August 14, 2005
To the west of Cincinnati, Ohio, there lies a little town called Ross, and inside Ross there is a picnic grove called Stricker's Grove. Stricker's Grove is just like any other picnic facility in that it offers above average facilities for groups to hold group outings. It has the groves as well as athletic fields and the all important beer booth. What makes Stricker's Grove particularly interesting it that amongst the groves recreational facilities there is a wonderful amusement midway, complete with two wooden rollercoasters.
While Strickers is a wonderful picnic grove, due to its primary interest in private group outings, there are very few days when the public can just drop by to ride the coasters. Things are looking up for the coaster fans, however, as the park has gone from two public outings a year to three. The first one is the Independence Day picnic and fireworks show held on July 4, then there is Family Day which is typically the second Sunday of August, and lastly in more recent years a day has been added in October.
So it is on this second Sunday of August, that Rideman and I had made plans to go to Strickers for Family Day. Rideman mentioned he had some things he had to do back in Columbus before he could head on down to the park, which was fine since the park didn't open the rides until 2. On days when the park is open to the public it is generally open from 1-9 with the rides open for two ride sessions, the early ride session from 2-5 and the late ride session from 6-9. All the rides close from 5-6 so that the ride operators can take their dinner break, and I suppose makes it easier on the families to pull their group ionto the picnic grove to have their own dinner.
Around 2:30, Rideman and I contact each other, and Rideman suggests making it the evening ride session, which again is fine, I rarely stay for both ride sessions anyway. Around 5:30 I get the next call from Rideman telling me that he is on his way if I am still interested. I ask where Rideman is, and he tells me he just left Columbus. I do the mental math to determine that would get Rideman to my place around 7:30 and us to the park around 8:00. Am I still interested? Why of course, I'll be ready. So around 7:30 Rideman picks me up and we head off. I suggest that maybe we should go to Coney Island instead as it would be much closer than Strickers, but we decided to proceed west and go to Strickers.
We arrived at the park around 8, and pulled into the free parking lot. Due to guests already leaving we were able to park almost right up by the admission gate, and when we walked up to the admission gate, well the kind folks running the gate felt kind of bad about charging us the full $8 admission fee, so I think we got in for $4 each. We entered the park.
Stricker's Grove is a rectangular piece of property with the parking lot taking up one of the long sides, and the admission gate roughly in the middle of one of the long sides. When you enter the park you enter into the picnic area. Straight ahead of you is the cooking pavilion where the grills are located and the picnic shelters are located immediately to your right, and the athletic fields are located to the left. Just to the left of the cooking pavilion is the parks multi purpose building, which has a beer booth and a funnel cakes stand along the outside wall. If you continue past the cooking pavilion you come to the snack bar, and taking a cue from Holiday World, the Free Unlimited Pepsi Stand.
Making a right at the snack bar you pass the skeeball building, and then the arcade which also has some skill games. I also note a new skill games building has been erected across the walkway from the arcade. There is a miniature golf course that runs along side the parking lot and is accessible from the back of the picnic grove. But that's not why we came, we proceeded through the gate located between the two skill games buildings into the amusement ride area.
The amusement ride area is a classic long straight path with rides located on either side. On the left side the rides consist of: a Herchell carousel, complete with a brick carousel pavilion and a working band organ, an empty pad most recently vacated by a PTC Crazy Dasey, the walkway back to the station for the Chance C.P. Huntington Train (which circles the perimeter of the grove, I mean the entire perimeter including the athletic fields, the parking lot, and the big empty field out back, it goes through an impossible tiny tunnel to get under the entrance driveway.), an Eli Bridge Ferris Wheel, a Hurbetz Tip Top, am Eli Bridge Scrambler, a Herchell Helicopter ride, a Bisch Rocco Flying Skooter, and ending up at the Tornado wooden coaster. Walking the midway on the right hand side you first have a pavilion which contains three children's rides which may or may not all be King rides. All three rides are the type of children's rides where the ride vehicles go in nice slow circles. You have boats, cars, or little suspended airplanes to choose from. After that pavilion there is a children's Tumble Bug (Turtle), a Mangels children's Whip, the Teddy Bear (the parks junior wooden rollercoaster), and lastly a big new concrete area that currently holds the parks Sellner Tilt-A-Whirl. You then come to the end which again is anchored by the Tornado.
Rideman and I proceeded to make a beeline for the Tornado but we didn't quite make it. Since Paramount's Kings Island heartlessly ripped out the Flying Eagles, both of us are going through Flying Skooter withdrawal. A ride on the Flying Skooters was therefore in order, and we found several other Flyer enthusiasts taking the same opportunity. Strickers has the portable model whereas PKI had the park model of this ride, so this ride is a bit smaller than we are used to, and the tubs are just solid colors with no fancy artwork of eagles on them, but most importantly the tubs don't get near the amount of ride action that PKI's used to have. It is very hard if not impossible to snap these Flyers and trust me, we were listening for that wonderful sound the whole time we were at the park. I mean you got the tub to go up high and ACT like it was going to snap at the end of a nasty diving drop, but you never got the satisfaction of the loud snap or the tub shaking. That did not stop us from taking a couple rides on it before heading to the Tornado.
The entrance to the Tornado is still guarded by a ticket cage I have never seen used, but it looks like it must get used because it looks like the ticket cage has been renovated. It seems that the Tornado is set up to be an upcharge ride. There was no upcharge for it today, however, and soon we were headed into that wonderful back seat.
The Tornado is based upon a classic Herbert Schmeck/PTC wood coaster design, and fits a nice small to mid sized coaster into a compact footprint. The total height of the ride is just under 60' and the ride is laid out as a double figure 8 layout. The train leaves the station, goes through a turnaround to the right, and proceeds up the lift hill as it crosses over. You go down the first drop, then back up into a turnaround to the left, the second pass through the structure consists of a lot of small speed hills. You won't get strong airtime on any of them, but instead you will just kind of float along, so yes they have nice subtle floater airtime. A turnaround to the right sets you up for what you think is going to be another pass just like the last one. It is except for the final hill which rides like a mistake, a WONDERFUL mistake. Whereas the ride had carried on a nice mild mannered demeanor up to this point, the last drop on the third pass contains a moment of strong ejector airtime, especially in the last car. You make a turnaround to the left, and there is another moment of airtime as you head into the brakes and then the station.
Its not a very thrilling coaster, but it is a very fun approachable coaster. I have even got my mom to ride this one with me! We took a couple rides on the Tornado, then took some time to look at the Tilt A Whirl. The State of Ohio has recently made a lot of changes in the requirements for fences around rides. Stricker's Grove, like most Ohio parks and carnivals had to make a lot of changes to update their fences and gates to meet the new standards. They also added this big new concrete pad in the area between the Tornado and the Teddy Bear. It used to be just a grass field that contained the Flying Skooter, but this season it seems the Flying Skooter and the Tilt-A-Whirl have changed places. Another part of the new fence laws is a little provision that particularly affects portable rides, in that the operator must prevent someone from crawling underneath the ride. Up at the state fair a week earlier I had noted that people were using that orange mesh fencing commonly seen on ski trails to close the area between the ground and the bottom of the ride trailer, and also along the sides of the ride where the top of the sidewall of the ride is less than the minimum required fence height.. Strickers decided to enclose their tilt with a second fence that runs along the perimeter of the ride a few feet away.
There is also a rumor floating around that the Tilt may soon be sharing this concrete pad with the Mack Hully Gully the park recent'y purchased from Cedar Point, and made a big show of taking delivery of during the October public day last season. A less confirmed rumor is that a Sellner Berry-Go-Round may take the place vacated by the Crazy Dazy.
We continued along the midway and took a ride on the classic Teddy Bear. The Teddy Bear is made from the same plans as countless other PTC kiddie wood coasters built in the 1920's It has a very similar trackplan as the Beastie, just only about half as tall. The Teddy Bear also has some really soft plush padding in its cars, unlike that hard concrete-is-more-forgiving "padding" used on the Tornado. Anyway, we had a pleasant ride on the Teddy Bear. We then learned the park has followed Holiday World's lead in another way by installing waterless urinals.
We then took a ride on the Tip Top. It's a spin the tub ride, except that during the ride, the whole platform tips up, and then starts softly bouncing.. Its a unique sensation, and I clccked us having gotten the very heavy ride tub up to 20RPM. I like spin rides.
After the Tip Top, we could not pass up another couple rides on the Flying Skooter before ending the day on the Tornado. All in all, I'd say we got a lot accomplished in the hour we had at the park. After the last Tornado ride I sprinted up hoping to get to the Funnel Cake stand in time, but no such luck. I was able to get some cotton candy, which I consumed while a group of ride enthusiasts stood and chatted for a long time in the parking lot after the park closed for the night.
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