Limited Oaks Amusement Park opening still brings joy to families

INCLUDES VIDEO – Although it looked for a while as if it might be shut down the week after it opened, Oaks Amusement Park is still up and running …

There’s plenty of room on the midway at historic Oaks Amusement Park for social-distancing, as this family fun park opens for the season.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Following the directives of the State of Oregon and Multnomah County, the staff at nonprofit Oaks Amusement Park worked toward the goal of holding a “limited” season reopening day on April 17 – after being officially shuttered for their entire 2020 season due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Families who had pre-purchased their tickets online, as required, on April 17th were both relived and overjoyed to find that the historic, longest continuously-operating “Trolley Park” in the nation had indeed opened, and they could once again enjoy the attractions and food which they’d been anticipating.

In this video, see what it was like to be on the midway, as
Oaks Amusement Park opened!

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Piper Cook, riding the Oaks Park Train behind her parents, Matt Cook and Stacy Cook, had come all the way from Sweet Home, Oregon, to have a fun family day at the newly-reopened Oaks Amusement Park.

In mid-May, a month after its opening, we asked Emily MacKay, Marketing and Events Director of the Oaks Park Association (the nonprofit organization that operates Oaks Amusement Park) how it had been going, being back in operation.

“It’s been a ‘roller coaster ride of a different kind’, with the shifting governmental mandates over the last few weeks; but, when taken as a whole, we’ve had a very successful and smooth reopening,” MacKay assured East Portland News.

Families with little kids take a hot air ballooning adventure, high above their famous oak trees, while riding Up, Up, & Away.

“Saturday and Sunday, April 17 and 18, both days were sold out to our limited capacity; and, there was a huge amount of joyous energy, from end to end down the midway,” Mackay grinned.

“Our first day provided a learning curve both for both our seasoned workers – learning new [COVID-19] operating parameters – and for the many new staff members who were experiencing their first ‘live’ day of work after training. For many of those, it was their first day of work ever!

“But, by Sunday, our second day open, it was smooth sailing,” MacKay reported.

More traditional thrill rides, like Rock-O-Plane and Anti Gravity, help guests get “warmed up” for even more adventurous experiences on extreme attractions.

Operations severely restricted, at first
After opening week, Multnomah County officials again put in place “Extreme Risk” limitations for a few days. “For that weekend the number of guests in the park was again limited to 100, which was a big challenge,” MacKay acknowledged. “We had to completely revise our operations, which resulted in having to cancel some existing tickets that had already been purchased.

“It was very difficult on us all, but it was made easier because, with very few exceptions, people were gracious, understanding, cooperative, flexible, and supportive – we have the most amazing community!” extolled MacKay.

However, near the end of May, officials relaxed restrictions somewhat, allowing more families to enjoy a fun day at The Oaks. Still, check their website [the link is at the bottom of this page] for current policies.

These riders are starting to “pull negative Gs” coming down the first drop of The Oaks’ recently-installed looping, twisting, Adrenaline Peak roller coaster.

“Because of our planning, both before and after our County was briefly returned to the ‘Extreme Risk’ designation, it has run super smoothly – from the online ticket booking, right through the on-site experience for our guests,” MacKay said.

What’s made it easier for their staff, she pointed out, is that guests have been compliant with face covering and social distancing protocols – even on the ride attractions. “They seem to understand that these safety protocols are for everyone’s benefit.”

Some guests have opted for the milder 180° ride on the brand-new AtmosFEAR thrill ride.

Most guests, it turns out – such as these hearty folks — choose to ride the AtmosFEAR for the full thrill of going over the top while rotating 360 degrees – over and over!

Although it was erected last year, only now have guests have had the opportunity to try out the park’s newest “extreme” thrill ride, AtmosFEAR. This ride has two operating modes; The Oaks Rides Manager Celeste Walker told us that the line for the 360°, over-the-top ride is about 30-to-1 over the milder 180° ride. “Indeed, AtmosFEAR is certainly a hit!” exclaimed MacKay. “People are having an amazing time riding; and it’s already become our most popular attraction on the midway.”

With a limited version of the Multnomah County Fair planned this weekend, Memorial Day weekend, we asked if The Oaks will be hosting any other special public event this season. McKay responded, “We are hopeful that we’ll be doing our Oktoberfest this year, and we’ll make our final determination in early June. We’re also working on a Hallowe’en event as well – so please, stay in touch!”

Families get a kick out of riding the small but mighty Zoom Coaster, Oaks Park’s junior-sized roller coaster.

So, what does it mean to Oaks Amusement Park staffers to have things finally up and running?

“First, seeing the joy on the faces of parents and kids makes all the work getting ready for this season worth the effort,” MacKay responded. “And, we’re also so pleased to have been able to bring a large number of people back to work – especially local youth who are saving for, or paying for, college. Our reopening will benefit their lives for years to come!”

Recommends getting tickets early
Because the park’s tickets and ticket packages have been selling out – sometimes weeks in advance, or nearly so – for each day they’re open, families are advised book their tickets very early, to avoid being “locked out” of the day they were hoping to spend at Oaks Amusement Park.

“We don’t want anyone to be disappointed that they can’t come visit, because the number of tickets we can sell are still restricted by COVID-19 regulations,” MacKay advised. “Because it’s required that folks pre-purchase tickets anyway, [log in to our website and] make sure they’re available for the day you hope to visit us here, ‘Where the Fun Never Ends’, at Oaks Amusement Park.”

All aboard! The historic Oaks Park Train again rolls out of the station, filled with fun-loving families.

For complete information, including days and hours of operation, COVID safety requirements, and to purchase tickets, visit the official Oaks Amusement Park website: CLICK HERE.

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

 

 

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