The Quick 10: 10 Facts About Amusement Parks

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With the long Fourth of July weekend coming up, I bet at least some of our _flossy readers are headed to an amusement park to celebrate with roller coasters, cotton candy and water slides. So to give you some food for thought while you're waiting to ride the Scrambler, here are a few random facts about the parks that keep us entertained.

worlds1. The word "fun" is used in more amusement park names than any other descriptor, at least according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (and if anyone knows, they would). Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun are the first ones that come to mind for me.
2. Cary Grant was a stilt-walker at Coney Island's Steeplechase Park for a while in the "˜20s. He learned the skill while touring with a vaudeville-style troupe in England; he also learned how to dance and tumble.

3. Disney World was nearly located in St. Louis, Missouri, which would have been awesome for me. But legend has it that August Busch, Jr., of Anheuser Busch, ruined it for me. Supposedly when he heard of Disney's plans for a family-oriented park with no alcohol readily available for tired parents, he ridiculed Walt and said it was the dumbest thing he had ever heard. Walt shrugged and decided that maybe St. Louis didn't want his business. Now, this is just a story. There are lots of reasons Florida was chosen to host Disney World instead of St. Louis, but you have to admit this one is more fun.

4. If a sex-themed amusement park sounds a little off-kilter to you, you're not the only one: just last month, China shut down "Love Land," a theme park with demonstrations, naked sculptures and enormous replicas of genitals, and a display about the history of sex. The park hadn't even opened yet when it was mysteriously demolished over the course of a weekend in May.

hershey5. Hershey Park in Pennsylvania started out as picnic grounds for employees in the early 1900s. Because of its spaciousness and electricity in a time when a lot of rural places in Pennsylvania still lacked electricity, people who weren't affiliated with Hershey started to rent it out for events. The first ride opened in 1908 "“ a small, used carousel "“ and by 1910 it had amphitheaters, a baseball field, two bowling alleys, a swimming pool, a zoo and even a miniature railroad.

6. Dollywood had a different owner before Dolly took it over "“ then-Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell. At that time, the park was known as Goldrush Junction and was advertised as "Tennessee's Million Dollar Fun Attraction" (as opposed to Tennessee's Million Dollar Melancholy Attraction"¦?).

7. Tivoli Gardens in Denmark is one of the oldest operating amusement parks in the world. It opened in 1843 and is reportedly one of Walt Disney's inspirations for his parks. The park's first proprietor, Georg Carstensen, got permission from King Christian VIII to build the park by saying, "When the people are amusing themselves, they do not think about politics."

santa8. Santa Claus Land in Santa Claus, Indiana, might be the first-ever theme park. It really depends on your definition of "theme park," but it's largely considered to be the first park ever that had some sort of recurring motif instead of just a jumble of randomly assorted rides and attractions. And, as you may have inferred from its name, "Santa Claus" was the theme. Even so, it was only open from May to October. These days it's called Holiday World and it celebrates not Christmas, but also the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Halloween.
9. Carowinds theme park is located in North Carolina and South Carolina: it sits right across the state line. The name is a combination of "Carolina winds."
10. SeaWorld started out as a marine-themed restaurant with a show. Four fraternity brothers got together to build the attraction in the early "˜60s, but when it proved to be too financially unsound, they changed course and decided to build a theme park instead.

What's your favorite theme park? If I exclude Disney, I have to say my favorite is Worlds of Fun. I never have been a big fan of Six Flags. Of course, when Universal's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens next year, I might be changing my tune.

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June 26, 2009 - 12:05pm
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