By JEN CARDINES
The oldest continuously operating amusement park in North America will open its gate for the 171st season on Saturday, May 6. Located right on the Bristol and Southington border, Lake Compounce has long been a recreation destination for the local community and people across the state.
Park operators have spent the last two months putting rail cars back on the coasters, reattaching chains and seats on rides, and stocking the game centers with new prizes to prepare for this year’s opening day.
As always, the water park will hold off opening until Memorial Day, along with the Wildcat roller coaster, due to its new make-over. Brand new trains with various animal prints were lifted nearly 100 feet in the air by crane while a construction crew re-tracked the oldest coaster on site.
“It’s 90 years old this year,” Sara Frias, director of marketing, said about the Wildcat.
As the finishing touches are being added, the wooden coaster will remain closed until later this month. Lake Compounce is home to Boulder Dash, which has been voted the world’s No. 1 wooden roller coaster, as well as Connecticut’s largest water park. The park offers rides for all ages, including thrillers, carousels, kid coasters, dining facilities, an old fashioned Ferris wheel, and more. Just last year, the Phobia Phear Coaster became New England’s first triple launch coaster with speeds up to 65 miles per hour and a cobra roll 150 feet in the air.
But what goes into the making of the magic? During the off-season, the park doesn’t look the same as when it is in full operation. Anything movable gets put into storage and certain rides can be lowered to the ground or covered. When the weather breaks and spring has sprung, park officials put it all back together.
“It takes us a couple of months to prepare everything,” Frias said. Teams of people move coaster cars and accessories out of storage to reassemble the rides. The swings, for example, get put away each winter and each seat and chain have to be put back on.
Workers are found scattered across the facility tightening bolts and inspecting rides, or even constructing new amenities. Frias said that a new sheltered rest station will be available this year as well.
Last week, Lake Compounce officials bought land that borders the property from Briarwood Real Estate. The parcel, just south of the lake and located on Mount Vernon Road, is on the Southington side of the park. It sits across from Lincoln College of New England.
“The newly acquired land was purchased for future expansion of Lake Compounce,” said Frias. “It came up for sale and we had the opportunity to purchase it.” She added that there are no immediate plans for the new space, which is about eight acres.
For info about the park, tickets and passes, visit www.lakecompounce.com.
Photos by JEN CARDINES