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Riding into history: Amusement parks subject of endless fascination

| Sunday, July 16, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Kiddie boats at Kennywood, 1960s.
Submitted
Kiddie boats at Kennywood, 1960s.
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.
A Ligonier Valley Rail Road train passes through Idlewild Park and along Lake St. Clair. Special trains from Ligonier and from Latrobe delivered visitors to the park. The ticket cost from Ligonier to Idlewild and return was 15 cents.
Courtesy Images of the Ligonier Valley Rail Road
A Ligonier Valley Rail Road train passes through Idlewild Park and along Lake St. Clair. Special trains from Ligonier and from Latrobe delivered visitors to the park. The ticket cost from Ligonier to Idlewild and return was 15 cents.
Disneyland when it opened in the 1950s
Submitted
Disneyland when it opened in the 1950s
The Enchanted Castle at Idlewild Park in Ligonier
Submitted
The Enchanted Castle at Idlewild Park in Ligonier
Waldemeer Park in Erie
Submitted
Waldemeer Park in Erie

Amusement parks hold a degree of fascination and nostalgia.

“People like to talk about amusement parks. They want to reminisce,” says Jacob Diller, one of the Community Library of Allegheny Valley's researchers. “People remember what it was like to walk in Kennywood in the '60s, and they have memories of rides.”

The origins of many theme parks and the history of their past rides will be presented at the Tarentum branch of the library at 6 p.m. July 18 and 19. Due to limited seating, registration is required for the free session.

The talk is part of the Who Knew? series hosted at the library along Lock Street.

“This has been a frequent request by many of our program attendees,” Diller says. “We always talk about things that are no longer there. Even though parks change and the rides change, they are a constant.

“Our programs usually discuss the topic on a broad scope before narrowing in on the local connection. We will start with the history of amusement and theme parks in general — Disneyland, Six Flags — but will focus later on local ones, Kennywood, Idlewild, Waldemeer, etc.”

Diller will present little-known facts and historical elements.

“Did you know that Kennywood first opened as a ‘trolley park' in 1899,” he says, “or that Disney World was originally planned to be built in St. Louis, Mo., or that Sea World was originally planned to be a nautical-themed restaurant?”

The world's oldest operating amusement park also will be highlighted.

“Dyrehavsbakken, The Animal Park's Hill,' sometimes shortened to Bakken ‘The Hill,' is an amusement park in Denmark north of Copenhagen and opened in 1583,” Diller says.

“Rides change with both national interests and culture and more advanced technology,” Diller says. “There were many astronaut-themed rides during the space race era. Interest can be attributed to families passing down the experience, the updated atmosphere drawing new people in, or the fact that amusement parks are just plain fun.”

Debbie Black is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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