a mouth full.

But what they've spent on the name they're not asking for you in terms of price as these resorts have an introductory offer that starts at $73 a night for a one week stay during select dates in a standard room. While these rates will not last, this resort will round out the value resort tier with 2800 rooms, 1450 of those being suites. Suites will be competitively priced too at $111 a night for a one week stay during select nights.

The rooms are beach contemporary, filled with pastels, rustic wood, surfboards, wicker, and white appliances. The suites, unlike those at Cabana Bay, will feature three beds (queen in the master bedroom and two twins in the common room) instead of a seating area.

Surfside opens summer 2019 and Dockside opens 2020.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #146 - Spoons on Sailboats

This week Joe, Kenny, and Mike talk about Stranger Things at Halloween Horror Nights, Universal's Endless Summer Resort, parking fees (again, sorry), Fast & Furious Supercharged, and lay some hate on Pandora's AMP walking suit.

Next Joe interviews Kevin Perjurer, creator and editor of Defunctland, a YouTube series on defunct theme park attractions around the globe. Find out his inspirations, what attractions he wishes to do in the future, and what's next for the channel.

And finally Alex and Jeff do one of our patented car ride park reviews from Kings Dominion opening weekend. They discuss Twisted Timbers, Racer 75, Grizzly, and more.

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeAlanParkscopeJoeParkscopeNick, and ParkscopeLane.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

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

It's huge! It speaks French! Did I mention that it is huge and full of people that speak French? Yes. French. It's a really foreign place but it shares a border with the United States and you can go there almost any time you want assuming you don't have a prior conviction. Disney's EPCOT features the Château Frontenac as its center piece from Quebec City, so it is exotic and fantastic enough to feature as theming elsewhere. The second largest territory/province in area, and the second largest in population (behind only Ontario), Quebec has some mountains, wilderness, giant cities with underground development, fjords, lakes, moose, roads to basically nowhere: there's a lot happening in, well, a lot of space. 595,391 square miles, to be precise. That's more area than every state in the US Eastern Seaboard, Vermont, Ohio, West Virginia, and Alabama combined.

For all that space, there's fundamentally only one major theme park for the area. La Ronde opened in 1967 as the attraction and amusement area of that year's World's Expo, and while little remains of the original rides, there are a few gems like the monorail and "Tchou Tchou" - it's a kiddie ride, but it's probably the most adorable thing here. Did I mention this is a bad theme park? It is a bad theme park. Possibly the worst. So bad that we here (OK, me alone) attempted to get in contact with the employee's union at La Ronde to get their take as to why people think La Ronde is generally considered the worst run theme park in North America. I've been. Twice. I only got in once when they closed unannounced on a national holiday because there was rain (the employees, still being paid, stayed and I swear to god continued ran rides in the not open amusement park). The second time I went rides never ran more than one train and it was a miserable, awful experience that I fled early from because, really now, I was in Montreal.

But I'm not going to talk that much about La Ronde, because Six Flags owns it and theoretically, it is "known" in a way that most other parks. No, we spend our time here on Parkscope with this series on things that are more interesting; more fun. More challenging. So instead, we're just going to point Google Maps at the same exact artificial island and look south.

If the Biosphere in Montreal looks like a Geodesic dome, that's because it was one until the skin burned off of it in the 1970s. It's part of a mix of active and dead fragments left from the World Expo, ranging from the good (how Habitat '67 are some of the most desired condos in the city) to the diminished (abandoned pavillions like Jamaica's and Tunisia). Still, it's the Montreal Biosphere that best lives up to the promises of futurists and educators with its incredible metal framework and important messaging.

Quebec is also home to some of the more quirky steel coasters on the planet. Mega Parc, located inside Quebec City's Galeries de la Capitale, is presently undergoing a "reimagining" of sorts, but it is hoped that Capitale Express, a junior coaster that encircles the ice rink, will reopen with the rest of the facility in late 2018. Still operating is the Python Panique, an adult sized L&T Systems steel coaster at Granby Zoo. Granby Zoo is a rarity in Canada as a AZA accredited facility, and often offers discounts to those with memberships to US zoos. There's several other rides present, mostly for kids, but an operational monorail and carousel also beckon beyond just the animal exhibits.

Small kids parks dot the landscape in Quebec: Pays des Merveilles is a classic storybook park with pretty much nothing for childless parents to do (so please, please don't go unless you have kids) a little bit north of Montreal. Village du Pere Noel in nearby Val-David fills the requirement for a Santa-themed park, equally bereft of anything for normal adults to do. But most aspirational of all is Parc Cavaland, a theme park of sorts based around horses. Every child can ride a pony. Or a carousel, if an artificial animal is preferred. Also they may paint ponies and watch an array of equestrian shows ranging from displays of horsemanship (is that a thing?) to jousting. It's like an expanded Medieval Times or something. It's...interesting.

Is a horse themed park with horse riding not enough weird for you? OK, fine. Because I've also got La Vallee Secrete in Saint-Raymond, not far from Quebec City. There's a forest filled with various booths you need to interact with to get clues from which you can solve some sort of mystery, and if you collect them all, you gain access to a building with an animatronic dwarf show because that is absolutely the thing you wanted.

Not enough wandering through the woods? Then there's Foresta Lumina, a night only experience filled with various projection mapping sequences, LED lights, and just overall amazing stuff that you have very likely never in your life heard about. Part themed attraction, part art installation, it's part of an increasingly DIY approach to themed design that has sprung up with the Meow Wolf's of the world.

Quebec is in Canada, which most Americans think is exceedingly cold. Of course they would have a tremendous amount of water parks then. Mont Saint Sauveur is the most famous of them, with a mix of old concrete and newer plastic/fiberglass slides. If there's one cornerstone attraction there, it would have to be Riviere Colorado, a 2+ minute long "rafting adventure" with two person rafts that seat face to face on a perilous journey. Ski Bromont also has a water park with some weird relics; Trompe d’éléphant spits riders out of a "elephant trunk" through the air and into a deep diving pool (complete with audience viewing seating), while Grand Canyon is a fine concrete slide full of random pools which exist for no clear or obvious reason. Even Super Aqua Club in Pointe-Calumet has a pair of concrete tube slides in addition to its primarily ProSlide based modern rides (which includes a really awesome looking ProSlide RocketBLAST/FlyingSAUCER water coaster).

Slide action doesn't end in Summer. No; Winter is really the dominant season in Quebec, and that means tobogganing. Since 1884, the Terrasse Dufferin Slides are seasonal icons. Their classic lighting scheme and appearance evokes a real feeling of yesteryear. And for about 6 months a year, you can enjoy them. Valcartier Vacation Village may not have the history, but it has size as the "largest snow park in the world." That distinction is related to their impressive collection of tubing runs, including some based off a tobogganing base and a few using what look like white water rafts.

Forkscope - #ThisForkIsForSV

We’re rebranding and turning this into Forkscope, your home about all things regional forks! We talk the history of forks, types of forks, fork etiquette, and ask you for your favorite forks! Send us a tweet @Parkscope with the hashtag #ThisForkIsForSV with your favorite forks and fork knowledge!