Reawakening of Bushkill Park - New Year's update

Page 8: America's Oldest Funhouse to re-open in 2020
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Re: Reawakening of Bushkill Park - to re-open in 2019

Postby ScreaminNewEngland » Sun Sep 15, 2019 8:39 am

Wow! This park is looking amazing!!!

I'll have to stop in next season!!!!
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Re: Reawakening of Bushkill Park - to re-open in 2019

Postby larrygator » Mon Oct 14, 2019 8:41 pm

A nice update from the local newspaper. Not mentioned in the article, Chuck set-up a mini haunted house featuring some of the props that will go into the returning pretzel dark ride.

https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/news/2019/10/what-a-ride-spinning-twirling-nostalgia-return-after-12-years-to-bushkill-park.html

What a ride. Spinning, twirling, nostalgia return after 12 years to Bushkill Park.
Posted Oct 11, 2019
By Rudy Miller | For lehighvalleylive.com

For more than 100 years, kids rode the rides at Bushkill Park in Forks Township.

What made the rides so remarkable this summer was the 12-year lapse that preceded their return to operation.

Three major floods, Herculean cleanup tasks and the myriad distractions from smartphones to indoor water parks didn’t keep patrons from returning to the tiny amusement park to take advantage of the newly restored, historic rides.

“There aren’t many parks that go to the brink of extinction and come back,” said Jeremy Carrington, Bushkill Park’s director of operations.

It took more than a decade to bring back the rides. The park started modestly this summer with just five rides mostly geared toward youngsters. Carrington envisions eventually opening 15 to 18 rides.

The park owners knew they were on to something when thousands of patrons rushed to the park for a one-day-only open house of working rides in 2017. Then-park manager Neal Fehnel estimated 3,000 people came through the gates but Carrington puts that number closer to 5,000.

The turnout was much greater than expected, but could patrons be expected to show up weekend after weekend for a whole summer? They did, Carrington said.

“Attendance has gone up every weekend we’ve been open,” he said. The park averaged about 1,000 riders per weekend. It was only open Fridays and Saturdays and will remain open on the weekends through the end of October.

There are bigger and better parks, but they don’t have the memories that stir grandparents to bring their families to Bushkill Park.

“It’s not so much that you can put your kid on a ride. It’s that you can put your kid on the same ride that you rode and that your grandparents rode,” Carrington said Thursday. Few parks have been around as long as Bushkill Park. One elderly man and his wheelchair-bound wife came every weekend this summer for an ice cream cone, Carrington said.

“He would wheel her down and together they would take a train ride,” he said.

Others have come from out of state looking for Bushkill Falls and are charmed by the off-the-beaten-path park they stumble upon.

The park is making a comeback thanks to a staff of five retired carnival workers using their collective talents to reverse-engineer the dormant rides. Some lay caked in mud after three successive floods in 2004, 2005 and 2006 that nearly put the park out of business.

As workers restore the rides, they uncover pieces of history. Chuck Burnham is painting the funhouse. Once known as the “Barl of Fun,” the funhouse was covered in layers of old paint. Burnham burned away the layers to arrive at a lead-based coat. In lead paint were the words “Hilarity Hall” spanning the entrance.
Bushkill Park

It turns out the “Hilarity Hall” funhouse is registered through old insurance records dating back to 1927. Burnham dates the paint used back to 1918, making the funhouse the oldest in the country by his reckoning.

When he was invited to restore the house he moved to the Lehigh Valley from Connecticut and has lived here ever since.

“We have a real gem here,” he said.

His vision for the funhouse includes nods to various eras of its use. To the left of the entrance, he recreated the image of a maiden standing on a circus ball that lay hidden for decades under layers of paint. On the right side, he could find no such hidden image so he recreated his own version of the “barl," or barrel of fun as the house had come to be known. The “barrel” refers to the large rotating tunnel inside the house.

Over the center of the entrance he painted a 1960s-era sunburst clock with backwards numbers. It will eventually say, "Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.”

Workers like Burnham aren’t in it for the money.

“They’re here because they want to be here. They love the atmosphere of the park and they want to see us open,” Carrington.

Bushkill Creek floods are a constant threat. The land was drained more than a hundred years ago to make way for a transit stop. The amusement park opened in 1902. Carrington said the owners have learned to cope with the floods, to make the rides more waterproof and make water-sensitive motors easier to remove.

A flood in 2018 put the park to the test. Rather than lament, the workers rushed into the waters to learn how to adapt to the conditions. They figured out water was coming through drain pipes and are modifying those pipes to better control future deluges.
Bushkill Park flood

“We learned a lot from being in the actual water,” he said. They took advice from Knoebels in Elysburg, an amusement park also prone to flooding. As the water retreated, Bushkill Park workers power-washed and pumped out wet areas and were ready to reopen quickly.

It’s not too late to check out Bushkill Park yourself. The park remains open three more weekends. Halloween in the Park is slated for Saturday, Oct. 19. There will be food trucks, a craft fair, pony rides and a pumpkin patch.

Carrington knows there’s a long way to go before the park is fully restored but he’s happy with his progress.

“Almost all the feedback we’ve gotten is positive. They tell us, ‘It’s looking good. Keep up the good work,’” he said.
See for yourself

Bushkill Park’s rides are open:

5 to 10 p.m. Sat., Oct. 12.
5 to 9 p.m. Sunday., Oct. 13.
Noon to 10 p.m. Sat., Oct. 19 (Halloween in the Park. It features food trucks, a craft fair, pony rides, and a pumpkin patch).
5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20.
5 to 10 p.m. Sat., Oct 26.
5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27.

What’s open?

The swans. The ride is original to the park and easy to maintain. It’s a favorite with the youngest patrons.
The Cops and Clowns ride. It was brought in from Dorney Park.
A portable kiddie ferris wheel.
The train.
A red kiddie track ride.

What’s (hopefully) coming next year?

The funhouse.

The dry boats, so named because they don’t run on water. A “wet boats” ride, where the boats actually float on water, is also slated for repair at some point.

The kiddie coaster. This ride is original to the park. It’s among the last of its kind. The park received a grant to restore it.

The whip ride or the Merry Mixer.

Year-round fun

The skating rink is open all year from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, 8 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from noon to 2 p.m. Sundays.

The rink has been open for the past three years. It went up in 1926, making it the oldest rink in the nation, according to Carrington, who cites a report in Rinksider magazine.

There’s an adjacent hall with a snack bar to host birthday parties at the skating rink. Parties start at $250.

Find out more about the park or kids’ parties by calling 610-258-6941 or checking Facebook.
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Re: Reawakening of Bushkill Park - to re-open in 2019

Postby Taylor Finn » Tue Oct 15, 2019 9:54 am

I will certainly be checking this place out next year if they get some more of this stuff opened up. Hopefully they can update the website with additional info because right now there's really nothing on there.

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Re: Reawakening of Bushkill Park - to re-open in 2019

Postby larrygator » Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:02 am

Taylor Finn wrote:I will certainly be checking this place out next year if they get some more of this stuff opened up. Hopefully they can update the website with additional info because right now there's really nothing on there.


For the time being, they are focusing on Facebook updates, the website is far down the chain of items to fix.
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Re: Reawakening of Bushkill Park - to re-open in 2019

Postby Hershey_flags » Sun Oct 20, 2019 5:11 am

I was at the park yesterday, and the place was packed (cars were parking in the grass)! Also tried out the Haunted House which was very well done with many unique props and awesome actors.

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Re: Reawakening of Bushkill Park - to re-open in 2019

Postby Nrthwnd » Sun Oct 20, 2019 2:11 pm

Hilarity Hall looks awesome on it's facade! The whole park is looking
better and better. Thanks for the updates, Larry. :smile:
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Re: Reawakening of Bushkill Park - to re-open in 2019

Postby larrygator » Tue Oct 22, 2019 5:38 pm

If anyone is in the area, I'll be at Bushkill Park Saturday 11/26 at 4:30 and Chuck Burnham is going to talk about their small haunted house and the future Pretzel ride. He is invited TPR members to join us an take pictures and have a little tour, just arrive at the park by 4:30PM, the park officially opens at 5PM. The haunted house (with scare actors) costs $5, but no charge for the meet and greet. If you don't know what I look like, just look for someone wearing a Florida Gator sweatshirt or hat.
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Re: Reawakening of Bushkill Park - to re-open in 2019

Postby larrygator » Sun Oct 27, 2019 2:06 pm

I visited "Booskill" Park yesterday to check out the walk through haunted house that Chuck and his team put together in just two weeks and am proud to say it well worth the minimal $5 charge. Chuck and his team were given one picnic pavillion, leftover/donated Halloween supplies, Chuck's inventory of props and a park employee spent over $100 on lighting.

On average they have tried to have 8-9 scare actors in the house at all times, but were short staffed this weekend but by using the hidden corridors and changing masks I encountered 10 different characters in my walk through. All the scare actors know each other and were having a great time. I recognized some of the set pieces from Chuck's collection and he wanted to showcase them before putting them into the Pretzel Dark Ride. Chuck spent a lot of time talking to guests in his limited downtime explaining his vision for the park's refurbished Hilarity Hall and the return of the Pretzel, he also provided me with extra details and photos.

Looking forward on the ride situation. As previous mentioned the park is likely to first bring back the Merry Mixer (Scrambler) and Whip. Management and maintenance from the park has also visited Knoebels to discuss proactive measures to quickly recover from floods. Ideas such as making motors easy to remove and store before a flood.

Since the roller rink is open year round and people need to walk through the park to get to the rink, attractions may be open next weekend. Based on next week's weather they may extend the activities this final weekend as the locals are relishing the reawakening of Bushkill Park.
20191026_165637.jpg
Chuck greets me as I arrive.
20191026_164427.jpg
They chose a perfect pavillion, with an awning in front to allow the greeter to collect tickets, group victims and go over the rules. I should have taken a picture when it was darker as it looks great.
20191026_174751.jpg
Not the greatest picture, but Colleen does a really good job getting into character inviting the guests to dinner at the haunted house. Candy is provided to kids as the witch tells them that they prefer the kids to have more meat on their bones for dinner.
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Scare actors getting ready to scare, you should see them when they put on their masks. Chuck is not a fan of blood and gore, just scares and a few guests complimented him on not using bloody scenes.
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The monsters will pose for pictures as time permits
20191026_165324.jpg
The 5 kiddie rides were open along with the roller rink
20191026_165114.jpg
I checked out the latest paint on Hilarity Hall. Chuck estimates that the paint has taken 120 hours to date, with about 30 more hours to go. Hundreds of our also went into renovating the old food building to the right of Hilarity Hall
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I peeked inside to get a look at the barrel.
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A big thank you to all who have volunteered to help bring the park back.
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Chassis and body work is complete and ready for painting. Chuck wants the standard red paint traditional used on pretzel rides with each car having an unique paint job on the back glorifying individual pretzel rides of yore.
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Like the work on the undercarriage of this pretzel car this update is done.
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Re: Reawakening of Bushkill Park - to re-open in 2019

Postby CenturyFlyer » Mon Oct 28, 2019 2:06 pm

That's really awesome! What's not to love about a new Pretzel ride? The paint jobs "glorifying individual Pretzel rides of yore" sounds neat, as well.
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Re: Reawakening of Bushkill Park - to re-open in 2019

Postby Nrthwnd » Mon Oct 28, 2019 2:57 pm

Great update Larry! And maybe they should/could carry over the painted theming of Hilarity Hall onto the Food Building as well? Just a suggestion. :smile:

By the way, what is the low roofed building to the left of Hilarity Hall? I forget if you've mentioned it before.
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