Tuesday, August 19, 2008

East Coast Waterworks, Hersheypark

Is it just me or does this scene remind anyone else of the board game Mousetrap? It’s the East Coast Water Works on the Boardwalk, at Hersheypark. That’s Hershey as in Hershey’s Chocolate Bars, Hershey Kisses, Reese’s Cups, Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers candy.

In contrast to factory towns of the time, Milton S. Hershey established the park to provide a pleasant environment for his workers and residents of Hershey. The park opened in 1907 with a baseball game on a new athletic field. The park was an ideal spot for picnicking, boating, and canoeing.

A pavilion was built and served as a stage for plays and vaudeville productions. In 1908, an amphitheater, said to have been the most acoustically perfect building of the time, was constructed. In 1912, a carousel built by William H. Dentzel of Philadelphia, costing $15,000 was added to the park. Other additions included bowling alleys, tennis courts, a scenic railroad, a zoo, and even a photography gallery. With 1920’s came the addition of a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel, The Aeroplane and the Skooter.

Fast forward to 2008 the park has expanded to over 110 acres and more than 60 rides and attractions. There are 11 roller coasters including the Super Duper Luper, the first looping roller coaster on the east coast. The Sidewinder, which not only contains three inversions but in the middle, reverses direction and repeats each loop backwards. The Storm Runner, launches riders from 0 to 72mph in 2 seconds, then up a 150 ft top hat followed by multiple inversions. The Farenheit is in a five way tie for coaster with the greatest angle of decent, at over 90 degrees. The Farenheit was the first ever rollercoaster to gather hype through a viral marketing campaign started by a posting on ThrillNetwork.com.

Despite having lived in Pennsylvania for most of my life I had never been to Hersheypark. Wynn’s cousin Sylvan lives in Pittsburgh and was coming to visit us for a week. We chose the park as a half way point to meet up with my brother-in-law, Chris and his two other kids Forrest and Sage. We would spend the day at the park then Chris, Forrest and Sage would drive back to Pittsburgh and we’d return to Philly with Sylvan.

Hersheypark was not quite as I had imagined it. I expected something a bit more, "Old World" from an amusement park tucked away in the middle of Pennsylvania farm country. In my opinion, while the rides were exhilarating, they just weren’t worth the 45 minute to two hour wait in line. In all fairness, we were there on a Sunday in the middle of August. When leaving the line for the Farenheit a woman entering asked “What’s wrong, are you afraid?”I replied, “The only thing I fear is that line!”

The experience was anything but relaxing. I think I might have enjoyed Milton Hershey’s park of the last century more. Maybe I’m just getting old.