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People come to an amusement park for the rides. However, their visit is either enhanced or degraded by their experience with the park's peripheral aspects. A park must pay attention to details. Some are notoriously weak in this regard. One of the reasons Kennywood has been so beloved by so many for so long is that pays very close attention to such matters. It's not perfect, and we can find issues to criticize. But on balance, Kennywood and Holiday World do a better job with more details than the other parks. Kennywood edges its Indiana rival by a slight margin but it should be obvious to everyone that both parks are wonderful places to spend a day or longer.

Administration # 1. Shown at left is the entrance to the executive offices of Kennywood, in the center of the park, across the walk from the Park Plaza Restaurant. This fountain is the geographic center of the park, and from the upstairs windows of this building the Henninger and McSwigan families can see almost all of it. These two extended families have run Kennywood for 110 years and no other park can match their record as an executive management team, with Holiday World's Kochs the only ones coming close. The current men in administrative positions grew up here, year round, watching the park evolve, listening to stories of its history, watching their parents struggle with decisions. They more than run the park. They ARE the park. Technically, Kennywood is owned by Parques Reunidos, a Spanish company to whom the Henningers and McSwanigans sold it in 2008. But part of the sales contract specified that the original familes would continue to administer the park, with Parques Reunidos merely the majority investor. There are some other family names working in this building today, mostly due to marriages. Peter McAneny is the park president and Mary Lou Rosemeyer the public relations director. But Kennywood is what it is because of the Henningers and McSwanigans.

Staff. # 1. Engineers and maintenance men are KW's unsung heroes, giving these rides loving care unequalled anywhere. Every morning from 7-11, they are walking coasters, climbing under and over and through rides, tightening here, replacing there. The secret to KW maintenance is tolerance. Most parks deal in 16ths of an inch while Kennywood deals in 32nds of an inch. In the short term, this is why the rides are so smooth. In the long term this is why they last forever. In the photo at right, a crew works under the paratrooper. As far as ride and game operators and store clerks, KW has more long termers than most parks. Everybody has kids working, but Kennywood has fewer, with lower turnover. Continuity means people learn their jobs over several seasons. A park has to treat employees well to keep them coming back to jobs that are stressful and exhausting with long, hot days and annoying customers. Ride ops tend to be friendly, efficient and professional. The new red t shirts are an improvement over the previous uniforms.

Landscaping. As might be expected of a park 110 years old, Kennywood has had time to develop superb landscaping. There are great shade trees, floral clocks, and colorful flower strips everywhere, although harsh winters make it hard to compete with Southern parks. The water garden between Grand Prix and Chaos, the Windmill alcove near the tunnel, the George Washington monument garden by the Kangaroo, and the clock garden by the Train are especially impressive. There's a certain amount of deception going on at Kennywood, with clever landscaping and tree cover altering sightlines and making the park seem bigger than it really is. Disney learned about atmosphere from Kennywood and Kennywood learned about deceptive landscaping from Disney.

Shows are KW’s weakest aspect. The park once brought in individuals and groups to its band shell for the best concerts in Pittsburgh. On the East Island in the lagoon it featured a series of circus quality performances, from high wire acrobats to motorcycle daredevils. The band shell is gone and the East Island now used for the Sky Coaster. In one of its few questionable decisions, Kennywood filled in the West end of the lake and built a stage. But it continually brings in mediocre shows, most recently an amateur musical review and a trained dog troupe. Then, in probably the worst decision in its history, Kennywood levelled the West Island, longtime home of the Rockets and more recently the Swing Around. In its place was built a stage where an embarassingly bad diving show was performed four times daily, then was replaced by a timber cutting show where lumberjacks used chain saws on stage. Old folks and children both walk away halfway through the show shaking their heads in disappointment. Kennywood would be better off to drop shows altogether, rebuild the once beautiful island, and bring back the beloved Rockets or put another ride on top of it. But if they want a performance, they need to hire an agent to find them something respectable. The greatest traditional amusement park in America cannot afford the mediocrity of the last few years of poor shows.

History. # 1. To love something is to love its history, and Kennywood IS the amusement world's history. Parks that were rivals during Kennywood's first half century are gone now. Kennywood was welcoming visitors in the 1800s and the parks considered its rivals now did not exist until the 1950s. Kennywood was the roller coaster capital of the world before its current rivals built their first ones. The giants of the amusement park industry built the rides at Kennywood and retired before the current parks were big enough to hire their services. Half of the rides in today's Kennywood have been operating at their current spot longer than other parks have existed. Elvis, Buddy Holly, Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Fats Domino and Spike Jones & His City Slickers performed at Kennywood. Walt Disney brought his imagineers here for a week, and brother Roy brought them back two decades later for another week. College textbooks on amusement parks use Kennywood photos, maps, diagrams and statistics. Many parks have books written about them, but Charles Jacques' two Kennywood histories have outsold all the others combined. Kennywood really IS America's home park.

Parking. Free for almost everybody, $5 for priority near entrance. Embarasses rival parks asking $8-10 for everyone and $15 for priority space. Ski lift, a ride in itself, brings patrons from more distant spaces.

Ticket Policies. Kennywood is one of the last remaining parks not to issue season tickets. However, it keeps its ticket prices well below its rivals, offers special evening rates for those coming in after 5 pm, and is generous with groups. It does allow passouts. It no longer stamps hands or issues wristbands, so it cannot any longer sell nonriding admission tickets for parents wishing to accompany their kids but not ride with them. It does issue combination tickets good for both Kennywood and Sandcastle in a single day, although either park demands a full day so how those combination tickets would be a good buy is questionable.

Special Events. Kennywood was not the first to remain open for Halloween, but it stages one of the best late October sessions. Some of the rides are closed, but the park is in full Phantom Fright Nights regalia and riding the coasters on a crisp Autumn night under a full moon is a whole different experience. Tickets are reduced to $21. The August Fall Festival, basically a high school band extravaganza which brings in half a dozen bands every night for three weeks, has been going since 1955 and is a popular Pittsburgh tradition.

Extra Charges. We take serious issue with those parks which charge a single admission price, then charge again for a dozen rides and attractions inside. The only extra charges at Kennywood are for Sky Coaster and Peddleboats. We understand those. The Sky Coaster charge covers the extremely high insurance. The Peddleboat charge discourages people from staying out on the lake all day while nobody else can get their turn.

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