(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘theme park

“To an artist a metaphor is as real as a dollar”*…

 

Florida attarctions

 

Before a certain mouse took over Orlando, Florida was already home to a slew of delightfully bizarre tourist attractions. You could meet menacing pirates and hoop skirt-clad Southern Belles. Or visit the circus every day. Or watch an 80-year-old man break a world record as he waterskied barefoot in a banana-yellow jumpsuit…

How did the Sunshine State use to attract tourists? Circus animals, water ski shows and a half-mile replica of the Great Wall of China: “Let’s revisit Florida’s bizarre lost theme parks from before the Disney era.”

* Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

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As we pull over to investigate, we might recall that it was on this date in 1513 that Juan Ponce de León, the Spanish explorer who had become the Governor of Puerto Rico and Hispanola, but who believed there to be land further west, first set eyes on what he first believed was another island, which he claimed for Spain and named “Florida”… the name by which we know it still.  Legend has it that Ponce de León was searching for the Fountain of Youth; while there is no contemporary evidence that that’s true, it does seem resonant with Florida’s history thereafter…

240px-Juan_Ponce_de_León source

 

“Rock and roll is here to stay”*…

 

HardRockPark

 

Hard Rock Park, a 50-acre rock music-themed amusement park just outside Myrtle Beach in South Carolina… billed as the world’s first rock and roll theme park, opened its gates to the public in the spring of 2008. One of the first things visitors saw when they walked through the gates was a giant electric guitar—rising 90 feet over the park’s central lagoon, the statue loomed into view as park-goers strolled past the bell towers of the entry plaza, modeled after the buildings in the cover art of Hotel California. If they looked down as they approached the water, they would realize they were standing on the frets of another guitar, set into the pavement.

The Gibson statue was iconic, but it wasn’t the park’s largest structure. That was Led Zeppelin The Ride: a roughly 150-foot tall rollercoaster designed in partnership with the band and synced to its 1969 hit, “Whole Lotta Love.” Riders boarded inside a life-sized airship, and speakers blasted the song’s breakdown as they were cranked up the lift hill; the iconic guitar riff kicked in as the train hurtled out of the first loop.

Across the water, a huge mural beckoned visitors into a Moody Blues-themed dark ride called Nights in White Satin: The Trip, designed to evoke a multisensory psychedelic experience. The adjacent concert arenas hosted artists like the Eagles, Kid Rock, and Charlie Daniels; after sunset, the lagoon erupted into a nightly fountain and firework extravaganza choreographed to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Lasers shot from the head of the guitar statue during Brian May’s solo, before a sparkler-covered kite was towed around the water during the song’s final bars…

Hard Rock Park closed after just five months, amid the 2008 financial crisis.  Learn its (fascinating) story and take a stroll through what remains at “The Spectacular Failure of the World’s Only Hard Rock Theme Park.”

* Neil Young

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As we wave our lighters, we might recall that it was on this date in 2010 that Gordon Lightfoot (one of the fathers of folk-pop and “Canada’s greatest songwriter”), driving himself home from a visit to his dentist, heard on the radio that he had died.  “It seems like a bit of a hoax or something,” the then-71-year-old singer said at the time. “I was quite surprised to hear it myself.”

(As it happened, then-CTV journalist David Akin had posted on Twitter and Facebook a rumor that he’d heard that Lightfoot had died… without qualifying that it was a rumor.)

220px-GordonLightfoot_Interlochen source

 

Written by LW

February 18, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Life is not a theme park, and if it is, the theme is death”*…

 

French photographer Romain Veillon documented the after-life of Dreamland, a theme park built in Nara Prefecture in 1961, that was expected to become Japan’s answer to Disneyland.  But its fate was sealed when both Disney and Universal Studios opened up their own parks in nearby Osaka and Tokyo.  Closed in 2006, it lay dormant until it was razed in 2016– just after Veillon’s photos were taken.

Visit the ruins at “Deserted Japanese theme park photographed just before demolition.”

* Russell Brand

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As we contemplate an E Ticket, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway signed a five-year contract with Disney, agreeing to pay $50,000 per year in exchange for Disney’s use  of the name “Santa Fe” and company logo on all Disneyland trains, stations, literature, etc.

Walt Disney (left), with California Governor Goodwin J. Knight (center) and Santa Fe Railway President Fred Gurley (right) on Opening Day at Disneyland

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Written by LW

March 29, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Like the bee, we should make our industry our amusement”*…

 

Your correspondent is off for his annual sojourn in the land of dunes and deep fried food; regular service should resume on or around August 11.  Meantime, in the hope of inspiring readers to new heights of summer fun…

Dyrehavsbakken (“The Deer Park’s Hill”), commonly referred to as Bakken (“The Hill”), a ten minute drive north of Copenhagen, is the world’s oldest continuously-operating amusement park.  Its origins trace back to 1583, when residents of Denmark’s capital would retreat to “The Hill” for its clean spring water.  The large crowds attracted entertainers and hawkers, the forerunners of the attractions that make up the modern park.

Bakken at the turn of the 19th Century

Today, Bakken is home to six roller coasters, the most famous of which is Rutschebanen (Danish for “The Roller Coaster”; pictured above, top), a wooden roller coaster open since 1932 (and a designated American Coaster Enthusiasts Coaster Classic), to dozens of other flat (or amusement) rides, and to gaming halls, restaurants, and shows.

Visit Bakken.com, then Bakken… just be careful not to hop onto The Rollercoaster of Death by accident.

[Image sources: Rutschebanen and 19th Century]

* Oliver Goldsmith

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As we keep our arms within the car, we might recall that it was on this date in 1989 that 36 Disney executives gathered (for the next 3 days) to brainstorm ideas for a very different kind of amusement park– a second Anaheim-based theme park to be built next to Disneyland.  The result was a plan for an attraction celebrating a place (and a state of mind) that hadn’t even been imagined when Bakken got going: Disney’s California Adventure.

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Written by LW

August 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

No Joy…

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For over half a century, from 1949, Joyland was Wichita’s family fun park… Toddlers could ride one of the oldest miniature steam trains in the U.S.; grade school kids could bring their reports cards and trade A’s of B’s for ride tickets; and teens could get an adrenaline rush in the Whacky Shack or on “Nightmare”– an H.P. Schmeck-designed wooden roller coaster, one of only 44 original coasters designated as an ACE Coaster Classic… it was central Kansas’ Xanadu, its Oz, its… well, its Joy-Land.

But Joyland is no more; in 2003, it closed for the last time.

Photographer Mike Petty returned recently to the park; the resulting montage is an essay on the fragility of fantasy and the inexorable erosion of time.

The history of Joyland and photos of the park in its prime (and after) are here.

And for a different kind of desolation on the midway, readers should check out Carnival of Souls, a 60s masterpiece that is available in the Criterion Collection (and thus streaming on Hulu Plus and Amazon– and for free here).

As we make sure that we keep our heads down and our hands inside the cart, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that The Pinky Lee Show aired for the last time.  Lee, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, had parlayed a career as a “baggy pants” burlesque comedian into a brief 1950 run with a variety show on NBC.  He returned in 1954 with the children’s show that made him famous (he was the lead-in for Howdy Doody).  But Lee’s success was short lived:  he collapsed on camera in late 1955.  The show continued without him, but was never the same; it was cancelled on this date the following year.  Though his abrupt disappearance spawned wide-spread rumors of his demise, Lee returned to television in 1957 as the host of Gumby.  And of course his influence stretched well into the future, helping set the tone of, for example, Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

    Yoo hoo, it’s me,
My name is Pinky Lee.
I skip and run with lots of fun
For every he and she.
It’s plain to see
That you can tell it’s me
With my checkered hat
And my checkered coat,
The funny giggle in my throat
And my silly dance
Like a billy goat.
Put ’em all together,
Put ’em all together,
And it’s whooooo?
(Audience): Pinky!

– Pinky’s opening song

Pincus Leff, aka “Pinky Lee” (source)

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