As a youth, I went to Conneaut Lake Park with my family every summer. It was me, my mother, my grandmother and my aunt. Best vacation a kid could have.
I stopped going for about 30 years. The herd, inevitably, thinned.
Then, four years ago, I started going again. Sad, but uplifting. You retrace the steps you took with those long gone and, for a split-second, it’s like they’re there.
I stay at the same place: The Hotel Conneaut, at the edge of both lake and park. It’s been fixed up quite a bit over the last four years. It used to be grand, a classic old-school resort hotel. Now it’s an anachronism. To get a room with air-conditioning and cable TV, you have to ask. But how could I stay anywhere else?
The park is beat up. Fires have made the top quarter of the midway look bombed out. The dance hall, where I saw The James Gang (featuring Joe Walsh), is gone. But the legendary Blue Streak roller coaster is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Miniature golf (which I loved as a child) is up and running. It’s still the same park.
The park is open 4-5 days per week. The staff is minimal. Almost exclusively high school or college kids. That’s a great experience, working summers at a place like that. Sharpens your social skills.
My 24 hours at Conneaut Lake included:
*Two foot-longs at the legendary Eddie’s Hot Dogs. Sauce and onions, ketchup and onions.
*Frozen custard at the equally legendary Hank’s. Graham-cracker sundae.
*A couple laps of the boardwalk, beach and (shut-down) park Wednesday night. Eerie.
*Another couple laps before the park opened yesterday. Can’t let a day off Nutrisystem do too much damage.
*Breakfast at Miller’s Food Factory, where Roy Rogers once ate. I’d have thought he’d eat exclusively at Roy Rogers.
*The fabulous Linesville Spillway, where the ducks walk on top of the fish. I once saw a bald eagle take a dump on some jerk’s head there. God bless America!
*Miniature golf. Tough course. Shot 40, just 4 over. I still got it.
*A walk through the now-open park. A stop at the Log Cabin. It was once a coffee shop and the last place my family went at evening's end. Now it's a gift shop. If I could change two things back at Conneaut Lake Park, I'd make the Log Cabin a coffee shop again, and I'd restore the top of the midway.
*Sitting on the hotel’s extended porch, reading and watching the beach.
*Dinner at the Silver Shores restaurant overlooking the lake. Terrific food and view.
*PARK FRIES! They leave Kennywood’s Potato Patch in the dust.
That’s it. A stop at Tim Horton’s for coffee, then homeward bound. How does Conneaut Lake have a Tim Horton’s , but Pittsburgh doesn’t?
That itinerary might seem boring. But I’m looking forward to visiting again.
During one of my walks around the park, I spoke with the girls running the Pony Ride. Yes, a kid can ride a pony at Conneaut Lake Park. Back when, I often did. One of the “ponies” is 47, and the thought crossed my mind: I rode that horse once. The thought crossed the horse’s mind: Oh, no, not that fat kid again.
Big concert Sunday at the pavilion between the hotel and The Beach Club night spot: Bret Michaels headlining, a Led Zeppelin tribute band opening! Not quite The James Gang, but...