Amreicana Alive and Well at Quassy
The smells of freshly-made popcorn, simmering sausage and other summer fare linger in the air. A ride on the grand carousel, the spinning “Tilt-A-Whirl,” or bumper cars is only 25 cents on Friday nights. In fact, you can go on any of the rides for only “two bits” during the Friday special. If you want a bag of popcorn, cotton candy or a soda, don’t worry about breaking the bank – they’re all just a quarter Friday evenings. If this sounds like a commercial from a forgotten era, you’re wrong. Tucked away in the rolling mountains of western Connecticut is a 98-year-old landmark simply known to the locals as “Quassy” – Lake Quassapaug Amusement Park.
A visit to the 20-acre lakeside establishment is like taking a step back in time, for Quassy is one of 11 remaining “trolley parks” in the United States. Forget the hustle and bustle, long lines and high prices which might shock you at some modern-day amusement facilities. The atmosphere at Quassy is about as laidback as it was nearly a century ago. That’s when people used to hop aboard an electrified trolley car in the nearby city of Waterbury and ride to the lake for a day of picnicking and to swim in the sparkling waters. There’s no general admission fee to Quassy, which means parents and grandparents alike – many of whom frequented the park as youngsters – can enjoy an affordable day while entertaining the tots. The kids can ride all day for $15.95 (those 45 inches and taller are $19.95), or individual ride tickets are always available.
The norm here is baby strollers and giggling youngsters, not long lines and mega-roller coasters which seem to tower into the clouds. In fact, many of the rides at Quassy have operated for generations and it’s not uncommon to hear an adult voice along the midway say “I went on that same ride here when I was a child.” Some of the tried-and-true amusements which have operated for decades at the park include the kiddy helicopters, pony carts, Little Dipper roller coaster and the Sky Fighter jets. But when it’s time for everyone to take a joyride together, you’ll see even grandpa and grandma on the Quassy Express train, grand carousel or even the bumper cars. And regardless of age, everyone loves to shake hands with Quassy Bear, the park’s official costume character mascot.
‘Saturation Station’ Is New Family Attraction In recent years there has been a mix of new with the old as the local family which owns the park has updated some equipment to keep up with the times. But everything at Quassy – new or old – has family in mind. Take for instance “Saturation Station,” the park’s single-largest investment which was installed in 2003. This giant jungle gym of sorts incorporates water to create a fun-filled day of getting drenched. It’s an interactive playground with water cannons, cascading fountains, slides and a huge dumping bucket which creates its own waterfall. While some adults love to participate in the low-impact water play with the kids, others act simply as spectators from lounge chairs along the perimeter. The children remain within viewing distance on the attraction and the kids are safe because there are no splashdown pools or giant, fast-paced slides.
Quassy Beach offers a relaxing day in the sun and sand while lifeguards watch over swimmers who plunge into the spring-fed lake. The beach and water play area are included with the all-day ride pass, or guests may elect to pay only $6 per person for the water privilege. Sure, there are some thrilling rides like the “Music Fest,” “Paratrooper” and “Monster” roller coaster at Quassy, but all of them are considered “family friendly.” The “Monster” is a small steel coaster which has been around for more than 40 years and offers plenty of thrills without being a white-knuckle experience. Parents also appreciate that fact that Quassy has midway games, but none of the old-fashioned rip off artists and carnival-style “barkers” of yesteryear. The kids find it easy to win something at the water race or frog pond games, and there’s plenty of affordable action in the huge redemption arcade which once served as a dance hall in the “Roaring ‘20s.” The arcade building dates back to 1915 and has its original wood floor, which entertained countless dancers and even roller skaters in earlier days. Inside you’ll still find those fun Skeeball alleys where kids and adults roll wooden balls in hopes of racking up enough points to win some redemption tickets. There are some antique arcade machines as well in the park, such as the “Love Wheel” in which the participant squeezes a handle to see which colored light bulb will illuminate on the passion gauge. You can be anything from “steaming” to “bad news.” One of the oldest novelty games is a 10-cent crane which allows users to scoop up penny candy, which is dropped down a chute. It doesn’t matter how old you are, as long as you can push a button or turn a knob you will likely take home some type of prize from the Quassy arcade.
Cruise On The Lake After a lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and soda, families generally line up at the lakefront for the afternoon’s first ride on the Quassy Queen. The park’s official boat, which takes passengers on a 30-minute cruise, has changed faces on several occasions throughout the years. Today’s Quassy Queen is a comfortable 20-passenger pontoon boat with passage only $2.50. For the more adventurous water lovers, there are two-person paddle boats for rent at the Quassy dock. Your legs will get a generous workout while you maneuver Lake Quassapaug. There were more than 1,000 of these grand old “trolley parks” in the United States prior to The Great Depression of 1929. While most of them have disappeared, Quassy has survived the test of time and continues to entertain families which still appreciate the atmosphere of visiting a traditional amusement park.
For more information about Quassy Amusement Park visit http://www.quassy.com/
Litchfield Hills tourism & sightseeing