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Conneaut Lake Park is a summer amusement resort, located in Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania, USA. It has long served as a regional tourist destination, and is loved by roller coaster enthusiasts for its classic Blue Streak coaster, which was recently classified as "historic" by the group American Coaster Enthusiasts. Conneaut Lake is Pennsylvania's largest natural (glacier) lake and is a popular summer resort for recreational boaters due to there being no horsepower limit on the lake. The lake is lined with vacation homes and condos.
Main entrance, Conneaut Lake Park
It opened as Exposition Park in 1892 to take advantage of the adjacent Conneaut Lake. It began as a picnic area like many other parks at that time. The first ride, a carousel, opened several years later, and was soon joined by other rides and a midway. In its early years, the park primarily served as a resort, with several hotels and a grand dancing pavilion. Unfortunately, many of the park's buildings were lost in a 1908 fire. In 1909 the buildings lost in the fire were replaced with new concrete block structures to decrease the fire risk. One of the new buildings was the Dreamland Ballroom which hosted concert and dance events.
The park was renamed "Conneaut Lake Park" in 1920 to reflect a move toward more amusements and rides. In the mid-20th century the park featured many of the same rides as other parks of the time.
In 1943, a large portion of the Hotel Conneaut was destroyed in a fire. The ghost of Elizabeth, a bride who supposedly died in the fire, is said to now haunt the hotel.
In the 1960s, the park opened "Fairyland Forest", using a combination of fairy tale characters and animals to help attract families and appeal to young children. Many similar attractions existed across the country at that time. Although popular, the area eventually fell into neglect and closed in 1985 and was replaced with Camperland in 1986.
By the 1990s, the park had fallen on hard times due to declining attendance and increased competition from nearby parks and closed for a year in 1995. In 1996, Ohio businessman Gary Harris bought the park and reopened it on July 4, but new problems arose the following year when he was convicted of tax evasion. To help extricate himself from his legal difficulties, Harris gave the debt-ridden park to the Conneaut Lake community in 1997, but later filed a lawsuit claiming that he held a 99–year lease on the park grounds and retained ownership of several rides. When that lawsuit was lost in 2001, ownership reverted to a court-appointed trustee.
Current Roller Coasters & Attractions
|Roller Coaster||Year Installed||Description|
|Blue Streak||1938||An Edward Vettel wooden coaster that still utilizes its original rolling stock and braking system. It is the only Vettel shallow track design still standing, and is the sixth oldest wooden coaster in the country. The park replaced the coaster's original trains with new Century Flyer built by National Amusements Devices in 1966. The original lighter trains were rebuilt and placed back in the ride in 2002 to reduce maintenance costs. The park is currently running the NAD trains due to insurance demands and costs to retrofit the original trains with modern restraints.|
|Little Dipper||1950s||An Allan Herschell kiddie coaster that still has its original cars.|
|Toboggan||2002||A Chance portable roller coaster type ride |
(No longer in operation, to be renovated.)
Other attractions at the park include:
There are 13 rides in Kiddieland.
The following rides are in kiddieland:
|Tubs of Fun|
|Kiddieland Pony Rides|
Partial Historical Timeline
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- 1892 Exposition Park opens
- 1902 Figure Eight roller coaster opens
- 1903 Hotel Conneaut opens
- 1908 A large portion of the midway, many hotels, a bowling alley and the park's ballroom are destroyed in a fire
- 1909 Dreamland Ballroom opens replacing the original ballroom lost in the 1908 fire, Scenic Railway roller coaster opens
- 1920 Park is renamed Conneaut Lake Park
- 1925 Tumble Bug ride is installed.
- 1925 Temple of Music opens
- 1935 Beach Club bar opens
- 1936 Figure Eight roller coaster closes
- 1937 Scenic Railway roller coaster closes
- 1938 Blue Streak roller coaster opens
- 1943 Fire destroys half of Hotel Conneaut
- 1944 Hotel Conneaut remains closed; an investor group led by the local surgeon Dr. Harry Winslow purchases the park out of bankruptcy
- 1945 Hotel Conneaut reopens with 150 of the 300 original rooms
- 1946 Temple of Music is destroyed by fire
- 1949 Installs Tilt-A-Whirl which is still in use at the Park today
- 1961 Fun House opens in former bowling alley. Wild Mouse roller coaster opens.
- 1968 Devil's Den opens
- 1973 Dracula's Cave (Pit of Death) opens
- 1974 Dr. John Flynn and Mrs. Mary Gene Winslow Flynn, son-in-law and daughter of Dr. Winslow, buy out the other partners, saddling the park with $750,000 in debt
- 1975 Fun House closes
- 1981 Charles Winslow Flynn, son of Dr. and Mrs. Flynn, takes over operation of the park.
- 1985 Dracula's Cave (Pit of Death) closes
- 1986 Camperland opens
- 1990 New front gate constructed. Wild Mouse roller coaster closes.
- 1992 Devil's Den renamed Dr. Moriarity's Wild Ride. Conneaut Lake Park celebrates its 100th anniversary . At the end of the season it was announced that many rides would be removed and the Blue Streak roller coaster would be mothballed. Also section of midway buildings near the lake are demolished in an attempt to expand the festival grounds to allow for much larger festivals and concerts. At the end of the season, the Flynn family sells the park.
- 1993 Local businessmen purchase some of the rides at auction to keep Conneaut Lake Park as an amusement park. Management lost $125,000 in operations that season.
- 1994 Lost $800,000.
- 1995 Conneaut Lake Park fails to open due to bankruptcy.
- 1996 Conneaut Lake Park is purchased by Gary Harris. Conneaut Lake Park reopens on July 4, however the Blue Streak did not reopen with the rest of the park
- 1997 Conneaut Lake Park is deeded the people of northwestern Pennsylvania as a not-for-profit, public trust. The Blue Streak roller coaster is renovated and the park purchases 5 rides from the now closed Old Indiana Fun Park. The rides were the Super Round-Up, Flying Scooters, Bumper cars, Ranger (Sky Thriller) and a Chance Turbo. The Turbo was never installed due to a dispute over ownership. Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park get money from Gary Harris for signing saying Harris owned rides 99 year lease for land under rides.
- 1999 Board of Trustees dwindled to one member, Gene Rumsey and Bill Jorden becomes the court appointed custodian of Conneaut Lake Park. Mangees operate Conneaut Lake Park. Conneaut Lake's annual Fall Pumpkin Fest which began in 1990 is moved to the park. The event is an Oktoberfest type celebration featuring craft and food booths.Park purchases Roll-O-Plane ride and opens it.
- 2000 On June 28 the Mangees were ousted and the park was closed for 4 days before the trustees assumed control.
- 2001 Bill Jorden is replaced by Herbert Brill as the court appointed custodian of Conneaut Lake Park. Gene Rumsey and Mary Ellen Rebrassier manage Conneaut Lake Park. Dr. Moriarity's Wild Ride renamed to Devil's Den
- 2002 Blue Streak rollercoaster is operated with original 1937 trains, putting the NAD Century Flyer trains from the 1960s into retirement. Park purchases and opens the Toboggan rollercoaster
- 2003 Park was approved to open the day before labor day when Lake View Ford loaned Conneaut Lake Park the money it needed to open. The park is still operated by Herbert Brill, Gene Rumsey, and Mary Ellen Rebrassier. New Board of Trustees is formed on July 15. Park hosts first annual "Holiday in the Park" event in December. 100 year celebration for Hotel Conneaut. Volunteers are invited to redecorate rooms under the "Adopt a Room" program at the Hotel, uniquely personalizing each room. A book, "The Ghosts of Hotel Conneaut and Conneaut Lake Park," is written, sparking ghost hunts, television coverage, and events such as the annual Spiritual Expo. Gene Rumsey resigns as park manager at the end of the season.
- 2004 Griffin Motors loans Conneaut Lake Park the money it needs to open. Mary Ellen Rebrassier, CEO, is replaced with Don Kaltenbaugh on June 16. Herbert Brill, court appointed custodian, is replaced by Leroy Stearns who takes over mid summer. Tim Kaider resigns as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Abe Finton assumes the position.
- 2005 The park attempts to introduce a tiger animal attraction, but after a lengthy public protest from a Pittsburgh-based animal rights group, Voices For Animals, and including several thousand petition signatures from the Park's patrons, it is withdrawn later in the season. Board of Trustees is ordered by Judge Vardaro to open for the season without borrowing any money. Don. Kaltenbaugh resigns and more Board Members are added, including George Deshner, Dick Williams, David Gordan, and Terry Deitz as chairman. Tom Cholak and Harold Thornton are hired as managers of Conneaut Lake Park. The Park leases the Beach Club, Camperland, and games in order to get money to open Park for the season. A new book, "Images of America: Conneaut Lake Park", is published by Michael E. Costello and Arcadia Publishing. In August, the park, still under custody of the Crawford County court, has its 12 member operating board dissolved for failure to file the required financial report two months earlier. The park management is awarded to a former school principal George Deshner and local humane society operator LeRoy Stearns.
- 2006 The Flynn House, where the Flynn Family lived when they owned the park, was demolished in a controlled burn. Conneaut Lake Institute begins its "Brick-by-Brick" fundraising campaign to raise funds to repair the park's miniature train ride. In order to open Conneaut Lake Park in 2006, the Park borrows $250,000 against the sale of the Flynn House and 3.3 acres (13,000 m2) of valuable lakefront property. The Yoyo is finally dismantled after sitting idle for 3 years and is sold. Witch's Stew (Tempest) is reintroduced. The Bessemer Railway System reopened to the public at noon on July 2. The park's historic Tumble Bug ride reopens to the public on July 8. Conneaut Lake Park continues to operate without a board of trustees. Deshner and Stearns announce that the park lost approximately $400,000 dollars that season. In an attempt to pay off a large portion of the park's debt, Stearns tries to sell 3.6 acres (15,000 m2) of lakefront property. Also, the Ferris Wheel closes.
- 2007 On May 22, 2007, it was announced that the resort would not open for the 2007 season due to lack of funds. The Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, Inc. had earlier attempted to raise sufficient funds through the sale of tokens but were unsuccessful. The Trustees then sought a six-figure gift to open the park, but finding no donors, announced the park would not open. Heavily in debt ($2 million), the park was unable to borrow the funds needed to open. On August 3, 2007, the Beach Club and the Down Under Bar & Restaurant opened to 5 days a week operations, with the possibility of the Hotel Conneaut being open at a later time. The amusement rides remained closed for the 2007 season.
- 2008 On February 1 the Dreamland Ballroom was destroyed in a massive fire. On April 6 the old bowling alley collapsed. On April 8, 2008. Filmmakers of the 2008 production of The Road, filmed several scenes of the park for the movie. Included in the movie was the rubble left from the Dreamland Ballroom and bowling alley, the Hotel Conneaut, and Boardwalk.
- 2009 - The resort reopened on Memorial Day weekends with the Hotel Conneaut, Beach Club, Camperland, and amusement park. The amusement park opened with its entire roster of Kiddieland rides and adult rides including Paratrooper, Flying Scooters, Tilt-A-Whirl, Tumble Bug, Carousel, Skydiver (a ride the Lisko brothers brought in), Devils Den, Bumper Cars, Witches Stew, Trabant, Bessemer Railway System, and Music Express. Splash City opened later in the summer. The Hotel reopened under private ownership and a multi-year renovation project began, including the ballroom, office, apartments, storage area, and family units. Heat, air-conditioning, and TVs were added to some guest rooms. Ghost Tours and Paranormal Investigations went from occasional private casual affairs to more standardized public events. A&E's Paranormal State also did an episode on Hotel Conneaut's ghost stories.
- 2010 - The park reopens again with all but 4 rides: The Blue Streak (which opened the Thursday before Labor Day Weekend 2010 [riders paid an additional $3 for the privilege to supplement the costs of repairs along with a Pepsi Refresh Grant]), the Salt and Pepper Shakers,The Toboggan and the Super Round-Up. The hotel and the beach club opened as well. The coaster convention from ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts) was held there on June 23. Arson Fire destroys Kiddieland restrooms. Believed to have been started by lighting toilet paper on fire and placing in the corners of the woman's side. Thursday, September 2, the Blue Streak reopened through Monday, September 6 (Labor Day Weekend.) The cost of each ride was $3.00 (not included in the wristband) or unlimited rides if you donated $100 to the park.Also the Skydiver ride closes and is taken out of the park completely.
- 2011 - The Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, Inc. and Swank's Steel City Shows enter an agreement to assume operations for the 2011 season. Under this agreement, four new portable attractions are installed which include, The Jitterbug, Giant Slide, Go-Gator, and Jumpin Star. After Labor Day Swank's Steel City Shows ended the agreement with the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, Inc. and removed their attractions and equipment.Also Roll-O-Plane ride is taken out of the park and being renovated and may return according to sign in front of it, but might be put in an amusement ride mueseum.