Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Bear Necessities

by Paul Ruben

Last summer I travelled to Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire to report on Untamed, their new Euro-Fighter by Gerstlauer. 

The only rollercoaster of its kind in New England and one of only four in the United States, the ride was custom-designed to Canobie’s specifications with an “Untamed” Grizzly bear theme.

The coaster’s cars, which hold eight passengers each, feature a roaring Grizzly on the front. The station and surrounding area are designed in a rustic “Adirondack” style with 64 carved bears throughout the loading area. Some of the bears are large, some small, but the one pictured here (on the right) is the most cuddly. That is, if a carved wooden bear can be cuddly. Even the coaster’s track supports are painted to resemble birch trees.

We all know that Disney offers themed rollercoasters. Universal offers themed rollercoasters. Herschend Entertainment offers themed rollercoasters. But do you recall many family-operated parks, at least in North America, offering a heavily-themed rollercoaster? Before the appearance of Untamed I do not, except for the Golden Nugget, a Wild West themed coaster/dark ride on the former Hunt’s Pier in New Jersey. That ride has now been moved to Knoebel’s, where it has been re-themed as a coal mine tour called Black Diamond. A trend in the making?

Most coaster stations are functional. Form follows function, with few decorative touches. But Untamed has more than the bear necessities. The station is gorgeous, a feast for the eyes. Once aboard, guests are treated to a vertical lift coaster. It features an initial climb that takes riders 72ft into the air. From there, riders plummet into a 97 degree drop that elicited plenty of screams before they zoom through a series of loops, twists and zero-gravity rolls over 1,184ft of track.

Untamed is the largest coaster to come online in New England since 2002 and the first to be added to Canobie Lake Park’s line-up of four rollercoasters in two decades. The park’s other rollercoasters include the Corkscrew Coaster, Dragon Coaster and the Yankee Cannonball, one of the most popular and historic wooden coasters in New England, marking its 76th birthday this year.While visiting Canobie Lake Park, I couldn’t resist a ride on their bumper cars, appropriately called the Dodgems. The original Dodgem was a rear-steering monstrosity invented in 1922 by Max and Harold Stoehrer of Methuen, Massachusetts, just seven miles away from the park. During my ride one guest was steering particularly erratically, which got me thinking, Can a person be arrested for drunken driving on bumper cars? Less than an hour away by car, Boston area parks such as Whalom Park, Paragon Park and Revere Beach all had Dodgems, too, but like the Dodgem company are now part of history. Fortunately, Canobie Lake Park lives on and flourishes.

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