Old is new again as Knoebels opens 88th season Saturday
ELYSBURG - The excitement this year at Knoebels Amusement Resort centers on something the park has championed since its opening in 1926: refurbishing classic amusement park rides.
The park will kick off its 88th season Saturday with a "new" kiddie ride fresh from the park's restoration shop.
The pony cart ride, similar to a ride at the now defunct Doodlebug Park in Trevorton, features eight bobbing horses pulling carts in a circle. It was built in the 1930s or '40s by the W.F. Mangels Co., which was noted for crafting the intricately carved rides at New York's Coney Island in its glory days. When the pony cart ride arrived at Knoebels, it was missing many of its original details, such as its operable reins, and needed a complete rehabilitation.
Now fully restored, organizations interested in Coney Island history have been in contact with the park for photographs and information.
Director of Public Relations Joe Muscato says that although the ride has historic value, a modern crowd will also enjoy it.
"I think it will be a hit. The kids will love riding it. The adults will like to see kids on it," he said.
Pete's Fleet coming
The park will be debuting another rehabilitated kiddie ride later in the season. Pete's Fleet has been in the shop undergoing work for several years. The ride hosts vehicles that look like PT boats, the "patrol torpedo" craft used during World War II, and move on a track. Each boat will seat two children. While captain's wheels have been restored for each boat, the original machine guns for the passengers were lost. Muscato said the park hopes to someday locate replacements.
The boats are painted in classic World War II styles such as tiger sharks and are symbolically named, such as PT 726 for the July 1926 opening of the park.
The name of the ride also holds symbolic meaning. Its namesake Pete Knoebel, who presided over Knoebels Amusement Resort until his death in 1988, worked on the maintenance of PT Boats during World War II.
1913 paintings restored
The park is also paying tribute to its history with a new display in the Carousel Museum.
When restoring the bric-a-brac on the Grand Carousel for its 100th anniversary last year, it was discovered that someone painted over the original artwork to make them more "family friendly" in the 1950s. The August Wolfinger paintings, dated 1913, are now fully restored and on display at the Carousel Museum.
A carousel was the first ride at Knoebels so "we like to play homage to that," said Muscato.
Flying Turns full force
This year is also the first full season that Flying Turns will be open. The wooden bobsled coaster made its debut last fall after 7 1/2 years of construction. Because the ride is the only of its type in the world, the park experienced delays due to difficulty obtaining parts and redesigns required after tests.
Muscato said the park's longtime commitment to historic amusement park rides is one of the reasons it remained devoted to bringing the Flying Turns to fruition.
"These rides were built in the 1920s, and now they're all gone," said Muscato. "It's the only one in the world. I don't know of any other ride with the same sensations."
Flying Turns will be available in this year's coaster option.
Muscato said that the classic nature of Flying Turns will balance out the Impulse, an all steel coaster to be completed in 2015.
"We like to have a nice mix of the traditional and the modern," said Muscato.
Preliminary work for Impulse, including installing an updated electrical system, took place this winter. The ride is slated to replace Bumper Boats and Boat Tag, which will close at the end of this season. Muscato cited age and decreased ridership as reasons for their removal.
"We are not getting rid of them because we bought a roller coaster, we bought a roller coaster because they needed to be replaced," he said.
Power Surge will be out this season as it undergoes a complete rehabilitation, and 1001 Nachts remains closed while it awaits a part for repair.
In games, Striker is replacing Killer Beez, which never fully recovered from damage in the 2011 flood. Kreepers Pumpkin Patch, a ball toss game that debuted at Halloween, will be located next to the Stratosphere.
Muscato said that this year's late cold snap caused frenzied preparations.
"It's been a long winter, so it's a little harder this year," said Muscato. "We were later getting out and doing some of the things outdoors."
Even with work delay, Muscato expects the park to be in full swing this weekend.
"By Saturday we'll be looking just fine," he said.
Rides will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with increasing hours on upcoming weekends as the sun sets later. Ticket booths open at 10:30 a.m., and handstamps are buy one get one free for same day use.
The park opens full time on Wednesday, May 21.