Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life” played from the loudspeakers at Hersheypark’s entrance gate Wednesday, just five days after the park opened to the public, reports the York Daily Record, which is a part of the USA TODAY Network.
It’s what the Wowak family — mom, dad, three kids and friend Zach — needed from the park — a happy day, outside in the sunshine being entertained.
That long pandemic of inside amusement had gotten old.
Their trip this week from Limerick, Pennsylvania, had them a little worried, though. They were excited, but a bit concerned. How comfortable would they be in masks all day? And would everyone else at the park wear masks?
The answers were: They found ways to be comfortable, and everyone at the park wore masks. It was required — and enforced.
The thinner-than-usual crowds made the enforcement much easier, but so did all of the trappings of amusing oneself in a park all day during a pandemic:
The Hershey staff has had thousands of questions from park regulars on their social media pages about when it would open and how guests would stay safe.
“If they’re wondering, ‘Can I have fun at an amusement park (in the pandemic)?’ the answer from our guests is yes,” said the park’s public relations director, Quinn Bryner.
Most amusement parks hadn’t opened for business when Hershey admitted season pass holders on July 1 and 2. Dorney Park near Allentown opened this week, but Kennywood near Pittsburgh delayed its July 6 opening as coronavirus cases rose in that area, according to its website.
The throngs of July visitors to Hersheypark typically create long lines for the roller coasters, but this week’s traffic was slower. (Hershey doesn’t provide attendance numbers.) Families — from toddlers to senior citizens — strolled through the park as the skies went from a brief downpour Wednesday back to sunshine.
The Wowaks loved the lower attendance because they have a couple of coaster enthusiasts in the family who didn’t have to wait for a seat.
“The less crowds, the easier,” said dad Jon Wowak. He gave the park a few days “to let them work out the kinks” before loading up the car for their first trip of the season to Hershey.
Mom Carisa didn’t want to encounter non-mask wearers at the park, worried about the safety of her family: Jackson, 14, Juliane, 10, and Caroline 7.
“We’ve taken quite a few breaks,” she said, to eat or stop for a drink and take off their masks to cool down, as the temperature in Hershey Wednesday was over 90 degrees.
Jackson wanted to check out the new coaster (tallest, fastest and longest!), Candymonium, in Hersheypark’s new Chocolatetown area. The park created a new entrance, built over what was once the trolley. A Starbucks and new retail stores opened, despite construction setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pennsylvania’s pandemic restrictions stopped construction, which temporarily halted Hersheypark’s progress on Chocolatetown. A couple of restaurants, an ice cream parlor and confectionery kitchen, scheduled to open this summer, will wait until 2021, Bryner said.
Moved into the Chocolatetown area is the carousel, one of the park’s historic pieces. Carved in 1919, the horses have moved under a canopy built to look reminiscent of what was in the park in the 1940s.
Much of Chocolatetown has taken on that throwback look of Milton Hershey’s factories and businesses from that era.
A quote in the center of a massive compass at the entrance greets guests with the founder’s words: “One is only happy in proportion as he makes others feel happy.”
Kim Strong can be reached at email@example.com.
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