CONNEAUT LAKE — “What a wonderful coaster,” exclaimed Rita Lane as she, her husband, son and neighbor exited the Blue Streak on the closing day of the 2016 season Monday.
Rita Lane and her husband, Al, of Butler had their first date at Conneaut Lake Park a number of years ago. Neither of them were certain of the exact number of years, but it was back around the time that Rita’s father worked for Armco steel company in Butler and the company picnic was always held at the park.
While the couple remembers coming to the park multiple times every summer when they were young, Monday was their first visit in about two years.
“It’s great to see the progress and the park coming back to life,” Rita said as Al nodded.
As the Lanes recalled memories, their son, Patrick, and his best buddy and neighbor, Isaac Bruce were making some new memories and having a great time doing it. The 14-year-old friends had one word for their ride on the coaster that Patrick’s parents still proclaim as their favorite ride. “Great,” Bruce said with a grin and a thumb up. “Yep,” Patrick agreed. Rita and Al still loved their ride in the rear car of the coaster but she admitted that either she or the coaster had aged a bit.
Monday was the closing day for the rides and water park at Conneaut Lake Park. It was also deemed Customer Appreciation Day, as ride and water park wristbands were just $5 each, half the normal price.
With the busy holiday weekend’s figures yet to be determined, Rich Ragen, controller at the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County said overall revenue from the park is up about 26 percent from last year. Ragen said amusement rides income increased by 32 percent, the Gift Shoppe is up 50 percent, games are up 19 percent and Camperland income increased 21 percent from the 2015 season. Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park is the nonprofit corporation that oversees the amusement park’s operations. The alliance manages the amusement park through an agreement with park Trustees.
Monday’s crowd at the park saw lines for most of the rides and the picture-perfect weather brought out lots of splashers, squealers and floaters to the recently reopened Cliffhanger Falls, Connie’s Otter Cove and Otter Creek Adventure River.
Saturday, Aug. 6 was the first day for all the water attractions to be open since 2010.
Nicole Uhrin, of Meadville brought her family to the park for the first time this season partly due to the reduced prices and to watch her kids have fun like she did as a child. Like many other park visitors on Monday, Uhrin remembered many visits when she was young. “The Blue Streak was the first roller coaster I ever rode,” she said. “I’m really glad to see things coming back.”
Her children, Angelo, 6, and Kellen, 4, took a turn riding the same Beetle Bailey Jeeps that Uhrin once enjoyed.
Uhrin’s connection to the park goes back further than her generation. “My dad worked here when he was in high school,” she said.
Rob Swope, of Youngstown, came to the park Monday after a six-year absence. “My wife thought we should come here for the day, so we did,” Swope said. “My daughter is finally old enough to ride and she’s having fun.” Landry Swope is three and definitely seemed to be enjoying trying out each ride in Kiddieland.
Swope noted a different appreciation of the park, besides the nostalgia from years past. “I like that things here are original,” he said. “You don’t need big fancy things to have fun and I think it’s good for kids to learn that.”
While the clink of the chain of the Blue Streak, the near brush of your feet on nearby trees as you float around the Paratroopers and that first back-and-forth jerk of the Tumble Bug will now have to wait until next spring, the park won’t be quiet for long.
The 2016 Conneaut Lake Fall Pumpkin Fest will be held at the park Oct. 14, 15 and 16. Doris Henderson, 2016 chairman of the event, reported that the food vendors, crafters, artisans, and entertainers are better this year than ever before. The entire family is being kept in mind with the entertainment, so there will be something for everyone, according to Henderson.
Lorri Drumm can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.