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Noah's Ark returns to former glory at Kennywood

| Friday, May 6, 2016, 8:09 p.m.
The classic Kennywood attraction Noah's Ark makes its return to the amusement park as shown on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
The classic Kennywood attraction Noah's Ark makes its return to the amusement park as shown on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.
The classic Kennywood attraction Noah's Ark makes its return to the amusement park as shown on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
The classic Kennywood attraction Noah's Ark makes its return to the amusement park as shown on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.
The classic Kennywood attraction Noah's Ark makes its return to the amusement park as shown on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
The classic Kennywood attraction Noah's Ark makes its return to the amusement park as shown on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.

Kennywood opens for the season May 7, and with it returns an old friend and his many, many animals.

The 80-year-old Noah's Ark ride has been spiffed up and returned to its former glory, more or less, before its '90s makeover.

Noah himself has a certain, well, undead look to him — and it's hard to tell if that's intentional. Regardless, expect to see some Zombie Noah selfies on Instagram feeds this summer.

The first and biggest change is the entrance, stepping through the mouth of a giant 72-ton blue whale. Visitors stride into the interior upon the whale's tongue, which is appropriately red and squishy.

“It's not as dark of a ride,” says Kennywood spokesman Nick Paradise, referring to Noah's Ark in both the figurative and literal senses. “A lot more animals, about 50, are back in.”

While Noah himself might look a little creepy, returning the ride to its original look involved an embrace of its silliest, corniest aspects. That's part of what made it fun in the first place, which is apparently what many longtime Kennywood devotees missed.

“Attractions like these, every 15 to 20 years, need to be refreshed,” Paradise says. “People didn't like the tight spaces. We'd heard from guests, ‘Bring back the whale' since 1996.”

A grand re-opening for Noah's Ark will be held May 25, but visitors can climb aboard starting this weekend.

Kennywood is getting closer to its annual transformation from about 80 year-round employees, to the peak-summer population of about 1,500 workers.

Most of the other major changes won't be visible to all but the most observant. The often-broken Volcano ride has been swapped out with an identical ride, with 10 fewer years of wear-and-tear on it.

“It was from our sister park in Connecticut — Lake Compounce,” Paradise says.

The most important change to Kennywood in the offseason has been behind the scenes. The Potato Patch has been gutted and rebuilt almost entirely.

“Replaced the plumbing, electric, everything,” Paradise says. “It should be a better environment for the workers.

“If the Potato Patch wasn't open, we'd have problems. We like to say, ‘It's our most popular ride.' ”

Michael Machosky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7901 or mmachosky@tribweb.com.

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