Quassy Amusement Park
May 5, 2012

copyright Jay Ducharme 2012

The second annual Wooden Warrior Day at Connecticut's Quassy Amusement Park arrived on an overcast and chilly day, ironic since April had seen temperatures reaching into the 90s.  Karen and I drove to the park through intermittent rain showers, but as we approached the park the rain thankfully let up.  Check-in time was 10:00 and we arrived just after that.  Already, there were dozens of coaster enthusiasts, mostly American Coaster Enthusiast members, waiting for the coaster to open.

Wooden Warrior had garnered great reviews and a stellar reputation since its opening last year.  It was a perfect fit for this park: a small fun ride packed with big thrills.  The first-of-their-kind Timberliner train tracked beautifully and could comfortably seat small children as well as big enthusiasts.  The owner, George Frantzis, and the marketing director, Ron Gustafson, were greeting people at the ride entrance and handing out attractive complementary t-shirts and large Wooden Warrior postcards.  Karen and I stowed our goodies in our car and then wandered the quiet midway.  Exclusive Ride Time on the Warrior was set to run from 10:30 to noon (when the park opened to the public), then there would be a buffet lunch followed by a presentation by Michael Graham of the Gravity Group, which built the coaster.

Karen and I passed the time by wandering about the quiet midway.  A few fishermen were out in boats on big Lake Quassapaug, shrouded in fog.  We headed back for the Warrior queue line.  It looked as if close to 100 enthusiasts had come.  Some we recognized from the event last year.  Some I recognized from other events, like famed coaster model builder John Hunt.  Geff Ford from the Western New York Coaster Club was there.  I spoke with an enthusiast who had flown in from Texas just for this event!  So Quassy's coaster was certainly drawing people to the park.

The Gravity Group's amazing train had slight modifications for the new season, but nothing particularly noticeable.  We had about a fifteen minute wait for the front seat.  The train was still very comfy and we were soon rolling up the lift hill.  The 180-degree turn at the top still picked up a surprising amount of speed before thrusting us down the first drop, then over the air-filled speed bump and into the sharp left-hand turn.  The Timberliner rode so smoothly through the track's wild gyrations.  We flew through the dark tunnel, over the double-up and wound our way back to the station, one bunny hop after another.  What a perfect family ride, smooth yet exhilarating.  Enthusiasts were coming back to the station cheering.  Even though a light mist was raining down, nobody seemed to mind.

I then spent time shooting some off-ride video. The large picnic grove next to the Warrior was now a grassy field, and a couple of horseshoe courts were there.  The grove was still encircled by Quassy's miniature train.  Karen and I walked back through the midway, which was beginning to come to life.  The big arcade was open so we headed inside out of the cool mist.  The games were mostly coin-toss machines or standard video games.  There weren't any pinball machines, once the staple of arcades.  At one end of the room hung the old sign from Quassy's defunct Mad Mouse coaster.

I walked over to the carousel, which was brightly lit.  Quassy had sold their classic wooden carousel to raise money many years ago, and replaced it with a new fiberglass model.  Though not a "classic" anymore, the carousel was still quite attractive.  The animals seemed to  sport a variety of styles, some realistic and some fanciful.

The drizzle stopped, so we went back to the Warrior for another ride.  In what seemed like a surprisingly short time, noon arrived and we headed to the picnic pavilion for the buffet.  There was a bountiful assortment to choose from -- even veggie burgers (which unfortunately Karen and I didn't realize until later).  The pasta and salads were delicious.  After we ate, we took a spin on the train.  Then it was back to the pavilion for the presentation by The Gravity Group's Michael Graham.  He updated everyone with his company's recent projects, many of which were in China (including the huge Dragon Wings).  He also showed some fascinating videos of the articulation possible with their Timberliner trains.  He also described the challenges of building Grona Lund's compact Twister.

Afterward, Ron Gustafson presided over an auction to benefit ACE New England.  The first item was a large laminated poster of the Wooden Warrior, which sold for $50.  Graham played Vanna White, holding up other items as they were auctioned off: a GG mug and t-shirt, lap bar plates from the Warrior, and two wheels from Quassy's old Mad Mouse.

The gathering then dispersed back onto the midway.  More families began arriving at the park, even with the overcast sky.  Clifford the Big Red Dog was roaming about greeting children.  Quassy's newest rides, a Trabant and a teacup, were brightly colored and fit nicely into an area that was once a picnic grove.   We looked at the various food concessions and settled on the Ice Cream Shoppe, which served hard ice cream.  I got the butter pecan and Karen got mint chocolate chip.  It was a bit pricey ($5 each for a small dish) but tasty.  The nearby Carousel Theater was present a magic show by Jim and Sandy Sisti so we drifted over to the stage.  It was a good fit for Quassy, with audience participation and lots of jokes.  And there was even some impressive magic.

The rain, thankfully, was holding off but the sky remained a thick grey.  We headed toward the north end of the park.  I had heard there was a boat ride.  We didn't see one the last time we were at the park, probably because it's a half-hour ride and the boat is often away from the dock.  But we spotted the little pontoon this time and got in line.  The older gentleman manning the boat was very friendly.  A young couple with a baby joined us on board.  The dad worked at the park as a mechanic and was taking a busman's holiday.  We smoothly pulled away from the dock and drifted out onto Lake Quassapaug.  The park looked pretty, reflecting in the water.  The lake was much larger than I expected.  The skipper pointed out interesting sites along the shore, most of which were mansions undergoing lots of renovations.  There was also a lot of impressive stonework.  The young family and the skipper were musing about how nice it must be to have money.  The trip was peaceful and relaxing.  We eventually turned back toward the shore and returned to the dock refreshed.

We wanted something else to snack on, so we headed for the French fry stand and placed an order.  I guess I'd been spoiled by steak fries; these were fairly standard thin fare.  They were fresh and crispy.  But if I had only looked at the menu, there were lots of other choices from mozzarella sticks to baked potatoes.

After our snack, we were getting chilly and decided to head home.  Once again, we had a good (if brief) time at Quassy, mostly thanks to the Wooden Warrior.  The park seems to be on its way up, adding rides and growing in popularity.  If they keep expanding their family offerings, they're sure to have a bright future.

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