WEATHER: Sunny, mid-80s.
ABOUT ME: Male, age 37. Coaster rider since 1977 and fanatic since 1986. I have more than 330 adult coasters on my "track record". I generally prefer wooden coasters to steel because airtime is one of my big criteria. Also, I don't mind a little headbanging on coasters.
RATING SYSTEM: I subscribe to the ubiquitous Griswold scale, which rates coasters and parks on a scale from -3 to +5. Zero indicates a mildly positive rating.
THE PARK: +3
Joyland is a postage-stamp-sized, family-owned amusement park with lots of big sycamore and oak trees and attractions that belie its size. Joyland's arsenal of rides include a Round-Up, a Tilt-A-Whirl, a Paratrooper, a Dodgem, a Ferris Wheel, a Carousel, a Kiddie Slide, a Wave Swinger, a Giant (gunny sack) Slide, a Scrambler, several kiddie rides, a large, winding extra-price go-kart track, the 1949 Schmeck/PTC Roller Coaster, a single-mast Skycoaster, and a long, rambling, permanently-installed log flume (The Log Jam). In addition, Joyland has the Whacky Shack, a beautiful, well-maintained 1950s gravity-driven pretzel dark ride, and a scenic train ride featuring yet another Chance-built C.P. Huntington train just like those at Conneaut Lake Park and Williams Grove. All of the attractions except the go-kart track are on the park's asphalt midway. The park has a reasonable number of skill games available, including Skee-Ball. The park has a $3.00 gate fee and from there you can either pay 75¢ or $1.50 per ride (using tickets), or you can purchase a Ride-A-Rama wristband for $11.95. The park is generally open only on weekends--2-9 on Saturdays and 2-8 on Sundays.
Joyland has a large, shady picnic grove with several covered pavilions in its center. The park straddles a deep flood control wash (much larger than the one at Knoebel's) which snakes through and has from time to time inundated the park. This happened most recently in 1998 when several boats from the park's Log Jam flume ride were carried off, some going as far as the Arkansas River before being recovered. The midway is in front of the wash; the picnic grove in back of the wash; the go-kart track is on another parcel of land entirely to the left of the wash, accessible only via a large concrete pedestrian bridge. The picnic area is likewise accessible only via one large concrete pedestrian bridge and one aging, deteriorating suspended wooden bridge (which encourages paranoid comparisons to the rope-bridge scenes in 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'). It appears that there is a themed area of Joyland that is closed right now. I saw an area of shops themed like an Old West town on the right end of the park, but it is currently fenced off with a six-foot-tall wooden privacy fence. The park has no other shops (not even a gift shop), so I assume this is where it would have otherwise been located.
The parking lot is about 150 feet from the park midway and holds perhaps a couple hundred cars.
Joyland gets the award for Best Amusement Park Music, even though the award should really go to 105.3 FM ("The Buzz"), which kept the '80s hits coming all day. I haven't enjoyed the music played by a park this much since the music played in the Beast queue at Kings Island in 1986! Joyland has two sets of high-quality public address speakers aimed radially outward from its main game building--and you can hear them from anywhere in the park.
The park was very clean and reasonably well landscaped. I saw people sweeping up, but most of that was just dirt or stuff dropping from the trees--patrons at this park know exactly where trash belongs and it never gets littered in the first place. Most of the park has had a fresh coat of paint this year, with notable exceptions being the Roller Coaster's signage, even thought the station was clearly painted as was the coaster itself.
Joyland's staff and ride ops are very friendly, always asking, "Are you having a good time?" or striking up a conversation whenever you go through a ride queue or visit the food stand. The staff, smartly dressed in their blue Joyland shirts and tan pants/shorts, always authoritatively answered questions about the park or its rides. Carlos, the lone ride op all day at the Roller Coaster, always high-fived riders on their way out of the station and worked the crowd while making sure everyone was following the rules. I love parks that actually put some faith in the sensibilities of its patrons instead of surrounding them with rules and Theme Park Mentality. Heck, the park's scenic train ride crosses pedestrian paths without the use of gate crossing arms in at least three places!
The park has tons of places to sit down--everywhere you turn there are benches; the food stand has several tables with umbrellas, too.
While there are several drink stands scattered throughout the park, there really is only one food stand. This walk-up midsize building with a zigzag roof is built to last -- brick and stainless steel, with a new tile floor in the food preparation area. The park offers hot dogs, corn dogs, Chili Fritos, nachos, pickles, Icees, Coke products, and the item I tried--their $4 chicken fingers/french fry basket. WOW! Everything was made to order, fresh, delivered with a friendly smile, and tasted unbelievably good. The fries especially had to have been some of the best I've ever had. One of the others in our group had a corn dog, which she said was quite good too.
The park only has one set of bathrooms, but though quite small they were clean and there was never a line for them despite the healthy crowd at the park. I contrast this to my visit to Six Flags Ohio in 2000 where I nearly gagged at the stench and conditions of the men's bathrooms--and was completely amazed by the foul mouths of the park patrons inside--and that was after waiting in line forever just to get to them.
The park's 12 peppy go-karts buzz around a large, extremely windy track with a couple of hairpin turns thrown in. For $3, you get 5 minutes or 5 laps around the track. These go-karts were fun, but I have to give the edge to the go-karts at Lakemont Park and their track's cool electronic signal lights.
Roller Coaster (1949 Schmeck/PTC single out and back) +3
Rarely do I find a roller coaster that changes in intensity so much over the course of a day. This coaster, tame in its early runs, becomes an airtime machine by late afternoon and a bat out of hell by nighttime. Both the front and back cars of this coaster's 3-bench, 3-car PTC trains offer excellent air time, though my personal favorite was the absolute last seat. The coaster is about as low tech as they come--an inclined, gravity-load station with two sets of skid brakes (one for unloading, one for loading)--both operated by Big Ol' Brake Levers. Carlos the ride op rode the side of the train from the top of the station to the bottom each cycle. There are no air gates--just two metal railings to loosely define where to go to enter the trains.
A second, far more beat up PTC train lay on the transfer track, mostly obscured by blue tarps. This unused train had wooden floorboards (!) and unlike the woodgrain finish of the train in use, this one was a light to medium blue with multicolored "wings" painted on the sides. Both trains featured the same fixed-position lap bars with unique circular grab handles above and at the corners. Like Kennywood's Jack Rabbit, you have to wiggle yourself into these seats, but once there you'll find them to be well padded and very comfortable. The train has seat belts--and they are required--but they are not required to be tightened down at all.
On-ride photography and videotaping is permitted; our group did both.
Single riders are also permitted, though Carlos the ride op did a fantastic job of pairing up riders to keep the line moving. Considering the line was never more than three trains deep, this was a nice touch.
Only once during the day (about a half-hour before closing) was there an issue with line jumping, and the crowd policed itself and the five offenders voluntarily went to the back of the line (keep in mind, it was only three trains deep to begin with).
The ride, featuring an 'L' dog leg and a lift hill that is slightly askew from the "out" run of the coaster, is bigger than you think. Immediately off the lift, riders are shot skyward as the train tumbles down the steep first hill, then slammed down as it bottoms out. The first three hills all have great air time, then the mostly-dead fourth and fifth hills turn left into the foot of the 'L' and then make a 'U' turnaround; the bland sixth hill is a right turn and the beginning of the mad dash back to the station, which consists of the outstanding seventh, eighth and ninth bunny hills and the final tenth hill--a leap up into the station brakes.
The coaster had just been painted--almost indiscriminately, in fact. Even the coaster's rails were entirely white except for where its wheels contact the metal (only there had the paint already worn off). As a result, the coaster is a brighter white than any other I've ever seen!