Location: Elysburg, PA
Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, PA has been America’s largest free admission amusement park since 1926. This award winning park has been going strong ever since. The amusement park is owned and operated by the Knoebel family who also own a lumber yard nearby. The park is located on what was originally farmland known as “Peggy’s Farm”. It was a popular summer destination for travelers in the horse and buggy era, with a swimming hole and picnic grove. Henry Knoebel began selling ice cream and soft drinks to visitors and soon “Knoebels Grove” was THE place to be. Henry added some simple games, a restaurant, the original carousel, and some cabins (some of which still exist in the park today). The park officially became an amusement resort when Henry opened the Crystal Pool in 1926. The pool, the focal point of the park, is still in operation and has the High Dive plus many unique features not seen in pools today. Since then, Knoebels has added some 57 rides, attractions and concessions, plus a campground.
One major issue the park faces repeatedly is flooding. In 1972, Hurricane Agnes caused the creek running through Knoebels to flood destroying 24 of 25 rides and many buildings. It didn’t take long to get back up and running after the devastation. Just nine days later, through the help of friends, volunteers, and employees, Knoebels was operational. However, the issue has recurred in 1996, 2004, 2006, 2011. Some years were more difficult to recover from than others. But they have done it creatively with some new construction and repurposing of buildings. For example, the park’s roller rink has been repurposed into a concession stand, arcade, and theater now.
The award winning Haunted Mansion opened in 1973 and the first roller coaster to be added was Jet Star in 1977 which only took three weeks to assemble. It continued to operate until 1992 when it was replaced by Whirlwind which was subsequently closed and also replaced. There is a wooden roller coaster called Twister, which is based off of Mr. Twister, a coaster in Elitch Gardens in Denver, Colorado. This coaster was built “in house” by local carpenters like many Knoebels rides. Arise the Phoenix from the ashes of the Rocket from Playland Park in San Antonio, Texas. This ACE Coaster Landmark came to Knoebels in 1985 but first had to be carefully disassembled piece by piece and reassembled by number so that coaster lovers could enjoy its abundant airtime. In 2006, Knoebels began a most daunting task of building Flying Turns. It is based on the original 1920s design by John Miller and John Bartlett but unlike the modern steel bobsled coasters, this design is wood like the original as well. Headway is being made but the ride is not open yet.
Most recently, Knoebels has opened Black Diamond (2011) that recognizes the region’s coal heritage, and the 148 foot drop tower called StratosFear (2013) to their ride collection. In addition, the Grand Carousel, which replaced the original carousel, celebrated its 100th birthday with a grand birthday party. In 2013, the park edged Hershey Park in the Travel Channel’s Top Ten list of Amusement Parks to visit. In other media, the Haunted House, which has been a favorite of dark ride lovers, was featured on the Discovery Channel. In 2011, Phoenix held the #2 position for being the Best Wooden Coaster and Grand Carousel help the top spot while for 14 consecutive years beginning in 1998, the park’s food held top honors in Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards. It’s no wonder why people hold a soft spot in their hearts for Knoebels Amusement Resort.
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