On a sunny day in summer, amusement parks are feasts for the senses—the colorful game booths, the smell of popcorn and waffle cones, the chill of slushies, the whoosh of wind through your hair, and delighted screams as coasters drop. This past Saturday, even though it was only spring, and the day was quiet, gray, and rainy, Lake Compounce Family Theme Park in Bristol, Connecticut, was as inviting as always.
My son and I went to The Great Nor’Easter 2016, and annual event run by the New England Region of American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) along with more than one hundred coaster fans. And when I say fans, I mean hard core. They know exact coaster heights. They know the company that designed each coaster. They know the track color of a coaster torn down years ago. My son is one of these people. And by default, I know a lot more about coasters than your average 40-something mom.
So while the day was fun for many reasons—hanging out with my son, previewing the newest coasters, a free and tasty lunch, a tour of PHOBIA construction, and lots of swag (including t-shirts, Superman capes, key chains, exit passes, rusty bolts from an old coaster, and a humongous vinyl sign announcing fireworks)—the Nor’Easter was also research.
My current work-in-progress is a novel set in an amusement park. So I used the opportunity to surround myself with characters similar to the ones in my story. I people watched and took lots of notes. I immersed myself in the contagious passion and enthusiasm of coaster life.