Camden Park, 7/27/03

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Monday, July 28, 2003 5:30 PM
Camden Park, Huntington, West Virginia

July 27, 2003

"Celebrating 100 Years of Fun"

All summer I’ve been planning to make my second annual visit to Camden Park. 2003 is the park’s 100th anniversary year, the 18th oldest park in the country and a nice traditional park filled with vintage flat rides. About midmorning on Saturday I made up my mind to go on Sunday. My wife and I spent Saturday night grilling buffalo burgers at a local park and later going bat-watching on a night hike so it was with some difficulty that we dragged ourselves out of bed in time to leave the house a little after 9am. Camden Park is just under a 3-hour drive from our home in Columbus, OH. A visit to Camden Park means flat rides and I wanted to be well prepared so we hit a store to pick up some Dramamine and the bank to pick up some money and we finally hit the open road about 9:45. It was close to 12:30 when we spied Camden’s large smiling clown sign standing guard over the parking lot. We paid the $3 charge and parked next to some old Whip parts and just in front of the rusted loop from the old SBNO Thunderbolt Express Arrow Shuttle Loop. We opened our well-stocked cooler and ate lunch before proceeding to the gate.

The front gate area has been completely redone for this season. A flower-bedecked white picket fence is in place to isolate the ticket sales area from the parking lot and a new ticket booth stands out front but the biggest change is the sign. The old sign with the wooden roller coaster and clown cutouts is gone. In it’s place is a yellow background with the words "CAMDEN PARK" with the slogan "First in Fun since 1903" written underneath. It looks nice and gives the entrance area a clean-updated look but I can’t help missing the whimsy of the old sign. Another change for this year is a significant increase in the admission price. Last year it cost $14.99. Now it is up to $17.99 – at least you get a cool little ticket for that price that makes a nice souvenir. We immediately noticed the distinct lack of sewer odor. I remember last year the smell was quite strong; the result of a hot dry summer and a being next to a river. There’s been a lot of rain this year and that has had an appreciable effect on the olfactory senses!

We entered the park and noticed lots of little aesthetic changes over last year. Park crews have painted and repaired a lot of buildings and their effort shows. Camden’s only sit-down restaurant, The Cafeteria has been renamed "The West Virginia Grille." The ugly gray administration building that stands just inside the entrance on the site of the old roller rink (which burned in 1996) is now painted in a soft two tone yellow scheme. It’s a big improvement over the plain, gray concrete block. The pavement throughout the park has received a fresh coat of sealer and flowers are planted everywhere. These little changes help a lot in improving the image of the park, still Camden suffers from too much pavement and not enough shade. Indeed, the only significant shade tree on the midway – a sycamore next to the Haunted House has been cut down. There are still a lot of trees at Camden, It’s just that they ring the perimeter and don’t offer much in the way of shade. Another interesting feature of Camden is the odd construction of many buildings. Most appear poorly constructed, consisting of metal pipes, topped by metal pipe roof trusses and finished off with a layer of corrugated metal roofing. Others are made of concrete block or brick with wooden roof trusses with wooden roofs covered over by more of the corrugated metal roofing. The structures are pretty old and probably withstood a flood or two so I guess they are sturdy enough.

First stop of the day, as usual, was the bathroom. Camden is famous for it’s 5-cent pay toilets so I was surprised to see the coin slots taped over and all the doors unlocked. I guess that’s what the $3 admission increase is for. We made our way around to all the rides. Camden has a great selection of classic flat rides and the ride times are more than generous. 3+ minute cycles seem to be the norm here. Most of the rides were a near walk-on but we still had to wait for quite a while for the current cycle to finish! The lengthy ride time was especially appreciated on the Dodgems. Camden runs a set of 12 late model Majestic Cars. They run much better then those at the larger parks and the ride cycle really gives you time to cruise around. The floor had a fresh layer of graphite and the result was some decent sliding and bouncing off the springboard perimeter walls. I was glad for the Dramamine when I took a ride on the (anatomically incorrect) Spider. The riders and operators were really into the ride and everyone was having a great time. The Dramamine was still no match for the Paratrooper but I managed to hold onto my lunch unlike some poor soul on the nearby Round Up. The old gravity-powered Pretzel darkride, the Haunted House, had a lot more working stunts, lights, and buzzers then last year. It’s essentially a Wild Mouse Coaster in the dark. We took a ride on the beat-up Carousel. This ride is allegedly the oldest ride in the park, having been installed in 1907. Actually, only the frame of the carousel is original. The wooden animals were auctioned in the early 1990’s and were replaced with fiberglass horses. The carousel turns in silence inside a large pavilion roofed in more of the standard corrugated roofing. A good band organ or at least a good recording of band organ music would be nice here. Of course a restoration of the carousel frame would be an even bigger improvement.

We tried to ride the Log Flume but it was closed with mechanics crawling all over it. It opened later in the day but with the long line and only running 3 or 4 boats we decided to skip it. It’s an attractive flume, running through a scenic area of park. The new ride this year is a Zamperla Kite Flyer. Last year, the park offered 4 ride choices for the public to vote on. The Kite Flyer won with 75% of the vote. They located it on one of the two empty ride pads I noticed last year behind the log flume and next to Swan Lake (upon which cruise a fleet of extra-charge Swan peddle boats). It’s a pleasant ride, not too intense and it fits in well at Camden. I was surprised at how small a space it takes up.

Camden has two ACE classic coasters; both built by National Amusement Device. The Big Dipper, built in 1958 is the "adult" coaster. It’s about 50 feet high and runs an authentic NAD Century Flyer train. I took several rides in several seats. It’s a short ride with a couple of moments of gentle airtime and a long tunnel. There are two trim brakes on the ride but they grip so lightly I hardly noticed them. Parts of the coaster look rickety with the peeling paint but it rides remarkably smooth. There was a lot of new wood on the ride and it appears that it is slowly being rebuilt. The "kiddie" coaster is also an NAD complete with a neat miniature NAD train. Named the Lil’ Dipper, this is reportedly the only surviving production model NAD junior/kiddie coaster in existence and Camden takes good care of it. What’s really strange is that both of these coasters seem to have the same height requirement and the operators of both coasters completely ignore it. No TPM here as toddlers are welcome on either ride. In fact, the only ride that seemed to enforce any rules at all was the Dodgems. Not only did we have to wear the (seemingly ineffective) arm belt with the lap bar but also we had to wear both arm belts. Both belts don’t quite fit because one of them has to stretch across your back before reaching your other arm with the result of a way too tight belt on my right arm and a belt so loose on my left arm that it was constantly falling off. Why can’t somebody come up with a decent bumper car restraint system?

We had ridden all the rides so we went back and rode them all again. Camden has 18 adult rides and 8 kiddie rides but really, the kiddies can ride just about everything. Too bad it doesn’t work in reverse, as I would love to take a spin on the handcars. We took a couple trips on the train; it’s a nice relaxing and scenic ride through the back of the park. I noticed plenty of Swan Boat riders piloting their swans through the fountain in the lake. Nice way to cool off. We also took a walk around the Adena Indian Mound and strolled through the shady picnic groves behind the Big Dipper. There’s a fair amount of unused space back there. Before leaving the park we made visit to the gift shop where they sell a large assortment of stuffed animals and a couple of neat Camden Park items including plates and mugs, neat little wooden cutouts of the signature attractions, t-shirts and a very nice poster. The poster is the same image that was on the Camden Park website until recently. It was painted by Jack Boylin, the current park manager (who I think has an art degree). It’s very reasonably priced at $4.49 and I walked out of the shop with a poster and a 100th anniversary bumper sticker ($0.49). The wife made a stop at the Cotton Candy stand for a large bag of inexpensive cotton candy. We left the park and were handed coupons for buy 1 get 1 free admission for September.

It was a good day at Camden. I’ve heard that park management in the 1980’s and early 1990’s didn’t keep up with the maintenance as well as they should have. The result is a park that shows signs of wear of tear with hints of rebuilding and recovery everywhere. The park looked healthy and it’s clear that the current management cares deeply about the park. Camden has added a new attraction each year for the past several years. New bumper cars in 2000, a Skydiver for 2001, Swan Lake with paddle boats for 2002, and the Kite Flyer 2003. Past rumors of the park being on its last legs with crumbling rides are simply not true. Improvements are continually being made and the park is looking great. I only wish it wasn’t so far away.

See a bunch of pictures!

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Ripple Rock Amusement Park
Flying Scooter coming soon!

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Monday, July 28, 2003 5:53 PM
I live about 20 minutes from camden so I used to go there alot when I was kid. Nice trip report.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2003 6:52 AM
Nice report, millrace, and those are some great pictures. I've been trying to get to Camden since I first passed by it in 2000. I was en route home from a Hersheypark/Cedar Point/PKI trip, and if I was traveling alone I would have stopped in a heartbeat. I passed by it again in May of this year, on my way to and from SRM. One of these days I'll actually be able to visit. It's really a shame to see the Thunderbolt Express rotting away, but it's great to hear that some quality improvements to the park are being made.

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-Mike B.
Son of Hulk
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Tuesday, July 29, 2003 7:19 AM
I've lived in WV all of my life, and am not proud to say I've only been to Camden Park one time, way back when. It was always just too far for my family to visit a small park, we could go an extra half hour and hit PCar. Now that I'm gonna be living about 2 or 3 hrs. from Huntington, I'm planning on hitting it early next summer. I'm glad WV still has Camden park, and that it has kept with its traditional roots. My hope is that the current mgt. fix the park up more and more ever year(and I really could care less if they get a new coaster or not, it's not their style, though I do wish they'd fix their Arrow, darn it!).

Nice TR, glad you had fun, hope to be there next year!
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Beaver, The other White meat.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003 10:14 AM
Nice trip report, Thank you.

One correction. The little dipper is one of only two remaining NAD jr woodies. Rye Playland in NY is the other but adults are not allowed to ride unlike Camden.

Chuck

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Charles Nungester.
It's official Lesourdsville Lake is closed for 2003

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003 10:57 AM
Now that's a Trip Report! Not to brief links to pictures thanks! I will be visiting this park in August.

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Your Park only has 1 good coaster! That's too bad!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003 11:51 AM
Thanks for reading. I tend to be long winded :)

I thought I read or heard someplace that the Rye coaster was built by L.A. Thompson. It does run the NAD Jr. trains though - hmm.

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Ripple Rock Amusement Park
Flying Scooter coming soon!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003 12:03 PM
Awesome TR man!

I am glad to hear about the new improvements to the park. I haven't visited Camden this year but plan on it the next time I am passing by.

The park is a gem and should not be taken for granted. There are not too many traditional parks left but it sounds like management has taken a serious interest in improving the park as much as they can. The park has a ton of potential with the right people running it.

Camden's flats are truly amazing, especially The Whip! The Big Dipper, although tame, still provides a nice jolt of airtime if you sit in the right seat. With the additions of the Swan Boats, Skyflyer, and Kite Flyer, the park's future is looking better everyday.

I still have some hope for the TBolt Express. I rode is when it was the Screamin Deamon at King's Island, as well as a few times at Camden Park. It's repulsive but I am sure with the right investors or sponsors something could be done to save it. I know that the park would have NO trouble finding volunteers to do the dirty work (repaint, clean in and around the coaster, etc.) I know I would love to help!

I am glad to hear they finally changed the name of the cafeteria. "West Virginia Grill" sounds more inviting. You forgot to mention the "floating" burgers though. ;-)

Also, have they cut back some of the vegetation around the log flume? I remember last year it was pretty nasty in spots. Ah, yes, the nice sewer aroma. I am sure that be the least missed. LOL! I do agree with the lack of shading also. Maybe that will be something they will concentrate more on next year, along with that new Beema (yeah, yeah, I know....but it can't hurt to dream!)

Awesome photos! Glad you had fun. I really look forward to seeing all these improvements for myself!

-Tina

<-------who is *proud* to say that I DID do the handcars....when I was 3 or so. lol


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Gimme speed, height, airtime and plenty of LAUNCH!!!
*** This post was edited by coasterqueenTRN 7/29/2003 4:07:48 PM ***

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003 12:28 PM
Awesome TR, Millrace ;) Camden is a park I've been wanting to visit for a few years now but never seem to get to. Hopefully soon.

mOOSH

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A random Mooshter's Dawntionary listing: Dopeler Effect [n.] - the tendancy of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003 7:29 PM
Moosh,

You will love Camden Park! It's nicely located just off I-64 on the WV/OH/KY borders.

A great "pass-through" park at least, but very much worth every second. :-)

-Tina

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Gimme speed, height, airtime and plenty of LAUNCH!!!

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Thursday, July 31, 2003 3:22 PM
Great report, it was very enjoyable to read. I visited in the spring and had a good time at the park as well.

Chuck, the Playland Kiddie Coaster is a L Thompson ride, it just runs with NAD trains. It used to run Prior and Church trains.

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Ask yourself; When was the last time YOU visited Conneaut Lake Park?

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Thursday, July 31, 2003 4:12 PM
Hey, I think I know where the sewage smell comes from.

Take a look.

"When was the last time YOU visited Conneaut Lake Park?"

Never, but that should change this weekend :)
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Ripple Rock Amusement Park
Flying Scooter coming soon!
*** This post was edited by millrace 7/31/2003 8:13:37 PM ***
*** This post was edited by millrace 7/31/2003 8:14:43 PM ***

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