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Old-Fashioned Amusements

Summer is already here (or at least will be eventually), and amusement parks are ready with their rides and attractions for the whole family. Because of an increase in popularity of roller coasters and related rides, the parks' popularity is on the increase. The larger theme parks have responded with larger and faster rides, which have resulted in longer and slower lines.

There are, however, more traditional amusement parks, many of which were family owned and operated, which offer a less high-tech and more relaxed atmosphere.Here are three of these parks.

Knoebel's Grove
This is a park which is still dedicated to offering a clean and well maintained midway where a family can relax and enjoy without spending half-a-week's salary. Located in a beautiful green valley in Elysburg, PA, Knoebel's Grove offers picnicking and camping facilities in addition to a huge array of kiddy and adult rides.

Parking and park entrance are free. Individual rides are reasonably priced and include a great wooden roller coaster called the "Phoenix" so named because it was resurrected from extinction in San Antonio, Texas. There is a magnificent full-size antique carousel built in 1912-1913 as well as a smaller antique kiddy carousel, a huge Ferris wheel and an antique train ride. The carousel museum and kiddy playground are free.

This was once the site of a logging mill, and there is still evidence of the mills which had provided the industry for the area. The stream that once turned the waterwheels to power the milling machinery now meanders through the park and provide the reason for numerous quaint old foot bridges. Many magnificent old trees offer a rustic, relaxed atmosphere. There are free woodworking demonstrations on the original tools still powered by an old stream traction engine.

Rye Playland
914 921-0370
Rye Playland in Rye, NY is the first amusement park in this country to be designed and built in its entirety. Opening in 1928 it is a grand display of art deco architecture. It boasts a classic wooden coaster called the Dragon Coaster. This is one of the few tunnel coasters still operating. You enter through its mouth, and the tunnel is the dragon's body. There is a magnificent antique carousel, racing derby, and whip. Because it is located on the water, there's a boardwalk with sand beach, and paddle boating. There's also a picnic area, miniature golf course and a beautifully designed ice skating rink (used by the Rangers hockey team). Although there is a parking fee, the park entrance is free and the rides are paid for individually.

Lake Compounce in Bristol Connecticut
This is generally considered to be the oldest continually operating park in the country. Set in a beautiful valley Lake Compounce features an antique carousel and wooden coaster, great train andSteel rollercoaster at Lake Compounce trolley ride around the lake, looping steel coaster, and a new wooden coaster which follows the terrain of the mountainside.A huge restaurant and entertainment hall that once swung to the music of Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey still provides a variety of free entertainment. There is a pay one fee entrance policy (under $25 for the day).

If you are tired of high admission prices and long lines in sweltering heat, visit one of these parks and experience the pride and friendliness which is often lacking in a high-tech environment.

Bob Stuhmer is a graphic artist and illustrator as well as an avid amusement park enthusiast. His other love is antique carousels for which he arranges and punches music rolls. Learn more about carousel music at:
© 2002