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Maze Mania, 3013 US 17 Business Garden City: 2013   16 comments

Posted at 10:59 pm in attraction,grand-strand,out-of-area

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The concept of Maze Mania was simple: You go into the maze, find the cheese, and get out of the maze. Best time wins.

It was a little more complicated in execution. The "cheese" was actually a box size wooden mock-up wedge with an electric rubber stamp device embedded inside it. Every day, the cheese would be moved to a different part of the maze, where it would be put on a special stand near an outlet. When you started the maze, you would be given a timecard with your start time, and when you found the cheese, you would stick the timecard into the block, which would stamp a picture of a piece of cheese on the card (proving that you completed the task), then you would try to find the exit, where your final time would be recorded. Assuming you were a kid, your parents would probably be on the observation deck overlooking the maze shouting down more (or less) helpful hints. Presumably, if you were a college student, it would be a bunch of drunk friends instead.

I only ran the maze, officially, once, probably about 20 years ago. I thought it was a lot of fun, and always wanted to take some younger cousins or other relatives there, but somehow never made it happen. I noticed earlier in the year that the place didn't seem to be open in what should be a viable, if not peak, time, and so made a point of looking in on it this summer as I would drive by at various times which led me to the conclusion that it was closed.

I finally made the time to stop and have a look at it. The big mouse billboard was in obvious need of cleaning, and the door sign said "closed for the season" without specifying what season that was. I have concluded it was probably fall 2013.

Finding my way back into the maze itself, I saw lots of signs of neglect and general decrepitude. The worse bit was a whole section of maze wall that had fallen down (or been knocked over) but overall there were a number of loose boards, and vegetation encroachment. Still, I think a good handyman with some lumber and paint could make the place runnable again with no more than one or two days work.

As you can tell from the pictures, it was a rather gray day, and started raining when I was out in the maze, and yes, I did get lost. (You can always find your way out of a maze by following the right wall if all else fails, but it may not be the shortest route by any means!)

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Written by ted on August 4th, 2014

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Play Area, Richland Mall: Winter 2013   no comments

Posted at 1:06 am in attraction,entertainment

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It's not clear to me how a play area could be "out of order". I suspect its more like the area didn't get enough traffic to make paying to keep it clean worthwhile.

(Hat tip to commenter Matt)

Written by ted on January 10th, 2014

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Ping Pong Plaza, Richland Mall: Winter 2013 (Open again!)   6 comments

Posted at 1:24 am in attraction,entertainment,venue

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After a bit of a kerfuffle with Richland County, the Palmetto Table Tennis Club ended up opening a ping pong plaza at Richland Mall, just behind the old TGI Friday's and in-between the elevator column and the entrance of the old Blacklion.

It seemed a nice use for an empty space, and there were perhaps half a dozen or more ping pong tables there at one time. When I went through in early December however, the plaza was completely bereft of tables (though all the posters and signage were still there).

UPDATE 19 December 2013: Well, I don't know what was going on, but the tables are back!

Written by ted on December 17th, 2013

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Leonard Bearstein, Richland Mall: 2012   1 comment

Posted at 12:01 am in attraction,entertainment

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Well, of course I never thought to get a picture of them, but every year since the 1980s, the main elevator court at Richland Mall hosted a full orchestra of animitronic bears playing Christmas music. The signage proudly announced that the conductor bear who stood with his back to the audience benches (which were in front of Barns & Noble facing the elevator) was 'Leonard Bearstein'.

Because, you know: Richland Mall, there was never a crowd for the bears, but generally there would be a couple of kids and parents, perhaps heading to or from Gymboree sitting on (or running around) the benches.

I don't know if there was too much wear-and-tear on the bears, or it's just that nobody cares anymore, or the last guy who knew how to put them together retired, but this year, the bandstand is not in evidence, Leonard Bearstein is not tapping his baton, and the holiday decor is Christmas trees only.

Written by ted on December 11th, 2013

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Carolina Renaissance Festival, Huntersville North Carolina: 2 & 3 November 2013   5 comments

I'd heard the radio ads for the Carolina Renaissance Festival for years, but somehow never got around to going until the start of November. For one thing, I wasn't quite sure where Huntersville was (answer: just north of Charlotte), for another I didn't know if there would be enough there to be worth a weekend.

In the event, I was quite pleasantly surprised. The place is a couple of miles east of I-77 and has an interesting air of semi-permanence about it. The parking lot is obviously a pasture or some such non-graded space, and the buildings are all open to the air with porta-johns providing the facilities, but yet they are permanent structures, and the festival is now in its 20th year.

The crowd is an interesting mix. There are the standard parents-with-kids families out for a day of face painting and low-tech carnival rides, then there are the Society For Creative Anachronism types, the "healing crystals" and New Age crowd and the Celts and fairies crowd. One comic storyteller commented that there was a lot of crossover with engineering and science-fiction fandom types (and indeed SCA is strongly correlated with SF fandom..) such that he could tell Rene Descartes jokes ("Rene Descartes walks into a bar. The bartender asks him if he wants a beer. 'I think not', says Descartes and vanishes..")

The show people were great. Everyone had a line of patter to draw in a crowd (the fire eater: "I'm not that good. Come watch me, I might hurt myself!"), and kept up rapid fire comedy bits while swallowing swords ("You can only swallow a sharp sword once!"), walking the tightrope, abusing the peasants or juggling.

It was also a "something for all ages" event. As I mentioned there were plenty of kid friendly activities, but there was also a bit of a bawdy side for the grownups at events labeled LC ("loose cannon").

Here's a few videos.

From the sublime:

To the freaky:

To the dangerous:

To the NSFW:

And the even less SFW:

The Fair runs weekends through the rest of November.

Lots more after the jump.

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Written by ted on November 13th, 2013

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TELEVAC 86000 / CENTAURI-68000, South Carolina State Fair: 2012   37 comments

Posted at 11:32 pm in attraction,historic

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Once upon a time, computers were magical devices, "Electronic Brains", spoken of with tinges of awe and fear. See for instance the classic Hepburn / Tracy movie Desk Set. Nobody, in their day-to-day lives would expect to see a computer, and few people had any idea what they actually looked like. Everybody was sure, however, that they involved lots of blinking lights (and tape drives moving forever back and forth).

That first actually wasn't far from the truth. Early computers did have many lights, often signifying bits in various registers and program counters. They also had toggle switches (like the much missed computer in the old Columbia Science Museum) for setting all those bits.

The illuminated front panels of early computers loomed large enough in techie culture that you often found variations of the following sign posted in a computer room:


ACHTUNG!
ALLES TURISTEN UND NONTEKNISCHEN LOOKENPEEPERS!
DAS KOMPUTERMASCHINE IST NICHT FÜR DER GEFINGERPOKEN UND MITTENGRABEN!
ODERWISE IST EASY TO SCHNAPPEN DER SPRINGENWERK, BLOWENFUSEN UND POPPENCORKEN MIT SPITZENSPARKSEN.
IST NICHT FÜR GEWERKEN BEI DUMMKOPFEN. DER RUBBERNECKEN SIGHTSEEREN KEEPEN DAS COTTONPICKEN HÄNDER IN DAS POCKETS MUSS.
ZO RELAXEN UND WATSCHEN DER BLINKENLICHTEN.

and the portmanteau word blinkenlights permanently entered the hacker lexicon.

So people were interested, a bit awed and a bit scared by the idea of computers, and had only a very general idea of what they could do and how they looked. Thus: The TELEVAC 86000.

This amiable faux computer has been making the rounds for as long as I can remember, which is to say, at least since 1965 or so, and probably prior to that. Every year, it would set up shop in the Steel Building or the Ruff Building and dazzle the passers by. How could you possibly doubt a handwriting analysis from the TELEVAC 86000? IT'S A COMPUTER! IT'S SCIENCE! IT HAS BLINKING LIGHTS!

While we never did spring for the analysis when my parents took us to the fair back in the day, I have the feeling that at the time, this wonder of technology dispensed pre-printed cards dissecting your penmanship -- certainly there were no portable printers available for such a travelling roadshow.

As the years went on, the TELEVAC did add a printer, and astrological predictions as well as handwriting analysis, but the basic blinkenlights front panel stayed fundamentally unaltered, even through the name change to the less antique sounding CENTAURI-68000.

By the time I actually dropped $3.00 in 2012, the whole concept was not too credible. Whereas in 1965, nobody had seen a computer, much less had a computer, and the blinkenlights represented (to this 5 year old anyway) the apex of science, by 2012 most everybody (including lots of the 5 year olds) had a computer, and everybody knew what one looked like.

Sad to say, the TELEVAC / CENTAURI did not make an appearance at the 2013 State Fair, and I'm afraid it is the end of an era.

Written by ted on October 21st, 2013

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South Carolina State Fair 2013, Fairgrounds: 20 October 2013   6 comments

Posted at 11:03 pm in attraction,entertainment,events,venue

Well, if you've been following Columbia Closings for a while, you won't find any real surprises here. I like what I like (mainly neon in the case of the State Fair) and you'll find a lot of what you found last year here this year again. I did try out the in-camera HDR setting of my LX7 some this year, and I think it works better for this kind of shot than it does for daylight ones where I've never really been happy with it.

I will say that for what should be an important anniversary year (150 years of the State Fair..) the Fair was a little sparse this year. It seemed to me that the artwork was fewer pieces spaced farther apart and the Steel Building (and the one to the right of it which name escapes me) had fewer booths this year, with some stalwarts missing. In particualr, I didn't notice the Hmong craft booth this year, and the Grey Market DVD booth was not there. There was also another surprising no-show which I'll mention tomorrow. And, granted it was Sunday evening, but still I didn't get to ride the bumper cars this year because I would have been the only car in the rink, and what's the fun of that?

Anyway, it was still fun to walk around, eat greasy food and watch the people and rides. Lots after the break!

(And check back in a few days when I finally have the skyride video uploaded..)

Also: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

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Written by ted on October 20th, 2013

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Myrtle Beach IMAX, 1325 Celebrity Circle: November 2011   11 comments

Posted at 12:20 am in attraction,entertainment,grand-strand

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IMAX theaters are kind of an odd duck in the movie world. They have tremendous screens and potentially a lot of advantages over regular theaters, but all seem to be run on kind of an amateur basis. For a time, South Carolina had two IMAX screens, one at the Charleston Aquarium, and this one at Broadway At The Beach in Myrtle Beach.

I used to go down to the Charleston one fairly regularly for spectacles like Harry Potter and The Polar Express. I wasn't too surprised when it went under as the parking situation was rather fraught.

Given the amount of time I spend on the Grand Strand, it always surprised me how seldom I got to the Myrtle Beach IMAX. It just seemed that whenever I would check it out, it was all sharks & dinosaurs. From time to time there would be a a good second run movie there, like Beauty & The Beast, The Phantom Menace or The Dark Knight, but it was always six months or more after the fact, by which time I had usually seen them elsewhere. (Though for the record, the IMAX cut of The Phantom Menace was much better than the regular theatrical release because the hard running-time limit imposed on IMAX at the time, due to the huge weight of the reels, forced Lucasfilms to cut a lot of the dross..).

This pattern continued even when IMAX hit its peak nationally with big hits. Given the lackluster record of the Myrtle Beach site, I wasn't too surprised when it closed in November of 2011. As it turns out though, there was a reason the place was so far below its potential. According to The Sun News the IMAX actually had a non-compete agreement with the Carmike 16 adjoining it at Broadway At The Beach. The fact that they would ever have agreed to such a thing kind of confirms my opinion of the amateur nature of IMAX management, but does explain why they never had the hit first-run movies. The ampitheatre re-opened this summer as a Carmike property, using a different big-screen technology called BIGD. I have not had a chance to check it out, but presumably there is no longer an issue of Carmike competing with itself.

Currently South Carolina has no IMAX locations. I believe that Charlotte is the closest outlet, but I have incorporated an IMAX stop into my Florida vacations for the last few years of big releases. Tampa had two, one at the port Canalside complex in Ybor City, and one at the big science museum. The Canalside location closed a year or so ago, and the last two years, I have hit the World Golf Hall of Fame location in St. Augustine for Dark Knight offerings. I'm pretty sure that this summer they had switched to digital projection, and it was much less impressive. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could see pixels at times. IMAX seems to be floundering at the corporate level as well as at the local. In recent years, they have diluted their brand by revamping mall-type multiplexes and labeling them IMAX. This, of course, leads Internet wags to label these outlets as "Liemax" locations, and there is no easy way to tell from their publicity which locations are true IMAX and which are not. In the meantime, Hollywood seems to be betting that High Frame Rate rather than huge screens is the next big thing. I guess time will tell, but in the meantime, even sharks and dinosaurs are gone from Myrtle Beach.

Written by ted on February 18th, 2013

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Brookgreen Gardens Nights of 1000 Candles 2012, Brookgreen Gardens (Grand Strand): 22 December 2012   no comments

Posted at 1:38 am in attraction,events,grand-strand

I went down to see the Gardens last weekend (the 15th) and ended up getting rained out, so I took a daytrip back yesterday.

This was neither the warmest nor the coldest of the Candles events I've been to, but it was cold enough that I had trouble feeling the smaller camera controls with frigid fingers..

I didn't take my tripod this year. They were disallowed last year, and while I didn't see any verbiage one way or another this time, I decided I would do more handheld shots at high-ISO rather than try to get a lot of long exposures. (Though I did set the camera on various rests to get some). That is preface to say there is a good bit more noise than previous picture sets, but there are still some nice ones.

They went all out in the exhibit room with electric trains this year -- possibly the most iconic Christmas present for boys of a certain age. The room had that immediately identifiable ozone smell from the working transformers and small hot engines as well as the unique sounds of O-27 trains (there were other guages as well). I've still got a set up in the attic -- I ought to take it out and set it up some time.

If you liked this set, there are others: 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008.

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Written by ted on December 24th, 2012

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South Carolina State Fair 2012, Fairgrounds: 21 October 2012   16 comments

Posted at 11:33 pm in attraction,entertainment,events,venue

(Folks coming in from the link at the CarnivalWarehouse.com forum, you may be interested in my pictures from previous South Carolina State Fairs -- Ted)

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Well, as always, the South Carolina State Fair was a good time, with lots of beautiful art, greasy food, neon in motion and oddball retail. If you've read one of these posts before, don't expect anything particularly new this year; it's pretty much the same sights I usually enjoy capturing. I didn't submit anything for the art exhibition this year, so no pictures of the pre-Fair ceremony.

I've got a couple of videos I'll add later as soon as I can get them uploaded to youtube. In the meantime, enjoy!

UPDATE 27 October: First video (cablecars) is uploaded above.

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