A warm weather trip to Erie always includes a trip to Waldameer, the local amusement park. It’s kitsch and cheesy, and absolutely perfect. As a kid, every school year at Our Lady’s Christian (my gradeschool) would culminate with a trip to Waldameer. I’d literally look forward to this day for months. I’d plan outfits for temperatures ranging from 40 to 90 degrees (ah, Erie weather!) and save my allowance for all the funnel cake my stomach could hold before I barfed it up on the Paratrooper or Scrambler. The park was the site of my first kiss (Phil Auditori, Old Mill ride, 3rd grade, no tongue) and countless other childhood adventures.
In my humble opinion, Waldameer’s crowning jewel is the Wacky Shack, a “dark-ride” that is the quintessential haunted house. In fact, since I’m home visiting my parents, I actually just read the other day in the Erie Times News that the Wacky Shack just celebrated its 40th anniversary! That means generations of Erieites have passed through its doors.
Actually, I’m sure if you asked most anyone from Erie about the Shack and they’d talk about its smell. I have never in my life experiences a more distinct aroma– it’s like an entity all its own. As memorable as Chanel #5 or gasoline, one sniff of the Wacky Shack and the scent will haunt you for the rest of your life. Not that it’s a bad smell, it’s not…exactly. It’s like a mix of carmel apples, pee, sweaty kids, stale air, popcorn, and a slight hint of mildew.
Ollie, of course, is still too young for most rides at Waldameer — especially the Wacky Shack, but we still took him for a visit yesterday. Last summer we just strolled him through the park and he was oblivious to his surroundings, but this year, he had the time of his life on the Merry-Go-Round, kiddie trucks, and train. It’s like a rite of passage!