Oaks Amusement Park has ‘limited opening’

UPDATED: See what goes into reopening Oaks Amusement Park on April 17, for the first time in a year – only to have the number of guests ‘choked down’ by all-new COVID-19 restrictions …

After sitting idle during 2020, the classic Oaks Amusement Park Herschell-Spillman carousel – and the modern Rock ‘n’ Roll thrill ride – will both once again entertain Portland area families this season.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

After being shut down for the entire season in 2020 by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the staff of the nonprofit Oaks Park Association spent weeks gearing up to open historic Oaks Amusement Park on April 17. If you missed opening day, they’ll be open on weekends – and then all week long (except Mondays) – this summer.

“We’re so glad to be reopening our amusement park, including the rides, miniature golf course, and midway games, for the 2021 season!” exclaimed Marketing and Events Director Emily MacKay.

UPDATE: New COVID-19 restrictions limit patrons
On April 29,
MacKay informed us, “Our operations have had to change for this weekend (May 1 and 2) to two 3-hour time blocks of just 100 people per time block.

On May 7, MacKay noted:  With the latest mandates from the State of Oregon and Multnomah County, “We are back to 15% operations, with no “time blocks” for visitors. Our hours have returned to being noon until 7:00 p.m. on operating days.

A member of the incoming amusement ride crew learns how to adjust the cable tension on the classic Rock-O-Plane attraction.

“We believe our reopening is cause for a city-wide celebration, especially after last year’s cancelled season!” MacKay enthused. “This was the only season the park has ever been closed since it first opened on May 30, 1905.”

For several weeks, core staff members have been taking ride gondolas out of storage, polishing up the attractions, and stocking the concession stands as they prepared to recommence operations.

Heading into her 11th season at The Oaks, Concessions Manager Sarah Ekter stocks this concession stand — part of making it ready for opening day.

“With the reopening, we’ll resume our place as a major employer in the Sellwood neighborhood,” MacKay affirmed. “After reducing our staff from 250+ to only a dozen while we were closed, Oaks Park is rebuilding our team for the 2021 season by hiring for over 200 positions.”

In the week before opening day, amusement ride staff members went through safety, basic maintenance, and operation orientation. While one worker operated a ride, the others in each class experienced the thrill of spinning, dipping, and looping on each attraction.

While fellow ride operator orientees take a spin on DISKO, Jason Kiyabu keeps a watchful eye as he operates the controls of the attraction.

One of the attractions on which the staff trained was Oregon’s most extreme thrill ride to date – called AtmosFEAR. It replaced the Scream’n Eagle, and was constructed last summer in the same spot – but until now, no visitor had ridden it. [CLICK HERE to read our story about it being assembled.]

And, take a look at our exclusive time-lapse video
of this massive ride being set up.

Checking over the Park’s newest attraction, AtmosFEAR, is Rides Manager Celeste Walker.

On AtmosFEAR, the more-timid folks can opt for just a pendulum ride – similar to Scream’n Eagle, but on a larger scale. However, brave and hearty riders can choose to ride the “full terror”, over-the-top, 360° experience – as the gondolas soar to a height of 100′ in full-swing, over-the-top loops – yes, totally “upside down”.

“Yes, I have ridden AtmosFEAR, operating in 360° mode, so I can confirm that it is a truly a thrilling, sensational experience!” commented The Oaks Rides Manager Celeste Walker.

New staffers polish up “Zero Gravity”, a popular Oaks Amusement Park attraction.

During their orientation, ride operators learn how to inspect their triple-looping roller coaster, Adrenaline Peak.

“We’re all looking forward to welcoming local families, and those who come here from all over the greater Portland area, to reconnect with historic-but-updated Oaks Amusement Park – and enjoy safe, wholesome, family fun on the midway,” Walker said.

Of course, all guests and staff are required to follow Multnomah County COVID safety protocols – including wearing masks and social distancing. Plus, Oaks Park staff will perform increased sanitation throughout the park.

Oaks Park Director of Security Mike Soto sets up socially-distanced lines in front of the main booth – which is where only Miniature Golf tickets will be sold.

Tickets MUST be purchased in advance
To regulate the number of guests in the park, in keeping with Multnomah County COVID mandates, a limited number of “Rides and Attraction Tickets” per day will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. These tickets must be purchased online, in advance.

To buy your tickets, and to get complete information – including the days and hours of park operation, COVID safety requirements, attraction information, and ticket prices, visit the official Oaks Amusement Park website: CLICK HERE.

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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