TR: LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park (9/15/02)
"What went wrong here?"
In way of preface I must say that this was my fourth visit to LeSourdsville Lake this year, and in my prior three visits I had noted a distinct improvement with each visit. I visited on Sneak-A-Peak weekend when the park clearly wasn't really ready for prime time yet, nor was it expected to be. I visited again on Independance Day, and noted a LOT of improvements all around, and a park that looked better than it had in a long time, then I visited on Screech Fest Day, and noted still more improvements with even more rides open, and a park management staff that generally seemed to be real enthused about running the park.
It was late on a September afternoon when I decided to make a fourth trip. I went up to the park for several reasons, for starters I wanted to check on the progress of a rare Reverchon Explorer that the park was in the process of installing on my last visit, I also wanted to get some video footage of the park as I had not taken my camera on any of my prior visits, and I also wanted to show my Mom the new-and-improved LeSourdsville Lake. It was a nice warm fall afternoon, the perfect setting for taking a relaxing stroll down a traditional park midway for a couple hours.
We left for the park shortly after 4, and with traffic and all we arrived at the parking lot around 4:40. At a presentation by Scott Fowler, Scott noted that the park changes hours and prices at the drop of a hat. As we pulled into the parking lot I noted the hours had been changed from 12-9 to 12-7. This wasn't a big concern because the park did not look to be busy, and I knoew I could easily see the entire park in 2.25 hours.
I was delighted when we pulled into the parking lot and found the posted parking fee had been reudced from an almost reasonable $4 to a very reasonable $1, but was even more delighted when the parking booth attendant had already left for the day. Although there were several spaced left in the paved lot, we went towards the grass lot so that we could scout out premium parking, which we found when we discoved the second row of the paved lot to be fairly empty, and thus he had the closest non-handicapped space one can legally atain in the lot, so close we had to walk back away from the park to get to the ticket plaza.
We approached the ticket plaza and found the lone ticket seller there and no line. My mother, who does not ride much, would be doing general admission only, and due to her status as a senior citizen was granted complimentary general admission, I was about to purchase a ride wristband when I saw the sign that indicated $15.75. Now, I could have sworn the website said $9.95 during the fall weekends. (In addition to the $1 general admission fee, lowered from $3 during the main season) Upon mentioning this to the ticket seller I was able to buy a wristband and general admission for $11.50 including taxes. I also bought 2 ride tickets for mom so that she could ride the train and/or boat to/from Tombstone Territory.
Admissions taken care of, I received my wristband and general admission ticket and we crossed the railroad tracks and headed to the gate. Strangely enough we hadn't seen another guest in sight. A friendly ticket taker took our admission tickets and we soon entered the park.
I first noticed that the giftshop/ballroom building has not received any visible work since our last visit, and the bakery was not open, (or not finished yet). We saw the carousel, and then turned left. I noted the new Italian restaurant was open, and we proceeded further. I shot some video of the first ride cluster which included the Pirat, Flying Skooters, Zipper and Serpent, and proceeded on the traditional coaster enthusiasts non-stop walk to the Screechin Eagle.
After much talk I could not convince mom to try out the Screechin Eagle , and when I saw the completely empty station, was wondering if the ride was open. I got in line and not too much later an empty train came back. I took a seat in the front seat of the train, as was soon dispatched for a solo flight on the Eagle. Make that three solo rides on the Eagle as the operators were willing to run it non-stop till another group of riders came into the station. The Screechin Eagle had recieved some cosmetic improvements since August in the way of several patriotic themed flags being applied to the tops of the hills. It's a really attractive touch, and I learned that on the turnaround drop in the front seat, if you are seated in the left, hands high in the air you will brush the flags. Then again the wind may have just been right. I also noted the front seat was giving even better airtime than the third seat was giveing during Schreech Fest. And this was with a near empty tra!
in! I could have gotten more Eagle rides, but I did want to see and film the rest of the park. Here is where things start to go downhill faster than a rollercoaster.
I pointed out the Fascination parlour, but we kept on walking, I made a joke as we passed the Tip Top that it never runs. Today, it lived up to its reputation of not running. I noticed the very attractive paint job on the Tilt-A-Whirl, and soon we were at the train station end of the midway. I noticed that barricades were errected effectively preventing access to the area that holds the Electric Rainbow, and then we saw a train pull into the train station. We saw riders get out of said train.
Mom and I entered the train station and joined the 25 or so perople waiting for a train. Then inexplicably "Sorry folks, this ride is closed" With that the ride operators begun to walk away. Some of the other guests were more vocal about the matter and were treated very rudely by the ride operators, to the point of being lied to "There is no manager on duty, we have no way to contact a supervisor, these walkie-talkies are merely to communicate with the other train station, etc" Which is very curious because in the next breath they revealed that Tombstone Territory was closed today. A confirmng glance over towards Tombstone Territory revealed no guests on the midway, the Belle of LeSourdsville docked at the Tombstone Terriotry dock.
Having Tombstone Territory closed without warning is quite tragic as that means several rides are closed: Raging Thunder Log Flume, Scrambler, Rock-O-Plane, and the new Reverchon Explorer, not to mention the boat and train rides. That's 6 closed rides. A few of the more vocal guests revealed that the park had also not followed through with the group picnic that they were attending. This scene dies down when the ride operators simply walked away. We decided to get away from this angry mob situation. We walked past the closed Electric Rainbow (make that 7 closed rides), and we continued until we made a stop at the Tilt-A-Whirl. By this time my Mom had already come to a conclusion that the park had not improved, and given its current operations was much WORSE than she remembered it. Needless to say persoanl embarrasement and pride took a big beating, nevermind the fact that I could not deny that things were going pretty bad at the park today. I decided to try to get some !
rides in to make good on the wristband. I was awarded with a LONG ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl. At first it was a long dull boring ride with little to no action, then the operator started playing with the control lever. What I learned was that through judicious use of the control lever the operator was able to make any tub spin madly 'on command'. The second hald of my ride was taken spinning wildly and intensely. It seemed that 1 was in one tub, and a group of kids was in another tub, and we each got the wild ride half of the time.
Happy with that we moved on to the Calypso. The Calypso ride was even longer than the Tilt ride, however unlike the Tilt, this particular Calypso has few redeaming features, and apparently the operator can't do a thing to try to help it out. You see this particualr Calypso runs slow and in reverse which yields a particularly uninteresting ride.
There are quite a few rides clustered in this area. Of these I noted the Tip Top, Speedway, and Giant Slide were all closed. (Make that 10 closed rides) I didn't walk through the Infernal Combustion Fun-house but noted that very few of the stunts that are visible from the midway were functioning, which is a shame becuase I know that very few of the upper deck stunts work, at lest not on prior visits. Alittle further down I noted that the parks one gift shop was closed, and the peddleboat ride was closed. (11 rides down).
I took stock of the situation, from the Screechin Eagle to the train station there are only 2 flat rides running, and a sickly looking trailer funhouse. That's on one of the parks longest stretches of midway, not that it made much difference because a quick eyeball count revealed not over 10 guests along that stretch of midway.
The park looks a lot prettier than it did on Sneak-Peak day, but operationally this was pathetic. I must qualify that pathetic becuase the attractions that were open had very friendly outgoing staff members who wanted to show you a good time, apparently though they have very few of those staff members, as the majority of the parks attractions stood closed.
Case in point was when I boarded the Eagle with a group of about 5 people, who were clearly not enthusiasts as they headed straight to the middle car, I headed back to the aritime laden front seat (Why risk perfection?). By my count the train went around the track 5 times non-stop, by mom's count the train went around the track 8 times non-stop. Whichever, it provided a consistantly wonderful ride with generous frontseat airtime. I also took the time to reflect that given the way the park looked today, I better savor these Eagle rides as if they were my last ever. I sure hope that is not the case.
From the Eagle I passed the closed Whip (12 rides closed) , and hopped onto the open Musik Express. While the DJ's choice of music hadn't changed, it was still pretty horrid stuff, they were giving a nice long cycle with both forwards and backwards movements.
We proceeded further along and came to the Sky Ride. It took some talking to get mom onto the Sky Ride, espcially when she was making snide remarks like "They'll stop it halfway and go home", I did talk mom onto the Skyride, and thus she used one of her two ride tickets. The lone Skyride operator was friendly and stopped the skyride for mom during both loading and unloading. I also took the Skyride so I could have a nice bird's eye view to videotape the park. Unfortuantely due to how they placed some trailers in the TombStone Terriotry I couldn't even SEE the Reverchon Explorer, though I knew where it was. I got some good video footage of the skyride, and also noted that the LeSourdsville Lagoon swimming complex was closed, but then several parks have closed their swimming complexes for the year, so I noted it but won't ding the park for it.
We returned to the midway, and continued along the path. I saw maybe a dozen people in line for the Serpent. I entered the Serpent line and soon the one trainin service returned, I noted they have placed dust covers over the unused train. Unfortunately the train they were using had a busted seatbelt in one of the seats so they could only take 6 people per load instead of 8. Oh well a two train wait became a three train wait. I chose the front seat, riding alone, the 2nd seat was taped off, and 4 people got in the back car. It wasn't as wild as my ride at the MH State Fair, but it wasn't a bad ride either.
After the Serpent, I got in line for the Zipper, I was alone, but I thought I'd give it a chance. After an initial rejection from the ride operator (no single riders), a person who was clearly an off duty carney, or the girlfriend of the person running the ride offered to ride with me. As we were being stuffed into the Zipper cage, she asked if I liked to flip. I said "Bring it on" The rest as they say is Zipper Heaven. I was real happy when I got 13 flips in a row with Jerry, well I lost count on the ride, but we were flipping with such speed a force that I had never seen a Zipper do. I think I stopped coutning at 20 flips during the ride. It was pure Zipper Heaven.
After Zipper I walked accross the way (which is a real out of the way walk due to the long island, to which game booths werew set up oone end, and headed to the (gulp) closed Flying Skooter ride (13 ride closed). Folks LeSourdsville has 23 rides capeable of carrying a passenger 54" or taller without renting a child, today 13 of those rides were closed. We sometimes joke about it but it would, in fact, have been easier for the park to list what rides were OPERATING. Of couse one of my faults with LeSourdsville is that they do NOT have a ride closings board out front. It's buyer beware.
I settled for a solo ride on the Pirat. I really like this Pirat, though some of the safety signage has aleady been defaced, the park wins points for having several Jolly Roger flags attached to the boat, and actually fly on their own as the wind dictates. This is in contract to several parks that have removed all the faux rigging from the boat. Pirat is clearly a trailer mounted ride, and has entrance a big entrance holding area that the park wasn't using, after seeing the MN Fair I know what those holding areas are for, but I guess the crwod size did not justify pre-loading.
After the Pirat it was about 6:50 or so and itwas about time to leave, not that there was much of a crowd to try to beat out of the deserted parking area. However, I made a rare stop past Guest Relations. I harldy ever stop by Guest Relations, excpet maybe to get a park map, or to ask a question. Today I just felt the need to comment about the park. I did not go with a financial motive, as I had gotten my mney's worth out of the wristband.
After stopping off at Guest Relations, I wish I hadn't. The park seemed to know that it was suffering today, however they were either not willing to or not empowered to do anything about it. They knew most of the rides were closed, and they blamed it NOT on a lack of staff, but 'bad staff'. They seemed to indicate that management was clearly not in control of the park, and the staff decided to mutiny or just close their rides down whatever. I also confimred the halloween event was cancelled, and then we left. We left with a very sick feeling in my stomach, one that we may loose this great park once again due to totally incompentent operators that apparently don't understand or don't care to understand the guests feelings. GR admitted to use that they had seen a lot of very irate guests today, almost jokingly like "can't imainge why" Then I turned angry becuase not only was this great park being so grossly mismanaged today, but a big chuck of self-pride had been ripped!
out and trampled over as I kept having to aplogize for the park to mom, after I was praising it so highly.
We then stormed out the front gate. You know how most park parking areas look an hour after closing? Near deserted, maybe a half dozen cars. Thats how this parking lot looked right at closing.
It was a sad day at the park, yes, but also not typical of the experiences I haave had there this year. However, it seems that right around the Labor Day Weekend holiday, I had heard several negative comments. Clearly the cancelling of the halloween event may have signaled the beginning of the end. I have to assume that something went wrong sometime in this period. Of course, as is now known the Pugh's have left LeSourdsville under undisclosed circumstances, and the park is seeking a new park mamangement firm. One can only hope that with the proper owner, the park can once again thrive.
Nice TR, but sad TR.
The park still has potential to be a great family park. I hope that Mr. Couch can get the act together down there before '03 becomes another SBNO season...or worse.
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