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|Slogan||New England's Family Theme Park|
|Location||Bristol, Connecticut, United States|
|Previous names||Lake Compounce (1846-1985),
Hershey Lake Compounce (1986-1987),
Lake Compounce Festival Park (1988-1995),
Lake Compounce (1996-Present)
|Operating season||May through
|Area||332 acres (1.34 km2)|
|Water rides||2 (excluding water park)|
Lake Compounce is an amusement park located in Bristol, Connecticut, United States and a part of the neighboring town of Southington; the lake itself lies completely in Southington. Opened in 1846, it is the oldest continuously-operating amusement park in the United States. The amusement park covers 332 acres (1.3 km²) of land. The amusement park also has a beach and a waterpark which can be enjoyed by guests for no extra charge. The park was acquired from Kennywood Entertainment Company, by Palace Entertainment, the U.S. subsidiary of Parques Reunidos.
The lake's name is derived from Chief John Compound, a Mattatuck/Tunxis Native American. On December 3, 1684, his wife and several tribal members affixed their waxed fingertip marks to a deed that conveyed the "Compound's Lake" to a group of white settlers, including John Norton, who had migrated to central Connecticut from Massachusetts, for pennies on the dollar and miscellaneous trinkets, including a large brass tea kettle. Legend has it that Chief Compound drowned while trying to cross the lake in a large brass tea kettle.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2009)|
The park's roots trace back to 1846, when a descendant of John Norton, Gad Norton, hired a scientist to perform an experiment using explosives. Though the experiment failed, Norton noted that thousands of people had shown up for the event and was inspired to open a park. He put a path around the lake, set up picnic tables, allowed public swimming and rowing on the lake, built a gazebo for lakeside band concerts and built a few rides. Lake Compounce had officially opened to the public as a picturesque picnic park. The park prospered as a picnic park through the post-Civil War era.
In 1851 Isaac Pierce, a successful "California Gold Rush 49er," joined forces with Norton; the two established the firm of Pierce and Norton. In 1875 Norton and Pierce petitioned local legislators that their residences be "set off" from the town of Southington to the town of Bristol. A sheep roast was held in appreciation of those legislators and friends who helped secure the granting of that petition. In this quiet manner, the famed "Crocodile Club" was established and, in 2010, celebrated its 136th reunion.
After coming to The United States, Norton named the lake after a fellow trader, Chief Compound, who lived in the area. As legend states, Compound died in the lake, a possible reason for Norton naming the lake "Lake Compounce". The casino, the first permanent building on the property, was built in 1895 with a restaurant downstairs and a ballroom upstairs. A full-course dinner cost fifty cents. Public transportation also began that year as the Bristol and Plainville Tramway Company; later, the Southington and Compounce Line brought thousands of park-goers to Lake Compounce by trolley.
Around that time, Timothy Murphy of Savin Rock, Connecticut, began to assemble the carousel. Combining the works of four master carvers, Looff, Carmel, Stein and Goldstein, Lake Compounce purchased it for $10,000 and it opened to the public on Memorial Day, 1911. This carousel is now included in the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1914 the Green Dragon, Lake Compounce's first electric-powered roller coaster, opened to the public. It was torn down in 1926, and in 1927 was replaced by the Wildcat, a wooden classic designed by Schmeck and built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, which is still running to this day.
The 1930s brought more growth. The casino ballroom was expanded to include an enormous dance floor without walls, so that people could dance under the stars. Huge windowed walls and a high arched ceiling were added in 1937. On Easter Sunday, Glenn Gray and the Casa Loma Band opened the Starlight Ballroom to a full house of big-band enthusiasts. From Dorsey to Calloway, Basie to Kenton, James to Goodman, the ballroom was packed for each performance. The all-time attendance record of 5,000 was set in the spring of 1941, when Tommy Dorsey's reorganized band featured a young up and coming vocalist, Frank Sinatra.
In 1933, citing the effects of the Depression and the automobile, trolley service was discontinued to the park, which dealt it a difficult blow. Lake Compounce purchased a miniature steam railroad designed and built by Connecticut actor William Gillette, the original portrayer of Sherlock Holmes in silent films. The train made its inaugural run in 1944 when more than 100,000 passengers rode on more than 35 tons of 17 gauge steel track which completely encircled the lake.
Lake Compounce prospered during the 1940s and 50s as a unique picnic/amusement park. Local entertainers appeared as a weekly attraction on the Lake Front Stage and featured such talent as Tex Pavel, Colonel Clown, and Slim Cox and the Cowboy Caravan. In 1959, an 18-hole miniature golf course was added (later removed in 2004).
Through the next several decades, little changed until the late 1960s and 70s when the park's attendance numbers were dropping. Lake Compounce remained under the ownership of the Pierce and Norton Corporation until 1966, when Edward G. Pierce, Isaac's grandson, sold his interests to the Norton family. The Nortons continued to own and operate the park through 1985. During these years, the park made a modest profit and held its own. No major attractions had ever been added since the 1960s but some of the flat rides came and went over the years. The Nortons decided to retire and put their park up for sale in 1984. But they wanted to sell it to someone who would continue to keep it open and not to a real estate developer that would tear the park down and build either a shopping center, apartments, condos, or offices in its place. This had happened with many classic amusement parks over the decades and still happens today from time to time. In 1985, Lake Compounce was sold to Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company (HERCO), which owned and still owns the very successful Hersheypark in the Harrisburg, PA area. Initially, the park's future seemed promising.
But from 1986 through 1996, Lake Compounce experienced the "decade of the roller coaster." Financial troubles and empty promises from a string of four owners had severely tarnished the park's image. During this decade, Lake Compounce had a checkered history, including mountains of unpaid bills, a barrage of lawsuits and a string of unsuccessful turnaround attempts.
Back in 1985, HERCO had huge plans and immediately invested millions to renovate the park and unfortunately ran into trouble and delays. They did not manage to even open the park for the 1986 season until the first week of July, and even then it was nowhere near complete. The park then became known as "Hershey Lake Compounce." The formerly free admission park instituted admission fees and the park was still only partially renovated. Half the rides did not operate and the Wildcat roller coaster was nonfunctional more often than not. This led to disappointing attendance numbers. Before even completing further renovations, Hershey Corporation abruptly backed out in the winter of 1987 and put the park up for sale for next to nothing.
In the spring of 1987, Joseph Entertainment Group (JEG) bought the park at a very low price and renamed it "Lake Compounce Festival Park". That season the rides were all repaired and ran and at the same time JEG constructed a 20,000 seat outdoor amphitheater. This was completed by the 1988 season and it hosted several large musical acts. One of which, was the group Milli Vanilli and in late 1989 during a live performance on MTV, the group gave the first public sign that they were lip-synching, the recording of the song "Girl You Know It's True" jammed and began to skip. The park broke even for a couple years but was again operating in the red by 1990.
It became apparent that JEG's focus was on concert promotion and the amusement park was neglected. By 1990, the Wildcat roller coaster was again nonoperational and only a few rides operated and the park focused mostly on concerts. In 1991, exposing the financial troubles of JEG, the company bounced a check to would be performers Guns N' Roses, who then refused to play. Later JEG was found to have been almost $1 million behind in taxes and had not refunded ticket-holders for 15 canceled concerts. JEG eventually filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The park closed for the season that Labor Day.
It seemed that the park might close forever, but in hopes of saving it, a group led by Steven Barbarino wanted the park to be able to continue its status as the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the United States. So it did not open in 1992 except for a few days over the Labor Day weekend minus most of the rides but with modest low budget entertainment. This also occurred in 1993 and 1994, while Mr. Barbarino continued to seek a buyer for the nearly defunct park. In 1994, the park opened for the July 4th weekend with no rides but a concert with a few regional bands as well as opening the beach for a couple days. After failing to find a buyer willing to keep the land as an amusement park, Mr. Barbarino's group eventually repurchased the park in the summer of 1994, and immediately sought a new group to manage the park. Several expressed interest, including Anheuser Busch, Lego, and Funtime Inc. In 1994, Funtime agreed to manage the park and began full-time operations again on Memorial Day weekend of 1995. By opening, it was able to get nearly all the rides back in operation, add a few waterslides, and reopen the beach and swimming area. The park turned a very modest profit by Labor Day, when it would close for the season.
Funtime, however, was bought out by Premier Parks, which had earlier purchased a competitor 50 miles (80 km) away called Riverside Park (now Six Flags New England). Premier Parks opted out of its contract with Lake Compounce to focus on Riverside Park, leaving Lake Compounce in peril once again. Shortly after, however, companies like Anheuser Busch, Cedar Fair, and Kennywood Entertainment approached Mr. Barbarino's group about an outright purchase.
Early in 1996, an agreement was signed with Kennywood Entertainment, owners of Pittsburgh's historic Kennywood amusement park, to purchase Lake Compounce. After many years of financial troubles and management issues, Kennywood devoted itself to creating a clean, family-oriented and family-themed amusement park. All the remaining rides were then either repaired or removed. The Wildcat roller coaster also was renovated and reopened. The park opened that Memorial Day weekend in 1996 with real success. Every year since, the park has enjoyed much success and many millions of dollars in renovations and improvements including more waterslides, a couple high capacity water rides, a looping roller coaster, and in 2000, the Boulder Dash, which received the 2004 Golden Ticket Award for the #1 rated Wooden Roller Coaster by "Amusement Today." In 2005, Boulder Dash took the #2 spot and in 2006 tied for 3rd in the Golden Ticket Awards for the best wooden roller coaster. Boulder Dash also was voted #1 Wooden Roller Coaster in the World by the National Amusement Park Historical Association. Over the last 10 years, Kennywood has invested nearly $70 million in rides and attractions.
Between 2001-2004, the park suffered from some bad publicity due to a series of accidents at the park. In 2001, a 5-year-old boy drowned after going down the "Lake Plunge Slide" . In 2004, a 5-year-old boy was killed after a limb from a dead tree fell on his head near the former mini-golf area. Two park employees have also died in accidents since 2001. A groundskeeper was trimming weeds under the Boulder Dash track during the park's regular morning ride testing. The coaster was on a test run, and due to the loudness of the weed trimmer, the man never heard the train coming, was partially decapitated, and died . In another incident, an employee jumped onto the Tornado ride as it was still moving after the ride cycle, and was dragged under the ride when his clothing got stuck . The ride was closed indefinitely at the request of the victim's family and was later replaced by Twister in 2000.
Beginning in 2002, Lake Compounce, began opening earlier in May on weekends. Until 2001, the park ended all operations on Labor Day. Also beginning in 2002, Lake Compounce began opening weekends between Labor Day and Halloween for holiday festivities. They also keep all their non-water rides open during this time.
For the 2004 season, Lake Compounce added the 185 ft (56.4 m) drop tower, Downtime. For the 2006 season, Lake Compounce added a brand new S&S Screamin' Swing ride called "Thunder 'N' Lightning." The multi-million dollar attraction, featuring two giant swing arms, holds 32 passengers who are catapulted to heights of almost 100 feet (30 m) at 60 miles per hour with four Gs of force.
Also in early 2006, there was a dispute between Lake Compounce and preservationists about the fate of Gad Norton's original 200-year-old farmhouse. The park knocked it down to make way for a maintenance and office building.
On November 1, 2006, the shooting of a portion of the film "Reservation Road" took place at Lake Compounce. The film was directed by Terry George and starred Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, Mira Sorvino and Elle Fanning.
The park opened for the 2007 season on May 12, 2007, with several new rides, including a 1956 Corvette car ride, Zoomer's Gas N' Go. A new balloon ride called "Rainbow Riders" was also added in the Circus World section. Rainbow Riders was installed where the Caterpillar Train was originally located, and the Caterpillar Train was moved to a nearby covered pavilion and surrounded by new theming. Additionally, a new cabana boat was introduced that transports guests across the lake to the catering pavilions, the Compounce Mountain Sky Ride, and Thunder Rapids Raft Ride. The cabana boat replaced the Mark Twain Sternwheeler, which used to fulfill the same purpose.
Parques Reunidos era
In late 2007, Lake Compounce's owner, Kennywood Entertainment Company, was made an offer by Spain-based Parques Reunidos and has since been sold. The park opened for its 2008 season on May 10, opening with designated smoking areas, a refurbished Ghost Hunt ride, a fully re-tracked Boulder Dash, and an expanded Lake Compounce Emporium. This new Emporium has been introduced as the park's main exit.
In 2009, the park added three new rides, Jolly Jester, a child pirate ship, Wipeout, a Chance Rides Trabant, and Tunnel Twisters, three twisting and turning water slides. As well, the park introduced new dining options including Slush Factory and Philly Cheesesteaks. In 2011, the park added Rev-O-Lution, a Zamperella Mega Disk-O and removed Lake Plunge water slide to allow for expansion of the water park.
In 2012, the park had moved Mt. Vernon Rd to allow for the expansion of the water park and the rebranding of the water park to go from Splash Harbor to Crocodile Cove. The park added Riptide Racers, a four across Proslide Kraken Racer, rentable cabanas, and expanded lounge and seating areas along the beach. The park introduced Holiday Lights, a Christmas event where there are light shows, rides (Select Are Open), Holiday train rides, and other holiday festivities. Their operating season now went from May to December.
In 2013, the park added Bayou Bay, a large wave pool across from Riptide Racers which continued the Crocodile Cove expansion. The park also added Johnny Rockets mobile food truck which was used in the water park and new changing and bathroom facilities to the new part of the water park. In 2014, the park added a campground called Bear Creak Campground with cabins, tent and RV spaces, and a main lodge. The campground is located offsite the main park, but is very close by. It is open during Lake Compounce's operating season.
Lake Compounce has grown to include three roller coasters and more than forty attractions. The park also includes a large water park by the lake, called Crocodile Cove. The water park includes several slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, and an interactive complex, making it the biggest water park in Connecticut. The park also has three midway game areas and over ten food service locations. Lake Compounce is known for offering free Pepsi soda to all guests and employees who visit the park. Private catered events take place for such companies as the local Bristol-based ESPN and Pfizer. The park also hosts a 4 July firework show over the lake every year.
During October, the park transforms itself into a Halloween experience for adults and children. The midways are decorated, and many of the park's rides are run in the dark. Produced by Graveyard Productions, the haunted house is dubbed "The Haunted Graveyard." The experience consists of a 45-minute walk-through of catacombs, castles, special effects, and graveyards, as well as many other houses being added every year. The Haunted Graveyard started in 1991 and found a home at Lake Compounce in 2001. Portions of the proceeds are donated towards Juvenile Diabetes research. Lake Compounce gets about 12,980 visiter per day.
Plans include doubling the size of the Crocodile Cove water park. This has required the moving of nearby Mount Vernon Road to the north to give the park more room for expansion. The work on the road move was expected to cost $6 million while the additions to the water park were expected to cost $15 million.  After years of efforts to begin the project, the road work was finally started in April 2011, and the park began adding new water rides for the 2012 season.
The park also received permission from the town of Southington, CT to add a spinning roller coaster, though the park has decided to postpone the coaster project in favor of focusing on the water park expansion. The town's approval is good for ten years, so the park may choose to take up the project in the future.
There are also plans for sometime in the future to move the Haunted Graveyard to the other end of the lake, making space for several more rides in its current location.
|Boulder Dash||2000||Custom Coasters International||First wooden coaster to be built entirely on the side of a mountain. The track length is 4,600-foot (1,400 m) long with a 120-foot (37 m) first drop.|
|Wildcat||1927||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||Wooden boards from the original 1927 roller coaster remain intact in the wheelhouse.|
|Zoomerang||1997||Vekoma||A Boomerang shuttle coaster with 120-foot (37 m) drops.|
|Kiddie Coaster||1997||Molina & Sons||A classic children's roller coaster with an oval shaped track. The train consists of five cars with two children or one adult and one child per car.|
|American Flyers||2003||Rocco Amusements||Flying Scooters ride previously located at several different amusement parks, including Kennywood, before being relocated to Lake Compounce.|
|Bumper Cars||1997||Reverchon Industries||Classic bumper cars ride|
|Carousel||1911||Loof/Murphy||Built in 1898 and moved to Lake Compounce in 1911, it is one of the oldest-operating carousels in the US|
|C. P. Huntington Train||1997||Chance||A family train ride which navigates alongside the east shore of Lake Compounce|
|Down Time||2004||S&S Power||A drop tower ride that drops riders 185 feet (56 m) up to 60 mph (97 km/h)|
|Enterprise||1986||HUSS||An Enterprise amusement ride model that consists of 20 gondolas arranged in a circle that spin at nearly a right angle to the ground|
|Giant Wheel||1997||Chance||A Ferris wheel|
|Ghost Hunt||1997||Sally Corporation||A ghosts and ghouls dark ride experience where riders shoot laser guns at targets to score points|
|The Trolley||1997||Osgood Bradley Car Company||Open-air trolley amusement ride that debuted in 1911|
|Pirate Ship||1986||HUSS||Classic swinging pirate ship ride|
|Rev-O-Lution||2011||Zamperla||A Disk'O flat ride that spins 360 degrees on a half-pipe-shaped track|
|Saw Mill Plunge||1986||Arrow Dynamics||A classic log flume ride|
|Sky Coaster||1998||Skycoaster Inc.||A Skycoaster amusement ride that swings riders in a pendulum motion|
|The Sky Ride||1997||Garaventa CTEK||A half-hour chairlift amusement ride that takes riders the top of a nearby mountain|
|Thunder N' Lightning||2006||S&S Power||A Screamin' Swing ride where two giant arms swing riders up to 60 mph (97 km/h) producing up to 3 G's|
|Thunder Rapids||1997||Hopkins||A classic river rapids ride|
|Twister||2000||Wisdom Industries Ltd.||A tornado-style ride where riders are able to spin their gondolas while the entire platform rotates and tilts|
|Wave Swinger||1986||Zierer||A wave swinger flat ride that tilts as riders swing in a circular motion|
|Wipeout||2009||Chance Rides||A modern version of a classic Trabant ride|
|Zoomer's Gas N' Go||2007||Morgan||A 1950s' car-themed attraction for children|
|Caterpillar Train||1997||Zamperla||Ride vehicle has been themed to resemble a caterpillar. Consists of a powered first car and four non-powered training cars which run around a small scale track at a moderate speed. Ride is housed under its own open-air pavilion.|
|Drop Zone||2004||Moser||A 40-foot (12 m) drop tower designed for children. An adult may ride if accompanying a child under 56-inch (140 cm). Riders are lifted 36-foot (11 m) in the air and then 'bounced' to the bottom. There are four different drop sequences to make each ride feel different.|
|Drum Circus||1997||Sartori||Each ride seat is a drum that spins individually while the entire ride spins clockwise. The drums are fixed to arms which raise and lower automatically.|
|Fantasy Carousel||1997||Morgan||A miniature carousel that has two rows of menagerie animals, including a fish, cat, and horse. Some of the figures are animated while others are stationary and there is one wheel chair accessible bench seat. The ride is designed for smaller children, but adults may stand next to a figure to accompany a child.|
|Flying Elephants||1997||Sartori||The ride rotates in a clockwise direction and has 6 arms, each with an 'elephant' attached. The arms rise when the rider pulls the control stick towards them-self, and the elephant descends when the control stick is pushed away.|
|Jolly Jester||2009||Visa SRL||A smaller version of the Pirate Ship where a motor below the ship turns a drive wheel that allows the boat to move back and forth in the direction of the spinning tire. No adults may ride.|
|Kiddie Swinger||1985||Dietz||Consists of sixteen swings suspended from chains on a rotating center.|
|Little Critters||1999||I. E. Park||Small scale bumper cars themed as animals which seat up to two riders. Each passenger wears a shoulder strap across one of their shoulders. The overhead grid provides the power to each car motor. Ride is housed under its own open-air pavilion.|
|Little Dare Devils||1985||Hampton||Consists of small scale motorcycles which rotate in a counter clockwise direction. A large umbrella canopy covers the ride and simultaneously rotates in a clockwise direction.|
|Rainbow Riders||2007||SBF Visa||Consists of eight hot-air balloon themed baskets suspended from a center carriage which rotates and raises 25-foot (7.6 m).|
|Anchor Bay||2005||Lazy river|
|Bayou Bay||2013||Wave pool|
|Buccaneer Bay||1998||Soak zone|
|Clipper Cove||2003||Soak zone|
|Compounce Cabana Boat||2007||Pontoon boat|
|Keeper's Cottage||1998||Soak zone|
|Lights Out||1998||Body slide (enclosed)|
|Mammoth Falls||2001||Raft slide (enclosed)|
|Riptide Racer||2012||Body slide|
|Tunnel Twisters||2009||Body slide|
|Wave Pool||1998||Wave pool|
|Offering||Type||Year Opened||Year Closed||Description||Former location now occupied by|
|Miniature Golf Course||Extra fee||1959||2004||18 miniature golf holes||Anchor Bay|
|Amphitheater||Stage||1988||1997||20,000 seat outdoor amphitheater, home to concerts for many big names bands, and was constructed during the JEG era of the park||Zoomerang|
|Arctic Express||Kiddie ride||2008||Miniature version of the Musik Express for children||Jolly Jester|
|Green Dragon||Roller coaster||1914||1926||Wooden roller coaster that was replaced by the Wildcat||Wildcat|
|Lake Plunge||Tube slide||1999||2011||Tube slide that was enclosed. It splashed out into the lake with 2 variants. It was replaced by Riptide Racer for the 2012 season.||Riptide Racer|
|Musik Express||Amusement ride||1985||2008||A Mack Music Express||Wipe Out|
|Top Spin||Amusement ride||1997||2002||A Huss Top Spin||American Flyers|
|Twister Sisters||Body slide||1985||2007||3 twisting enclosed body slides that were tan in color||Tunnel Twisters|
|Rotor||Amusement ride||1997||2010||A cylindrical spinning ride where centrifugal force stuck the riders to the wall||Rev-O-Lution|
|Paddle Boats||Extra fee||1985||2005||Rental paddle boats||Compounce Cabana Boat|
|Swan Boats||Extra fee||2005||2007||Rental paddle boats themed as swans||Compounce Cabana Boat|
|Mark Twain||Transportation||1999||2007||Flat bottom paddle boat that transported guests across the lake, themed as a classic steam boat||Compounce Cabana Boat|
|Gillette Railway||Transportation||1943||1997||Train designed by William Gillette, and was borrowed from and later returned to Gillette Castle.||C.P. Huntington Train|
Timeline of the addition of attractions
- 2012: Holiday Lights (December Event)
- 2011: Dippin Dots Sundae Shop
- 2009: Slush Factory, Philly Cheese Steak location
- 2008: Lake Compounce Emporium, Designated Smoking Areas
- 2006: Cirque En Vol Outdoor Stage, Panini Grill (Named changed to Market Place in 2007)
- 2005: Starlight Theatre
- 2004: Carousel Cafe
- 2001: The Haunted Graveyard (October Event)
- 1999: Ghostly Games Complex
- 1985: Scrambler (later removed), Antique Autos (later removed)
- 1962: Ferris Wheel (removed 1985)
- 1962: Speedboats
- 1961: Stingbadaanan (removed in 1963)
- 1957: The Little Showboat (removed 1985)
- 1929: Cris Craft Speedboats (removed in 1962)
- 1895: The Crocodile Club
- 1850: The Pleasure Wheel (later removed)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lake Compounce.|
- Official website
- Haunted Graveyard official website
- Fan site
- National Amusement Park Historical Association
- Lake Compounce at the Roller Coaster DataBase