Knoebels Amusement Resort
|Slogan||Its My Kind of Fun (Is Knoebels Fun)! ;Picture Yourself (at Knoebels).|
|Location||Elysburg, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Opened||July 4, 1926 (89 years)|
|Previous names||Knoebels Grove,
Knoebels Amusement Park
|Operating season||April–September (including limited Days in October For Hallo-Fun Nights)|
|Roller coasters||5 (including kiddie coaster)|
Knoebels Amusement Resort is a family-owned and operated amusement park, picnic grove, and campground in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. It is and has been America's largest free admission park for 87 years of operation. Opened in 1926, the park has more than 60 rides, free admission, two wooden roller coasters, a 1913 carousel, and a haunted house dark ride that was featured on the Discovery Channel. The park and its rides have won awards from organizations such as Amusement Today, American Coaster Enthusiasts, and The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. In 2014, Travel Channel rated Knoebels number 2 out of their Top 10 Family Friendly Amusement Parks in the country.
Knoebels won the Amusement Today Golden Ticket Award for best amusement park food for 14 consecutive years from 1998 until 2011, but dropped to 2nd place in 2012, narrowly losing to Dollywood, but in 2013, tied for 1st with Dollywood.
The amusement park is owned and operated by the Knoebel (pronounced kuh-NO-bel) family, who also operate a lumber yard next to the park. The park's name has traditionally been spelled Knoebels without the apostrophe, and appears that way on all official park advertising and correspondence.
The park straddles two counties: Northumberland and Columbia. The complex is mainly in the Columbia townships of Cleveland and Franklin and also in Ralpho Township on the Northumberland side of the South Branch Roaring Creek.
Knoebels is located in a small wooded valley in Central Pennsylvania. The valley, originally known as "Peggy's Farm," with its creek-fed swimming hole, was a popular picnic destination in the early 20th century, attracting Sunday travelers and horse-drawn hayride wagons. Henry Knoebel, who farmed in the area, tended the horses and later sold soft drinks, ice cream, and snacks to the visitors. As the popularity of "Knoebels Grove" grew, Knoebel leased plots of land along the creeks for use as summer cottage sites. Some of these privately owned cottages, as well as cottages Knoebel built and rented, still exist in the park.
In 1926, Knoebel added a restaurant, a steam-powered Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel, and a few simple games to his grove, marking the beginning of Knoebels Amusement Park. On July 4, 1926, he opened a large concrete swimming pool on the site of the old swimming hole. Featuring a filtration system that provided clean water instead of muddy creek water, the pool was named "The Crystal Pool". The Declaration of Independence was 150 years old at the time. Since then, the park has developed around the pool, adding 50 rides, assorted games, concession stands, and other attractions. A campground with six sites opened behind the amusement park in 1962, and as of 2004, the campground covered 160 acres (650,000 m²) with 500 sites.
On June 22, 1972, the creeks that run through Knoebels, swollen with heavy rains from Hurricane Agnes, rose six feet over their banks. The flood destroyed six cottages and damaged many other buildings, including 24 of 25 rides and the park's roller rink. The roller rink building was re-floored and used as a skating rink until the mid-1980s, when it was converted into the "Roaring Creek Saloon", which now contains a concession stand, an arcade, the XD Theater, and performances. A new building constructed after the flood became the Haunted Mansion, where the Haunted Mansion dark ride opened in 1973. The ride has been recognized as one of America's best dark rides by organizations such as Dark Ride and Funhouse Enthusiasts and The National Amusement Park Historical Association.
The park again suffered major flooding in 1975, 1996, 2004, 2006, and 2011. Each caused substantial damage, but the 1975 and 1996 floods occurred during the off-season. Although the January 1996 flood left substantial damage, the worst occurred after the waters receded, when everything froze, making cleanup and repair throughout the amusement park difficult. The September 2004 flood, caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ivan, was only a half-day affair and Knoebels staff had the amusement park partially reopened by mid-afternoon.
On June 28, 2006, a flood second only to the Agnes flood struck Knoebels. About 90 percent of the amusement park was under water just prior to the July 4th weekend. As the waters began to recede, Knoebels staff was able to reopen over 60 percent of its attractions within two days and 90 percent within four days. Because over 100 tons of mud had to be dug out of the Crystal Pool, it required 10 days to be operational. The last ride to return to operation was the Kiddie Panther Cars, whose repairs took almost three weeks.
Another flood happened on March 11, 2011. The park had minor damage, due to heavy snow, followed by a rise in temperature bringing heavy rain and sleet. According to Knoebels Twitter account, the Mini Golf was eight inches under water, as well as at the door of the Country Store. They also report that the flood isn't nearly as bad as they have had in the past.
On September 7, 2011, Knoebels experienced its most recent flood, caused by Tropical Storm Lee. Water levels neared those of the flood of 1972 and damages exceeded that flood. The majority of the park reopened the following weekend, having missed only 2 days of operation.
For the 2013 season, Knoebels announced that they will add the park's tallest ride named StratosFear which stands at 148 ft, which quickly became a top thrill for everyone. As of 2014, Knoebels has dropped hints through social media, about how the 4th generation is planning something major for Knoebels, which was named Project 2015. Recently, Knoebels has posted that Project 2015 will be a new Steel roller coaster named "Impulse" that will replace two former rides, the bumper boats and boat tag. Both of which have been losing popularity, while maintenance costs became increasingly high.
The park offers free admission, free parking, and free entertainment. Visitors are able to ride the park's attractions by purchasing either pay-one-price, all-day/unlimited-access wristbands (which are not usually available on weekends, except near the beginning and end of each season), limited-access hand stamps or books of tickets, with hand stamp costs varying depending on the height of the rider. Knoebels has several hand stamp options, such as "Sundown Plan" and "Bargain Nights", when the park offers discounts on regular ride passes. Knoebels all-day passes do not include: the Haunted Mansion and the Crystal Pool which are additional fees. The "Scenic Skyway", Black Diamond, and the Flying Turns were also an additional fee when opened, but they have since been included in most pay-one-price plans.
Rides and attractions
Knoebels has five operating roller coasters. The park has no major steel coaster and no roller coaster with an inversion. However, Knoebels' two main wooden roller coasters are well known with Phoenix consistently rated in the top ten lists and Twister ranking high as well. Knoebels is now building a new roller coaster called the "IMPULSE", a 98 ft. high steel roller coaster that will be open for the 2015 season.
|High Speed Thrill Coaster||1955–2008||A steel roller coaster that had operated since 1955, believed to be the last remaining Overland coaster in the world. Although it was designed to be a children's coaster, it was very popular among adults due to its air-time on the ride's bunny hills. Kozmo's Kurves (see below) was designed with this appeal in mind, and the ride opened on Aug. 1, 2009.|
|Jet Star||1977–1992||A standard production model Schwarzkopf Jet Star, removed from Knoebels after the 1992 season.
This ride was purchased from Schwarzkopf, originally owned by an independent operator who fell on hard times. After being removed from Knoebels, the Jet Star was relocated to Morey's Piers, where it also operated under the name Jet Star. The coaster was then sold to a traveling showman in France. A regular stop for this show is Parc d'attractions Luna Park, in la Palmyre.
|Phoenix||1985–Present||A relocated and restored Herb Schmeck (Philadelphia Toboggan Company) design. The first large-scale wooden roller coaster relocation. This coaster took 2nd place in the 2011 Golden Ticket Award competition in their worldwide wooden roller coaster category, and 3rd place in the 2012 and 2013 competitions.|
|Whirlwind||1993–2004||A Vekoma Whirlwind double corkscrew roller coaster, removed from Knoebels after the 2004 season.
This ride was purchased from the Playland amusement park in New York, where it operated under the name of Whirlwind before being moved to Knoebels. After the 2004 operating season the ride was moved to Parque de Diversiones Dr. Roberto Ortiz Brenes and operates under the name Bocaraca.
|Twister||1999–present||A wooden coaster heavily-inspired by "Mister Twister," a 1964 John Allen design.|
|Flying Turns||2013–present||A wooden bobsled roller coaster modeled after a 1920s John Norman Bartlett and John A. Miller design. The coaster was completed in 2007, but its opening was pushed back numerous times due to problems with cars navigating the mostly-trackless course. It opened on October 5, 2013 on the site of the former Whirlwind (and Jet Star before that) roller coasters.|
|Kozmo's Kurves||2009–present||A steel roller coaster that opened on Aug. 1, 2009. This is a successor to the High Speed Thrill Coaster, which operated on the site through the end of 2008. Kozmo's Kurves was designed to have the same appeal to all ages that the High Speed Thrill Coaster did, as well as incorporate elements the former ride did not have.|
|Black Diamond||2011–present||A steel indoor roller coaster formerly known as the Golden Nugget at Morey's Piers. The ride's track and cars were purchased by Knoebels after it was deemed irreparable by Morey's and dismantled. The ride was built on the former site of the newly relocated Bald Eagle Habitat. The name change to "Black Diamond" is in recognition of the anthracite coal industry. The Black Diamond opened for the three weekends in October 2011 for their Hallo-Fun Nights program.|
Knoebels has two carousels: one small merry-go-round in Kiddieland (added in 1976) which was built by Stein & Goldstein in 1912; and the Grand Carousel, a 1913 carousel built by Kremer Carousel Works in Brooklyn, with a frame by Charles I. D. Looff, (1852-1918), and 63 hand-carved horses by Charles Carmel (1869-1931). It was purchased on January 26, 1942 from Riverside Park in Piscataway, New Jersey for $4,000 (equal to $57,735 today) and relocated to Knoebels. Today, the Knoebels Grand Carousel is now one of the largest carousels in the world, with 63 horses and 3 chariots. It is one of the few carousels remaining with a working ring dispenser, allowing riders on the outside row of horses to reach out and grab steel rings as they pass. The rider who grabs the brass ring receives the cost of the ride in tickets, making the ride free. Three band, or fairground organs provide music for the riders, with the largest one built in Germany in 1888 by Frati and Co, and operating at Knoebels since the year it opened in 1926, 87 years ago. The smallest one is a replica built in 1995 by Gebruder Bruder Co. In the 1920s, the larger organ was converted to artisan roles. The Grand Carousel was voted the best carousel in the Golden Ticket Awards competition held by Amusement Today in 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. The Grand Carousel was 99 years old when it mistakenly celebrated its 100th anniversary during the 2012 season, when it was discovered during the off season that it was indeed built in 1913 due to an inscription discovered on the back of one of the paintings on the Carousel. This means that the Carousel was actually 100 years old in the 2013 season. Today, the Grand Carousel is the second-oldest ride in the park, with the merry-go-round surpassing it by three years. This means that the merry-go-round was now 103 years old in the 2013 season.
The park operates two separate miniature railways:
- Old Smokey Train, a 16 in (406 mm) gauge, anthracite coal-fueled steam locomotive built in 1960 by Crown Metal Products meandering through part of the park. Old Smokey replaced the Nickel Plate, which had been installed in 1946. The train cars from the 1946 train are still in use.
- Pioneer Train, a 16 in (406 mm) gauge, gasoline-powered railroad installed in 1960 by Allan Herschell Company. The railroad continues to operate an Allan Herschell S-16 model locomotive and train, which resembles a classic streamlined diesel locomotive train, as well as a few other locomotives that resemble classic steam locomotives. The track travels from near the edge of the park into a wooded area where there are feeders for viewing the local wildlife.
Other rides and attractions
In addition to a 110-foot Ferris wheel, a 55-foot-high log flume, and a 50-foot-high Chute-the-Chutes ride named "Sklooosh!" (After the sound wet sneakers make), the park maintains more than 63 rides, including:
- A William F. Mangels "Whip" ride from 1915 (purchased from Croop's Glen, Hunlock's Creek in the 1940s)
- A set of Lusse Auto Scooters (Bumper Cars)
- The "Flyer" (one of the fastest running Flying Scooters rides in operation)
- The "Satellite" (a Lee Eyerly Roll-O-Plane)
- A "Roto-Jet" ride from 1952
- A restored vintage Allan Herschell Looper flat ride
- Haunted Mansion, a 3-minute dark ride
- One of the last remaining Fascination parlors in the United States
- A completely enclosed Himalaya-style ride in the dark called the "Cosmotron"
- An older version of the "Tea Cup ride"
- A 14-minute ski-lift-style ride called the "Scenic Skyride", which climbs a hillside beside the park
- A Downdraft ride by Dartron
- A Garbrick Merry Mixer ride
- A 1001 Nachts (1001 Nights) ride, or also called "The Aladdin Carpet" ride
- The Wipeout ride, which resembles the old ride Trabant
- A PowerSurge ride which is made by Zamperla
- StratosFear, a 148 foot drop tower, tallest ride at Knoebels (new for 2013)
- Crazy Sub, a submarine-styled ride that operates like 1001 Nachts (new for 2013)
- The Skyslide, a slide that winds around the outside of a rocket ship. This is an American version of a popular UK funfair attraction called a Helter Skelter.
Restaurants & Food
Knoebels also has restaurants throughout the park, both sit-down and counter service in nature. These eateries have contributed toward the park winning awards from organizations which judge amusement park food, including Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Award for Best Food every year since 1999, until Dollywood narrowly edged Knoebels in 2012, and both parks tied for first place in 2013.
The primary sit-down restaurant at the park is the Alamo. Counter service restaurants include Cesari's Pizza, Oasis Cafeteria, Phoenix Junction Steakhouse and the International Food Court. Food ranges from "Famous Fresh Cut French Fries", pierogi (a mashed potato filled East European dumpling) and potato cakes to Bison Burgers and Gator Bites to milkshakes and homemade fudge. The park also features novelty items like the pickle on a stick, caramel apple chips, and cheese on a stick.
The park's Cesari's Pizza and the International Food Court were featured on a Food Network special. The alligator bites served at the International Food Court were selected by Delish.com as one of the top seven daring amusement park foods.
Three Ponds Golf Course
Knoebels Three Ponds Golf Course is located on Rt 487 roughly a quarter mile from the park and campground. It is a par 71 eighteen hole golf course which provides two very different nine hole layouts. The front nine holes are located on the side of the mountain which provides the golfer with numerous elevation changes from tee to green. The back nine holes are located in the valley. The back nine landscape is less dramatic but still offers numerous challenges such as water and various risk-reward approach shots. The prices for the course vary from $20 to $38 and the course offers a nine hole rate as well. If you are staying on the Knoebels campsite the park offers discounted golf passes which can be picked up when you check-in for your stay.
Three major cases have been reported regarding accidents during the park's recent history, but Knoebels still has a very substantial safety record.
In 1999, an attorney representing two girls who sustained injuries while riding the Speed Slide discovered 15 injuries had been reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Ride and Measurement Standards in recent years, including six other reports of injuries to riders' genital areas. Both girls underwent emergency surgery. The park was charged with negligence, failure to monitor the amount of force of the water and its effect on riders, failure to fix defects, and failure to provide adequate warnings to riders. Both of the plaintiffs fully recovered.
In 2003, a man was seriously injured in a 30-foot fall from the Scenic Skyway chairlift, which had opened two weeks earlier. The man was a member of Selinsgrove Center, a group home for mentally disabled people in Snyder County, and was riding alone. He was airlifted to Geisinger Medical Center and made a full recovery. The home was subsequently cited for failing to adequately supervise its residents. Inspectors found no problems with the ride.
On July 6, 2011, a young boy was found face down in the pool, By the time the ambulance arrived, lifeguards performed CPR and were successful at getting a heartbeat and the boy breathing on his own. He died later at the hospital. It was later determined that the child suffered from a pre-existing heart condition that is associated with Noonan Syndrome.
Knoebels shut down their main website that day and placed the following message on the site to state the following: "A tragedy occurred at Knoebels' Crystal Pool early afternoon of July 6th. A young boy was seen under the water. Upon rescue, guards immediately began CPR. Initial reports indicated that he had hit his head. We later learned that no head injury was involved. He was transported by ambulance to Geisinger Medical Center. We are deeply saddened to report that the child has passed away. Please join the Knoebel families in placing the child's family and friends in your prayers." The website was restored several days later with a memorial to the boy at the top right of the home page, which had been removed prior to July 22, 2011. It was later clarified in the coroner's report that the boy died of congenital heart failure with no secondary cause.
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- Knoebels Amusement Resort official site including Park history
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- AirPhoenix - Unofficial Guide to Knoebels Amusement Resort
- Flying Turns construction photos
- Photos of the Twister and Phoenix rollercoasters
- The Grand Carousel pictures and review
- Ride Rehab: Old amusement park attractions ride again at Knoebels from Baltimore City Paper