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The science behind why roller coaster corkscrews are so beautiful

Ever wonder why the double corkscrew element on classic Arrow and Vekoma roller coasters are so pleasing to the eye? True, the entry and exit isn’t too pleasing to your neck, but there sure feels like there’s some artistry put in those curves.

Turns out, there’s a lot more math at work, too.

Whether it was done on purpose I can’t say, but the reason for their inherent beauty lies in the “Golden Spiral,” also known as the Fibonacci Sequence.

Feels like a drone shot, doesn’t it?

So what is it? Well, it’s a set of numbers discovered over 1,300 years ago by Italian mathematician, Leonardo de Pisa (aka Fibonacci). When plotted on a flat surface, it creates the “Golden Spiral” which occurs naturally in shells, flowers and apparently…roller coasters.

Check out this comparison of Cedar Point’s Corkscrew next to the Golden Spiral:

Screenshot from “The Legacy of Arrow Development,” used with permission.

Now, I’m no fan of math (it’s why I went into communications) but this is pretty darn cool!

What do you think? Is your mind blown, too? Let me know in the comments below or on my social media channels!


Lost Parks Featured in the Santa Cruz Sentinel

Santa’s Village continues to bring in the press coverage! Today, we’re featured in the Sunday Santa Cruz Sentinel!

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Not exactly sure WHEN I changed my last name to Rowland, however…

For those of you who don’t get the paper, you can read the article online, here:

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/santacruz/ci_24808829/web-episode-series-highlights-scotts-valley-santas-village


Featured in the San Jose Mercury News!

Big thanks to Mike Cassidy, who wrote a wonderful column (in the business section, no less!) about how we use technology to save parks that have been lost to the sands of time!

Mercury News Cassidy

Read the full article, here:

http://www.mercurynews.com/mike-cassidy/ci_24718952/cassidy-kris-rowberry-saves-santas-village-other-lost


How Can I Help with the “Lost Parks” Series?

We get this question fairly often in the ol’ e-mail box. The short answer – YES! YES YOU CAN HELP!

How? Well, that’s easy:

 

1.) Share your park experiences with us:

A souvenir, photo, home video or even just a story – part of the mystique of these lost parks is the strong memories they evoke. We’re always on the hunt for a visual way to tell the story of the parks we’re featuring.

 

2.) Share us with the World:

We’re big on social media – so we’d love to expand our reach. But that’s where YOU come in. If you see a post that you enjoy, here’s a few ways you can help out the “Lost Parks” project:

“Like,” comment on and share posts, photos and video on Facebook.

Retweet items from our Twitter accounts.

+1 things from Google Plus.

Post our videos on your own website via an embedded file.

Plus, we’re always looking for new partnerships, so feel free to shoot me an e-mail at kris.rowberry {at} gmail.com

Having trouble finding items on our social media feeds? Just use hashtag: “#lostparks” to find most of our work.

Tell your favorite cable channels (Discovery, Travel, Destination America, History) or local broadcast stations that these guys would make a great series for them via, their social media pages.

 

3.) Tell your friends:

Seriously, even in this uber-connected world we live in, word of mouth is still one of the best ways to get the word out on what we’re up to. Tell your friends, show your family – heck, you just might find a few memories come up in the process!

 

With just those three simple steps, you can help Lost Parks of Northern California grow by leaps and bounds. Who knows where it will lead us (but that’s part of the journey – so let’s ride!)


Man Allegedly Loses $2600 at Carnival Game

This "Rasta Banana" was worth so much to a man, that he blew his life savings trying to win it.

This “Rasta Banana” was worth so much to a man, that he blew his life savings trying to win it.

If there were a dumb guy Olympics, this dude just ran away with all the medals…

Henry Gribbohm claims that at a recent carnival he attended, he lost $2,600 playing a game called “Tubs of Fun.”

And you thought carnival barkers were good at stretching the truth.

In the game, contestants attempt to toss balls into a tub. Apparently, Gribbohm had been practicing the game at home for weeks before the fair – but when it was game time – the results weren’t so good.

Considering the game offers one of the largest prizes at the fair, it should have been fair warning that this wasn’t going to be a cake walk. Predictably, all of Gribbohm’s attempts failed.

But that didn’t stop him, no sir. According to Gribbohm, he kept trying to win back his money by going double or nothing, something that even a carnie wouldn’t dare try (Especially considering that’s gambling!) He also claimed that because he was causing such a large scene and drawing in people, the operator of the game, “…promised me a Xbox.”

Really?

“He dropped $300 in just a few minutes and said he went home to get $2,300 more and soon lost all of that as well,” according to a local TV station.

“It’s not possible that it wasn’t rigged,” he said. “For once in my life, I happened to become that sucker.”

Understatement of the century there. You think they just give these quality items away?

Apparently, Gribbohm went back the next day to complain and the man running the game gave him back $600 – which at least validated his claim that he did spend wayyy too much money on a giant banana.  Despite getting back $600 that he never should have, he still filed a report with the police.

Gribbohm said that he’s considering a lawsuit. I wonder if he realizes that he can’t win there, either.


Kim Jong Un – Amusement Park Expert?

This kid is a baller

This kid is a baller

Photo Credit: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) NOTE: State-run media.

Set your foam guns to “master blaster,” amusement park fanboys! Looks like you’ve got some new competition for stingiest park visitor. And this one plays for keeps, what, being a Dictator and all…

Yes, it’s everyone’s favorite twenty-something “threatening to nuke the U.S.” ruler, Kim Jong Un. From the sound of it, he knows quality amusement park traits.

Un was at a North Korean amusement park last year, where he took in the rides, the scenery and the crowds that were carefully staged to be there (probably at gunpoint).

But, he also lambasted the park for potential safety issues with their water slides, poorly maintained showering facilities, weeds growing out of the asphalt and even peeling paint on the rides.

First of all – who would have thought North Korea would even HAVE an amusement park. For most people living there, just getting food is a daily chore, let alone having FUN in the process.

Secondly – is this the first time we’ve seen a Head of State actually partaking in a thrill ride in front of the media? Who knows – maybe that’s why Mitt Romney lost the election – we didn’t see him on a coaster.

So, the inevitable question comes up – can we send Kim Jong Un to (INSERT ANY USA PARK HERE) to fix up some of our lesser maintained parks? Maybe we can call it a “goodwill” mission…


Featured Post on BorrowLenses Blog

Hey everybody!

I was just featured on the BorrowLenses.com blog, giving away some of my Top Ten Amusement Park Photo Tips. (Hint – use a nice camera and have tons of patience!)

You can find the link to the blog post by clicking here:

Featured Story on BL Blog

Or using this hyperlink:

http://www.borrowlenses.com/blog/2013/04/top-ten-tips-for-amazing-amusement-park-photography/


It’s a Small, Litigious World After All!

It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears; Its a world of hopes, its a world of fear; There’s so much that we share, that its time we’re aware…
“…its a small world after all!”

You might want to add, “It’s a world of lawsuits” to that refrain as well.

Late last week, Disney got an early Easter present, in the form of an $8,000 judgement against them for not being able to evacuate a man off the ride for over 30 minutes. (The ride itself is anywhere from 12-15 minutes long normally).

Considering how much other Disney lawsuits have been settled for, this one just might feel like a present to settle so low.

So, how did we get here? Well, back in 2009, Jose Martinez, found himself stuck in the final “room” of the attraction the day after Thanksgiving. As per standard operating procedure, Disneyland employees were able to evacuate all the passengers from the ride…except Martinez – who is confined to a wheelchair due to paralysis.

According to Martinez’s attorney, he suffers from panic attacks and high blood pressure, “…both of which became issues as he sat in the boat (with the song) playing over and over and over.” He added, “(Martinez) He was half in the cave of the ride and half out,” Geffen said. “The music was blaring. They couldn’t get it to go off.”

Apparently, Disneyland employes were unable to evacuate the wheelchair-bound Martinez and opted to try and fix the ride to get him back to the ride platform.

Now this is where I get to the litigious point of my article…

Martinez’s attorney continued, “This is a really important ruling not just for (Martinez), but for anyone that rides the rides at Disneyland — because they do break down often and they do not tell people.” Anyone who’s ever visited Disney Parks know that the ride operators are some of the best in the business. As SOON as a ride breaks down, announcements are made and cast members generally walk out to the attraction (when they can) to speak with guests and re-assure them that everything is okay.

The next quote finally broke me: “The court’s saying that this kind of injury is foreseeable and that (Disneyland) has a duty to warn people,” Geffen said.

Now, this ruling is significant – as you’ll remember previously that just a few weeks ago, I wrote about a similar lawsuit that was thrown out AND became part of case law. You can find that post here: “Ride at your own Risk!”

Ironically, the attraction – which was added in 1960, after the World’s Fair – was created in the hopes of spreading world peace via the youth of the world.

Apparently, it now should incite fear.

And really, Disney itself has played on this fear, which has made it more of a cult attraction that ever before. Remember these scenes from “The Lion King” trilogy? (Yes, they made three of them under Eisner’s rule)

And legally, we have to state that these clips of copyrighted material are being used under the “Fair use Doctrine” of copyright law, for discussion, criticism, education or parody. In this case, we’re using them as examples of Disney making fun of itself to educate the readers of this blog. We’ve even shortened the clip playtime to the smallest possible to make our point.

So beware, small world riders – you could find yourself in court the next time a ride song traumatizes you!


Video

KGO Interview

KGO 810 AM here in the Bay Area interviewed me this past Friday on the “Lost Parks” series. Hopefully, it’s the start of people discovering my little series!

For those who missed it – check it out!


Video

Lost Parks, Episode 1 – San Mateo’s “Pacific City”

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you, episode one of, “The Lost Parks of Northern California,” featuring San Mateo’s “Pacific City.”

Be sure to like our video, comment on it, subscribe to our channel and share with your friends! We’re on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter!

You can also follow the American Coaster Enthusiasts (my partner on this journey) at www.ACEonline.org or www.ACEnorcal.org

Enjoy!


Why Buy New – When You Can Buy USED?

Fans of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk should recognize this coaster “under construction.”

Hurricane

Yep, it’s the former Hurricane, with a new coat of paint and in a MUCH LESS salty environment (Not to mention drier, too!)

When old roller coaster or thrill ride eventually gets retired (Woodies are the lone exception – as they’re constantly being replaced) many of them are actually sold to smaller, “mom and pop” parks where they’re appreciated for many years after their first installation.

There’s even websites, such as this one, which could be considered the “Craiglist” of the Coaster – where all sorts of new and used rides are bought, sold and traded between parks.

So unless your favorite ride was completely torn down…

Son of Beast

…there’s a good possibility that it was just “re-located.”

Now, the thrill of the chase is on!


The art of the on-ride photo

In a way, they’ve become more than just part of the amusement park experience – they have become attractions in their own right…

The on-ride photo – a way for parks to make more money off you – and a way to prove to Grandma and your friends that you really did ride “The Comet” after all…

The magnum opus of these cameras is surely mounted upon Disney’s Splash Mountain. Just about everyone has heard of “Flash Mountain” a place where  fans (and even Disney employees) would post photos of ladies showing off their “Zip a Dee Doo Dahs” during the climactic final plunge on the flume.

Sadly, showing your “Briar Patches,” – while hilarious – can get you kicked out of the park. And the photo it took? Deleted forever before anyone could see or print it.

Unfortunately, some of these stunts (as funny as they can be) are also quite dangerous. Loose objects in the past decade have contributed to significant injuries or even malfunctions of rides. Plus, parks’ aren’t huge fans of saddling more liability insurance because you and your dumb little buddies decided to sneak a RAZOR aboard the ride…

So, here now are some of the best (SAFE) on-ride photos from around the web:

Funny-Rollercoaster-Pictures-Smoking

Why not get the whole family involved?

03-funny-roller-coaster

Space Mountain never looked so…interesting?

funny-rollercoaster-001

Ah yes – the singular “group” pose – always a classic!

funny-rollercoaster-kid

The eyes tell the story!

Roller-Coaster-Funny-Face-5

Now if only they were on Ghostrider – this would be totally in theme with the ride!

MlKdE-565x418

I really don’t know where to start with this one – it’s perfect in every way! DeNiro battles the Russians on his namesake, with press and fans behind them! (Even the ref has GLOVES on!)

roller_coaster_2

Don’t you wish your girlfriend was as awesome as her?

a96805_r1

No, this is NOT photoshopped – talk about timing!

funny-rollercoaster-015

Well, the Beast IS the longest roller coaster in the US – over 30 years after it opened. Is it really that boring, though?

(I certainly don’t think so!)

Continuing with the “boring” theme – here’s my good pals the LaPutka’s doing their best on-ride pose via Splash Mountain!

funny-rollercoaster-011

“Dad, whatever you do – please don’t embarrass me in front of my friends!”

funny-rollercoaster-008

“Just catching up on the news while we plummet down to the Briar patch…”

funny-rollercoaster-roller-coaster-tim-tebow-tebowing

And finally – what better way to finish this post than with a Tebow Tower of Terror!


Official Trailer – “The Lost Parks of Northern California”

The wait is over – no more screen captures – this is the OFFICIAL trailer to the “Lost Parks” series! Look for the debut episode, featuring San Mateo’s “Pacific City Resort” to debut right here on March 29th, 2013!


“Won’t You Come and Play With Us?”

Longtime residents of the South Bay remember this park by a much different theme.

Howdy, partner! Can you name this ‘dem here lost amusement park of San Jose, CA?

We’re hoping to have the video completed for this park by July (fingers crossed!)

Frontier Village site


Rough Cut is Complete!

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m happy to announce that our first episode has made it to the “rough cut” stage!

Folks, it almost looks like a proper television program!

Stay tuned for announcements on when the episode will debut…for now, here’s a behind-the-scenes screenshot of me describing why this lost park disappeared. (Hint – guests eventually POO-POOED the idea of ever coming back…)

Pacific City Rough Cut


A Little Extra Excitement in Your Life

There’s something about danger that makes our stories better, don’t you agree?

Case in point – Producer Nick and I were heading out to the SF Zoo this past Sunday to film a segment about the 1922 Dentzel Carousel. (It happens to be the only operating piece of the short-lived Pacific City Amusement Park at Coyote Point.)

Unfortunately, the park was beyond capacity, both in parking and general space, as they were celebrating Chinese New Year. With the weather as spectacular as it was, we should have known the park would be crowded.

We parked on Herbst Way, which turned out to be smack dab in the back of the park. Sadly, we were unaware of this, so…like sheep in a herd, we followed the pack of people who purported to know where the entrance to the zoo was.

Turns out, it was the entrance to the Great Highway and Skyline Blvd. (CA-35).

Whoops!

This is the result…

Braving the Great Highway to get to the S.F. Zoo!

Now Producer Nick and I are all for excitement – when it’s in the controlled and safe confines of an amusement park. But when you have cars whizzing by at 55 mph and you’re carrying upwards of $6,000 worth of camera and video equipment – it makes for a hairy situation.

But it got me to thinking – even if this was a lame day to shoot video, it would still be memorable – almost legendary. And while we DID end up making it into the zoo without any problems, and filming went along smoothly – the one thing we’re probably going to take away from today was that crazy walk.

Funny how things work out in the end, huh?

Stay tuned for the ACTUAL video we were shooting for – the Lost Amusement Parks of Northern California…coming soon!


Celebrating George Ferris’ 154th Birthday

For most people, today is a holiday about love. For others, it’s about the over commercialization of a natural human emotion.

George Washington Ferris, Jr.

George Washington Ferris, Jr.

For me, it’s cause to celebrate – to hold my hat up high and say, happy 154th  birthday to George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.!

One of the most recognizable names in the amusement industry – maybe only behind Walt Disney – Ferris is responsible for the engineering and building of his namesake, the Ferris wheel.

Debuting at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Ferris’ wheel was steam driven and used 36 cars the size of train cars to take 60 passengers EACH as moving observation decks.

The ride was never designed to be thrilling (the ride lasted about 30 minutes with loading) but rather, to be an observation attraction. The wheel was beefy in construction and simply dwarfed all other structures at the fair. It was meant to be an answer to the Eiffel Tower – and it delivered. The construction methods and engineering is strikingly familiar to the Parisian icon.

Even by modern standards – Ferris’ first wheel was massive. While most wheels today are transported via trailer and rarely break the 100-foot mark, Ferris’ observation wheel in Chicago was 264 feet tall. (That’s over 25 stories!) To this day, only a small number of Ferris Wheel, Chicagowheels have eclipsed this number.

Sans the occasional upgrade to the passenger compartments, or the frightening concept of the eccentric wheel (Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Wonder Wheel) or the ultramodern spoke-less wheel (Big O) the general concept of the ride has not changed much in over 100 years.

It’s a true blast from the past that is in quite the renaissance – and we’re not talking carnival wheels, here. You see, the large wheel is making a huge comeback that would make Ferris proud.

Attractions such as the London Eye and Singapore Flyer have brought back the original concept – large, observation attractions. Four, count ‘em FOUR wheels over 500’ tall are either under construction or currently proposed in the United States alone, including a proposed 625’ wheel on Staten Island. Makes you wonder why no one out here in the Bay Area has called to build one yet. (Talk about scenery to see!)

Sadly, Ferris’ legacy is somewhat tainted these days – it’s become more fashionable to call them “observation wheels,” rather than the name which was connected to them. A “Ferris Wheel” it would seem, should only be found at a fair – an “observation wheel” is more likely to be found in a trendy metropolis.

His wheel met an unfortunate end as well. After being packed and shipped to the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, it was simply blown up – not popular enough to turn a profit. Ferris met an equally untimely death – he died of

The view from inside one of the 36 cars. Each one could hold up to 60 pasengers!

The view from inside one of the 36 cars. Each one could hold up to 60 passengers!

tuberculosis at age 37.

So the next time you’re at your local amusement park and see a Ferris wheel, look skyward, and thank Mr. Ferris – for creating one of the most prolific amusement attractions in human history.

And maybe, just maybe – it IS appropriate that Ferris was born on what would become Valentines Day – what other ride allows you to make out with your sweetie in public – without almost anyone knowing?*

*Except the person sitting behind you…

A wonderful video collage of the Great Wheel while in Chicago:

http://vimeo.com/21371154

The BEST Great America site on the planet, featuring the Sky Whirl triple Ferris wheel:

http://greatamericaparks.com/skywhirl.html


Test Footage from our new Opening!

Anyone up to see some test footage from our latest shoot? Look forward to the final product to debut soon on our YouTube channel as well as here!


Video

Introducing the “Lost Parks” series!

This has been a long time coming – but I’m proud to introduce the first in a series of videos on the lost amusement parks of Northern California.

Special thanks to Nick Laschkewitsch for his excellent camera work on this intro.

Enjoy, everyone!


True Enthusiasts

After observing and working in this industry for over 15 years, I’ve found there to be two types of people that enjoy amusement / theme parks in this country: those who visit to enjoy themselves with their friends and families; and those who visit the park to criticize every facet of the park or people who enjoy attractions that they do not.

I’ve dubbed them, “enthusiasts and enthusi-asses,” respectably.

I bring this up because there is an event occurring over the next few weekends along the Jersey shore that highlights this disparity within the ranks of those who consider themselves as “fans” of amusement parks – and has re-affirmed my belief in humanity.

First, a little background –

Sandy brought devastation to several seaside amusement parks in New Jersey and countless billions in damage elsewhere in the United States. Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/U.S. Air Force/New Jersey National Guard.

Sandy brought devastation to several seaside amusement parks in New Jersey and countless billions in damage elsewhere in the United States. Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/U.S. Air Force/New Jersey National Guard.

Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, with millions affected. Some of the most visible victims were the traditional, seaside amusement parks of New Jersey. When the first photos of the damage came in, the striking photo of a pleasure pier – with rides partially submerged in the surf – became one of the many iconic photos of the disaster. Several other seaside amusement parks, including Keansburg Amusement Park fell victim to the same fate along the East Coast’s shore.

It was a dark time for the owners of these traditional parks, many of which have been in the family for generations. With the storm still wreaking havoc, some people took to the internet to thank the hurricane for destroying certain rides, as if they somehow deserved this fate.

They never seemed to post anything about the families who had invested so much of their personal savings to purchase and install the rides; Let alone the incredible financial burden that was sure to follow.

A person who “enjoys” a specific hobby and who seems to only care about themselves and not others – I’d describe that person as an “enthusi-ass,” wouldn’t you?

So now, we come to the other side of the spectrum, to the “enthusiast.” Once the damage was fully accounted for and insurance issues resolved – the New Jersey region of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) decided that they were not going to stand for stupidity. They took to the internet, not to flame, troll or degrade an already bad situation…

No – they sprang into action.

The New Jersey chapter of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) decided to use the internet for good, by giving back to the very park that gave to them, which makes them true "enthusiasts" in every sense of the word.

The New Jersey chapter of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) decided to use the internet for good, by giving back to the very park that gave to them, which makes them true “enthusiasts” in every sense of the word.

The region created a repeating event they dubbed, “Dig out the Wildcat.” Its purpose: to assist the family owned Keansburg Amusement Park in removing deposited sand around their Wildcat roller coaster.

People helping people. Via the internet. Not yelling or flaming one another.

What a novel concept.

What will happen in the small, family owned amusement park on the Keansburg shore over the next few weekends is proof-positive that there still are good people in this world. Over 20 people have expressed interest in the event.

Even better, that group of people – who share the common bond of enjoying amusement parks – can unite to help out the very people that allow them to enjoy life to the fullest.

They know that there’s no opportunities for rides, or the coveted “exclusive ride time,” no – they simply want to help out their fellow human beings.

True “enthusiasts” in every sense of the word. True enthusiasts talk with action. In this case, it’s with buckets and shovels.

At least now we can see the true enthusiasts use their hands for good.

I only wish that I could get out there myself and assist them.


Rest in Peace, Huell Howser

Huell marching in a parade in California back in 2007. (Photo by Flick user, "Joits.")

Howser marching in a parade in California back in 2007. (Photo by Flick user, “Joits.”)

October 18, 1945 – January 7, 2013

Huell Howser is the reason I created / relaunched the “Great American Thrills” brand as a television concept. When I first saw him on television about five years ago, it gave me inspiration – to come up with my own concept in a vein similar to his – and to begin the search for a career where I could have as much fun as he seemed to be having. If I could live vicariously through a 65+ yr. old man on television, well damn it, that’s what I was going to do!

His myriad of series on public television covered state parks, fairs and quirky attractions – everything you wanted to do with your free time, but never seemed to have the commitment.

But Huell did. All 440 episodes.

His folksy attitude and seemingly endless excitement over what most of us would consider benign things, made him a popular target to be lampooned. But you know what they say – “…imitation is the highest form of flattery” and I guarantee any one of those lampooners would have killed to have a 20+ year career in television.

Hell, I sure would!

But, behind the twangy accent and endless enthusiasm, laid the brains of a businessman. Huell was brilliant at marketing his show beyond traditional mediums, even going so far as to manage the distribution of his DVD’s personally. He was a businessman, through and through. I defy you to find a grandparent of yours who doesn’t know the name “Huell Howser” or “California’s Gold.” That’s good marketing, my friends.

And that’s what I admire about him the most – this guy knew exactly what he was doing – and executed his plan perfectly.

I could only hope to have a career so inspiring and meaningful as his.

Rest in peace, Huell. You’ll always be “golden” in my book.


“Ride at your own risk!”

The ornate, Orleans-inspired entrance to the attraction in question.

The ornate, Orleans-inspired entrance to the bumper cars that are at the heart of the lawsuit.

Today was a victory for amusement parks and fans alike – the California Supreme Court has ruled in favor of amusement parks and ride operators, by throwing out a lawsuit against (then) Paramount’s Great America that involved their bumper cars.

At issue was the “assumption of risk” associated with going to an amusement park and whether or not one could sue a park if you were injured on a ride through no fault of the park. (I.E. the rides were maintained properly, but you still became injured.)

According to court documents, Smriti Nalwa, a local OB-GYN was on the “Rue le Dodge” bumper cars at Paramount’s Great America back in 2005, with her son, who was maneuvering the vehicle. To say you “drive” a bumper car is a bit of a misnomer…

Continuing through the court documents, near the end of the ride cycle, which generally lasts for about a minute, “(the) plaintiff’s bumper car was bumped from the front and then from behind.  Feeling a need to brace herself, (the) plaintiff put her hand on the car’s “dashboard.”  That’s when she realized her wrist was fractured.

The lawsuit originally claimed that the park was negligent in preventing injuries to riders and that the park knowingly operated a ride that caused injuries. A lower court found the park not liable, but upon appeal, the decision was reversed.

According to the dissenting judge in the original appeals case, “Low-speed collisions between the padded, independently operated cars are inherent in—are the whole point of—a bumper car ride.”

Even Nalwa agreed with industry experts and fans, when in her deposition said, “The point of the bumper car is to bump…you pretty much can’t have a bumper car unless you have bumps.”

The court found that while these impacts were not highly dangerous, but that sudden changes in speed and direction do carry an inherent risk of minor injuries. To change this portion of the ride would be eliminating the very character of the ride itself.

The dissenting judge continued, “Imposing liability would have the likely effect of the amusement park either eliminating the ride altogether or altering its character…the fun of bumping would be eliminated, thereby discouraging patrons from riding. Indeed, who would want to ride a tapper car at an amusement park?”

In a small portion of cases such as these, our understanding of technology and safety is improved. For instance, after several situations where people were falling or being pushed onto loading tracks in stations, parks installed the ubiquitous “air gate” preventing soon-to-be riders from falling or getting shoved into the path of an oncoming train.

But because the industry is self-policed (I.E. a “killer” ride no longer has the appeal of the 1920’s), most of these lawsuits have done nothing but drive up the cost of business and removed (or renovated for the worse) attractions.

People DO get injured at parks, yes. But they also get injured at home, in their beds and in the shower, too. Yet, you don’t see lawsuits from those events. Why should a park be any different?

Even the court said, “Head-on bumping was prohibited on the Rue le Dodge ride, a safety rule the ride operators were to enforce by lecturing those they saw engaging in the practice and, if a guest persisted in head-on bumping, by stopping the ride and asking the person to leave.”

What was not discussed in the court papers was the possibility of a pre-existing condition. For all we know, Nalwa could have already had a hairline fracture that was aggravated by riding the bumper cars. This is not unheard of, as a child with a pre-existing heart condition died on Mission: Space at Epcot in Florida several years ago.

So clearly, someone broke the rules, they rammed a car head-on. So how, exactly is that the parks’ responsibility? If you or a member of your family was rear ended on the freeway, would you sue the state for providing the venue for the crash?

Let’s face it, more people are hurt or die DRIVING to amusement parks each year than inside them.

So, did someone get needlessly injured?

Rue le Dodge at Paramount's Great America (2004)

Rue le Dodge at Paramount’s Great America (2004)

Yes.

Do I feel bad that she was injured?

Of course.

Should the park be responsible for other’s behavior in the park, or even a pre-existing condition that Nalwa may have not been unaware of?

Absolutely NOT!

I applaud the decision of the California Supreme Court, because by making this decision, they have re-affirmed our right to have traditional fun, without needless lawsuits ruining it for everyone else.


Reclaiming our Amusement History

Your fearless host (and family) on the World’s Tallest Carousel (Great America, Santa Clara, CA)

Being a lifelong devotee of the amusement park,* I have always been fascinated with the historical aspects of the parks my family visited – especially while we were there.

Correction: I was not made AWARE of the incredible, historical aspects of the parks, until 1993.

For a wide-eyed ten year old, it was an ethereal moment to discover from your father that “the Demon” at Great America used to be sans loops. Or, that a ride could be called “Whizzer” and not have to do with a bodily function.

Even as I close in on the big three-oh, it always gives me a giddy feeling when I discover something new about the amusement parks I grew up with as a child.

In a way, it’s like an oral tradition that someday, God willing, I could pass along to my children.

Fast forward a decade and change, and the company I was working for was part of a battle for historic preservation. In that battle, the passion and spark for yearning to know more about how we all got here was re-ignited.

It certainly helped the project along when the company went under suddenly, too…

So in this new series, I hope to bring all of you on a journey – a journey back in time; to a place where time went by just a little bit slower; where people didn’t run into you on the sidewalk as they were texting on their cell phones; where the family outing to an amusement park was much more than just flashing your season pass – it was an adventure in and of itself.

Join me, as I try to seek out and re-discover the “lost” amusement parks of the San Francisco Bay Area and in the process, reclaim our colorful, amusement history. “Let’s ride!”

*Lifelong fan since my father forced me on the Tidal Wave at Great America in July of 1993.


Video

Superman: Ultimate Flight – Rider Reactions

Great American Thrills was invited out to sample the BRAND NEW thrill ride at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom – Superman, Ultimate Flight!

As you can tell from the uncontrollable laughing at the end – it’s that much fun, folks! Get out to Vallejo (probably really early to avoid the line) and get on this coaster!