Can you hear the clinking of pulleys, chunking of metal and squeals in
the cool, crisp air, as the whoosh of people fly past on colorful rides in
the amusement park? It’s one of the last October joys of the season.
Summer is fun to hang out with friends in high-profile Theme Parks or for a corporate picnic with co-workers. But, there’s nothing like riding a Tilt-o-Whirl or racing go-carts with your grandsons on a clear, autumn day.
It’s more special in a little, mountain amusement park, with the smell of freshly, fallen
leaves and a chill in the air from the dusting of snow leftover from the night
Yes, we managed to get it in before real winter sets in. It’s a tradition we try to keep with our grandsons every year. I know it won’t be long, when they’ll have their own friends they’d rather hang out with and that door will be closed forever. I can only hope these memories of rides and amusement parks will stay with them like they have for me.
When I was a kid, there was a carnival that came to town at the end of the summer. We watched from our front porch, as the trucks rumbled in, set up in the field right across the street from my grandparent’s house and a block from downtown. In the years prior, when the amusement company was smaller, they used to set up a few doors down in the parking lot of the fire station.
It always captured the imaginations of my sister, cousins and I with the sights, sounds and smells.
Night after night, in that little field, we’d watch the progress of the fairytale city go up until the Ferris wheel, Tilt-o-Whirl and other rides were fully erected along with game booths and concession stands. Then, they’d open for business and for one full week the town would take on a new life with the bustling of people from miles around.
It was magical, unlike anything I ever remembered. My grandparents would give us a little money to go on the rides and play some of the games, like throwing hoops on bottles or baseballs at bowling pins.
As each night wound down and we ran out of money, we’d go back home across the street to Grandmom’s and watch from our front porch until it was time to go to bed. Then, if we were quiet, we were allowed to sit at the front window on the floor in my grandparents’ front bedroom and watch until they closed down. We could hear the traffic slow, see the last of the people trickle out and ride after ride shut down.
Then, the vendors and company workers would clean up their stations, run their maintenance checks and count their money. Slowly, one-by-one, the lights and machines would turn off and the fairytale city would go to sleep. We sat on the floor, at the window, taking it all in, whispering back and forth to each other, in the wee hours of the morning.
Soon, the week would draw to an end. There were big promotions giving one last push for the finale. More people would come to get in one more night of fun and rides for the summer. It was a crescendo of sights, sounds and smells. There were hot dogs and cotton candy, colorful lights, hi-fi music blasting from speakers playing “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, clinking and whirling of rides and people’s squeals of delight.
Then, it was over. But, this time, when the people left, instead of the fairytale city shutting down and going to sleep, it was slowly dismantled and packed away in trucks. In the early morning hours, they would quietly leave, on to the next town bound to do this all over again. For us, it was like a dream, they were here and then gone – puff!
Afterwards, we’d go over and comb the empty field for loose change, occasionally finding a dollar or two. Our dreams came true once more feeling the reality and glee of a traveling roadshow.
Simple times, then, in remembering, but no less joyful on the early October rides with our grandsons at a small, mountain amusement park.
Pat from the ol’ kitchen table