Edaville Family Theme Park
July 1, 2019

copyright Jay Ducharme 2019

Since Karen and I didn't get a chance to go to Maine for our usual decompression time, I instead booked us a room on Cape Cod for a few days. Neither of us had been to the Cape in decades, so I figured the change of scenery would be nice. And since it was on our way, we decided to pay a visit to a park that was new to us: Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver. The park originated as a side project by the property's owner, Ellis D. Atwood (which is how EDAville got its name). Atwood had a cranberry plantation that used a rail system. He began giving people rides on the train, and eventually that attraction's popularity grew. The property was sold several times and on our visit bore little resemblance to the original incarnation, although the park was still surrounded by cranberry bogs.

We drove into the large gravel parking lot a few minutes before the park opened. A stone archway with the park's name led to a long walkway bordered on one side by a tall wood fence and on the other by a row of quaint storefronts. If there were any doubts what this park was about, that should have been dispelled by the railroad tracks running right across the threshold. Some of the stores along the walkway included a gift shop, a bakery (with delicious apple cider donuts) and offices. Some were just a facade with display windows featuring old toys and some rather eerie-looking dolls.

At the end of the narrow entrance avenue were three ticket booths. We had purchased our tickets ahead of time online and took advantage of a senior discount for $7 off admission. Off to the right was a lone girl sitting at a table with a hand scanner. She greeted us and we handed her our tickets and she scanned them. In front of us was a large pond. Across the pond was a large sign with greetings from Edaville. To our right was an open field with what appeared to be a trailer at the far end. Egress was blocked off. The field looked like it might be used for concerts, and perhaps the trailer was a portable stage. To our left was a wide walkway leading to the actual park. To the far left was a fiberglass carousel with a working Wurlitzer band organ. It looked and sounded great. Beyond that were two rows of small stone buildings, looking like a street from the 1800s with Christmas lights crisscrossing above. We walked down the narrow passage between the buildings and stopped by the first little gift shop. It featured a lot of Edaville merchandise including some attractive sweatshirts. We continued walking along. About halfway along, there was an ornate fountain, and just past that were statues of carolers. Beside them was a shop labeled Scrooge & Marley. Inside that shop could be seen a statue of Scrooge sitting next to the ghost of Jacob Marley, wrapped in chains.

It was finally dawning on us that Edaville's biggest season wasn't the summer -- it was Christmas, a tradition that dated back to when Atwood owned the park. Everywhere we looked there were references to Christmas and winter, and (similar to Six Flags New England) the lights were simply left up all year long. Ironically, the only time those lights would be used would be in the winter since during the summer season the park closed at 6:00. At that point, we were two of maybe a handful of people in the park. I was wondering if Mondays were a slow day or whether the park just wasn't that popular.

The park was divided into four separate areas. We had just gone through Cran Central. As we left that area, there was a large brick building in front of us on a hill labeled Ellis' Playhouse. On the building's far left was another gift shop. We entered through there. Next to it was a large bumper car arena. That was at one end of a large open area that had two large antique railroad station benches and, at the other end of the room, a water gun game and a bumper boat arena. Off to the side was an arched entrance to a small arcade. Opposite that was a hall leading to a stairway that brought us to an entire indoor kiddie park and snack bar. Opposite that was another large room containing a working model railroad and historical exhibits about cranberry production. There was also an animatronic pumpkin and corn that talked about agriculture.

We left that building and went back outside, entering a section of the park that was a typical midway featuring mostly kiddie rides, many of them vintage. To the left, on the side of the Playhouse, was the Spinning Lady Bug Coaster, one of the park's two roller coasters. We followed the path alongside that which took us past a fried dough stand, a barbecue stand (which was closed) and the Kid's Caboose, an actual caboose that was decorated to look like a frog. Further down from that was a coal-fired steam engine on display that kids could climb into. One of Edaville's past owners also owned the famous Steamtown U.S.A., so there was no shortage of railroad memorabilia in the park. Also nearby was a small rail car. On the side of it was written "Professor Marvel and Madame Margoska / Acclaimed by Crowned Heads of Europe", which was a nod to the Wizard of Oz. It appeared to be a fortune-telling booth, but wasn't open.

From there we entered the park's big draw: Thomas Land. Edaville had the distinction of being the only park in the U.S. to have a fully realized Sodor, home of the popular children's show Thomas the Tank Engine. Kennywood had some Thomas-themed rides, but not an entire mini park like this. Given Edaville's history, this was a good fit for the park. The detail in the design and execution was impressive. There were kid-sized statuary throughout the entire area. Most of the buildings were authentic brick and stone edifices. There were variations depending upon the theme. For instance, Vicarstown Dieselworks was a ratty metal building that was appropriately grimy. But overall, the effect was magical. I really felt transported into Sodor.

Next to the Dieselworks was another tall wooden fence. But I could glimpse something that caught my eye. I looked over the top of the fence, and there in the distance standing in a field was what looked like an unfinished roller coaster (and one with a heck of a curving drop). Karen thought it looked more like some sort of flume ride. I would later discover that we were both correct: it was Kersplash, a one-of-a-kind coaster/flume hybrid made by the Miler corporation. It had run for decades at the Washington State Fair. Edaville bought it from them, began to assemble it and then for some reason simply stopped. Supposedly, there were plans for a waterpark in that area, but the plans were abandoned. That was a shame; the structure looked fascinating and online videos of the ride looked enticing.

We circled around the rest of Sodor and a large eatery, the Dockside Diner. There was the Tidmouth Sheds roundhouse where shows took place daily. There was also the other family roller coaster in the park, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster. And there was an elevated railway, Winston's Skyline Express. On the way back out of Sodor we spotted a peculiar spin-and-barf ride. I'd never seen anything like it. Toby's Tilting Tracks was a sort of combination of a Wave Swinger and a Zamperla Crazy Bus, a long trolley-like vehicle that was rapidly spinning and tilting.

An announcement rang out over the park's PA system that the next ride on Thomas the Tank Engine would take place at 12:00, with boarding fifteen minutes before. (The train left every hour.) It was about 11:30, so Karen and I headed over to the station where the train was parked. It had two engines. The front was the typical Thomas the Tank Engine, complete with realistically moving mouth and eyes. Behind it was another small red Edaville engine. The train was really long, with 8 cars including the caboose. Two of the cars were open-air, so Karen and I headed for the one in front of the caboose. We were the only people in it, but gradually every car filled up. This was obviously the park's biggest attraction. A conductor walked around handing out tickets to kids, then he'd return and punch the tickets. That was a nice touch. I was amazed at how many of the kids were really excited to be riding the train. All of them seemed to be big fans of Thomas.

At exactly 12:00 the horns blew and the train started rolling. It was a pleasant leisurely 20 minute ride past the cranberry bogs. At one particular spot they blew the horn in honor of Atwood. There were lots of dormant Christmas light displays visible in fields along the route.

After that, we were feeling a bit hungry. So after we debarked, we went next door to KC's Cafe, another big eatery. There were no veggie burgers but they did have tuna wraps. So Karen and I each got one. She got French fries with hers; I got chips with mine. She got a soft drink and I got a milk. The total was $28 for both of us, which was reasonable. The food was fresh and tasty, and the wraps were really filling.

We went back outside and over to the colorful Big Eli Ferris wheel, a model just like the one I used to operate at Mountain Park. An older gentleman was training a young kid how to operate it, and they were taking turns with the duties of loading and operating. They had every other cab filled. Within a few minutes we boarded and were soaring high above the midway. Another nice design touch in the park were the little wooden lightposts along the paths, with colorful windsocks hanging from them.

Next we headed for the one area of the park we hadn't explored: Dino Land. It was a relatively recent addition to the park. But then, much of the park (in its current state) was fairly new. Much of what we saw was only about 5 years old. To the left as we entered through Jurassic Park-styled pillars was a Flintstone kiddie car ride called Bone Shaker. To the right was a gift shop and a shooting gallery that featured a talking jeep that looked like something out of Pixar's Cars. The crushed stone path led off to the left. A large sign, partially hidden by overgrowth and titled "Why Are They Here?", explained the origins of the attraction, and how this spot used to be occupied by a ride called the Gnome Coaster. We followed the winding shady path. There were the expected minimally animatronic dinosaurs that were activated by a large push button. A pleasant narrator would then talk about the dinosaur. Some of the dinosaurs looked a bit the worse for wear, with tears and visible patches. There were other objects scattered about as well including, inexplicably, an old fire engine. Eventually we spotted something unusual through the dense brush: sections of an old Schiff kiddie coaster. Track hills were jumbled up, placed in criss-crossing sections with coaster cars mounted atop them. As we followed the path to the other side, we had a clearer view of the old Gnome Coaster station. The area made good use of misters along the ground, which helped to create a more mysterious atmosphere. Naturally, the largest dinos were saved for near the end. And comically, all the giant and threatening Tyrannosaur could muster when its button was pushed was a feeble wave of one of its tiny arms. For small children, that was probably enough.

We left Dino Land and wandered back toward Thomas Land. Along the way, we passed by A.J.'s Express, yet another kiddie train ride. There certainly was no shortage of railroads in the park! We spotted the fresh lemonade stand that had just opened and stopped to get a drink. The lone occupant appeared to be new at his job and it took a while to get our cups. They were a reasonable $4 each. I thought it odd that there was an open tub of corn syrup from which the kid would ladle a spoonful. I would think that would attract bees, but surprisingly (especially with all the surrounding bogs) I noticed very few insects at the park. The lemonade was a bit weak, but it was refreshing just the same.

We walked back into Thomas Land and queued up for Winston's Skyline Express. The tall entrance building housed a long steep staircase up to the loading platform. There were only three cars holding four people each, so the line moved slowly. But eventually we climbed into the narrow cars and were soon rolling along above the midway, with Winston narrating our trip. It was a pleasant ride. By that point it was about 3:30, and Karen and I decided we'd done everything we wanted to do. So we bid farewell to Edaville. We stopped into the gift shop near the entrance and I got myself a collection of magnets and an Edaville street sign.

This park was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't certain what to expect, given that it was mainly a kiddie park. But the whimsical design, beautiful landscaping and family-friendly attractions made for an enjoyable day. The food offerings were more than acceptable. I complimented many of the workers on how beautiful the park was. Interestingly, all of them responded by saying, "Yes, it's very clean." It definitely was that, but a park needs more than cleanliness to make an impression. As we left, the midway was getting much more crowded. It seemed to be a really popular place. The park had a lot more room to expand, so I hoped it would continue its trend of family-friendly attractions. And I would have loved to see them finish Kersplash! If they did, that would give us another reason to return to Edaville.

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