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Lake Compounce

Lake Compounce is a family amusement park located in Bristol, Connecticut in the USA. It holds the distinction of being known as the oldest continuously owned and operated amusement park in the world, and currently attracts thousands of visitors a day during the summer, fall, and even winter months. waveswinger.jpg

The park was founded in the 19th century and featured a large eponymous lake where people would go to spend time, and when trolleys became a major source of public transportation the lake featured a trolley stop and was often a popular destination for locals to spend a summer afternoon or evening. By the early 1910s the park began to build an increasing number of attractions, including a roller coaster known as the Green Dragon which was later removed in 1926 and replaced with a new roller coaster, the Wildcat, which remains in the park to this day and is among the oldest roller coasters in the country. In time, the selection of rides at the park expanded, and it developed into a popular concert venue where many touring bands would put on shows for large audiences in a no longer extant amphitheater. For many seasons in the latter half of the 20th century, the park's future was uncertain as it would bounce back and forth between several owners and it rarely proved profitable. Even so, the park made sure to open for at least a few days each year in order to maintain its status of being continuously owned and operated every years since its inception.

Since the mid 1980's, the park has settled back into a schedule where it is steadily open in the summer months, and it began to purchase a larger number of thrill rides that attract more guests each year. Today the park is open from May-August for the summer season, during which it is open most days. The park then closes during September and reopens on weekends in October in order to put on a special Halloween themed celebration, featuring a large walk through attraction known as the Haunted Graveyard, which features volunteer actors that will scare visitors in various scenarios - the profits from this Haunted Graveyard go to charity each year. The park then closes again for November, before reopening once again during December on weekends for a Holiday (mostly Christmas) themed celebration in which the park is decked out in lights, and Santa comes to visit the children. Not all rides operate during the autumn and winter months, as they often rely on air pressure or would be damaged by the snow, making it impossible to run them in the cold. In addition, the water park is only open from Memorial day - Labor day. This year Lake Compounce announced new plans to open a nearby campground in order to attract business from more people, allowing them to visit the park by day and camp out by night.

Attractions

The park has a wide range of attractions and rides aimed at guests of all ages. There is a separate children's area for very small children known as Circus World (formerly Garfield's Circus World when there was a tie in with Garfield sponsorship by the park), a water park, and the rest of the park is spread throughout. Below is a summary of present and past attractions that the park has maintained over time.

Former Attractions

Unsurprisingly, time, safety, and standards have all altered the composition of Lake Compounce's ride repertoire over time, resulting in the removal of many attractions. As noted above, the Green Dragon coaster was removed in 1926 to make way for the superior Wildcat coaster. In more recent years, the once famous amphitheater was removed from the park and it is no longer used regularly as a concert venue. A Top Spin ride was removed from the park in the 1990's, and in 2008 a rotating Musik Express ride was removed due to its advanced age and the expense associated with powering the ride. A miniature golf course that had been featured as an extra fee attraction was removed in order to make way for the expansion water park in the 2000's, as was an adjoining stage where magic shows and other entertainment was held. The Tornado ride was removed in 2000 after an employee was killed upon jumping onto the ride while it was still moving, causing him to slip and become pinned underneath the ride. Several water slides were torn down during the 2011 season to make way for a new expansion to the water park. An old Rotor ride was also removed in the 2010 season due to its age and its decreased popularity among guests.

Boulder Dash

The Boulder Dash is a wooden roller coaster and is the park's premiere attraction, drawing in guests from across the world that label themselves as coaster enthusiasts. The ride takes place entirely on the side of a mountain covered in trees, and the track was laser cut to ensure maximum possible comfort and excitement for the riders. The ride lasts for approximately 2 minutes, during which riders drop down the side of the mountain on several steep drops approaching speeds of 60 miles per hour. The riders cross briefly into the neighboring town of Southington, CT, before returning to the train station while riding along the eponymous lake. The ride has won numerous awards and has been regularly rated between the #1 and #5 spots on the annual Golden Ticket Award rankings of best wooden roller coasters in the world. The track was recently refinished in order to ensure that the aging of the wood does not substantially warp the track and result in rider discomfort.

As the main attraction at the park, the ride often has long wait times which the park staff work to minimize while still maintaining guest safety. Typically the ride has two trains, one blue and one green, operating in series with each other, allowing for a continuous flow of guests through the ride, however on particularly crowded holidays such as the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, or Labor day the lines for this popular ride can still be 30-40 minutes long. Park employees are trained to quickly load and unload trains, however they cannot control guest issues that may arise such as lost loose items or illness and these frequently delay the operations of all rides, but most notably of roller coasters due to the heightened need for rapid loading and unloading.

The ride was responsible for the death of a maintenance worker who was working under the ride during a morning test run without properly locking out the ride. Due to the noise of the equipment he was working with, he was not able to hear the empty roller coaster train approaching him, and it struck his head resulting in his partial decapitation and death.

Wildcat

The Wildcat is a historic wooden roller coaster that opened in 1927 and has stood ever since. The ride is located prominently in front of the park entrance, and consists of one large drop and several smaller drops and turns that take the riders on a ~1.5 minute journey around the heart of Lake Compounce. The ride had developed a reputation as being very rough due to its advanced age, and after closing in October 2012 due to mechanical difficulties the track was refinished and reopened for the 2013 season, resulting in a much smoother ride. The ride can have up to two trains of cars running at any one time, and this often happens during popular summer months. The ride formerly featured Garfield related theming, prior to the end of the marketing agreement between Lake Compounce and the Garfield rights holders. Now the ride features a generic tiger image, and a white and maroon color scheme.

Zoomerang

The Zoomerang is a standard Vekoma Boomerang out and back steel roller coaster, sending riders forwards down a track featuring a cobra roll and a loop, before sending them backwards through the same track. The ride is a common design featured in over 40 different amusement parks throughout the world. The ride originally featured a yellow and green color scheme, before being repainted purple in recent years. The ride has become stuck on the cobra roll portion of the ride during an electrical failure at the park, and guests needed to be evacuated by a special staircase installed for just such incidents. The ride is often popular with older guests, in particular teenagers, and as a result the line can grow quite long on days when summer camps or school field trips are visiting the park. Because the ride can only run one train at a time for obvious reasons, there is no way to greatly increase the turnover of the ride, and as such the queuing area for the ride is quite long to accommodate riders.

Trolley

The park contains an antique and still functional trolley car that hearkens back to the days when the park was a trolley park and a stop on the larger public transportation lines of the area. Now the trolley is not connected to any larger system of trolley cars, and it simply runs back and forth from an area near the water park to a small section of the park located in Southington, CT where guests can find the Skyride chairlift, the River Rapids ride, and the catering pavilion. Guests can also walk to this destination if they so choose, and doing so can often be even faster than waiting for the trolley to arrive. While the trolley does not go to any stops other than the two ends of the walking path anymore, if one looks at the track one can see old switching points, where the train likely used to be taken off the tracks or switched to a different destination. The connecting tracks are no longer present, and haven't been for many decades. The trolley car is powered by electrical lines overhead, and the inside of the car is lined with vintage advertisements for products that would likely have been popular during they heyday of trolley transportation in this area of Connecticut.

Staff

While Lake Compounce maintains staff year round, the majority of its employees are seasonal and only work during its amusement park operating season, particularly during the summer. During peak season the park may employ upwards of 1200 staff, many of whom work 30-40 hours per week in order to keep the park running normally. Employees are divided among a number of departments, including maintenance, housekeeping, foods, games, grounds keeping, water park operations, and of course rides operations. Each department consists of many employees overseen by a much smaller number of trainers, assistant coaches, and coaches forming a hierarchy of responsibility. Managing staff will often deal with larger issues such as guest problems rather than worrying about the direct operation of rides or serving of food. The majority of the seasonal employees of Lake Compounce are in high school or college, and as a result the number of employees available to work drops sharply when the school year begins in September. As this coincides with a decrease in park attendance, however, this is not typically an issue and park operations are able to continue at fairly normal levels. Employee uniforms have changed a few times over the past decade, beginning as a dark green polo shirt, before changing to a maroon and white polo shirt, and ultimately settling on a blue tee shirt emblazoned with a Lake Compounce logo. Managing staff wear distinct uniforms, and park managers wear normal business clothes.

References


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