By MIKE CHAIKEN
It’s one of those signs that summer is around the corner.
Lake Compounce Amusement Park opened for the season on Saturday.
At 11 a.m., little by little, guests started filing into the park that sits along the Bristol/ Southington border. By that time, the morning’s rains had finally subsided. The temperatures turned up enough to reach short-sleeve and shorts weather. And brave souls realized that, yes, it was a good day for a ride on the Boulder Dash roller. (A little later in the afternoon, unfortunately, rain and thunder put a damper on opening day activities.)
General Manager Gerry Brick, offering a tour of the park, said there was a push to finish last minute maintenance tasks before the public was let through the front gates for the season’s debut. He noted a spot where some pavement had been restored the day before. He pointed out the mulch freshly raked across a patch of earth near the opening gates. But the park was definitely ready for its guests.
Brick said the opening day crowd tends to be primarily season ticket holders or, in the case of this year, patrons taking advantage of the day’s two-for-one ticket promotion. The initial lighter crowd on Saturday morning (Brick expected things to get busier as the day progressed) was probably advantageous, the general manager said. It allowed the staff members to get in the groove before the larger crowds arrive as the summer proceeds.
In past years, new amusement rides were the big news at the nation’s oldest continuously operating amusement park. This year, however, the big news came in the form of a couple of other attractions adding to the park’s experience.
Around the corner from the Starlight Theater and the historic carousel, Brick pointed out the new Pink’s Hot Dogs, the iconic Los Angeles restaurant that has now set up stakes with a new Connecticut location. Inside Brick pointed out a décor that kept in line with the spirit and traditions of the iconic Hollywood brand. On the walls, images of Pink’s history mingled with highlights from Compounce’s history.
Although all was ready inside for Pink’s to open this past Saturday, Brick said the park opted to hold off until this coming Saturday. That’s when the founders of Pink’s will be on hand to see the unveiling of their new location.
Another new attraction at Compounce will be opening in July.
Bear Creek campground takes the park into an entirely new realm as a destination spot in central Connecticut. Bear Creek is built on 20 acres of land on the Southington side of Compounce’s property. Taking a trip in a four-wheel drive vehicle along a muddy trail, Brick pointed out the improvements to the property in preparation for the arrival of campers. When the property is ready, the park will place cabins (including ones that are specifically constructed as handicapped accessible) and teepees for campers. There also will be space for tents and parking for RVs. There also is a lodge being built that will offer a store, food services, laundry, and showers. And when guests are ready, there will be a shuttle that will take them from Bear Creek into the amusement park.
Brick described the construction of Bear Creek as a huge undertaking for the park. He pointed out the areas where new sewer and water lines were extended. He pointed out where the landscape has been re-contoured. Even the park’s neighbor, Tilcon, has gotten into the act by reshaping some of its hills for the benefit of the coming campers, said Brick.
The campground, in addition to drawing tourists, also will add to the park’s full-time benefitted staff, said Brick. How many employees will be added to the work force is yet to be seen, said Brick. The park will have a better idea of its staff needs once the campground is operational.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN