DelGrosso's Park
August 7, 2018

copyright Jay Ducharme 2018

After another good breakfast at our hotel, we bid farewell to the family and to western Pennsylvania and began the long journey home. To break up the drive, we decided to make one brief stop along the way. I had hoped that we could go to Lakemont Park in Altoona; it was home to the oldest wood coaster in the U.S. But the park had been closed for two years, with a promise to open in 2019. So instead we visited a park that was new to us, DelGrosso's Park in nearby Tipton. I had been there once before over two decades earlier, when it was still known as Bland's Park, but it wasn't opened at the time. The park was actually quite old, opening in 1907. The DelGrosso family bought it in 1946, but didn't change the park's name until 2000. Given what was promoted on the park's website, I thought that DelGrosso's was a food company that happened to buy an amusement park.

We arrived at about 10:30. The park was split in two by Route 220. On the east side was the parking lot, main entrance at water park. On the west side, accessed by a pedestrian bridge over the highway, was the amusement park. We were one of the first cars in the lot. There was some pavement, but much of the lot was crushed stone. The sky was bright blue but once again the air was opressively hot. Something that hit us right away was the smell -- it was as if we had walked into an Italian restaurant, and our mouths began watering. We walked over to the entrance, which was just two years old (as was the waterpark). The entrance was absolutely beautiful, with lots of stonework and colorful plantings. There was no charge for parking, and there was no admission fee either. The ticket windows were to the right of the entrance. We could have paid for a wristband, but we weren't planning on staying that long. So instead we decided to pay for tickets, which were a remarkably affordable fifty cents each. The park had a miniature railway, and that was about the only ride we planned to take. So we purchased six tickets, by far the least expensive park day we would have.

We walked under the Italianate arches and onto the main concourse where the rapturous smell of Italian food was even stronger. We were surrounded by Italian restaurants. To our right was Pasta Fresca. In front and to the left was Pizza Famoso. There was also a gift shop to the far left. We checked that out and they had some really nice items for sale. The ground was concrete, which helped dissipate the heat, and also a sort of cobblestone. All of the buildings had northern Italian design elements. We followed a path on the right that led us to one end of the waterpark which featured a large lazy river and a spectacular recreation of the Leaning Tower of Pisa that was gushing water and a complex of waterslides. We followed a path to the right of the concourse and that led us to the other end of the water park that featured a large wave pool. There were also sets of cabanas throughout the entire complex that could be rented for the day.

But the purpose of our visit was to check out the amusement park. So we followed the ramp over to the pedestrian bridge, crossed the highway and over to the midway. Once again, much of the ground was either crushed stone or concrete. Near the bridge was a memorial to the park's founders, Mafalda and Ferdinand Del Grosso. There was still about fifteen minutes before the park officially opened, so we walked along the quiet paths. Everything was beautifully landscaped. We checked out the nearby Murf's Kitchen to see what it offered. Everything came with chicken or beef, so we passed on that. I had heard that the park was famous for its food (and actually rated the fifth best park food in the country which, for a small park, was impressive). We continued walking toward the southwest end of the midway. There were really cute height measurement signs based on a tomato vine.

We spotted an old carousel and headed toward it. It was a vintage 1924 Herschell-Spillman model that had been restored in 1988. And it had a Wurlitzer 146B band organ that apparently had imbibed a bit too much Coke; it was whipping through its tunes at lightning speed. Behind the carouse was the park's big roller coaster, a stock Crazy Mouse. Across from that was one of the tiniest miniature railway engines I've ever seen, Little Toot. It might have run at one time, but it was just a display now. We could see the park's actual miniature train, the Tipton Creek Railroad, behind the concession buildings to the left. But I didn't see the ride's entrance. So we followed the row of buildings to the north. The train's entrance was between the buildings on the left. Further to the north was a collection of sixteen large picnic pavilions. We circled around to the east. There were lots of the usual flat rides: a Scrambler, Tilt-a-Whirl, Paratrooper, etc...

There was another big gift shop so we stepped inside. The air conditioning felt great. Once again, there were lots of nice items for sale, and I made a mental note to stop back in before we left. As we were looking around, the National Anthem played signaling the opening of the park. So we went back out onto the midway. Next to the gift shop was a row of food concessions with treats like ice cream and cotton candy. We headed for the Tipton Creek Railroad, which was just returning from its test run. We handed the operator our tickets and climbed aboard. The ride was a slow pleasant journey in a large oval, with most of it abutting Tipton Run, a rapidly flowing creek. In the center of the oval was a jumbled pile of metal and wood that looked like old track from the ride.

After that, I wanted to ride the carousel. So I headed over to the stone castle at the entrance to Kid's Kingdom and purchase six more tickets. The carousel ride was enjoyable. The scenery panels were unique. There even appeared to be a painting of Maine's famous Nubble Lighthouse on the back of a chariot. The horses were in beautiful condition, with real horsehair tails. And that band organ was pretty amusing, cranking away at top speed.

We then walked through the Kid's Kingdom area. The park was already getting busy, with lots of families wandering the midway. There was a wide assortment of kiddie rides from classic Hershell-Spillman devices from the 1950s to modern delights. By that point we were getting hungry so we crossed back over the bridge. The water park had begun to fill up. Our dining choices were between Pizza Famoso and Pasta Fresca, so we chose the latter. The park didn't have any indoor eateries, just cafe tables outside. When we entered the restaurant, there was one cook behind the counter and one cashier. We used a touch screen in front us to select our order. There were different types of pasta to choose from, different sauces (which each were developed by a different member of the DelGrosso family) and vegetables. I ordered penne with marinara and broccoli. Karen got fusilli with marinara, broccoli, carrots and zucchini. We each got a drink and an extra roll. The total came to $28, which I thought was very reasonable. I had assumed they would pull a meal out of a refrigerator and heat it up. But after we paid for our order, the cook got all the ingredients and prepared them in front of us on a large stove, chopping in the vegetables and adding olive oil. It took a while for our meal to be served, but we couldn't ask for much fresher than that, especially at a park. And it was a lot more food than I expected. The pasta was excellent, done perfectly with just enough firmness to it. The marinara was extremely flavorful and the broccoli was melt-in-your-mouth tender. The roll was also soft and tasty. It was one of the best meals I've ever had at a park.

I finished my meal before Karen and set off to film a walk-thru of the park as more and more people filled the midway. When that was finished, I met back up with Karen and I went to guest services to compliment them on the park. Then we had to continue our long trek home. DelGrosso's offered both a visual and literal feast, and I was really glad we paid a visit. The addition of a wooden coaster would make it a must-visit park for me on any trip out that way. But I think the food alone would bring me back, especially since we could stop there as if we were stopping at a restaurant. With no parking or admission charges, it was a fun and very affordable diversion.

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