Efforts are under way to restore Midway State Park to its sparkle as a 1950s-era amusement park.
When the 2012 park season opens in May, Midway State Park will roll out the first of its restoration projects - a refurbished Chautauqua Choo-Choo.
"(The train) is one of our most popular rides, from babies to grandparents," said Kate Gross, Midway State Park manager. "It's one of the timeless parts of our park."
When the 2012 park season opens in May, Midway State Park will roll out a refurbished Chautauqua Choo-Choo, a timeless ride enjoyed by all ages.
Midway State Park, located at 4859 New York 430 in Bemus Point, has been a place of recreation on Chautauqua Lake since 1889, when it opened as a trolley park. It is the 16th oldest continually operating amusement park in the country.
The state's master plan for the park calls for restoration of the 1950s motif, centering around the preservation and beautification of the park's aging Herschell Kiddieland Rides. To accomplish this, park management is working closely with Friends of Midway State Park, a the all-volunteer, nonprofit group that started in September 2010.
The group raises funds to support the park's restoration through membership fees to its group, donations, and holding fundraisers, like its Skee Ball Roll-A-Thon. Membership to the Friends of Midway Park Group start at $25 and the group is already 90 members strong.
"Their heart is here at midway," said Mrs. Gross, adding that its wonderful to see the group help the state and encourage more visitors and restoration.
According to Bob Wooler, Friends of Midway Park Group president, the big restoration project is the carousal, but as it won't see results until the year after next, the group chose to work on some smaller projects that are high visibility and take less time. The first on that list was the Chautauqua Choo-Choo, which has been circling the park for the past 55 years.
"People really rallied to the idea of being involved in a restoration project that could be finished in one season," said Wooler. "We successfully raised our share, the park put in their share and there we have our first victory."
Over the winter, park management and the friends group disassembled, repaired and repainted the engine and the cars to their original 1955 glory, said Mrs. Gross.
"One my most favorite parts (of working at the park) is to watch a whole family, with multiple generations, get on the train to take a family photo," Mrs. Gross said. "Watching their joy as they ride the train is one of the best parts of my jobs."
The restored train will be ready for riders when the park opens on on Friday, May 25.
The friends group is currently focusing on raising funds to complete the restoration of the Herschell Carousel and repaint several of the Kiddieland rides, said Wooler.
During the 2012 season, the group plans to replace the piers, roof and glass of the carousel's roundhouse, as well as make drainage improvements. The group is also raising funds to refurbish and repaint the 30 carousel horses.
The carousel will be open this season at the location its been at for the past three years. By the 2013 season, the park and friends group hope to return the refurbished carousel to its home, back under the roundhouse.
Other rides the park plans to restore include the Kiddie Boat Ride and Sky Fighters Kiddie Ride.
The park's clean-up and spruce-up activities will begin on I Love My Park Day, a statewide event organized by Parks and Trails New York. Volunteers and friends group members are encouraged to come out on Saturday, May 5, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to paint the exterior of the arcade building and the new park office, and to conduct a variety of planting projects to beautify the park, including creating a rain garden.
The Midway State Park is offering a 10 percent discount on season passes for friends group members who renew their memberships prior to opening day. For a full list of season attractions and ways to get involved in preserving and supporting Midway, call the park office at 386-3165 or visit www.friendsofmidwaystatepark.org.