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Reawakening of Bushkill Park - New Year's update


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I drove out to Easton today to catch up on the latest news. The best recent news is the fun house structure expert (Cesar) is back on the worksite. Cesar started much of the work that Chuck took over upon arrival months ago. Chuck is leaving the remaining structural work in "King Cesar's" capable hands, allowing Chuck to get back to the facade and stunts.

 

What might not be apparent from the pictures is that the facade in made up vertically oriented boards. Over the years, many boards splintered. broke or shifted leaving plenty of gaps that were not visible under the many layers of paints. Many hours went into custom cutting pieces and sliding them into place.

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The turrets have been built and re-installed. You may be able to see the vertical orientation of the boards in the facade that I mentioned earlier.

 

As I walked around the Fun House, I saw some of the wall studs previously sitting on jacks were now shored up. Fresh cement was in the front of the left side of the fun house serving a as sill. Cement still needs to be poured around the back of the building.

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Here you can see fresh cement serving as a sill in the front left side of the building.

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Additional cement needs to poured around the back of the building.

 

Chuck revealed a few more details on this visit. The small build out in the front right hand side of the building has been removed so the front will have a flat facade across the front. However, he will build an awning over the entrance/exit/ ticket booth on the first level. A second overhang will bill placed above the exposed roller floor walkway window on the second floor.

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While I was on site today a scissor jack arrived which will allow Chuck to start attaching heavy stuff to the Fun House such as this Victorian Awning that will be placed above the upper level walkway.

 

Chuck also explained that not only will the first floor have sliding floors, but there will also be a tilt room before the barrel. He expects to have a very steep floor since they have already dug down three feet below the old floor. He also mentioned that animatronic monkeys and clowns will appear to be turning cranks to the spin the barrel. Here I made the "mortal sin" of asking if those will be off the shelf versions (like we see in holiday displays), I made Chuck upset for the first time ever with this questioning, as I should know by know everything the Dark Ride Artist does is custom made (if not from a original pre-1950 manufacturer).

 

Another thing I have learned about Chuck over the years is his love of clowns and puppets. Chuck's custom clown cutouts will appear near the Fun House entrance.20181124_114751.thumb.jpg.f93ba96b143eade4606bf6d352b068b7.jpg

On the floor of the bumper cars arena I saw wooden cutouts that I recognized right away as Chuck's popular clowns.

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He was gracious enough to turn them over and stand them up allowing me to capture these images.

The other personal touch will be puppets in puppet boxes. That's the next artistic portion that Chuck is planning on undertaking, and this should happen quickly with Cesar back on site and the continued assistance of John Cory.

 

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The building to the right of the Fun House that used to be a food stand still stores some ride parts.

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This is being turned into The Toy Store, Chuck's personal workshop to create toys for the dark rides and walk throughs.

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This area is right next to the workbench. Chuck plans to have educational sessions for kids.

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The ventilation from the old cooking area will be used to help ventilate the workspace.

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I did not even realize that right behind the Fun House is a stage. With wooden bench seating that will need to be repaired.

 

I'm planning another visit over the Christmas break, but may be there sooner as Chuck may be receiving a special shipment. The special shipment involves Chuck's next project after the Fun House. A dark ride. The Pretzel was lifted off it's foundation during the 2005 flood and was last seen floating down Bushkill Creek in pieces.

Edited by larrygator
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Those pics are great. I can't imagine an undertaking such as this. The whole project, and park for that matter, seems insurmountable. That's dedication.

 

And that's why Sammy Baurkot named Chuck Burnham as the Director of Operations for Bushkill Park. While some people will view this as Chuck saving Bushkill Park, he looks at the situation and says Bushkill is saving him. When he is not continuing the legacy of dark ride heroes who proceeded him (such as: Bill Tracy, Peter Rasulo) he is not really living.

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this is so interesting to follow along!

 

thanks for keeping this so updated, Larry. I think my favorite thing thus far has been the snapshots of the front of the FunHouse thru the years. . but watching the refurb via the posts is a real treat.

 

best,

bert

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One last thing. The image of the woman balancing on the ball that appeared on Sanatoga Park's Hilarity Hall Park will be recreated on the left side of the facade. Not surprisingly, the politically incorrect image of the man's face above the entrance will not be returning.

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Hillarity Hall facade at Sanatoga Park

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  • 4 months later...

Sorry for not posting in here for awhile. Structural work continues on the Fun House restoration, but there are delays moving full steam ahead. In the meantime, focus has shifted to bringing back the dark ride.

 

Last week I drove out to Bushkill Park to help John Cory and Chuck Burnham unload Chuck's dark ride parts that he brought down by U-haul from Connecticut. Many of the stunts and props were already unloaded and brought to Chuck's workshop before I arrived, so I got my hands dirty and did some heavy lifting unloading the truck.

 

We unloaded over 400 foot of track and 6 pretzel cars that last ran at Williams Grove in Dante's Inferno. There were plenty of other props stashed in the truck that we also unloaded. Since I was covered in dirt and grime most of the time I did not take a lot of photos.

 

The plan is for the dark ride to run on the footprint of the old Haunted Pretzel dark ride. To minimize the effects of future floods, the new version will be built higher off the ground with a flood channel underneath the structure. There is optimism that the Dark Ride could can operating over the summer, but limited resources at a small park and any type of delay causes deadlines to move.

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Did I really volunteer to help move this stuff, it looks like hard work?

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Those track pieces are heavier than they look.

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John and Chuck doing the heavy lifting of the one car without a chassis. Those elephant tusks looking things on the left hand side are the bumper from the pretzel cars and damn are those heavy.

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You need to turn start and stop the ride.

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One of the props

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and before we knew it (actually 3-4 hours later) the truck is empty.

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and the storage shed is full.

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Parts of an Eli Ferris Wheel that will be re-purposed.

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And just so we don't forget the fun house is still a work in progress.

Edited by larrygator
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So awesome to see this!

 

How's the Whip and the scrambler looking? Are there any plans to restore them?

 

I know that they have the parts and plan to restore the whip. I'm not sure what other flat rides are in the works.

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It was a busy weekend at Bushkill Park. Volunteers were at the park, most of the volunteer work involves painting - fence pickets, ride platforms, benches, picnic tables. Trees were also recently planted for additional shade in the park

 

The Funhouse is cleaned out and prepping is being done for the installation of props and tricks, thanks to John Cory. Some tricks need to be cleaned up, others need to be fixed and lastly some need to be recreated.

 

Over on the Haunted Pretzel, a manager and operator of a major dark ride has been offering Chuck his assistance in any matters. Unfortunately, Chuck's electrician (Mike Raffensburger) passed away a few months ago. Mike was the electrician who installed the original Williams Grove rolling stock and modified the hot lane in 1985. Mike was excited about the chance to work on his old ride again and shared many stories with Chuck. One thing Chuck is planning is to incorporate Mike's idea to have rolling hills on the ride. Additional info on the pretzel plans will be revealed soon

 

During the current phase Chuck is working on the Haunted Pretzel plans, restoring props/tricks and facade of the Funhouse while also chipping in on the Whip.

 

John Cory continues to work on wiring and rebuilding the smaller rides along with major tasks within the Funhouse.

 

The park's historian. Kelly Feathers, also volunteers quite a bit at the park (she has been doing this for years) and is finishing up her book on the history of Bushkill Park. I will provide info on the book release and pre-ordering information when that is available.

 

The US has lost so many old trolley parks over the past 3 decades, it's nice to see one coming back.

Edited by larrygator
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^ Thanks for the updates, Larry. And so sorry to read about Mike's passing.

But it's great to read that they're going to put one (or more) of his ideas into

the rebuild of the Haunted Pretzel. Very cool way to honor him.

 

And for anybody interested in this, like myself, there is a website the park has....

 

http://www.bushkillpark.com/ ~ although all they have now

is the Home Page of the site. So...Bookmark it for the Future!

 

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Hi Larry!! This is Stephenie. I met you at Wild Bills while on Chucks previous projects. My husband, Dave, and I are still right by Chucks side giving our support and input. He is working incredibly hard with all the current projects at Bushkill Park, with the help of his girlfriend, Colleen, and John. I wanted to throw out there that I helped broker a deal for Jeremy to purchase a skyfighter ride. So hopefully once they open, that will be something else for everyone to enjoy. The Dark Ride Artist is BACK!! He’s got the determination to complete this and has a great support system backing him up! Sorry we missed you when we got the uhaul out there.

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So happy to hear Chuck is leading the charge to bring this park back to life. He’s an incredible artist and I, for one, am glad he’s back doing what he loves! I have no doubt that he will help bring the park back to it’s former glory! Bushkill is blessed to have Chuck on board!!! Can’t wait to see the park open again!

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Allentown Call visited Bushkill earlier this week to see what's been going on at Bushkill Park.

 

The article mentions the techniques Chuck Burnham used to strip away levels of paint through scrapping and use of a heat gun, until they were down to a level that would not melt away. Chuck immediately realized, from his apprenticeship under Peter Rasulo at Lake Compounce, that the paint that remained was not going away because it was lead based.

 

As mentioned in the article, former co-owner Neal Fehnel is now officially gone and has no stake in any part of the park.

 

As far the park opening this weekend,

Fences for all the rides have been completed by John Klein. John Cory is attending to all the rides electrical boxes. The state ride inspector was at the park today making sure everything is in order for Saturday.

 

https://www.mcall.com/news/local/easton/mc-nws-easton-bushkill-park-renovations-20190521-3l7723pswrb7paolbszwksa724-story.html

 

Renovations to Bushkill Park’s ‘Barl of Fun’ reveal new clues about its past

By Christina Tatu

| The Morning Call |

May 21, 2019 | 9:10 PM

 

This spring, employees at Bushkill Park spent weeks scraping layers of paint from the facade of the park’s “Barl of Fun.”

 

What they found is that the funhouse, believed to be among the oldest in the country, could be even older than previously thought.

 

“I can’t even describe it. It was like unwrapping a present,” said Kelly Feathers, the park’s historian, as she explained the process of scraping and using a heat gun to melt away an estimated 100 years of paint, revealing the funhouse was once known as “Hilarity Hall.” The work melted away paint from later years, but the lead-based paint of the early 1900s remained.

 

Employees found the faint outline of a 20-foot-tall woman dressed in a red circus costume as she balances on a giant ball next to the Hilarity Hall sign, which has round socket holes in the letters where lights were once fastened.

 

The funhouse, which has been featured on the Discovery Channel, was believed to be built between 1932-1935. But based on the type of paint used, a newspaper article and an old fire insurance map, Feathers thinks the funhouse could have been built as early as 1914.

 

Started by the Northampton Traction trolley company in 1902, Bushkill Park, along the banks of the Bushkill Creek in Forks Township, was once known for its antique rides, including bumper cars, the Whip and a haunted house. But since a series of devastating floods forced him to close the doors in 2006, owner Sammy Baurkot has been struggling to reopen the park.

 

Most of the park is still inaccessible to visitors, through the roller rink reopened three years ago and operates every weekend.

 

Now when Bushkill Park opens for the season on Saturday, employees and volunteers hope to have some of the kiddie rides up and running. They’ll have a grand opening celebration to mark the park’s 117th anniversary on July 3.

 

Later this year, they hope to reopen the historic funhouse under its original name with a new facade closer to what visitors would have seen more than 100 years ago, said Jeremy Carrington, the park’s director of operations.

 

The park will also continue without Baurkot’s longtime business partner, Neal Fehnel.

 

“There’s no bad blood. At this point I’m getting older. ... My other businesses are growing,” said Fehnel, who will turn 60 later this year and wants to focus on Fun Affairs, his entertainment rental company.

 

Carrington and Baurkot brought in “dark ride artist” Chuck Burnham to oversee renovations on the funhouse and to eventually bring back the haunted house ride known as the “Dark Pretzel,” a nod to the Pretzel Amusement Ride Company that built it.

 

Burnham moved from Connecticut in September to start working at the park. Over the course of his career, he’s painted dozens of “dark rides” — indoor amusements where passengers board guided cars that take them past artistic scenes.

 

“There was this piece of tin above the entrance, and I thought ‘What is that covering?’” Burnham said of the funhouse. “I looked behind it and saw socket holes through the center,” which turned out to be the sign for Hilarity Hall.

 

The restored funhouse will still include its walk-through spinning barrel, tilted stairs, mirrors and a floor where guests can test their balance by running across a set a rollers, Burnham said.

 

He will also restore some of the exterior and interior paintings. He’s already added a new character outside ― a monkey hanging from the roof of the funhouse ― to pay homage to the previous owners, Tom Long and Mabel Long.

 

Tom Long started operating the park in 1932, said Feathers, who is also working on a history book about Bushkill Park.

 

He officially purchased the park in 1940 for $20,000, according to real estate records, she said. Tom died in 1965, and Mabel continued operating the park through 1989.

 

Mabel loved monkeys and would display them in cages throughout the park over the summer. At the end of the season, they would be shipped back to an animal dealer in upstate New York, Feathers said.

 

Work inside the funhouse also revealed more clues about its past.

 

Workers removed several feet of mud from underneath the walk-through spinning barrel — the namesake attraction near the entrance of Barl of Fun — and found a large concrete disk and other mechanical elements.

 

An article published in the April 12, 1914, edition of the Easton Express talked about a new “human roulette table,” an attraction similar to Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park that had been installed in 1908.

 

Riders, often emboldened by alcohol, would pile onto the wheel ― which would start to spin wildly ― flinging them off in all directions, Burnham explained.

 

“It is claimed for this amusement that it gives one a sensation that is a cross between ecstasy and dizziness,” said the Express story.

 

Back then, the funhouse would have most likely been a wide-open room with seats around the perimeter so visitors could watch those brave enough to take on attractions like the roulette wheel.

 

Later on, management added elements like a maze, tilted floors and a hall of mirrors to encourage patrons to keep moving through the attraction, Feathers said.

 

Carrington hopes the newspaper article and a Sandborn fire insurance map from 1927 that shows the funhouse will help park officials get the structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Doing so could help the park qualify for grants to make repairs.

 

Carrington wouldn’t comment on how much it cost to rebuild the park. “It’s a labor of love. A cash-in-your-401(k) kind of project,” he joked.

 

It also takes a lot of volunteers, but nostalgia has drawn them in, Carrington said.

 

Feathers worked as an operator at the funhouse in 1992, and Carrington also worked at the park after getting out of high school in the 1990s.

 

“I think it’s neat we were all here as children,” Carrington said, adding that old-timers like Sammy Baurkot can watch their grandkids ride the same rides they did.

 

Carrington acknowledged the challenge of being in a flood plain, but park officials have been working on their response should another event happen.

 

They’ve been in contact with management at Knoebels Amusement Park in Northumberland County, where floodwaters frequently breech the banks of the creeks that run through the property. Bushkill employees have learned how to set up rides for quick disassembly and storage.

 

When Bushkill Park’s midway was flooded with three feet of water last summer, a group of more than a dozen volunteers was on hand to quickly sweep away the mud and debris, Carrington said.

 

Ironically, the floodwaters that forced Bushkill Park to close have also helped preserve it, Feathers said.

 

“No one could sell the land for redevelopment since it’s in a flood zone,” she said.

 

Bushkill Park 2019 season

 

The park will reopen from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday.

 

Hours will be 4 to 8 p.m. Fridays, and noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

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Current state of the funhouse

Edited by larrygator
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Great update article to post, Larry! Although this part in the middle of the article was a bit....um.....iffy?

 

"[More News] During fight over drugs, father smothered baby,

police allege in charges against Monroe County couple »"

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  • 3 months later...

All summer I've been containing my excitement for this project until progress occured. Bushkill Park did open this summer with the 5 kiddie rides as mentioned previously. But I have always been more concerned with Chuck Burnham's work on the Funhouse and the Pretzel. Progress continues to happen behind the scenes, but visible progress than can be shared at this time has been slow.

 

Go Green Get Clean Power Washing has been donating their services to the park and helped out on the pretzel cars. Thank you Go Green.

 

The pretzel cars also traveled to Jim Thorpe to have some body work addressed by a welder. Thanks to Colleen's cousin

 

John Cory's continued dedication and tenacity in fixing the structure of the Funhouse has it near the point the restoration.

 

Chuck is having a Web Page created through a writer who has knowledge these classic attractions. I'll provide that link (which will also be the source of much information fo rthis tread) when it is live.

 

Telephone poles have been installed to run power to the Pretzel ride pad location.

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Power washing of the pretzel cars

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Installation of a telephone pole for power lines

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Those white bricks are the remainder of the old Pretzel building

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This picture of the Funhouse facade, is already one month old and looks even better today.

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Certainly exciting updates! Hopeful they can have these two pieces open for next season! Do you have any pictures of the actual park with the kiddie rides/rink, etc? Just to kind of get a feel for where the rest of the place stands? Appreciate you keeping us posted!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Below are some new photos

 

Also, if you happen to be in the area, they are doing a little Halloween in the Park event on October 19 from 12-5. Most of the activities will be for kids and Food Trucks will also be at the park. https://www.facebook.com/events/493651864737101/

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Chuck and Jeremy sending the Pretzel cars off the shop for rehab.

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John Cory jacking the last post in the funhouse and that means reflooring can begin.

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Colleen gets in on the painting action

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Chuck addressing the funhouse's ticket booth.

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latest visual of the facade

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View of the kiddie rides from the roof of the funhouse.

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