Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chicago's 1893 Columbian Exposition
Phosphorescent lamps, Juicy Fruit gum, the introduction of the hamburger to the United States. To speed up the painting process during construction of the fair in 1892, Francis Davis Millet invented spray painting. And let's not forget the vintage amusement park milestone: the first Ferris wheel. The 1893 World's Fair had wonders and miracles aplenty. The structures built specifically for it inspired the Emerald City of L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz and Walt Disney's theme parks. Interestingly, Disney's father Elias was a construction worker on some of the buildings at the fair.

Enjoy this sumptuous video, featuring a collection of historical postcards commemorating the grand fair which opened 118 years ago this weekend.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What's next on the Cotton Candy Road Trip agenda...

I'm almost afraid to say it, but we'll be going to Oregon.

Why am I a'feared? Because if it's anywhere as rainy there as it's been here the last two weeks, I think I'll go bonkers. I'll climb to the top of a tall building with my umbrella (must keep my hair in place) and just jump off. I'll go eye-crossingly, jabber-jowlingly mad.

But instead of going down that path, why not let's be positive? I mean, it might be bright and Crayola yellow sunny there, like it is today here in beautiful Elmhurst, right?

(Fingers crossed to the point that I can't type.)

The two parks on the agenda include the Enchanted Forest theme park and Oaks amusement park. They're pretty different from one another, with Oaks being a traditional park and Enchanted Forest being, well, an enchanted forest.

But more about that next week. 'til then, why not try wrapping your head around the, um, photograph of the head above from Enchanted Forest. With people in the mouth. Cuz why not?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dispensa's Kiddie Kingdom! Let's GO!

Although I never visited it, we traveled past it regularly. Ironically, it's within (long) walking distance from where I live right now.

Dispensa's Kiddie Kingdom lasted from 1975-1984, which is pretty impressive considering my kiddie park, Fairyland, closed in 1976 due, in large part, to the opening of Six Flags in Gurnee.

So take a trip back in time and enjoy this site - a really thorough recollection of Dispensa's short history.

P.S. I did go to Dispensa's Castle of Toys a few times, but I can't remember if we bought anything there...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!! Happy Spring!

Easter egg-colored ice creams at Tuscora Park.

Just spent a few hours outside, cleaning up twigs and various assorted things that didn't need to be a part of our yard, planting lettuce, tomatoes, spinach and, most importantly, lavender. Dusted off my Alice and White Rabbit outdoor statuary and set them up for the season. This all after visiting Dad at the Arms and enjoying muffins and fruit and the camaraderie of about a dozen other families who were visiting loved ones.

A joyous Easter to all!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pretty Much a Continuation of my Last Post.

Mom said, "It always rains on Good Friday." Now, if you look at that logically, you can blow a big hole in that statement because it's impossible to be raining everywhere in the world on one day, even if it's just a small smattering of rain. But it IS odd that most Good Fridays do have at least a soupcon of precipitation.

Today's no exception. And sadly, it's also not the exception of most of this week's weather, with the exception of yesterday which was divinely sunny. I visited my Dad at the Arms and we colored and decorated Easter eggs. I walked the dog. No, we didn't walk, we scampered. And eventually broke into a full-out trot.

But today is ultra-gloomy and dank, probably the worst day of the whole week weather-wise. Maybe that's because it's also Good Friday, which is a somber, contemplative day. But, as positive as I try to be, I must also be realistic.

This. weather. sucks.

I've had several park trips get dampened by rain. Let's see: Nelis' Dutch Village, Storybook Gardens, Waldameer, Conneaut Lake (2nd visit), Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Monica Pier. But I still did manage to enjoy our time there and get some good writing done. So it's not all bad.

But it could be a whole lot better right now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's a rainy day and I'm in a crappy mood.

No pretense here. I'm in a fitful mood. An antsy, semi-angry mood. Eventhough I did some great gratitude work yesterday at a fabulous Gratitude workshop -- and I meant every word I uttered and wrote -- I'm a crankcase.

Why? it's dank, depressing, 37 degrees and gloomy. It rains just enough to freak out my beagle and I hate seeing her suffer, eventhough it's a self-imposed suffering. I've still been transcribing notes from NOLA, but when it's so dreary, it's hard to focus on much of anything.

So I watched "Jaws 3". In 1983's version of 3-D which was quite rudimentary (with an emphasis on the "rude" part).

Oh man. It's just SO BAD. Even by 1983's special effects standards. I remember seeing it in the theatres and thinking, "WHEN will this be OVER? I'm not scared -- I'm bored out of my MIND!"

I wonder if it was a dank day back in 1983 when I viewed it.

Well, it sure felt like one: I'm the Number One "Jaws" fan I know. It's my favorite film in the whole wide world because of its character development and rousing story. "Jaws 2" was twee, but at least it had Lorraine Gary. "Jaws 3" had Dennis Quaid, looking pretty 80's hot, but he couldn't help save this embarrassing film from its own inky black depths.
Why "Jaws 3D" at all? WHY am I writing about this? Because I did a DVR search for "amusement parks" and it came up since it's set at "an aquatic amusement park". A number of scenes were filmed at Sea World in Florida. But in the film, it barely qualifies as an amusement park. Bumper boats, a water ski-type performance. That's about it. Except there is that enclosed tunnel under the water and the teen girls walk through it and get essentially frisked by an octopus (a guy manning it??) and menaced by an eel that pops out at them, like in a fun house walk-through, blah, blah, blah. Oh, and there's a killer whale and some cute dolphins which almost perish but triumphantly return at the film's end. And they twirl! In 3-D!!
The 3D effects were the real draw back then, but by today's standards, they're beyond laughable. I had to call Ben into the living room to watch the climax with me:

*************SPOLIER, As lame as it is*********************

WHEN THE SHARK BLOWS UP REAL GOOD, BASICALLY VARIOUS PARTS OF SAID SHARK ARE COMIN' AT YOU IN 80S QUALITY 3-D...INCLUDING ITS JAWS. (Get it? The jaws?? How clever is THAT? And they're comin' atcha like SCTV's "Monster Chiller Horror Theatre"!)
Ah me.... I just wish it'd stop raining out there. I've got parks to visit in over two weeks! But they'll be in Oregon. Probably be raining there, too (last line said in an Eeyore voice).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Meet a Hurricane Katrina Survivor

On August 29, 2005, we all watched in horror as Katrina bore a gaping hole into the heart of New Orleans. Survivors sat on their rooftops, waving flags in an effort to grab the attention of a rescue helicopter. Survivors moved into small FEMA mobile homes (many found to be asbestos-laden). Survivors told anyone who would listen about their trials and triumphs, lives lost and hope furtively grasped.

Since wooden carousel horses aren't exactly chatty, let me tell the story of this particular survivor. Katrina ravaged NOLA's City Park with 10 feet of water at the north end, 4 feet at the south. Luckily for the carousel, dating back to 1906, the building which housed it was raised up; 10 inches of water hit the historic landmark. Still, a flood of that depth can do a lot of damage; floor boards were warped and needed replacing, some horses were lost, but most escaped the deluge and, with some tender care, not only lived to see their 100th birthday, but are still giddy-upping today.

The Carousel Gardens carousel is a beautiful specimen, a tribute to days gone by. But most of all, it's a love letter from the people of NOLA to themselves, to their tenacity and bravery under almost unfathomable conditions. When Mother Nature decided to wipe the Park's slate clean, the people of the Crescent City stood firmly and rebuilt the park, removing hundreds of dead plantings and replacing them. It took painstaking care to refurbish the carousel (the park received some generous monetary donations, but local volunteers did the hands-on work to revive it). The result: a honey-toned, golden sunrise of a ride that delights all who visit it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware it's a small world afterall!"

The Disney paris version of the ride

Please read this absolutely awesome, thoroughly-research article about "It's a Small World", the iconic Disney attraction.

The article wisely gives credit where it's due: to the amazing Mary Blair. Enjoy!

Friday, April 15, 2011

"He flies through the air with the greatest of ease..."

Wow. Just wow. I'm getting vertigo just looking at the picture.

I've been to Santa Cruz Boardwalk for my book, so I can vouch for the height of the Ferris Wheel. Take a look at the press release and see for yourself how AWESOME this promises to be!

(SO wish I was in northern CA right now!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Good things come in small, itty bitty packages... Storyland, part of Carousel Park in New Orleans' massive, "twice as big as Central Park" City Park. That's me knockin' on the door. Do me a favor, open the door and let me in!
Well, no one responded, eventhough I keyed in the musical combination that played Mozart (or was it Rachmoninoff?), so I continued my tour through the park, encountering a melange of storybook characters and scenarios, like Jack and the proverbial Beanstalk:

Perhaps he was escaping from the dragon who's menacing behind me in this photo:

But while I was winding up my visit to Storyland and ready to venture forth into the main amusement park, I had to quickly close the gate behind me so I didn't let out this little guy, who I believe had me mistaken for someone named "Mary" for some reason and I got this feeling that anywhere that I went he would be sure to go:

Dodged that one. Although I'm sure it would make the children laugh and play to see a lamb. I guess they're easily amused that way.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Upside-Down Amusement Park to open in Myrtle Beach, FL

Sorry, but it's not an amusement park. Not anymore than a children's museum could be considered an amusement park. It's a building, first of all. And, hello? It's full of interesting exhibits, but no rides.

It's not an amusement park, so stop saying it's one. The article I read goes on to say it's an "amusement park for the mind." Well then, maybe I should open my office as one, where people can interact with my Barbie collection (which I'll have suspended upside-down from the ceiling), stand on their heads while playing with my vintage Knip Knops and then attempt to use my Etch-a-Sketch while spinning in my office chair.

It's a roadside attraction. Remember those? All it is is a souped-up Mystery House or Mystery Spot (visit to learn more)where visitors would be stunned and amazed by all manner of things defying physics, like water running from a faucet at an angle or a ball rolling up the wall. I respect a roadside attraction that actually admits that's what they are. More power to 'em!

Signed, Lil' Miss Cranky Pants(who visits ACTUAL amusement parks, comprised of rides and attractions, most of which are outdoors and not confined to one big oddly-shaped building designed as such to attract people from the roadside!)

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Grim Grinning Ghosts Come Out to Socialize"

The Haunted mansion at Walt Disney World has undergone a facelift, with a new, interactive cue area and now this. As I'm still going through my New Orleans notes and as this just popped up for me through a Facebook friend, I would be remiss if I didn't post it. This might be the very best Imagineering upgrade of any Disney ride ever. And right now it's only at Walt Disney World, so the original Haunted Mansion at Disneyland remains untouched (which I think is a good thing; I'll never forget how the original effect delighted my Mom those forty years ago)


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

He'll sell no amusement park before its time...

Before I go in-depth into my maiden sojourn to NOLA this past weekend and my wonderful visit to Carousel Gardens, I just had to post this commercial from 1971 for Walt Disney World, narrated by Orson Welles. I TOTALLY remember this spot -- and how hippy trippy it was.

Happy (almost) 40th, WDW!