By BLAKE JONES, firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 7:15 pm
QUEENSBURY — The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom is returning to its roots this summer by reintroducing some of the original features of Storytown USA.
Great Escape has always had buildings and characters from its nursery rhyme-themed predecessor, which was created more than 50 years ago. But this is the first time Six Flags Inc. has rehabilitated and reintroduced more of the historic attractions.
The park is rebuilding Cinderella’s Castle from the foundation up and is in the process of restoring characters from Storytown, Jungleland and Ghost Town – the three earliest attractions at the park.
Many of the characters will be pulled out of storage or relocated from other places in the park and placed along the Storytown Train route. The 15-minute train tour will now feature information about the history of Storytown and the original Great Escape.
On Wednesday, maintenance crews were touching up the paint on the original pumpkin coach that circles Cinderella’s Castle. Work was also being done on the Humpty Dumpty attraction, the Hickory Dickory Dock clock and some old Storytown signs. Others that will make an appearance on the revised train tour are PoPo the Purple Cow and about five other Storytown characters, including three to four Ghost Town pieces – some originals and some replicas – and Jungleland animals that are being taken out of storage or relocated from elsewhere in the park.
“They’ve been in storage, and we are taking them out and putting them up,” said Great Escape spokeswoman Rebecca Close.
Cinderella’s Castle has been torn down and the walls rebuilt. Much of the embellishment remains to be added, but the end result should be slightly larger than the original castle.
Asked how the park balances tradition with renovations, Close said the focus is on providing the same experience for families while improving the structure.
“Whenever we do anything, we make sure we keep in mind where Great Escape and Storytown came from,” she said.
Close said the goal was to enhance some of the history and nostalgia of the park, as many guests come to Great Escape every summer with memories of trips they took to Storytown as children.
Don McCoy, president of The Great Escape Properties, has said Storytown is an important piece of history for the community – and something the park will continue to evaluate.
“We are very fortunate to have wonderful traditions here at The Great Escape,” he said. “For 57 years, families have created lifelong memories with us, and these two nostalgic offerings will strike a familiar chord as guests recall their childhood visits.”
Charles R. Wood created Storytown USA in 1954, a year before Disneyland opened.
Ghost Town and Jungleland were added next, followed by a steady stream of new attractions until the sale of the park in 1996 to Premier Parks Inc., which later became Six Flags.
Since then, Great Escape has added large attractions like new roller coasters, a lodge and water rides to the park on a nearly annual basis, the most recent being the Sasquatch drop tower in 2009.
The Storytown additions are among the biggest changes on tap for the 2010 season, which begins on May 8. Great Escape’s parent company, Six Flags, remains in bankruptcy court after filing for Chapter 11 protection almost a year ago.