Friday Roundup: Retrograde Amusement Park Reopens Today

Friday blogs are a mix of things instead of fitting a theme like my other blog days. Most of the time it will be event oriented and other times just something I needed to share.

Jill M. Rohrbach

In Frontier Days, one of the first views pioneers coming into Fort Smith from Indian Territory had was of the military fort flanking the Wild West border town. Today, those traveling U.S. 64 over the Arkansas River bridge from present-day Oklahoma will see an antique Ferris wheel amid a thriving city center.

The Park at West End, an old-fashioned amusement park reopens today, after having been closed for several months. The Fort Smith Parks and Recreation department is now running it.

The retro fun park is located downtown on Second Street and Garrison Avenue adjacent to the Arkansas River bridge. The Ferris wheel is a restored late-1930s model that was once displayed at the 1935 San Diego World’s Fair. It is an original from the Eli Bridge Company. While George Washington Gale Ferris designed the first Ferris wheel, the Eli Bridge Company developed a practical and portable wheel.

Another main feature is a hand-painted carousel from Treviso, Italy. A 1957 Pullman dining car serves as a diner, and a 1963 British Leyland provides standard amusement park concessions. A Penny Arcade or retro games adds to the nostalgia, as does the tunes playing on the park’s calliope circus wagon.

Architectural features of The Park include brick, stone and iron. Iron gates for the front entrance are from a former Jewish temple built in Fort Smith in the 1800s. Cast iron columns and stonework were preserved from downtown buildings demolished by a 1996 tornado that ripped through the city.

The attraction adds to the life of the downtown and serves as a bridge between daytime activities of shopping, tourism and business to evening dining and nightlife.

$1.00 per person per ride

$50.00 Birthday party, rides for up to 10 patrons for 1 hour
$350.00 Private party, up to 3 hours before or after regular hours
$750.00 Private party, up to 3 hours during regular hours
$50.00 Reservation Deposit

Hours of Operation:
April 2, 2010 to Memorial Day, May 31, 2010 (Friday and Saturday)
Friday: 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Memorial Day through Labor Day (Tuesday – Saturday)
Tuesday through Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Labor Day through the end of October: ( Friday and Saturday)
Friday: 5:00p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Call the Parks Department Reservations line at 479-784-2368
Reservations may be made from April 2 through the end of the year.
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