By Keith Gushard
CONNEAUT LAKE —
“I love it! I recommend it, but I don’t want to go through it again,” a laughing Donna Wimer said after exiting Conneaut Lake Park’s newest attraction Saturday night.
Haunted Hostel, a walk-through scarefest replete with moaning zombies, grabbing ghouls and a few other surprises, was unveiled at 7 p.m. on the park’s midway. The attraction incorporates part of the park’s former Fun House.
“I just walked through. It’s wonderful. I can’t wait to hear you all scream,” Leonard Adams, the park’s manager, said before herding a gathering crowd of 300 to line up to go through the attraction.
Wimer, one of the first ones to enter the attraction, still had a strong grip on the hand of friend Bill Rickarton and was trying to catch her breath a couple of minutes after exiting.
“It was awful,” Wimer said laughing. “I was so scared.”
“It was really nice,” Rickarton added. “It was a lot of fun.”
There was a steady line for the attraction into the early evening — which is what Conneaut Lake Park officials had hoped.
“I think we’re at a point where we can start to turn the corner a little bit,” Jack Moyers, president of Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, said. Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park is the corporation that oversees the public trust that owns the amusement park.
Moyers called Thursday’s loss of the Beach Club entertainment complex — which included the Dockside banquet hall — to a fire “a major setback, but you continue to move forward.”
This week, the park has been the focus of a makeover being recorded by Lusid Media of Tennessee as part of a possible program for the Travel Channel. Lusid Media helped put the new Haunted Hostel together with the help of volunteers.
“This helps show people what can be done here,” Moyers said referring to Haunted Hostel. “I think this will help bring more enthusiasm to the park. It will help get people to come in and work with us.”
Moyers said he isn’t worried about exhausting the pool of volunteers that are helping to try to bring back the amusement park.
“I’m optimistic our volunteer base will actually grow,” Moyers said of garnering a new attraction. “Just that one-on-one approach where we gave them (Lusid Media) some names of a contractor or businesses. We just kind of reached out in some different channels.”
There was optimism for Conneaut Lake Park’s future among patrons in attendance Saturday night.
“You are starting to see what’s being done,” said Cindy Kleckner of Pittsburgh. “There’s a lot of love for the park and in a time of need for volunteers, they’ll come out.”
“It’s showing signs of life,” her husband, Jim, added.
After several years of doing mechanical work on rides and infrastructure upgrades, the park had to work on more visible signs of progress for 2013, according to Moyers. That includes new signs and paint in various areas of the park — from its front gate to down the midway.
“We’ve got new signs on the Blue Streak (roller coaster), new paint on some of the food stands, new signage and the new attraction,” Moyers said. “We needed to make a cosmetic improvement here. We had to make something that people will see the difference.”
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.