Friday, December 31, 2010


Looking back on 2010, well, I've done that in a previous post, so I won't go over all the details again. Suffice it to say, it had more ups and downs than the Legend rollercoaster at Arnold's Park -- and it had the same amount of that exquisite property called "air time". You know what I mean: when you're lifted off your seat and hanging in the air for just a wisp of a second. Some folks like it; other's like yours truly just don't trust it, have no care for it. Or at least that's how I used to size it up.

Today, December 31, the cover closes on the tome. The bows are tied, buttons buttoned, and all is put safely into the box of memories and lessons learned. But the concept of airtime stays with me and will continue to do so, because it's one of the most powerful lessons I learned while Roadtripping this year. Wouldn't have thought it before my visit to that vintage Iowa park, but things change, wisdom grows. And old constricts sometimes need to be plowed away.

During airtime, you float. There isn't much else to do. It's a tickle-tummy sensation: a little scary, a little unnerving, but all in all rather a safe place. During airtime, you can't necessarily plan for the next hill, nor can you curse the last. You are bound by the laws of physics to simply "be".

2010 held many moments I fought with, railed against. Cursed and spat at. But other moments were cherished so tightly that I feared they'd be suffocated by my need to preserve and adulate them. So highly revered, beatified even. But airtime can't be fought, or preserved. It asks nothing, gives nothing back that can be saved and stored. What I've come to learn through all this is that those moments of airtime are where holiness lies. Where God basically holds you and lets you take a breath and just be. Where you both gasp in, ever so quickly, together.

May 2011 hold you in its gentle grasp, lightly. Then bounce you up when you least expect it and let you hover there, taking in all there is without judgement, bias or fear.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reindeer Games.

Zoinks, the past week's been brimming with activity (including cookie-making, the all-important cookie-making), so many apologies for not posting an update in a while. It's been a wild hodge podge of actual v.o. work (Ta-Ra!!) and rehearsing/performing our old time radio show, and cleaning and clearing the house and running around like the proverbial headless poultry. Ah... time to sit down with a gingerbread latte and focus on the season at hand.

We're having Ben's dad and step-mom over for Christmas Eve, so I spent more time today finding and buying last-minute things, especially foodstuffs for the happy event. I found some great cheeses and fig spread, kalamata olives and salty/savory/sweet nuts. Not to mention the Prosecco. Gotta have the Prosecco. And egg nog and cookies and then you just spin the wheel and start wherever it leaves you, cuz anything I've just listed is good eats.

The above photo is from Santa's North Pole Workshop just outside Pike's Peak. Their carousel has no horses, just reindeer. As it should be. Here's one of them. Can you tell who it is??

A very Merry Christmas to all, and to all a lot of nummy goodies. You deserve it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Coney Island state of mind...

I'm chomping at the bit to visit Coney Island. I keep reading articles on Facebook about how the place is being changed forever; I want to visit it and steep myself in as much of the "original" as I can as quickly as I can. So I was heartened when I read today that although developers are obliterating a lot of the vintage, they are keeping the old Coney Island Theatre, listed in the Register of Historic Places.

Old theatres. If I wasn't writing a book about vintage amusement parks, I'd probably be doing the same for old theatres, epecially those with vaudeville, "legit" histories. I recall a grand house, the Berwyn Theatre, at the corner of Cermak and Oak Park in Berwyn, IL. I learned that a distant relative of mine had performed there in theatrical productions with a Bohemian acting troupe back in the early 1900s. I remember when they decided to tear it down, wrecking ball in action as I drove by. I could see the pink stucco interior gaping through the downed wall like flesh exposed by a fatal blow. And its soul flew up, up, up.

So kudos to the powers that be for helping the Coney Island Theatre to remain. I look forward to visitng next summer.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"So shines a good deed in a weary world..."

What would you do if you found the base of an old carousel (dating back to the early 1900s) and someone told you it was ready for the junk heap, to be sold for parts and materials? Would you simply say, 'Oh well, that's too bad." and move on? Or would you buy it, refurbish it, and then spend the next 25 years fashioning a new carousel around it, complete with a menagerie of wooden animals you carved from scratch? Oh, and I'll also add that you've never carved a thing before in your life?

There's a folksy, hand-hewn miracle up in Nederland, CO and it's called "The Carousel of Happiness". It's the kind of alchemical event that can happen when an enterprising person with a a simple desire to make people happy is in the right place at the right time and gets the right kind of angelic nudge to make something amazing.

The quote in my title line, which is found on a plaque inside the carousel building, is from "The Merchant of Venice". But most people might be more familiar with it from the climax of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" when Wonka realizes that Charlie Bucket it pure of heart and worthy of all the riches and happiness he can bequeath him.

The Carousel of Happiness is one man's gift to Nederland, to those who visit the small mountain town, and everyone who has that shining pure light of soul.

And that means you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans"

Well, I'll just jump in with it: it's the 30th anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon. I remember it like it was yesterday: writing in my diary that night, filling it with all the teenagery details of my day, when my Mom knocked on the door with the news. My parents let me stay home the next day; I was devastated. When I went back to school, I had to write in the attendance logs my reason for absence. I wrote, "a friend died". Because he had.

And 82 years ago, my Mom, Beatrice Novak, was born. And I truly believe both of these angels are busy in heaven, looking down on us all, making the world a little bit better in any way they can.

Love you, my angels.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"American Pickers" are my new heroes!!!!

I love them, I think they rock, and I think they are the bestest people in the world right now, at this moment in time. Forget about Oprah and Gandhi. I'm all about the Antique Archeology guys on the History Channel.

Not just because they're cool and kinda dangerous and seek out nifty old crap to buy and turn a profit on. Not because they like finding crazy stuff, like taxidermy animals posed in interesting ways, or an 8-foot tall cowboy boot, or giant papier mache heads which they don and dance around in. No, no, no. I love them because they "get" it. They get what history means in regard to vintage parks.

Case in point, this evening's episode, wherein the guys visit Bushkill Amusement Park, which has been closed for 4 years due to an enormous flood. They visited and bought a myriad of cool things including two side show canvas posters. Which they later found out were worth $10,000 for the pair.

They paid $200.

So what did they do? They knew the man who now owns Bushkill is trying to amass funds to start putting the park back together. And so the boys went back to the park and handed over a cool 5 grand, to the amazement and gratitude of the stunned park owner.

I've visited many a park which has fallen or is near to falling on hard times. Bushkill was originally slated to be a part of my Roadtrip, but then I learned it had been sitting dormant for years. The Pickers came upon the park and could see the history, treasured its uniqueness, it's "rough around the edges" exterior(very rough, as the park was hit by a hurricane and was basically flattened by eleven feet of water in its midway). And they saw what the park meant to the owner and they clearly valued the importance of preserving this piece of Americana.

Rock on Mike and Frank. Rock on, Picking dudes! You are most righteous.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday on the blog with one great photo!!

A dream is a wish your heart makes...

Happy Birthday to Walt Disney, with much gratitude for all the playfulness, wonder and magic he's given us. Walt means a great deal to Ben and I. And the spirit of Walt permeates a lot of my Cotton Candying.

Thanks, Uncle Walt.

Disneyland, June, 2007

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Looking back, taking stock, giving thanks...

It's been quite a year. I've had the honor to visit a number of parks across the country and get the word out about my book on a Pittsburgh area radio station. There's so much more ahead, but at this dark quiet Advent time, I think a look back at what I've seen would be quite fitting.

Silver Springs in Florida, "Nature's Amusement Park". While strolling through the area, I kept getting met with images of folks back in the 1950s who enjoyed the park in a different way than today's crowd. The place was exotic and rather dangerous back in the day. Imagine a typical 50s family, mom in crisp cotton and kids and dad decked out in their madras, dad with Kodak camera, kids with the Brownies, snapping pictures of creatures they'd never seen before. A safari of sorts only a few hours away from their space age, tri-level homes.

Hershey Park in PA. A chocoriffic wonderland -- the closest thing we'll probably ever have to Wonkaland.

Dorney Park, with a vintage carousel Ben remembered from his childhood back in Ohio. It had been transplanted at Dorney years ago. Ben's realization that it was indeed his childhood carousel was one of my most treasured moments thus far in my Cotton Candying.

Knoebel's. May just be my most favorite park to date. It almost taunts other parks in my mind, daring them to top it. They're remaking the Riverview Flying Turns ride, for cryeye!

Hoffman's Playland - small but sweet. The perfect park for a family treat (pardon the rhyming, but it just seemed right. You'd rhyme too if you visited Hoffman's).

Seabreeze Park -- the story behind its carousel is quite inspiring. Getting to venture INSIDE said carousel was magical.

Darien Lake in upstate New York has a wonder wheel-style Ferris wheel and an ancient plaster octopus in the lake. It's got a lot of "new" to it, but when I found these vintage touches, it made the park spring to life for me.

Arnold's Park -- A park that's had many a setback, but has always come back improved and saucy. Plus they have a rock and roll museum on the premises. I mean, come ON.

At this point in the year, it seemed that karma or the spirits that be or what have you told me that I needed to slow down or take stock or not be so cocky because they sent an actual flood which smacked us down about five grand. And so the Cotton Candying stood still for several months until...

Children's Fairyland! A fantastical storybook-themed park that holds true to its history. The puppet theatre alone is worth the journey.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk: a haunted mansion with some rocking FX, fried Twinkies and chocolate-covered bacon. These are a few of my favorite things. Oh -- and sea spray.

Silver Dollar City - where you can have a country Christmas with all the trimmings. And succotash. Can't forget the succotash.

Gotta thank God and all my angels and my Mom who sits on my shoulder from time to time for the drive and energy to continue the RoadTrip. And my most heartfelt thanks always goes to my sweetheart, my personal angel and playpal - my husband Ben, without whom none of this would be a reality. None. Not a stitch.

I must also thank all the people who generously contributed to my Kickstarter campaign, to help offset some of the travel expenses for next year's Cotton Candying. You are my spankin' new angels and I gratefully acknowledge you all!

It's been a tough year, especially with the aforementioned flood, but also career-wise (extreme highs and the quietest of lows) and Dad's health, which has made my focus stray a bit to say the least. But looking back and taking stock of my journeys I must say I accomplished all I set out to do, with a few exceptions. And what awaited me in the months after of the flood, when I really had no more funds for RoadTripping? One of my most favorite roles and shows to date: Drowsy in "The Drowsy Chaperone".

So it's Advent. And I'm amassing lists of all I've surveyed, embracing and keeping that which is good, and letting go of what has proven hurtful. Anticipation and wonder and love = good. Fear = bad and hurtful.

I suggest you give it a try, too. And a very blessed Advent season to you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Where in the world is that Pam Turlow and why hasn't she been posting on her blog?

Doing research, in a way.

Earlier this year, Ben and I purchased a trip to Walt Disney World. Then the economy got itchy and jobs got tight and I came very close to canceling the trip. At the very last, and I do mean last minute, we decided it was more important to go than not to go. Besides that, everything was paid for, including food and tickets, thanks to some gift cards and Disney Visa points, plus the cancellation fees would've been just plain dumb for us to have to pay and there would be much crying and gnashing of teeth - especially on Ben's part, as this was a Birthday Extravaganza in the planning for him for at least five years.

So we went. The past week was spent away from computers, away from TVs (except for those that were set up at various rides to show guests what to expect or to spell out safety requirements)and away from things that have sapped us both of our energy, our sense of play, and our usual happy demeanor.

In a way it was research, but more so it was pure escape and fantasy and relaxation. When I tour the parks for the book, I'm ion writing mode, book mode, information absorption mode, so I don't enjoy the parks as I would as a simple, paying customer.

Will I include WDW in my book? Yes, in a way I will. As I plan to include Disneyland.

"But these are huge, well-funded mega parks, Pam! You can't do that! Plus, WDW turns 40 NEXT year, not THIS year! Stop the insanity and get back to the small parks where you belong!"

But if it wasn't for Children's Fairyland, the small fairytale-themed park, there wouldn't be a Disneyland. And if Disneyland never existed, Walt's dream of Disney World would never have been realized.

While they may not have their own chapters, or be counted as one of the 40 parks, both Disney parks will find their way into the book because what Walt Disney brought to the world, places where children and adults could play together, where imagination has its own "happy place", is inextricably linked to the souls of all vintage parks. Disney's spirit has definitely infused itself into the fiber of the message behind my book. And for that, I'm ever grateful. And homage will be made.

We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun- together. Walt Disney

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Most Thankful.

What am I most thankful for in this world? My best friend, love, playmate and Road Trip co-pilot: Ben Dooley, my wonderful husband.

He is truly super human.

I love you!

Arnold's Park, June, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pace yourself. It's all about the pacing.

You'll notice there are three forks stuck into this pile of potatoey goodness known in Kennywood amusement park circles as Potato Patch fries. That's because Ben, his brother Simon and I shared this heapin' helpin'. And then drifted blissfully into a carbo coma, only to be awoken from it when we rode the Whip, which was subsequently followed by an ice cream bar covered in peanuts. Said bar was easily the size of a paperback novel.

So my words to you this Thanksgiving weekend are: pace yourself. Don't inhale all the foods at once in a copious, embarrassing display. Savor. Enjoy each morsel slowly. Because there's always going to be more...

Kennywood, Pittsburgh, PA. August, 2009.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


This photo gets me every time. I took it while riding the train at Kiddieland on Opening Day, 2009. Little did any of us know that it would be the opening day of their final year. The image of this mom sharing a ride with her little boy renders me weepy because that little boy will never be able to share this same ride with his kids.

And that's why I'm writing this book. It's become my mantra. If my book can help keep one vintage park open one day, one year, one decade longer, then it's all been worth it. And I'm thankful for moments like these, watching the simple joys vintage parks bring to families, which keep me focused on my goal.

Thank you again to everyone who donated money toward my project on Kickstarter, to all those who check in on my blog, and to the multitudes who just ask from time to time, "How's the book coming along?" To all of you, I'm' eternally grateful.

Kiddieland, Melrose Park, IL. April 17, 2009.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Take THAT, Weight Watchers!

Sometimes you just have to be bad. Naughty and even slightly sinister. I felt impishly evil when I bought my Deep Fried Twinkie on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. When the kid at the stand asked me if I wanted powdered sugar on top, I said, "Butofcourse!", just like that, like it was one word. When he asked me if I wanted chocolate dipping sauce, I said, "Are you kidding?" in the most incredulous voice he KNEW I wanted the stuff.

So here it is. Sorry the computer does not allow you the pleasure to scratch and sniff. Or scratch and savor.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with Photos -- of garbage cans!!

Yep, it had to happen sometime. I had to post a photo of a humorous garbage can from one of the vintage parks. I've seen garbage can clowns, garbage can hippos, garbage can rabbits, garbage can dinosaurs and garbage can elephants. Here's one of those. In day glo colors even!

Happy, colorful, day glo garbage-eating elephant from Kennywood.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Just came back in from taking Ivy, our dainty beaglette, for a walk. It's cold and blowy, with a northeastern wind whipping at my unscarved neck. Brrrr....

Reminded me of my visit to Storybook Gardens in the Dells. That day was also cold and blowy, with an intermittent, unrepentant rain. Here's a photo of me taking refuge with the Three Bears. I guess that makes me the honorary fourth bear (kinda like the fifth Beatle). In any case, their place was a warmish port in the tiny storm.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"How much is that doggie-shaped candle?"

I know. It totally obliterates the rhythm of the classic little ditty by Doris Day, so I apologize most emphatically. But I just felt the need to share a great photo I took at Cedar Point last year. Now, why oh why did I visit such a large, thriving park as Cedar Point, you might ask? Because it's still vintage, it holds its history near and dear, and it has cool, kooky little nooks to explore, like the candle-making shoppe.

These canine cuties were made in-house and they sat on the shelf, ready to go to a good home. And I would've rescued one, but a wax doggie left in the summer heat inside your car is candle cruelty.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Coney Island. Or maybe Luna park? Okay then -- Dreamland. No, wait...

Check out this link for a sobering article on how so much of what gave Coney Island its soul is tragically being sent out to pasture. Many of the iconic businesses are not having their leases renewed. In with the new. Which sometimes isn't the best course to follow.

All in all, I still want to include Coney Island in my book, because although there's not an actual vintage amusement park that has at least three vintage rides, Coney Island itself has three rides which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places: the Cyclone rollercoaster, the Wonder Wheel, and the Parachute jump. It has two new parks named after long-gone vintage ones: Luna Park and Dreamland. So as far as I'm concerned, these disparate facts add up to one definite trip to plan.

So it seems a visit to Coney Island puts you in a position to decide what you want to get out of it. Of course, I choose to focus on the vintage, the kitsch, and the spirit of the place. I look forward to a little grime here, the sounds of rickety coaster chains (hopefully not too rickety...), and the shadows of days past tapping me on the shoulder, asking me if they can guess my weight.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Everyday it's a gettin' closer. Goin' faster than a rollercoaster..."

Before we visited Arnold's Park in Iowa, I had no idea that there was enough rock 'n roll history in that state to constitute an actual museum. But there is:

Just outside the amusement park proper is a small museum that packs a wallop, boasting an impressive array of artifacts and hands-on displays. I was drawn to the back of the building to two singular exhibits: the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper went down in an Iowa cornfield, so there's a great display about these artists which easily brings a tear to the eye; and the vintage radio studio recording equipment. Since I earn my daily living in front of the microphone, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to pose with this great piece of audio history. There's something magical about focusing your energy on a microphone that's "heard" so many voices over the years...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Okay, color me pathetic.

You're probably asking, "What's with the blurry photo? Where are the vintage ride vehicles and fun pictures of Pam riding a merry-go-round? When's she going to wolf down a funnel cake?". Well, there's a little story attached to this pic.

I've visited Conneaut Lake Park twice, the last time this past early June. The park itself was closed due to the weather (big bummer), but something going on at the Beach Club, something which took me totally by surprise, made the trip more than worth it.

A big event was commencing, wherein members of the Pennsylvania State University Paranormal Research Society were conducting an investigation of the haunted Hotel Conneaut. Folks flocked to the Beach Club, the historic lakeside restaurant and bar, to start off their paranormal weekend, where a variety of lectures and other special events were to take place. I bought an Arch Angel Michael t-shirt and leafed through various books and prints, all paranormal in content. Would've loved to have joined in on the event, but had lots of traveling to do that very day. Besides, I already had my own ghostly encounters at the Hotel Conneaut the previous year. And, unbeknownst to me, I was about to have some more in only half an hour. But more about that later. What you want to know now is why I'm just so very pathetic.

This particular paranormal group has achieved rockstar status with their own show on A&E, "Paranormal State" chronicling their ghostly adventures. Full dork disclosure: I've caught absolutely every episode of the series. The leader of the group is one Ryan Buell, tall, dark, stoic and brooding. And, okay, kinda dreamy. And probably half my age. Still, I felt compelled to snap some photos of the spooky kids playing beach volleyball while I was seated in our car before we left. Like some sort of half-assed P.I. (I'm still embarrassed at my behavior months later...)

(Note to hopefully extricate myself even a little from the depths of patheticness: I did attempt to talk directly with the members of the crew, as I did have my own encounters with the invisible inhabitants of the hotel that past August, but their security folks basically weeded me out, reminding me that when the group investigated the hotel a year ago or so, a different psychic was at the helm, not Michelle Belanger (the woman along for the event), so basically I had no one to corroborate my story with. But they were extremely polite Goth kids, exhibiting a perkiness that belied their pierced, studded, and tattooed exteriors.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with Photos! A Heapin' Helpin' of 'Em!

There's something about pokin' through the photos taken last weekend at Silver Dollar City that gets me all itchin' for the Holly-Days! And then I start talkin' like Ellie May Clampett! Which only makes sense since a few episodes of "The Beverly Hillbillies" were filmed right there at Silver Dollar City, yessiree!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

And so it began...

Last year in mid-April, I waited in line for Kiddieland to open for the season, without any knowledge of what would transpire in the months ahead. I snapped a few photos while enjoying my visit there, interviewing folks, sitting and sipping some free Pepsi under the shade of those retro-cool metal canopies.

This snap is from the tippy top of the Ferris wheel. I believe I heard the ride was bought by someone out in the Chicago suburbs and put in their backyard.

And so began my RoadTrip. A bittersweet beginning to be sure. I'd misplaced the opening day photos for months, but recently found them in an oddly-labelled file on my computer. I'll be sharing some in the months to come, and more than likely selling some items on Cafe Press utilizing them as well.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This is what happens...

Take an ordinary, garden-variety potato. Stick it onto a skewer and place the skewer into a special spiral cutting thingy. Deep fry said potato. Then hand potato spiral to anxiously awaiting carb fanboy.

Photo taken just this past weekend at Silver Dollar City.

Potato whirl-a-gig was doused with ketchup and various spices and enjoyed in about one and a half minutes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Your fearless author tackles the unknown...

It's been one day now, almost the full 24 hours exactly, since my Kickstarter goal was achieved! Those of you who pledged, again, I thank you with the strength of a thousand smiling suns. The funds will be sent to me electronically on the 17th. And then the real fun stuff begins: planning the trips to the remaining fifteen parks. For those who are curious, here's a rough list: there's a park in New Orleans, a gaggle of parks in Southern California, a pride of parks dotting the East Coast. There's one single wan little park in South Dakota, two unique ones in Oregon, and one more park I can actually drive to up in Green Bay, WI. And there you have it.

Now, what we're coming up against, well, not soon but presently, is cold weather. Parks can't operate in cold climates - this past weekend at Silver Dollar City, plenty of signs bore witness to this, with the threat of ride closures if temperatures reached below 40 degrees. So the next parks I visit will be in warmer climes. Probably the Southern Cali parks, and that lone park in the Crescent City, a sturdy little city park, a survivor of Katrina.

I'll definitely keep you posted when the next trip is planned, which will probably happen after the Holidays, more than likely closer to February. Until then, boy oh, do I have some stories and photos to share. Like this relatively embarrassing one posted above (taken in June at Arnold's Park, IA).

Hey, what can I say? I give.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I always do these. Always.

If there's a game arcade at a vintage park, chances are they'll feature a nice mix of new technology and "the old stuff". I prefer the old stuff. I'm no good at video games -- stopped honing my skills back with Lady PacMan (Yes, you got that right; I just called Ms. Pacman "Lady" PacMan. And I'll keep that glaring error right where it is to drive home the fact that I'm a video game dumbass). Actually, I should've stopped while I was ahead, as I was a wunderkind with Pong, but I digress.

So I'm always drawn to the pinball machines (my favorite being "The Adams Family") and other simpler games of skill. But what will always, always cause me to buy some tokens is the fortune teller machine. Like this one I found at the casino of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

I'd share my fortune with you, but doesn't it work like wishing on birthday cake candles or a falling star? Best to keep it between Grandma Fortune Teller and myself.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Waiting in the wings...

Children's Fairyland Park out in Oakland, CA has many wonders and kid-sized environments to explore. But one of the special features of the park is its puppet theatre. Here's a behind-the-scenes photo depicting some amazing marionettes which were clothed by a very talented seamstress years ago. The seamstress had a son who went on to become rather famous in the world of puppetry, then films about puppets, eventually branching out into directing film.

That man is Frank Oz. Isn't that cool??

Monday, November 8, 2010

Not sufferin' with the succotash!

But enjoying every plum durn spoonful! Silver Dollar City, a fifty-year-old park just outside Branson, MO, sells copious amounts of the stuff, especially during autumn and into the holidays. And I'm here to tell you that it's worth the trip. But while you're there, you might as well force yourself (yeah, twist that arm) and have an apple dumpling, maybe a fresh gingerbread cookie, some wassail -- and you'll be sure to roll down Hill St. (the main shopping hub of the park) like Violet Beauregard on the way to the De-Juicing Machine. That's how plump you'll be -- but not blue. Just happy.

Photos to follow of the amazing lightshow SDC puts on for the Holidays, ranked among THE top Christmas celebrations in the country.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mercy! It's been a while, hasn't it?

Well, I usually pull away from the world in the days leading up to Halloween, watching way too many classic horror films and eating way too many M&M's. This year was no different, but I'll add to those diversions a complete clean sweep of my office and the planning for my girls only gypsy party.

But in the meanwhile, I also secured my visit to my next park on the Road Trip! Join me in the excitement of my impending visit to Silver Dollar City down in Branson, MO!! It'll be a looooong car ride (which means lots of car games, lots of obscure old-time radio listening, and lots of wacky convos with my hubby) which will take one whole day. The park visit is planned for Saturday and what's really exciting is that it's the first day of their Holiday spectacular, so I'm gearing up for lots of hot apple cider, comfort foods (including their succotash which I hear is a "must-try") and taking in the Christmassy feel of the surroundings. The only park I've ever attended in the past that decked its halls would be a Disney park, so I can't wait to see what the gentle Branson folk cook up.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Home again, home again...

Our trip to the greater San Fran area is now a fond memory. I'm back at my usual job: auditioning for v.o. jobs, writing my Cotton Candy book, and attempting not to spend a lot of money until those voice-over jobs start pouring in again. An itchy economy is a pain in the dupah (that's Polish for "where the sun don't shine" or as Monty Python once called it, "the sit-upon").

I've got about half of the money I need to actually be granted my Kickstarter funding, but there's still a ways to go. I have 28 days and still a chunk of money to assemble. Now's a perfect time for you to pledge -- because if you do so today and pledge more than $20, I guarantee you the valuable parting gift of a snowglobe from the next park I visit. A snowglobe. Who doesn't love snowglobes? Even Charles Foster Kane was a fan.

Monday, October 18, 2010

On the boardwalk...

My clearest memories of whiling away time on an oceanside boardwalk were spent near Brighton on a blowy day in November about twenty years ago. It was a pensive visit, with plenty of time for pondering life and existence and the Cornish pasty I had for dinner the night before.

Yesterday's visit to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk was different in every possible way, except the weather part. The rain toyed with me for hours (coaxing a visit to an Urban Outfitters for a brolly -- a "raining cats & dogs" design), but in the end, it held no power whatsoever over the joy to be found on the Boardwalk (Rides! Arcade! Indoor Mini Golf! Pirates!). Except a few rides were closed for safety reasons due to the precipitation. But that didn't include the Haunted Castle dark ride. I lived to tell that tale (tune in to a near future blog post for more) and not only lived, but thrived. And thrived enough to take down some chocolate-covered bacon and a deep fried Twinkie.

Just say those words: "deep friend Twinkie" and try to fight the urge to make one yourself. Recommended accoutrements: powdered sugar dust and chocolate sauce for dipping. And a Twinkie twinkle in your eye, the kind of twinkle reserved primarily for those under the age of twelve.

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is THE actual Pleasure Island, except no children are stolen and turned into donkeys.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Park #23 has been visited -- and I have a Magic Key to prove it!

Once upon a time, a magical storybook park called Children's Fairyland came to be. Built in the middle of a rambling city park in Oakland, CA, it's thrilled children for sixty, count ;em, SIXTY years! Heaped in history, colored by touches of whimsy throughout, it not only entertains little ones, but encourages literacy through a variety of literature-themed scenes and activities. It's a gentle, safe and, most of all, enchanted place for all to explore. Oh, and it has an incredible puppet theatre where Frank Oz first learned his craft. How do I know? I given an incredible backstage tour of the space and spied some marionettes dating back to the late 60s which were clothed by Mr. Oz's mother, a very talented seamstress.

And now I'm the proud owner of a genuine Fairyland magic key which allows me access to all the recorded storybooks throughout the park. Including the one of the Merry Miller (dating back to the 50s) which is voiced in part by none other than Boris Karloff. I learned the keys sold back in the 50s still work today, thus tying in past generations with the present. And the future.

May Children's Fairyland live happily ever after.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Fairyland - Disneyland Connection

Disneyland is fully ensconced in our popular culture in just about every conceivable way, from film to squeaky toys, waffle irons to diaper bags. It's even become the "go to" destination for those lucky athletes who, when asked what they'd like to do after their Superbowl victory, proudly spout "I'm going to Disneyland!". And I'd have to say, it's one of my personal Happiest Places on Earth, with special significance for my hubby and me and our sense of play. The venerable park just celebrated its 55th anniversary. It continues to delight and amaze, and will certainly do so for generations to come.

But I'm betting you didn't know that Walt Disney was inspired by a small storybook park in Oakland, CA. The following is an excerpt from Children's Fairyland's website, a bit of vintage amusement park history few are aware of. I was informed of this connection by park historian and Storybook Puppet Theatre director Randal Metz. Now, from the park's history webpage:

It wasn't long before Fairyland inspired imitators. Storybook parks sprang up around the country, but few lasted long—with one notable exception. Not long after we opened, a fellow named Walt Disney visited Children’s Fairyland. He liked it so much that he incorporated some of our innovations into his “magic kingdom,” which opened in Anaheim in 1955. He also hired Fairyland’s first executive director, Dorothy Manes, and one of our part-time puppeteers, Bob Mills.

So when you're next strolling through Disneyland and admiring its wonders, remember to give a nod to a small storybook park in Oakland, where some of the magic truly began.

I'll be visiting Fairyland in just a few days and am giddy with expectation. Check back for my park report. And have a Fairyland Day!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with a VIDEO!

Quick local TV report on the opening of the NEW Haunted Castle at Santa Cruz Boardwalk (what will be #24 on my Road Trip -- in just a few weeks!!). The new ride replaces the vintage one that thrilled patrons since 1973, but prior to that, the space was the home of other dark rides. Santa Cruz Boardwalk definitely has a handle on embracing its history. Enjoy this "just in time for Halloween Month" bit o' fun!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser...

I'm curious: Just how many tea cup rides are there in the world? When Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" was released back in 1951, it was one of the films in the Disney arsenal which inspired many a Disneyland ride and attraction: the "Alice" dark ride (which, at that time, also included the "Upside Down" room, now long gone. Notice next time during the first half of the ride; you'll see that the track splits off at one point and a phantom track leads to nowhere),a small portion of the Storybook Land canal boat ride (you know - you board your mini seafaring vessel, drift through Monstro's open maw (which frightens the kiddies and a certain 40-something author of a vintage amusement park book) and float by the teensy structures and the tiny topiaries), and the time-honored favorite, the Mad Tea Party tea cup ride.

While Road Tripping, I've encountered a number of tea cup ride impersonators, but none with the swagger to actually summon up the source material in its welcome sign. Knoebel's comes right out and boldly announces its similarity with Disney. And I think that's just fine -- because imitation is often a most sincere form of flattery. And the tea cup ride is a swirling, spinning vessel of fun, bringing families around its central spinning hub for decades, creating millions of laughs and whoops, cementing memories (albeit often a number of queasy ones) that are shared in stories and home movies for years later.

Lewis Carroll must be sipping a cream tea somewhere, and quoting himself: "Oh, 'tis love, 'tis love that makes the world go round." And sometimes what goes 'round and 'round helps to add to the love.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Since Halloween's only a bit more than a month away...

I've decided to sift through my photo files and find the bizarre, the strange, and the nearly upsetting. Or, at the very least, the images that make you go, "What the???"

Here's a clear example of a "What the???" from Seabreeze Amusement Park in Upstate New York. I found him looming about the hand-carved carousel, amongst the bits of vintage amusement park ephemera.

You tell me -- what do YOU think his story is?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's just a hunka hunka rolling coaster!

Up in northern Wisconsin, an historic coaster with rock and roll roots will soon have a new home and thrill the next generation of coaster enthusiasts. The Zippin Pippin was once Elvis Presley's favorite coaster (wow -- now THAT would be quite an interview for my book! Perhaps I can have someone channel him... Hello, Elvis? How many times did you ride it? Ever ride it while eating one of those peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwiches?) and it's to be resurrected from the original blueprints up at the small Green Bay park.

Viva Las Bay Beach!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy First Day of Autumn! Let's begin with some exciting kiddie park news!,0,2309903.story

Check out this story in the Trib about a new park coming to the area. The former Santa's Village site will be transformed into Azoosment Park, a half zoo, half kiddie-themed park. And rides will; eventually be incorporated by next year. Hopefully this will fill the sad void left behind by the closing of Kiddieland.

Kaloo! A park geared toward the little ones, featuring gentle animals and a modest price point. I'm so excited by this!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Catch me on the radio or live streaming audio online!

I'll be interviewed on "The Jack Evans Show" on WMBS-590 AM out of Uniontown, PA today. I was on last month, but the show was pre-empted by a lousy Cubs baseball game (can you tell I'm a Southside White Sox fan?), so Jack offered to interview me again and for the full 45 minutes! I'm all a flutter. Catch the interview if you can!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Happiness is a Warm Puppy. And sometimes a wooden one.

Carousel animals come in all shapes, sizes and phylums. If you visit the vintage carousel animals found in the Knoebel's Carousel Museum you'll see a vast array of not only ponies, but ostriches, goats, and this perky beagle. Or is it a harrier? In any case, it's an example of the merry-go-round diversity.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with Photos!

Nope, no rollercoasters in this pic. When I'm not Roadtripping, I act. Or as my hubby says, I have fun "on the playground."

It's me from a publicity still for the show I'm currently in, "The Drowsy Chaperone". If you live in the Greater Chicagoland area, please do drop on by. Here's the link for tickets. You'll have a ball -- cheers!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Next Park on the Roadtrip Confirmed!

I've officially locked in the next park and date in mid-October for the 23rd "Cotton Candy Roadtrip" destination! I'll crank up that airplane and set flight westward to Oakland, California where I'll be visiting Children's Fairyland, a storybook-themed park teeming with vintage structures, Mother Goose characters, vintage rides and puppet theatre. A far cry from roller coasters and dark rides, but vintage parks span a wide variety of types and sizes, and I willingly embrace them all!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ghoster Coaster!!

So you're traipsing through western Pennsylvania during a particularly crisp Autumn weekend, wondering what to do with yourself? Look no further than the links provided above: Conneaut Lake Park has some exciting special events lined up for the next few months, including their Oktoberfest, Pumpkin Fest, and Ghost Lake (for those brave souls who like getting the pudding scared out of them!). It boasts 8 levels of terror; they advise allowing at least one and half hours to make your way through all the attractions, including the haunted (for real) Hotel Conneaut. Extra-cool bonus: you can ride the newly-restored Blue Streak rollercoaster! You know you SO want to do that! And get this: for Ghost Lake, they've renamed it "the Ghoster Coaster". Can I hear a "squeeeee!"?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

While in the San Fran area...

another park I hope to visit is Children's Fairyland, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary! I must now include a photo from its website which I find particuarly charming:

It's a shame there aren't many places like Fairyland still around. I'm glad I've visited Storybook Gardens in Wisconsin Dells, which I believe has a similar vibe. And then there's the storybook section of Idlewild, but we unfortunately got there just as they closed the section for the day. I actually saw Little Bo Peep walking away...and then it started to rain.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dark ride geeks...unite!!

Check out the link above to learn more about the NEW Haunted Castle Ride at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (the next park on my Road Trip!). The Boardwalk has hosted dark rides since 1931 - the Haunted Castle ride is a mix of new technology and vintage pieces. As I'm not the very best on a roller coaster or spinny-spinny ride, I look forward to parks with dark rides - although I spend most of the journey with my eyes scrunched so I view it through a haze of eyelashes.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More "Legend", less filler!

Yesterday's post spoke about the "Point of No Return" sign at the top of the Legend roller coaster in Arnold's Park, IA. Today, if you get out your magnifying glass, you can find my sweet hubby riding the Legend, enjoying some exquisite "airtime".

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"The Point of No Return"

The last park I visited this year was Iowa's Arnold's Park. Arnold's has withstood many a setback in its long, illustrious history, from storms to impending bulldozers. But it's valiantly faced them head on, helped in great part by its neighboring fans who demanded their park not be trifled with. So it's only fitting that at the top of the first dip of its roller coaster, "The Legend", you encounter an ominous sign with this foreboding phrase: The Point of No Return". Because that's exactly where you're at, where you're going, and there truly is no turning back now. It boldly declares that it's reached a point of bravura, almost of swagger. It's earned it.

What made me think of this sign at this moment in time? Well, today is the first day of production week for my play "The Drowsy Chaperone". From this point on, we can't turn back, we can only, as my character might say, "bumble our way through life's (or the play's) crazy labyrinth"(Oh, Arnold's has a labyrinth, too - I just remembered). But right now, as I'm strapped in, safety bar pulled down toward my lap, I'm curiously at ease, more so than at any time in my theatrical past. Maybe it's because theatre is part of my life now, but not the only part. These parks have also become a part of my landscape, an important piece of popular culture to champion. My book writing journey has filled out my horizons, so "points of no return" aren't as threatening; they're just another hill to climb to get to a place of discovery and play.

Interestingly, Arnold's Park withstood another storm in July. A few rides were closed down temporarily, but only a few things were lost. One of those things was the ubiquitous sign. Has it been replaced? Not sure -- but bring it on! I'm now more than up to the challenge.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A new moon, new energy and outlook

Here's wishing everyone a peaceful weekend, with lots of time to focus on love and closeness. I know I'm sounding pretty hazy daisy and "dawning of the age of Aquarius" when I say these things, but more and more I'm realizing that time with loved ones, time in quiet contemplation, and joyful recreation, (like when you visit a vintage amusement park -- hint, hint), is what makes life worthwhile. It's where God abides. It's where all that is positive and life-affirming lives. And it's especially important as we come upon the ninth anniversary of 9/11 that we focus on peacefulness and understanding, compassion and open-heartedness.

that's all that I've got. That's all we should have.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Prayers for a peaceful, beautiful place

A place that I've adopted as one of a small number of "homes away from current home." Boulder, CO is in peril. Wildfires of unknown origin (a car plowed into a tanker??) are ripping through this town, destroying homes and corrupting lives. Boulder sits in the lap of the Rockies and is inhabited by some of the most peaceful, creative souls I've been blessed to have met.

Prayers and white light, please, for the land, the animals, the people, and the businesses.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Where it all began...

Yesterday I had the honor of being interviewed about my book on "The Jack Evans Show" out of Uniontown, PA. He asked me how I came up with the idea and I brought up the tragedy of Kiddieland's closing last year and the profound effect it had on me. The heaviness/lightness of an Irish wake permeated the air on the last day as I walked through the grounds, taking in the folks attempting to squeeze out one last laugh on the Scrambler, one last "squee!" on the Little Dipper -- while fighting back the tears.

Kiddieland, I'll do my best to help other parks dodge your fate. Rest in peace, my treasured friend.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A great way to start the month!

I just finished being interviewed on "The Jack Evans Show" on WMBS - CBS 590 AM out of Uniontown, PA. My interview was prempted a bit by the Cubs vs. Pittsburgh game (solidifying yet again why I'm a White Sox fan), but Jack had me on solid for twenty-five minutes - which went by like five and twenty seconds. A gracious host, he let me explain the title of my book, what prpted me to write it, and even tell a few stories that I've culled for the book. I'm also elated that I was ableo help Conneaut Lake Park get the word out about their highly-likely reopening of the Blue Streak coaster this weekend!

I like it when months start with a broad grin...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Check out my first radio interview tomorrow!

Hey Cotton Candy Kids! I'm elated to announce my first radio interview for my book will be conducted tomorrow, September 1! Check out the following website if you don't live near Uniontown, PA. I'll be on the Jack Evans Show at 4:15 central time. This is WMBS - CBS 590 AM, or click on this link to listen to the streaming live broadcast! I can't wait to talk about my book and all the great news about Conneaut Lake Park and the Blue Streak refurbishment!!!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Take an historic step...

in the refurbishment of Conneaut Lake Park by purchasing a plank on their boardwalk. My Christmas gift to myself will be buying a plank to help restore this historic boardwalk which graces a beautiful area near the Hotel Conneaut.

Conneaut Lake Park, the Hotel Conneaut, and the entire resort area so deserve your support.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just a few more days to vote!!

Cotton Candy Kiddies -- just a few more days to vote for the refurbishment of the Blue Streak rollercoaster at Conneaut Lake Park through the Pepsi Refresh Everything challenge!! Go to the following link and vote away! Right now the Blue Streak is in 1st Place to receive a $50,000 grant! Let's get her rolling!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A love story.

Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were the most famous married stage actors of the 20th century. They were so popular they even had a Broadway theatre named after them -- imagine! When they weren't onstage (always together -- it was part of their contract. That's star power!), they summered at their charming estate, Ten Chimneys, located in Genessee Depot, WI.

While traveling from Milwaukee to Madison yesterday, after a morning voice-over job and a swell coffee and Italian cookie-filled visit with my friend Connie, I came upon the exit for Ten Chimneys and had a "What the heck? When will I be out here next?" moment and drove 10 miles or so out of my way to visit the Chimneys, where Alfred & Lynn entertained the likes of Helen Hayes, Katherine Hepburn and Lawrence Olivier ("Larry" ahd his own guest room, masculine-yet-elegant, much like its occupant).

What struck me most about the property was its sense of creative play, it's spirit of unbridled creativity and possibility -- and its deeply emotional energy. Never took an historical walking tour before where I left misty-eyed. The couple were married for over fifty years. Soulmates and playmates. (And I know what that feels like, thanks to my wonderful Ben).

Alfred & Lynn -- thank you for being the catalysts for so much possibility -- and for reminding us all that life is truly open to our own design.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On the itinerary: a weekend in Brooklyn

I rarely get bold-faced jealous of anyone, but I do have my moments regarding Samantha Brown, the plucky Travel Channel star who travels all over the world, stays at the best inns and otels, eats the local specialties, shops 'til she drop, and has even had a private audience with Mickey Mouse when she visited Disney World. This week, Samantha took you on a "Great Weekend Getaway" to her hometown, Brooklyn, New York. Part of that getaway included a visit to Coney Island and a performance of the Coney Island Freak Show.

Obviously, there's no way I can have my Cotton Candying NOT include a ride on the Wonder Wheel or the Cyclone, so I'll definitely be hitting Coney. And a nathan's Hot Dog (or as the locals say, a hawt dawg) will round out my visit.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Great article on the World's Weirdest Theme Parks!

The things I come across while researching my Road Trip. Oh, to have the funds to stretch the scope of my book to include a world-wide journey into the bizarre and confounding!

Visit the link above and learn about the world's weirdest theme parks, including Denmark's Bon Bon Land which boasts a farting rollercoaster. Then there's Love Land... I really can't show you the pictures...and if you clikc on the link to look at the pictures, you shouldn't be doing so at work.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Into the Old Mill...

Well, actually, it's now the Garfield ride. And that's fine. But I would've loved visiting this ride when it was a spooky dark ride, and not-too-frightening tunnel of love ride. Still, it exists as the oldest ride at Kennywood and that's something to ballyhoo.

Kennywood Park, Pittsburgh, PA, August 2009.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday on the Blog with a Really Cool Photo!!

Ever wonder what's inside a carousel? I mean, inside, like the gears and cogs and secret cubbyholes? The ancient parts, some no longer operable but kept, just because? Perhaps items used for the repair and maintenance of the ride?

The ride operator of the grand carousel at Seabreeze Park allowed me the rare opportunity to take a peek inside the core of the carousel -- and to photograph his cabinet of paints he uses for touch-ups.

He couldn't figure out why I was essentially jumping up and down in a gleeful dance. He actually shot me a bemused look; this is his everyday world, so why should anyone become so worked up?

For me, it was Wonderland.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with Photos!!

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil... have no fun at Arnold's Park!

Yours truly, enjoying a refreshing Coca-Cola while commiserating with the chimpanzees in the shade.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Contemplating the next park...or getting all loony on ya and making that "parks".

It's been almost two months since my last park visit. Since then, a lot of stuff got in the way, some good, some gnarly. But now, while a desert's worth of dust settles, it's time to contemplate and plan for future visits.

At the end of this month, I'll either be planning a trip up north to the Green Bay area and Bay Beach Park, along with a dear friend -- it was her childhood park. It's truly a magical thing to attend a park with someone whose childhood memories come into play. Or, depending upon monies and timing and such, the end of the month may hold in store a trip to the East Coast. Or the Northwest. It's rather up in the air at this juncture.

After I'm done with my play, "The Drowsy Chaperone", Ben and I will be traipsing out to the San Fran area and the plan is to tackle the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and take in their refurbished dark ride.

And then, closer to the holidays, we'll take a long weekend's trip to Silver Dollar City. Can I have a "Yee" and a "Haw"?

I'll let you know more when I know more...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Back and just a little snarly...

Okay, I've been away for a while, but I've had some very sound reasons. However, before I go into all that, please copy and paste the address above and go vote for the Blue Streak to be funded 50K!! Right now they're in 2nd place but they have to stay in the Top 10 by the end of this month. Go vote! Now! Chop, chop!!

So, the reasons I've been away? Okay then - it has to do with no time to get me to a coffee house and cozy up and plunk down some blogstuff. But beyond that, I had me a spill, or as my character, The Drowsy Chaperone would call it, a "plumble." On August 2, I fell down the stairs, in slow-mo, like Lee Majors in the "Six Million Dollar Man." Really strained my knee. So I'm keeping off of it, focusing on the happy acronym R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Well, maybe more like R.I.E. But I'm doing it. Also taking my fish oil and an enzyme called Repair Gold.)

I won't be felled by this thing. I'm on the attack like a wolverine. Look -- here's a photo of a slightly snarling wolverine to get you in the spirit! Plus he's playing in the snow, which should give you a refreshed, chilly feeling in the middle of the hottest summer we've had since 1897. See? I give.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vote. Every. Day.

Go to the link above and vote every day until the 31st of July. Because if this campaign doesn't rank in the Top 10 on Pepsi refresh Everything, Conneaut Lake Park will NOT receive the MUCH-needed $50K to restore it's beloved roller coaster, the Blue Streak.

Refurbished Blue Streak=Renewed Conneaut Lake Park=Revitalized local economy.