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Knoebels

Knoebels Amusement Resort is a family owned and operated amusement park, picnic grove and campground, located in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. Opened in 1926, the park has over 50 rides, free admission, two world-class wooden roller coasters, a 1913 carousel and a haunted house dark ride that has been featured on the Discovery Channel. The park and its rides have won awards from organizations such as Amusement Today, American Coaster Enthusiasts and The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. The park has won the Amusement Today Golden Ticket award for best amusement park food for the last 7 years.

The amusement park is owned and operated by the Knoebel family, who also operate a lumber yard next door to the park. The name Knoebel is pronounced with the hard K sound (kuh-NO-bel.) The park's name has also traditionally been spelled Knoebels without the apostrophe, and appears that way on all official park advertising and correspondence.

The park straddles two counties: Northumberland and Columbia Counties.

Park history

Knoebels is located in a small wooded valley, in Central Pennsylvania. The valley, originally known as "Peggy's Farm," with its creek-fed swimming hole, became a popular picnic destination in the early part of the 20th century, attracting Sunday travelers and horse-drawn hayride wagons. Henry Knoebel, who had been farming the area, tended to the horses and later began to sell soft drinks, ice cream and snacks to the visitors. As the popularity of "Knoebel's Grove" grew, Knoebel leased plots of land along the creeks for use as summer cottage sites. Some of these privately owned cottages, as well as cottages Knoebel himself built and rented, still exist in the park.

The year 1926 marks the official beginning of Knoebels Amusement Park. That year, Knoebel added a restaurant, a steam-powered Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel and a few simple games to his grove. On July 4 of that year, he opened a large concrete swimming pool on the site of the old swimming hole. Featuring a filtration system that provided clean water instead of muddy creek water, the pool was named "The Crystal Pool". Since then the park has developed around the pool, adding 50 more rides in addition to assorted games, concession stands and other attractions. A campground with six sites opened behind the amusement park in 1962, and as of 2004 the campground covered 160 acres (650,000 m²) with 500 sites.

On June 22, 1972, the creeks that run through Knoebels overflowed six feet over their banks, swollen with heavy rains from Hurricane Agnes. The flood destroyed six cottages and damaged many other buildings, including 24 out of 25 rides and the park's roller rink. Work began on a new building but it was later decided that the original roller rink could not be reused, and the new building under construction became the Haunted Mansion. The roller rink building was refloored and used as a skating rink until the mid 1980s when it was converted into the "Roaring Creek Saloon", which now hosts a concession stand, an arcade, the XD Theater, and free performances. To prove that the park had recovered from the flood, the "Haunted Mansion" dark ride was opened in 1973. The ride has been recognized as one of America's best dark rides by organizations such as Dark Ride and Funhouse Enthusiasts and The National Amusement Park Historical Association.

The park again suffered major flooding in 1975, 1996, 2004, and 2006. Each caused substantial damage but the 1975 and 1996 floods occurred during the off-season. The January 1996 flood cause substantial damage but the worst part may have been that as soon as the waters receded, everything froze making cleanup and repair throughout the amusement park difficult. The September 2004 flood, caused by what was left of Hurricane Ivan, was only a half-day affair and Knoebels staff had the amusement park partially reopened by mid-afternoon and allowed any remaining patrons to ride for free.

On June 28, 2006 a flood second only to the Agnes flood struck Knoebels. About 90 percent of the amusement park was under water just prior to the July 4th weekend. As the waters began to recede Wednesday morning, Knoebels staff jumped into action. Expending over 11,000 man hours in just a few days the park was able to reopen over 60 percent of its attractions by 6:00 pm Friday. By Sunday evening over 90 percent of the amusement park was operational. The Crystal Pool took 10 days to get back in business, over 100 tons of mud had to be dug out of the pool. The last ride to return to operation was the Kiddie Panther Cars. The entire track for this ride had been undermined and was a twisted mess. Repairs took almost three weeks.

Admissions

The park has free admission, free parking, and free entertainment. Visitors are able to ride the park's attractions by purchasing either all-day/unlimited hand stamp passes or books of tickets, with hand stamp costs varying depending on the height of the rider. Knoebels has several other options such as "Sundown Plan" and "Bargain Nights", when the park offers discounts on regular ride passes. Knoebels's all-day passes do not include the Haunted Mansion, the Scenic Skyway, and the Crystal Pool and the wooden roller coasters (Phoenix, Flying Turns, and Twister) are only included with an extra fee.

Rides and attractions

Roller Coasters

Knoebels has three roller coasters with a fourth under construction. The park is unusual for having no major steel coaster and no roller coaster with an inversion. However, Knoebel's two wooden roller coasters are well known and are on multiple top 100 lists.
Ride Year Opened Description
High Speed Thrill Coaster 1955 A steel roller coaster in operation since 1955, believed to be the last operating Overland coaster in the world. Although it was designed to be a children's coaster, it is very popular among adults due to its major airtime on the ride's bunny hills.
Phoenix 1985 A relocated and restored Herb Schmeck (Philadelphia Toboggan Company) design. The first large-scale wooden roller coaster relocation. This ride was purchased from the Playland amusement park in San Antonio, Texas. It operated under the name of Rocket before being moved to Knoebels. Uses Buzz bars.
Twister 1999 A slightly redesigned "Mister Twister," a 1964 John Allen design.
Flying Turns projected June 2009 A wooden bobsled roller coaster modeled after a 1920s John Norman Bartlett and John A. Miller design. The coaster was being constructed to open Memorial Day Weekend 2007, but it has been pushed back numerous times and should now open in 2009 on the site of the former Whirlwind (and Jet Star before that) roller coasters listed below.
Jet Star 1977 A standard production model Schwarzkopf Jet Star, removed from Knoebels after the 1992 season. This ride was purchased from Schwarzkopf, originally owned by an independent operator who fell on some hard times. After being removed from Knoebels the Jet Star was relocated to Morey's Piers where it also operated under the name Jet Star. It is unknown where this ride now resides.
Whirlwind 1993 A Vekoma Whirlwind double corkscrew roller coaster, removed from Knoebels after the 2004 season. This ride was purchased from the Playland amusement park in New York, it operated under the name of Whirlwind before being moved to Knoebels. After the 2004 operating season the ride was moved to Parque de Diversiones Dr. Roberto Ortiz Brenes and operates under the name Bocaraca.

Carousels

Knoebels has two carousels: one small merry-go-round in Kiddieland (added in 1976) which was built by Stein & Goldstein in 1910; and the Grand Carousel, a 1912/1913 carousel built by Kramer Carousel Works in Brooklyn, with a frame by Charles I. D. Looff and 63 hand-carved horses by Charles Carmel. It was purchased in 1941 from Riverview Park in Rahway, New Jersey and relocated to Knoebels. It is one of the few carousels remaining with a working ring dispenser, allowing riders on the outside row of horses to reach out and grab steel rings as they pass. The rider who grabs the brass ring receives the cost of the ride in tickets, making the ride essentially free. Three band organs provide music for the riders. The Grand Carousel was voted the best carousel by Amusement Today in 2007.

Trains

  • Old Smokey, an anthracite coal-fueled miniature steam locomotive narrow gauge train ride, whose track meanders through part of the park. Old Smokey replaced the Nickel Plate which had been installed in 1946.
  • Pioneer, a gasoline-powered narrow gauge railroad installed around 1960. The track travels from near the edge of the park into a wooded area where there are feeders for viewing the local wildlife.

Other rides and attractions

In addition to a 110' Ferris wheel, a log flume and a boat flume ride named "Sklooosh!", the park maintains over 50 rides including many classic amusements:

Restaurants & Food

Knoebels also has restaurants throughout the park, both sit-down and counter service in nature. These eateries have contributed toward the park winning awards from organizations which judge amusement park food, including Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Award for Best Food every year since 1999.

The primary sit-down restaurant at the park is the Alamo. Counter service restaurants include Cesari's Pizza, Oasis Cafeteria, Phoenix Junction Steakhouse and the International Food Court. Food ranges from "Famous Fresh Cut French Fries", pierogi (a mashed potato filled Polish dumpling) and potato cakes to Bison burgers and Gator bites to milkshakes and homemade fudge. The park also features novelty items like the pickle on a stick.

The park's Cesari's Pizza and the International Food Court were featured on a Food Network special.

Further reading

  • Futrell, Jim. Amusement Parks of Pennsylvania. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002.

References

External links

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