Conneaut Lake Park Trip Report 2019
Place: Conneaut Lake Park, Conneaut Lake, PA
Time Spent: 1:00 PM – 5:45 PM
Weather: Mostly sunny, some raindrops
Rides Closed: Tilt-A-Whirl, Ferris Wheel
I’ve visited Conneaut Lake Park every year since 2013, and I have seen improvements every year. It’s the type of park that has been quite fascinating to watch change, in good ways and bad, over the years. My lone visit of 2019 saw one of those improvements – the new for this season Ferris Wheel – closed, but there were other good things to see that were done over the off-season. For those who don't know, Conneaut has run the gamut of misfortune during its 125+ year history. Although they were closed in '07 and '08, they have been reporting increasing profits over the past years, so that's good.
After the always exciting first glimpse of the Blue Streak turnaround, my family pulled into the parking lot just before 1:00 PM. The new Dollar General here isn’t as noticeable as I thought it would be, but it’s certainly still there! We entered the park via the main midway (which has one of the greatest tree covers of any park) we walked over and bought our wristbands. I had been listening to my CD of the park’s carousel band organ the day before, so I was disappointed to hear that it was not playing. I had a chance of good luck, though, as I found a quarter on the midway (my sister did, too)!
First up, of course, was the Blue Streak, and it would be my littlest sister's first time riding this 1938 Ed Vettel wooden coaster. I was saddened to see the ramshackle state of the Century Flyer train. The new darkened tunnel here is certainly an improvement from what was here previously, but the inside lights were on for some reason on this first trip. This inaugural ride on the Streak was fun and forceful as always, but I noticed that there wasn’t a lot of airtime. That would change before I knew it, though…
Our family stuck together by riding the carousel, which had its basic structure built in 1914 - but the majority of the antique horses were replaced with newer hand carved versions in 1989. I grabbed an outside standing horse, and I was surprised when dad pointed out how you can still see the hooves of the original horses on the ride’s platform! As we were getting on, Dad asked why the band organ wasn’t playing, and the operator said that it was already put away for the season. That was too bad, especially as it had still been playing on some of our previous visits to Conneaut that had happened on the same day of the year. Instead, country music was playing out of a portable speaker, which I found a bit odd; later, we would hear that they were playing one of the organ CDs.
Next up was the Bumper Cars, which has a nice new paint job on its building and queue, Connie Otter height barometer included! I’m extremely thankful to the group of volunteers that work to keep these cosmetic aspects of Conneaut looking good, and although there are many areas that could use work, they make do with the funds they have. Five of six cars were running, which is pretty average for Conneaut, and it was a nice but pretty uneventful ride. My sister told me that bumping was the "point" of bumper cars, to which I gave her a lecture on the history of “Dodg’em.” ;)
From here, Rachel and I rode the Devil’s Den, the park's gravity-powered darkride. My sister was going to stick her gum on the “infamous gum wall,” but I convinced her not to. I follow the Facebook page for this ride that chronicles the stunt changes each year, and the additions this year were very nice, although the light wasn’t functioning on the banging coffin. If you aren't aware, the operator has to literally push you into this ride to get you to engage the chain - true Pretzel magic!
Another Blue Streak ride was in order. I’m not sure, but I might’ve ridden in the back on this lap. I noticed that the lights in the tunnel were now off. If this lap was in the back, it was amazing. It’s pretty crazy, but the lap bar in the back row has a good inch or so of greater give than the rest of the seats. The first three drops provide some of the best standing air anywhere, and I was surprised to find almost all of the return trip bunny hops producing the same effect. In the end, I find Blue Streak to be a good ride in most of its rows, but it’s an otherworldly experience in the very back seat. The wooded setting adds immensely to the overall experience, too.
After two laps on the Blue Streak, I saw that the rest of the family was coming back up the midway, so I met them at the 1925 Traver Tumble Bug. The operator was fooling with her radio, but she eventually asked us if we could wait for a bit while she ran to the restroom. The good part of this, though, was when she returned, she gave us a super long cycle time. Definitely the longest I’ve ever experienced it before, we must’ve gone around more than 15 times. Tumble Bug is an awesome ride that everyone in my family really enjoyed. Also, the friendliness of a ride operator to do something like this is just something that is uniquely Conneaut.
The flat ride fun continued in the upper half of the park, where all four of us kids rode the Paratrooper and Flying Scooters. There was some confusion in line as ride ops switched out, but we did Paratrooper first. I found it funny that the operator was completely fine with all four people sitting on the same side of the wheel, and we also got a generous swing of our car from him. Again, quite the departure from Kennywood and the like… I also tried to train my one sister in the ways of “snapping” on Flying Scooters, and I got my tub going a little bit, though nothing can match the awesomeness I experienced at Knoebels. The Tilt-A-Whirl here didn't operate this day, but that could've just been because of a shortage of operators.
Our family reunited for a round on the train (Bessemer and Lake Erie), during which I was surprised to see some new Disney-themed wooden cutouts along the route, replacing the hodge-podge of miscellaneous decorations that had been in place for several years.
The remainder of the day was sort of a blur, so I'll just put some miscellaneous observations here in bullet-point format.
· Row 1.3 on Blue Streak appeared to be causing some problems, as the “wheel” design was missing from the side panel, exposing plain plywood, and I noticed, especially after the turnaround, that this side panel was shaking quite violently. Also, the Blue Streak strikes again in slightly injuring a rider, as at the top of the ramp, a lady that had been on the previous train with me came up and told the operator that her friend had gotten severely cut and would need to have stitches!
· It’s kind of funny, but at one point I counted three or four closed-off rows on the train, leaving just four or five available – all but one row was open when the park opened that day!
· And lastly, something that I had always wondered about came true, as the coaster train perfectly passed over the miniature train at the bottom of one of the return dips.
· I also rode Devil’s Den four more times, once with Dad. (Oh man, I can it now…)
· At one point, dad and I walked down the midway to meet the girls at the beach, who were having fun in the water. While up here, however, I noticed that the park’s new-for-2019 Ferris Wheel wasn’t operating. This was probably due to short staffing, as when I asked at a nearby refreshment stand, the workers weren’t sure about the reason for the closure. Dad made a good point: the Ferris Wheel is very out of the way and hidden from the main part of the park’s rides, although it does have the lakeside setting to its advantage.
After another mini-marathon session on Blue Streak later in the day, we headed out, but not before one more ride on the Paratrooper - with the beckoning of the ride op! The Flying Scooters operator was also sitting by, which I found odd, but there weren’t a ton of people in the park at this time. Anyway, only some of the “umbrella” lights were working, and the wheel slowed before it started to lower, which made for a weird, but once again, uniquely Conneaut Paratrooper ride.
Thus concluded a relaxing day at Conneaut. You need to go in with the proper knowledge of its history to fully enjoy and appreciate Conneaut Lake Park, but that being said, I really enjoy everything about Conneaut, and it’s one of the amusement parks that holds the fondest personal memories for me. From the smells to the sounds to the sights, it’s a true sensory experience for me that I hope stays around for decades to come.
Andrew M. (CenturyFlyer)
* This post was modified at 10/18/19 5:21:10 PM *