Archive for the ‘attraction’ tag
Well, I had written a few paragraphs about the State Fair, mainly lamenting the demise of the Steel Building, had got it posted and even had a comment on the post when my whole database went *Kaflooey*!. Enjoy these pictures of the State Fair while I try to get back to a somewhat normal state..
UPDATE 28 October 2015
OK, I'm not going to be able to find the original text in google cache, so the post went something like this:
It turns out 2014 was the end of an era, though I didn't know it at the time. This year, the Steel Building which has been a central focus for the Fair for all of my life was gone. In its place is an open plaza called Hampton Plaza, this year the site of an animatronic exhibit called Enter The Dinosaurs. The function of the Steel Building has been largely picked up by a new building at the South wall called the Goodman Building. It houses many, though not all, of the exhibits and vendors typically in the Steel building, but seems designed to be slightly more upscale. The Cantey Building has been extensively reconfigured for the Art exhibit, and is now much better lit (and the upstairs arcade is unused). The flowers have moved across the corridor from the Ellison Building to the Cantey Building and most of the agricultural exhibits have made the opposite move.
Anyway, if you've followed my Fair posts, you know the kind of thing I like, and these pictures are more of it.
I'll also note that the Televac 86000 handwriting computer is still gone..
UPDATE 21 March 2016 Wow, who would have thought this photo and letter would turn up at my house at this late date, but there we are: David Pearson's first ride crew on Thunder Road. See the text below for details.
Grit Your Teeth
Bear The Load
Enjoy Your Ride
On Thunder Road
-- Burma Shave
I was on the first run of Thunder Road on 3 April 1976.
As it happened, I had won a phone-in contest on WIS Radio. I suppose there were similar contests on stations all over the Carolinas to fill both cars. It was not the first time I had been to Carowinds, I remember a school trip in particular, but it was not the quick jaunt from Columbia it is nowdays, as I-77 between Columbia & Charlotte was not yet finished and it was a longish two lane drive on US-21.
In its initial configuration, the two track coaster was promoted as a "race" between moonshiners and police with the trams on each track having automobile body front ends. For the initial ride, we contest winners were divided into two teams, one per car, and in the front seat of each car was a then prominent NASCAR driver. I'm afraid I didn't (and don't) really follow NASCAR so the names of our team leaders has totally slipped my mind. I have the feeling that our team was on the right hand track, and that we were the law, but I couldn't swear that to you. What I do remember in particular is the set of four Burma Shave signs, quoted above, which were between the two tracks as the cars were chain pulled to the top of the first hill. They gave you something to laugh about just before cresting the hill and that first precipitous descent.
At the time, my experience with roller coasters was pretty limited. My father did not trust the travelling coasters at the State Fair, so the only coasters I had ridden were the Swamp Fox in Myrtle Beach, and the mining themed Goldrusher also at Carowinds. There was really no comparison, and Thunder Road was a thrill ride far and above either (though I still love both the others). There was just something about that initial jerk and the clank of the chains as you went up that first hill, then teetered on top of the world for a second before the bottom dropped out..
I rode Thunder Road many other times over the years, though probably not any after the early 1980s. I totaly missed the era when they ran one of the trains facing backwards.
When I heard that Thunder Road was to be retired, I wanted to try and be on the last ride, but in the event I was on vacation that day, and while I seriously considered making the ten hour round trip drive, in the end I didn't. It would make a better story, but that's life.
I did go out last weekend though and get what pictures I could of the attraction before it is all torn down. The entrance is in what is now the Snoopy section of Carowinds while the main body parallels the water park area.
It's kind of sad how little of the original Carowinds remains. Really, I think the only two remaining original rides are the Eastern Airlines Skytower and the aforementioned Goldrusher. While I was googling some Thunder Road facts for this post, I ran across a teriffic site Carowinds The Early Years where most of the links above come from, and which you should definitely visit. Who could forget The Oaken Bucket, The Hillbilly Jalopies, The Powder Keg Flume, the awful food at The Grubsteak (You expect grubs to be good steak? we asked..), The Paddle Wheel Steamer, The Skyway and The Monorail?
UPDATE 14 August 2015: My sister (who was also there the first day of Thunder Road though she did not have a first ride ticket) says she remembers that the NASCAR teamleaders were Cale Yarborough and David Pearson and that I was on Pearson's team. She has also found online sources saying it was Bobby Allison & David Pearson though that's not the way she remembers it (and all it takes is for one source to get it wrong and then be quoted by everyone else..)
I have also found a number of Youtube videos of Thunder Road. Here are a tribute video and then a front car POV video:
Celtic band Cu Dubh.
So, I thought at first I had made a big mistake heading up to the Carolina Renaissance Festival last weekend. It was a cold and rainy Halloween when I hit the road, and I awoke Saturday to find out that Snowpocalypse had hit the Midlands while I was gone and that it was cold, rainy, wet and miserable in Huntersville.
Fortunately, although I had to use the wipers driving out to the festival grounds, but the time I got there, it had stopped raining and was just cold and miserable. Obviously the crowds were thin, but the performers gave it a good go and the sun finally did peek out during the late afternoon giving them (and me) some relief. Sunday, however was gorgeous, and all these pictures date from then.
It seemed to me that a good portion of the performers were back from last year, but there were some new faces as well. As before, everybody had a very polished and entertaining line of patter and were quick to improv as circumstances demanded. There are plenty of kid centric and family friendly shows as well as more ribald "loose cannon" performances for those of us a bit longer in the tooth.
The festival continues on weekends through 23 November and it's a great way to spend a (hopefully sunny!) Fall afternoon.
Well, what do you want me to say? It was the State Fair, and if you've followed these posts for a while, you know the kind of thing I like to take pictures of at the fair, so there won't be any surprises here.
Some changes that started last year seem to have stuck. In particular, the sand sculpture is still in the Ruff Building rather than the Ellison Building and the gray market videos and TELEVAC 8600 are still gone:
The pictures are from 12 October, which was an overcast day, though the temperature was nice. As the evening wore on, it started to spit rain a bit, and in fact more than a bit at times. That affected the skyride video this year. I was afraid it would really start coming down, so I took the video going west to east, rather than hoofing it back to the east and going the other way. That means that we're travelling away from the most visually interesting parts. I think the rain was also futzing with the autofocus of the camera a bit from time to time.
Many more pictures after the break.
I probably should remember seeing this place more, as we drove past it on the way to the beach innumerable times while I was growing up. However, I always had my nose in a book, so I was only vaguely aware of the name Circus Room and couldn't have told you where it was. Or, for that matter, *what* it was. At this remove, my understanding is that The Circus Room was actually a circus style tent set up on the grounds of the Coronet Inn at the intersection of US-601 & US-378 in Eastover, and that the tent hosted a restaurant and nightclub. Even in these days of the metro area creeping ever outwards, this is a pretty rural area, and back in the day it must have been even stranger to find a well regarded hotspot here.
What was the attraction? Google pulls up this hint from the 2006 cookbook Cookin' with Cocky II: More Than Just a Cookbook:
I first met Bright in the Fall of 1956. Bright owned the Coronet Motel and Circus Room nightclub in Eastover. The Circus Room had the finest food and the only mixed drinks in the Columbia area at that time.
The two ads above are from the Sumter Register in 1974 and 1976 respectively.
Amazingly, both Coronet motels still exist and still are in operation, although under different names and ownership. The Eastover location is currently an Anyday Inn and is now combined with a convenience store run in the old office.
The topic has come up in Have Your Say from time to time, and here is what some people have recalled:
The Circus Room was in the old Coronet Motel near Eastover which I think was somehow related to the motel with the same name on North Main. I know they used to advertise a lot on the radio and had quite a business at one time. I drove out to Eastover a few weeks ago and what was the Circus Room was a seedy convenience store in a no tell motel.
Tom---You are right. One thing about the Circus Room was that it featured USDA "Prime" steaks which is a rarity even for today. You could call in the morning and they'd marinate your steak all day for you. I live in Kansas now which is beef country and know of only one steakhouse type place out here where you can get USDA prime beef. John.
I had forgotten all about the Circus Room. This was one of a few out-in-the-boondocks restaurants where we would eat on occasion when my father felt like driving out into the country (circa 1965-68). I remember the food being pretty good and it having a totally unpretentious atmosphere, but that was when gas was 25¢ a gallon, and it was easy to justify such a long trip for a good steak. I'm sure if the Circus Room had been a couple of miles down Trenholm Road, that would have been where we would have visited most often when we ate out, which at that time was once, maybe twice a month. Ancient and forgotten fond memories, thanks John.
She also said the guy who built the motel back in the fifties still drops into the convenience store every day.
Coronet Motel w/ Circus Room restaurant. Actually, that was out where US 601 intersects Sumter Hwy., but the restaurant was so good that folks used to drive from Columbia all the way out to Eastover to eat there. Bright Stevenson Jr owned it. His dad owned the Coronet Motel up out North Main St., going toward Blythewood.
UPDATE 24 October 2014: Added Yellow Pages graphic from the 1970 Southern Bell phonebook.
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!)
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)
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!
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.
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.