Denver, Colorado, the week before Memorial Day, part 1. Elitch.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 1:23 AM

I'm lucky to have a coaster count that's fairly high, and that's mainly due to, oddly, another hobby that I have. For maybe twenty years I've been a member of the Columbus Stompers, a country and western dance group. Every year our international organization, IAGLCWDC (International Association of Gay and Lesbian Country and Western Dance Clubs - if you've ever wondered if there's such a thing, there is) hosts a long weekend full of dances, workshops, competitions, bar hopping, and general partying our asses off with old and new friends from around the world. It comes with a bonus for me because each year we go to a different city, and I always set time aside to visit whatever amusement park(s) is nearby. Past trips have been to New York, Montreal, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, New Orleans, Provincetown, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and the list goes on, but you can see where my riding opportunities are great. This year we gathered in Denver, a trip I most looked forward to, as it's a city I've had on my bucket list for quite some time. And I would score two more parks.

We got into town on Tuesday and with the event not scheduled to start until Thursday evening I had time on my hands. Knowing of two parks in the Denver area, I checked their operating schedules and found Elitch to be open from Wednesday on, and Lakeside closed for private parties until Friday evening. I opted for Elitch on Wednesday morning.

The park was a quick bus ride then a train ride from our downtown hotel. I'm sure most of you are familiar with the story, but briefly, the park was re-located to this downtown setting. Some of the rides survive from the parks previous location, but sadly, two outstanding woodies from the golden age didn't make the cut and were left behind. Twister II is an attempt to recreate the original ride at the new park, but as we've all seen, recreations many times fall short on their promises. I'm very sad I never got to the original Elitch Gardens, and here's why. The new park is a dump.

I was disappointed from the moment I walked into the park. There was a little Main Street area that was cute enough, but a later attempt to find something nice to purchase proved fruitless, so, whatever. I went to the farthest part of the park to hit Twister II first, and as I walked back I was shocked to find the park in general to have a rather poor appearance. Rides were old, scenery was non-existent, paint was faded, and there was a total lack of charm. Walkways were old, cracked asphalt, and queues were chain link fenced corrals over gravel. Landscaping was practically non existent. The rides themselves were just ok, there was one original coaster out of five, I think, and the rest were steel production models we've all been on elsewhere. And one of those, Half Pipe, was down for repairs. I rode em all, though, (for the count) and hit a few flats. I spent some time at the carousel, moved from the original park, and although it needs a little TLC, it's a beautiful machine. I wasn't shocked to discover no one at the park, from ops to managers, knew anything about it though. I had to do my own research, and actually told them a few facts about their own ride they didn't know.

Ok, here's the thing. I understand amusement parks vary in terms of experience. I also understand Elitch recently lost their latest managing partner, Herschend, and it's tough going. But I find a dirty park to be inexcusable no matter what other circumstances are involved. Everywhere I looked I found piles of trash and leaves in the corners. Get out a broom, find the hose, pick up a paintbrush, pull some weeds, and please take a second every morning to wipe the greasy dirt off of your ride vehicles. Especially when your gate is fifty bucks and you advertise yourself as a modern theme park experience in an urban setting.

This is already lengthy, and for those looking for detailed ride descriptions or useless ratings, I apologize, but forget it. Trust me when I say the coasters there went from nothing special to bad. The staff, from ride ops on up, were polite and friendly, so that was good. They were also mostly covered in tattoos and piercings, which I don't have a particular problem with, I'm just not used to seeing it.

I was resigned to the one-and-done aspect of the park, and nothing was enticing me to stay- especially when I looked up and saw a bad storm was approaching. I made the train and bus back to the hotel in the nick of time, as that was the day Denver had five tornadoes touch down in the metro area. In some areas hail was a foot deep on the ground. Being from Ohio I took it all in stride, but weather like that for Colorado is a once in a decade occurrence. It was big news- businesses and schools were locked down and the airport was closed for hours. so, in more ways than one, I was glad to be out of there.

Thanks for reading. When we get back to Ohio I'll finish the report and give you my impressions of Denver's Lakeside Amusement Park. (Spoiler alert- I'm in love...)

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014 6:09 AM

Gee, thanks for the spoiler.

I don't remember much, but I went to the original park as a kid...maybe nine y.o. or so. I DO remember being awfully impressed with the sheer SIZE of Mr. Twister, which I did ride.

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