Sleeping Summer Giant Waldameer to Reawaken Just In Time
Other regional amusement parks also announce plans
To many, Waldameer Park is a place frozen in time, childhood and summer in their very essence. So far this year, it's been just frozen — rides and attractions lying eerily dormant even while bathed in warmth and sunlight, paralyzed by COVID-19 concerns. Owner Paul Nelson — and really all of Erie — was left to wonder if they'd ever be set in motion again.
Though the rides and attractions at Waldameer have changed over its 124-year history, the bustle, laughter, and delighted shrieks have remained constants for as long as anyone can remember. Thankfully, with the announcement that Erie County will move to the Green Phase of reopening on Friday, June 26, all those signature summer sights, sounds, and thrills will be experienced once again — although at a lesser volume than before, Nelson expects. CDC and PA Department of Health guidelines dictate operating at a capacity of 50 percent or less.
During a phone call in which he was highly critical of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Nelson boiled it down to this: "If I can't open for all of July and August, I won't open." Now that amusement parks have been given the go-ahead, Nelson is shooting to open in time for the Independence Day holiday weekend. Employment applications continue to be accepted online as Waldameer remains heavily reliant on a young seasonal workforce of high school and college-aged individuals. To make up for lost time, a job fair will be held Saturday, June 27 at Rainbow Gardens from 10 a.m. to noon, with hirings potentially on the spot. Employees will be ready to go (and Plexiglass barriers to protect them where interaction is necessary) when the park is.
However, they may be employed differently due to the regulations and restrictions imposed by the virus. In a conversation with the Erie Times News' Jim Martin, Nelson revealed that on any given day there will be four pairs of employees solely devoted to cleaning and sanitizing surfaces. For catered events and picnics, buffet-style dining will disappear in favor of servers delivering the food to patrons directly. Ride operators will be responsible for spacing out riders further, and those waiting in line for them might have to wait a little longer — some attractions may only be able to carry just a few (or even just one) riders at a time.
Of course, that's better than nothing — and allows Waldameer to cover payroll and insurance, Nelson told Martin. Conneaut Lake Park in Crawford County, which is also in the midst of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, opted to cancel their 2020 season altogether. In a May 27 press release shared with their Facebook followers, the park cited their relative lack of resources compared with larger parks (to limit capacities, enforce social distancing, etc.) and prohibitive liability insurance costs as additional deterrents to reopening.
While Conneaut Lake Park has put a stop to its Blue Streak in 2020, other regional amusement parks will keep their consecutive summer streaks intact in some reduced capacity. Here's a brief rundown.
Location: Sandusky, Ohio
Date of reopening: Thursday, July 9 (Season/Gold/Platinum passholders); Saturday, July 11 (all Cedar Point resorts guests)
COVID-19 provisions: Reservations required, with priority given to season passholders and pre-purchased day passholders, those who stay at Cedar Point Resorts property guaranteed entry with purchase of ticket or pass; health screening declaration must be completed via mobile app 24 hours prior to entry; touchless temperature screenings at gate; touchless transactions; enhanced cleaning procedures with hand sanitization stations before and after each ride; mandatory mask or face coverings; pervasive social distancing reminders
Location: West Mifflin, Pa. (just southeast of Pittsburgh)
Date of reopening: Tuesday, July 7 (season passholders); Saturday, July 11 (everyone else)
COVID-19 provisions: All 2020 season passes are valid through 2021 (combined 2020-21 available for purchase for a limited time), any premium or holiday event reservation for 2020 will be honored in 2021; temp checks prior to entry; sanitizing teams (like Waldameer); additional handwashing and sanitizing stations throughout the park; mask and social distancing regulations; additional employee training on disease prevention.
Location: Corfu, N.Y. (slightly northeast of Buffalo)
Date of reopening: TBA
COVID-19 provisions: Admissions by reservations only; thermal imaging (temp checks) of all guests and associates; social distance markers for lines; mobile concession orders; cashless transactions and reverse ATMs; enhanced cleaning and sanitization procedures; handwashing and sanitizer stations at ride entrances and exits and throughout park; masks mandatory and available for purchase
Whatever your cares may be as you laugh/ride/slide/play, Matt Swanseger (email@example.com) hopes that Waldameer can still chase them away this summer.