July 2004

Text and images copyright Jay Ducharme 2004

New York's Great Escape has long been one of our favorite parks. Although I had many concerns when Charlie Wood, the founder, sold the park to Premiere Parks (now Six Flags), our trip last year showed that the new owners still cared about the heritage of this unique park. It's often called the first "theme" park. Wood opened it fifty years ago as Storytown. Its location near Lake George made it a popular tourist stop. The park has been growing ever since. Perhaps the biggest addition was The Comet, the resurrection of the legendary roller coaster from defunct Crystal Beach in Ontario. Wood along with then General Manager Tom Wages performed perhaps the greatest restoration work ever performed on a roller coaster. I made the two-and-a-half hour drive several times each season just to ride that coaster.

But what I perhaps liked best about The Great Escape was that it had such a frozen-in-time feeling to it. There were so many antique rides that Wood had rescued at auctions. Many were from the New York World's Fair. The park had two miniature train rides, swan boats, Cadillac cars, a wonderful flume, the quirky Jungle Land, and tons of charm. It was obvious that Wood loved the park and the amusement business.

Those memories are what bring Karen and me back to the park. We don't go as often as we used to anymore, even though it's free with our Six Flags passes (and parking is still free!). Maybe that's because Lake Compounce has lots of charm too, and it's a lot closer to us. Maybe it's how all of the funny posters and signs that were on the Storybook houses (like wanted posters at the jail for fictional bad guys) have been removed and replaced with terse signs that tell you not to enter unless you accompany someone 54" or shorter. There were lots of little things about the park that seemed to bleed away the personality that we treasured.

The weather was perfect, with clear skies and mild temperatures. We arrived at 10:30 and the park was already quite packed. Several busloads of kids from camps were there. The main parking lot was over half full. The Steamin' Demon had a new paint job and still looked stunning sitting there above the parking lot. That's probably one of the greatest ballyhoos any park has had.

We walked past the packed ticket booths to the packed entryway. There were long lines at all of the gates, and they weren't moving very quickly. There were metal detectors and security guards at all the gates and everyone was being checked thoroughly. It was more like entering an airport. When I finally approached, the guard told me to remove my fanny pack. I told her that if I did, my shorts would fall down (which was true; the pack functioned as my belt). "Oh, then we won't have you do that," she said.

Karen picked up a thick brochure from the rack as she entered. It was like a small program. The first page listed info about various guest service, like first aid. The next page listed all the corporate sponsors. Then there was a page full of tiny type with the heading Park Policies. "We appreciate your cooperation!" the first paragraph said, cheerfully Orwellian. It began with the Dress Code ("All clothing is subject to management review and discretion.") and ended with Safety ("Guests with certain body proportions involving height and/or weight may be denied the opportunity to ride attractions....") Hmmm... are there body proportions that *don't* involve height and/or weight? So our first impression of the park was that it was somewhat like a military compound. The next pages in the brochure were Dining and Shopping. The last thing listed was Rides & Attractions. Then there were more ads. Buried inside an unwieldy fold-out was a listing of shows. If we opened the fold-out all the way, there was a map. To figure out what the numbers on the map meant, we had to flip back and forth to different pages in the brochure. It opened up to over 19 inches long! This had to be the most uninviting brochure I'd ever seen. Cedar Point is a much larger and more complicated park, and its brochure for this season was far easier to read and use.

Great Escape had areas that almost look like a miniature Busch Gardens. The entrance was one of them. A winding cobblestone lined with quaint-looking shops led to a fork and then into Storytown. Karen wanted to stop in some of the shops. We loved getting souvenirs from Great Escape; they were always interesting and specific to the park. The first shop we went into had been converted into a Tweety shop. If you liked the Warner Brothers cartoon character Tweety Bird (licensed to Six Flags), the this was the shop for you. We weren't big Tweety fans, so we walked out. The next shop we entered had more Warner Brothers cartoon character memorabilia on one side and candle paraphernalia on the other. There were some doggie keychains as well. We quickly left that shop.

The little alleyway leading down to the Balloon Race and Swan Boat pond also had some shops. They had been converted into a big arcade. I thought that was a smart move, because the only arcade the park had before was in an odd tent that used to function as a 180-degree theater.

We walked down the hill toward the Balloon Race. There were a few miniature Storytown buildings there. One was a little white castle and moat with two live geese inside. The swans looked so sad and trapped. There was no vegetation surrounding them, just dirt. A few plants or tall grasses around the perimeter would have made the scene look more natural and inviting.

There were two arching bridges spanning the pond. Beyond them was the oldest ride in the park, the still popular Old 99 trains. We walked over the left-hand bridge and headed toward the Swan Boats, another antique ride in the park. The boats have a bank of batteries in them for power. The fiberglass Swans are a large attachment to the back of the boats, which look like oversized canoes. The boats hold about fifteen people each, facing forward, and take a leisurely trip around the L-shaped pond at the back of Storytown. The operator sat on the back of the swan and used an old hand lever to operate the boat.

There was an unusually long line at the ride, but we queued up anyway, figuring it would move quickly. There were two boats operating. Maintenance crews were tending to a third. As one boat came up to the dock, the ride operator made the usual announcement to keep all hands and legs inside until the boat came to a complete stop at the dock. Well, one older guy didn't listen and decided to keep his hand outside the boat. His little finger got squished as the boat pressed up against its mooring post. But what amazed me about this was how the guy afterward kept talking under his breath with his group, pointing at his finger (which looked okay) and back to the boat as if the park did something wrong. Maybe the attendants should get long yardsticks and whack anyone who doesn't listen to them.

Normally, one boat would load and head out as another boat was returning. That process at least kept the line advancing fairly regularly. For some reason, they were loading both boats and sending them both out together. That made the hour-long wait a bit excruciating. Finally, Karen and I boarded and had a pleasant and peaceful ten minute trip. In the past, the attendants would give a verbal tour during the ride. ("If you look over on your right, you'll see the Storytown train...") Our attendant (a foreign exchange worker) was completely silent except for her warnings at the start and end of the ride. The peacefulness was sort of nice, but I left the ride with a sort of empty feeling. The attendants would give the ride a personality when they talked to you throughout. Our ride was, well... just a ride. The spirit was missing.

We quietly passed through Storytown. The cow was jumping over the moon. The Storytown train reflected placidly in the water. As we reached the far end of the pond we could glimpse the back of what used to be the wildlife show. A trainer used to come out and talk about various animals. It was educational. Instead, some actors in stereotypical western attire were maniacally jumping up and down and running about the stage to loud pre-recorded hillbilly dialogue. We rounded the turn there and headed back for the dock.

By that point it was almost noon. We walked back over the bridge and stopped in the nearby Subway for lunch. Karen and I each got a combo meal (sub, chips and a drink) for double the price we'd pay at a normal Subway. We then searched for someplace to sit and eat. The sun was beating down, and the metal chairs and tables placed around the building had no shade. At the tables around Itza Pizzeria, the umbrellas had been removed. We usually would have stopped at there for lunch. They usually served really tasty food. But we'd already eaten pizza a couple of times during the week. So we took a walk over to Coco Loco next to Jungleland. The place was deserted. All the metal cafe tables there had umbrellas, though. So we sat down and quietly ate our subs. The food was okay, probably the cheapest in the park. As we sat there I could hear the distinct rumbling of the Alpine Bobsled coaster. I was astounded; out of our last four visits to the park over the years, the Bobsled had operated just once.

We walked across the midway to admire the giant hand-made cedar elephant, another great Charlie Wood acquisition. Next to it was the little house that used to be Goldilocks and the Three Bears. There was a pen attached to it that used to house two brown bears. But the pen was now home to a single sad-looking capybara (the world's largest rodent). It stayed sheltered in its little green box, which was just big enough to hide it.

One comment I made to Karen was how even though the park was all asphalt, it didn't feel that way. There were lots of little islands interrupting pedestrian flow to break up the surface and create a more intimate feeling. It's too bad that so many of the islands consisted of little more than mulch and a shrub or two. Colorful plants would have really brightened things up.

We had to take a walk through one of our favorite places, Jungleland itself. The giant gorilla above the entrance was silent and immobile and the pygmies were long gone. But I was glad this attraction has survived. The dark twisting entryway had been given a light, which for me took away part of the fun. The first thing we saw when we entered was a hippo's butt, shoved off into a corner. The little waterfall was working. And the water throughout the area was flowing nicely. Vegetation was growing thick everywhere. A bright blue and green dragonfly flew around us and settled on a leaf. We walked over to the infamous suspended bridge. It had been given all new planking, and had been tightened up a bit. It didn't sway nearly as much as in the past. So it was fairly easy to cross. On the other side of the bridge, we walked past what used to be the exit (but was now a dead end). We followed the wooden walkway around, The animatronic elephants were silent. The display with the lioness and her cubs was working, though. She moved her jaw silently up and down and blinked (with no eyelids, which looked odd). I wish more of the displays had been functioning: the cougar hanging from a vine, the "natives" hiding in straw huts, the hunter trapped in a net. I missed the sound of jungle drums that used to fill the area, along with the ridiculous voice that boomed, "Kargamunga con tiki! You like my jungle?" Walking through the area was like seeing an old friend on life support; I knew how vibrant it was in its younger days. I can't imagine that it would take a large investment of money to spruce it up. Instead I fear that eventually it will be replaced with the "Jungle Drop" or some other thrill ride. Jungleland's exit used to come out by a huge wooden idol in an open area. Why not use that open area to put in something like a drop ride, which doesn't take up a lot of real estate? Then Jungleland could be the passage for guests to access the ride.

Walking along the edge of the pond we spotted more dragonflies than I've ever seen. Many babies were flitting about the surface of the water. We walked into the miniature church there (with miniature stained glass windows). The giant pink whale was still spouting water, but it's eyes had a very odd paint job (a black ring with a diamond in the center). Jack and Jill lay at the bottom of the hill nearby, immobile. We crossed the big bridge into the Oktoberfest section. A new kettle corn stand was set up there, staffed by the guy who used to make kettle corn at Six Flags New England. There was a wonderful island with an eagle statue surrounded by colorful flowers. Karen wanted to stop in to the Mad Hatter (near Alice in Wonderland) to check out their clothing. We had gotten some really nice shirts and hats there before.

As we approached the entrance there were five employees standing there talking, blocking the doorway. Two of them appeared to be supervisors (wearing different shirts). We stood there, assuming they'd move out of the way. But they continued talking as if we weren't even there. Karen and I stood there for a minute or so, unacknowledged. She spotted a side entrance, and we went in that way. There was only one other person in the shop besides the cashier. There were some generic shirts with Looney Tunes characters on them. Tucked in a corner were some hats that had "Great Escape" blandly embroidered. We walked out.

I could hear the roar of the nearby Bobsled, so we headed in that direction. The entrance was well-designed but difficult to find toward the back of the ride. The queue line wound through the center of the ride and has aged well. The pine trees have filled out nicely. Karen passed on riding this. The line wasn't too long and all four bobsleds were running. I queued up for the back seat of the Swiss sled. Getting into those "trains" felt awkward. The seat was almost at the level of the floor, so my knees were bent up to my chin. The thick lap bar gave me plenty of breathing room. The ride attendant sounded a bit deranged. He had thick black hair, a mustache and dark glasses and loudly would address the guests over the PA system. "You been on this ride before? You like it? Well have a great time!" He reminded me of some old carnies I've known. It wasn't anything offensive; it just seemed odd because all the other attendants in the park seemed so detached.

The lift hill was fast and smooth. The train turned right at the top of the lift and swung into the huge metal trough, dropping suddenly and sending me out of my seat. Air time on a bobsled! We whipped around a corner and flew into the first check brake. The car collided with the guide rails and my body was thrown to the left like a rag doll. If Karen had been sitting next to me, our heads would have collided. I grabbed onto the car's padded side bars for support. We plunged down and to the left, and again I came out of my seat. We rose up into the next check brake. The process continued two more times until we reached the final brakes.

I was amazed by the air time. But overall I think Avalanche at King's Dominion was a far superior bobsled ride. The Intamin version at Great Escape never really got going. There were too many check brakes to stop the momentum. The rhythm was drop-turn-brake all the way to the end. With Mack's Avalanche, there was no air time but much more of a feeling of really riding in a bobsled, blasting around corners and rolling up to the sides of the trough.

By then the Comet was calling to us, so we made our way to the very back of the park. We crossed the bridge over Splashwater Kingdom (which was pretty crowded) and the Comet's spectacular profile came into view. Karen said that it's the most visually stunning coaster she's ever seen, and I agree. When I look at it, though, I can still see the legendary Crystal Beach Cyclone. And I find that really thrilling. The station is still there. The original bolt holes one the structure are still there. The helix structure is there. It's amazing to ponder what was.

The station was filled, but there was no line. The park was running two trains. Within ten minutes, we were sitting in the front seat of the blue train. The path of the trains' wheels on the track had left a path so shiny it was like a mirror strip. There didn't appear to be any fresh oil on the track, but as we glided out of the station (with the same pre-recorded message I've heard for so many years: "Have a great ride on the Comet!") the train's movement was so quiet. There was no squeaking or thumping. It was like we were gliding across the surface. The train engaged the chain smoothly, and up we went. In its inimitable style, the Comet's chain sped up dramatically as we crested the hill and it threw us down the wonderful first drop.

We hit the bottom of the hill and the train jackhammered severely, sending a jolt up my spine. We flew over the little speed bump and charged up the first turnaround. The train didn't seem to lose any speed and dove down the steep drop, hopped over a small hill sending us into our lap bars, then bounded over the terrific third hill and then up to the second turnaround, taken at high speed. The hidden double-down was terrific, the following bunny hops were powerful, the last turnaround was frightening and the run back to the station was breathtaking. We hit the brakes hard in the air, with the side friction wheels madly spinning in place. At nearly sixty years young, the Comet still had what it takes.

Unfortunately, my back wasn't too happy. That first drop was the only bad piece of trackage on the ride, but it was a killer and really dampened my enjoyment for the rest of the ride. I noticed a few places where track had been replaced. I couldn't see if the first drop was one of them. Many of you may recall that when the ride was re-erected at Great Escape, Wood hired the best coaster trackers in the business, Martin and Vleminczx, to handle the work. And they did so spectacularly, using Douglas fir. Much of the ride appears to still have the original Douglas fir track. But the new replacement track I saw looked like southern yellow pine. That would be a mistake. Sure, that wood is much cheaper. But it also wears much more quickly. If this is a cost-cutting trend the park is initiating, then in a couple of years the Comet is going to ride like so many other Six Flags wood coasters (in other words, like crap). The next thing the park will do to save on maintenance is slow down the chain. Then a brake will be placed on the first drop and trim brakes will be placed on the turnarounds. And the beast will have been tamed, its teeth pulled. And everyone will wonder why this coaster was ever regarded so highly. I hope that scenario is simply a product of my paranoid mind working overtime. Last year the Comet was running the best it ever had since Six Flags took ownership. I hope the trend isn't reversing.

Something else that bothered me the more I thought about it was an anniversary that wasn't being acknowledged, let alone celebrated. There were little signs here and there mentioning that Great Escape was a half-century old. But no one was mentioning that this year marked the Comet's tenth anniversary of being relocated. It still ranks as one of the most courageous and well-executed coaster preservation acts. But no one at the park seemed to care. *sigh* Happy anniversary, Comet, old friend.

We were going to ride the ferris wheel, but it was down. I stood at the Raging Rapids observation deck and noticed that the big waterfalls that once poured over the massive artificial rock outcroppings were shut down. They used to be not only visually stunning but a really fun part of the ride.

One of the delights I always looked forward to in the Oktoberfest area was a stop at the Funnel Cake stand. They were so delicious. But I just can't eat them anymore; it's too much for my stomach. So instead I decided to get a waffle cone there. While we were in line, I noticed they offered a new treat: deep fried cheesecake (for $3.50). My arteries clogged just thinking about it.

The ice cream was rich and tasty. Since I had my treat, Karen went nearby to get her favorite treat -- kettle corn. The guy who runs it was very chatty and friendly. His wife was running the Bavarian nut stand. He said she'd been working at Great Escape for a while, and he wanted to be closer to her. So he left Six Flags New England. I told him how much we enjoy his kettle corn; no other park made it so tasty. He said his secret was that he never made batches when it was raining or when the humidity was high. The dampness would get absorbed into the popcorn before the sugar could. Well however he makes it, it's delicious.

Since we were right there, we took a walk through Alice in Wonderland. This small attraction is so much fun, and there's so little there. But it's like walking into another world. A tall fake tree had a hole in it, and it led down a long corridor that shrunk. At the end, it opened up into a room with two huge chairs and a giant table set for tea. Walking out of that room led to a shady area that was hidden from the rest of the park. There were various scenes from the Lewis Carroll book. There was the house where Alice grew big, the Cheshire cat, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Caterpillar (who in this version had a flute) and the Queen with her army of cards. The area used to be open, so children were free to wander about. But the area was modified with a heavy wooden fence that forced guests to walk through the perimeter of the area in a horshoe. The attraction went from being interactive to look-but-don't-touch. On the way out, two eerie looking flowers created a surreal arch. Karen suggested going for a spin on the nearby Sky Ride. We went over to the purple building that had a distinctly Moroccan look to it. I believe it was made by Hopkins. The fiberglass bubble seats with the fiberglass awnings were painted in many pastel shades. The trip wasn't particularly long, going from the Oktoberfest hillside to the Storytown hillside and back again. But it was taken at a nice slow pace and was quite relaxing, offering splendid views of the area. I really liked the landscaping at the front of the fiberglass carousel, which looks really whimsical from the air. We had a bird's-eye view of the diving show in progress. It featured yet more pre-recorded dialogue as swimmers jumped all over the place. Then an MC stepped up with a microphone and went into a routine that's been done a hundred times before: an irate audience member harassed the MC, who then invited the "audience member" (in reality one of the divers) up to the pool. The diver clowned around and then did a jump into the pool. Then all the other divers appeared and started jumping into the pool. Yeehaw. It wasn't something I'd bother watching, but the general public seemed to really enjoy it. Across from the divers was a small stage that featured an Elvis impersonator. He was doing an odd prolonged sound check with his two other band members.

We then made the long hike to the west end of the park, through Storytown. Cinderella's horse-drawn pumpkin coach was making its trips around her big white castle. I think that's a really special ride. Little kids can sit in the coach with a "real" Cinderella, and she just talks with them as the horse clip-clops along. I'll bet for many kids, that would be the most memorable part of their day. Opposite the castle was a cleverly-themed basketball game ("Take Me to the Ball") using Cinderella's three wicked sisters.

Next to Cinderella's castle used to be a fake miniature railway coming out of a fake tunnel. That was replaced by a "Mother Goose" ride, which I though fit well into the area. The goose ride was closed, but still there. On top of it was a huge gold cake with 50 stuck onto it. I guess that was an appropriate location for it, since the park began as Storytown. But there was a large open area at Storytown's entrance and the cake would have been better displayed there. Or even on the high hill overlooking the area, where the home of the Old Lady Who Lives in a Shoe is. As it was, the cake was sort of hidden away, as if they were ashamed that the park was 50 years old.

We walked up the steep hill toward the imposing structure of the Canyon Blaster mine train in the Ghost Town section. I kept watching for a train to go by. I waited and waited... and then it appeared, completely silently except for the screams of the passengers. The only noise from the train was a roar as it barreled through the last part of the big helix. We didn't bother riding it. The ride was about a minute long, and most of that was spent on the two lift hills. Next to the top of the hill was Boot Hill, a fake cemetery that used to have two giant boots buried in the sand. Various tombstones with silly epitaphs were scattered about. One looked new, and I'm wondering if it was installed as a political statement. It read, "J.K. -- His Time Has Come."

Karen looked into the Western Shop. Everything was generic western toys and clothes. At least it wasn't all Looney Tunes again. We queued up for the Poland Springs Plunge log flume. This had the longest line of any ride that day. At the beginning of the queue line they were selling -- you guessed it -- Poland Springs water at $2.50 a bottle. The giant water wheel out front was turning, splashing into an absolutely filthy pond below. I looked sadly at the remains of the old Ghost Town train tracks. That was one of our favorite rides in the park, a long trip over to the extreme north end through a dark tunnel filled with animatronics. As we waited in line, a large tractor drove through the dirt on the other side of the loading area. It had a log attached to a fork in front of it. The tractor drove over to the holding pond behind the ride's exit and gently deposited the boat into the water. Then the tractor drove out the way it came in. This process continued the whole time we at the ride.

Behind the flume used to be a high grassy hill with a solitary realistic-looking moose standing in the distance, partially hidden in the trees. Now it was a mound of dirt with some weeds popping out of it. Behind it was the gigantic metal building housing Nightmare at Crackaxle Canyon, the indoor Schwartzkopf Jet Star coaster. The front of the building looked nice, with some skillful airbrushing attempting to disguise it. But the sides were flat green. To think the park moved a mountain to basically plunk down a giant warehouse. I wish they had at least made a better attempt to fit such a huge structure into the Ghost Town theming.

After about fifteen minutes we sat in a log with Karen in front. I was glad they didn't force more people in with us. We drifted out into the trough. Below and to the right was the first lift of the Canyon Blaster. To the left was an ugly metal building. We were pulled up the first short lift hill and deposited into a freshly-painted trough about thirty feet above the ground. As we floated along, we had a clear view of the ugly maintenance area to the right and an ugly metal building to our left. The area on the right used to be a corral where horses grazed and where the train used to make its return trip. A row of tall building facades had been a wonderful old western backdrop for the train ride. Each building looked realistic, with curtains in the windows and signs like "Dewey, Cheatum and Howe, Attorneys at Law." Now the buildings were falling apart, with broken windows and collapsing facades. The signs had long been removed. Behind the facades we could see piles of junk.

Our log engaged the second bigger lift hill. The parking lot was to our right and an ugly metal building was to our left. Although we were now quite high up, the Arrow flume was intelligently designed to take advantage of the terrain. We had climbed up a hill, so we were now really only about eight feet off the ground. We drifted to the right and into a large wooden shack. There used to be voices playing and sounds of machinery, but all was silent. On the left were groups of animatronic figures sawing wood and working machinery. The trough turned left and headed toward the light. Above us, spinning wildly, was a mannequin in lumberjack attire tied up to a log. The trough dipped and we plunged down the hill and into the water -- and didn't get wet. Some coin-operated new water cannons had been installed near the bottom of the drop, but the streams of water missed us.

We walked out of Ghost Town through the old tunnel, which was spattered with gum. Someone had punched a hole through the tunnel at one point. Right near the tunnel's entrance were the two "windows" that looked out under the waterfall. That was such a great idea. It really helps give the feeling that the cave-like structure is real. We walked around the corner and peered into the many little buildings winding their way up the hill. The structures were so well-built. They really are just miniature versions of real establishments, like the church or the saloon. Even the interiors have wonderful detailing.

After climbing up to the top of the hill, we stood at the house of the Old Woman in the Shoe. The little slide that used to be attached to it was taken out. Without that fun distraction, there was really no reason for any child to want to climb the long hill. There always used to be a line of children waiting to slide down. Now we were the only people standing there. I loved the stone fence with the little heart-shaped metal railing. It was such a pretty scene and was obviously a labor of love fifty years ago. Now it was ignored. It seemed like if they really wanted to pay homage to the park's 50th anniversary, they would have spruced up all of the attractions that make the park historic. But maybe part of their problem is being owned by a huge company that's struggling financially; there's no money for "sprucing up."

Karen and I felt drained. We walked down the hill toward the entrance and headed for the exit's gift shop. I had hoped to take a picture of the unique iron warthog sculpture at the entrance, but camp kids were climbing all over it. The cleverly named Exit Shop used to have lots of really nice T-shirts, magnets, cups -- all sorts of Great Escape souvenirs. We were hoping to pick some up. But we should have known better. To our left as we entered was a wall of Superman memorabilia. Then more Looney Tunes things. There was a collection of T-shirts with "Trailer Park" inexplicably written across them. There were shirts with lots of insulting slogans. There were some uninteresting "Canyon Blaster" shirts. There was just one design for the Comet, and I already owned two of those. Mugs and cups were stuck at the back wall of the shop. They were all the same Comet design that I'd purchased the previous year. The sense I got was that most of the "unique" souvenirs were simply things that didn't sell the previous year and were being phased out. It wasn't as if they were proudly trying to show off the unique items; they were hiding them. Karen wanted to send our daughters some postcards of the Comet, but there were none to be found. The park's star ride didn't even have a postcard. Not even for its tenth anniversary. Maybe they were being printed....

So we left the park empty-handed and a bit disheartened. I don't think that's how Charlie Wood would have liked us to feel. But he doesn't own the park anymore. This is a different era. Maybe the general public doesn't care about unique souvenirs. Maybe they don't care about ugly metal buildings. Maybe they don't care about jackhammering on a coaster. Maybe they don't care about waterfalls not working. But I think a good park owner should assume that they do care. Because that attitude always makes a park better.

Karen and I want to return again this season -- not because we had a good time, but because it was free. And because deep in my heart I hold out a hope that the park will magically return to the Great Escape I remember. It's a foolish hope, I know. But aren't old memories all part of the amusement park experience?

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