Knoebels opens for another season
ELYSBURG - Arms stretched above her head, Fallon Hakobyan screeched and yelled in delight as she was spun round and round on the Paratrooper ride Saturday at Knoebels Amusement Resort.
"This is my favorite ride," the 7-year-old Mount Carmel girl screamed as she kicked her legs, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with her grandmother, Donna Weikel.
She was off the Paratrooper just moments before she turned to Weikel and got ready to run. Another thrill awaited.
Hakobyan embodied a spirit shared by many kids and more than a few adults at Knoebels Saturday, the park's opening day. Mostly dormant since last fall, Knoebels awakened with all the familiar sights, sounds and smells that have made it a destination for families near and far during the past 88 years.
"Can we get on that one next?" she asked, pointing toward either the Tea Cups or the Tilt-A-Whirl, probably wanting to hop on both.
Had she been pointing at the Flying Turns, she would have had to temper her excitement. The queue began at the boarding area, led down a set of steps and beneath the ride. Hundreds more waited in a line wrapped out and around the large wooden structure.
By early afternoon it took an hour-and-a-half to board the one-of-a-kind bobsled coaster. That didn't bother 11-year-old Destiny Geiswite.
"Yeah, it was worth it," she said after having just exited Flying Turns. "I want to go a second time but (the line is) too long."
Flying Turns was certainly an attraction to the dozens of members of the Western New York Coaster Club and American Coaster Enthusiasts Eastern Pennsylvania who were on hand for a 12th straight opening day at Knoebels.
It was a struggle to get Flying Turns opened. Construction began in 2006, and excitement built in anticipation of its debut. A ride of its type - a wooden trough mirroring a bobsled track - hadn't been in operation since one closed at Coney Island in 1974.
Flying Turns soon seemed like an albatross as redesigns and difficulty obtaining parts led to a string of delays. It became a prominent fixture in the park, largely because of its location and the mystery surrounding its fate.
Word spread organically by mouth and online last fall, and after 7½ years, it was opened in an understated fashion during the annual Covered Bridge Festival. It's now fully operational for 2014, its first full year as an attraction.
The park's landmark roller coaster, The Phoenix, also had a long line Saturday, proving its popularity years after its debut in 1985.
And people also lined up to satisfy their appetites for fair-style food. Cesari's Pizza, Famous Fresh Cut French Fries and the soft-serve ice cream stand appeared the most popular stops in the park Saturday.
The Patio Grill was holding its own, too. Across the way beneath a picnic pavilion sat a group of mothers and daughters, 23 in all camping together in a pair of cabins. Members of Girl Scout Troop 5372 from Havertown dressed in yellow T-shirts that said "Keep Calm and Camp Knoebels." While it was their first trip to the park as a group, for some it was a welcome return to a favorite place.
"We've come every year for years," said Michelle Anderson.
"I think it's great. I wish we'd been coming here for years," Sue Cunningham said of her first visit, wishing she would have been able to bring her two teenage children when they were kids. Her 10-year-old daughter, Marissa, was with her on the trip.