My family’s wish to visit a close relative who moved to Texas this year gave us an excuse to check out some parks we might not otherwise have gotten around to. Last Sunday we visited Bell’s Amusement Park on the State Fair Grounds in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Bell’s is a small traditional park with a single wooden coaster: Zingo, built by the great John Allen in 1968. As you drive up to Bell’s, you see the coaster’s white turnaround rising out of the trees, about as welcoming a sight as I can imagine. The weather was what you expect for Oklahoma in July – brutally hot (mid 90s) and humid (survival tip: the water fountain with the coldest water is just north of the dark ride). The coaster basically defines the park’s western border, and you enter walking through the middle of the ride.
Zingo is an out-and-backer. The lift takes you into a turnaround with a little drop that gives you a sweeping view over the top of every tree in Tulsa. The first drop is nice, the second hill and drop are just transportation, but the third hill is the ride’s signature element. There’s a pop of air at the top and then the biggest drop on the ride, into an underground tunnel. I’m usually not much of a mark for headchoppers, but this one had me cringing every time.I got in seven rides on Zingo.
It’s a better ride the closer to the front you sit. The back seat is generally brutal, and the first drop in the back is a chiropractor’s dream … you leave your seat halfway down, and then you’re slammed into the seat at the bottom. If I had taken that seat my first time, I might not have gotten back on. Fortunately, it’s far more rideable toward the front. Overall, Zingo is a little rough and could benefit from some retracking, but it’s a handsome old coaster that gives a fun, lively ride of the rough-and-tumble creaking woodie school. And I love the big old hand brake at the end.
The park has a really nice assortment of flats … great Duce bumper cars (not fast, but extremely maneuverable), a scrambler, an Eli wheel, a Himalaya, bumper boats, and a lot more. There’s a fun flume with two lifts, a long tunnel, and a lot of splashing at the end.
Also worthy of note is the dark ride called Phantasmagoria, a classic spookhouse. The little vignettes with dummies popping out at you are kind of corny, but corny in a charming way. The amount of time you spend in the dark on this ride actually creates suspense (my 15-year-old daughter imagined that these parts of the ride might be populated with escaped lunatics, and screamed like a ninny the whole time), and the cars bang into the doors between rooms with surprising force. We like to talk about certain rides as being “physical,” well, banging into walls on a Phantasmagoria car is physical in a way no coaster I’ve ever ridden can be. Phantasmagoria failed to hit the mark, however, in one of the key things you go on a dark ride for – a chance to cool off. Going through the first doors of a dark ride on a hot day and getting a blast of cool air is one of the ineffable pleasures of the traditional amusement park. But Phantasmagoria is not air conditioned, and the second time we rode it was actually hotter inside than it was outside. Cooling the building might be expensive, but man would it ever be an improvement.
The park was very neat, although this could partly have been a function of the light crowd. While just about everything could use a nick of paint (except Zingo … the flaking paint is part of its rickety charm), the park didn’t have the feeling of being poorly maintained. Waits were generally nonexistent, except when the crew had to wait (10 mins. at most) for Zingo to fill up. And while I usually applaud a lack of commercialism, I was disappointed that there were no souvenirs for sale at all. I would have loved to have come away with a cool Zingo t-shirt.
In short, don’t go a million miles out of your way, but if you’re ever in the vicinity, Bell’s is definitely worth a visit. For a small park there’s a lot to do.
At the other end of the spectrum, four days later we were at Six Flags Over Texas. When I catch my breath, I’ll TR that.
*** This post was edited by blizzard on 7/15/2002. ***
Thanks for the TR, You hear anything about the proposed new woodie?
Lesourdsville Lake, The great American amusement park opens the season June 6th Thurs-Sun every week. Park phone is (513)539-2193
I don't know anything about a new coaster. If I were king, before adding a coaster I'd retrack Zingo, and air-condition Phantasmagoria. At least, that's my impression based on a day with a light volume of traffic. With Zingo waiting idle for riders, I wouldn't rush to build another woodie. I'd improve what's already there first.
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