Amusement park in new hands |

Amusement park in new hands

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

As history goes in Tahoe, what goes around comes around.

New Tahoe Amusement Park owners plan to fully open the Highway 50 getaway in three weeks with some old favorites, as well as a new look with fresh management, rides and concessions — like a green, yellow and pink snack stand. Hungry yet?

“What would an amusement park be without the smell of cotton candy and a corn dog?” asked owner Harry Mason of Brass Ring Amusements, an Oroville company that stages a traveling carnival called Midway of Fun.

Mason, a self-described cross between a big kid and a history buff, has decided to keep some of the old rides that provide charm for the funky place.

Mason wants to make a successful go of it, realizing that four owners over the last seven years have tried. He will tap into his 30 years of experience, he said.

Coming around again will be the Whacky Whale’s cast-iron tubs, a merry-go-round painted with cute names like Wilbur and Wanda. There are also the Rolling Thunder coaster, Paratrooper, Super Slide, Roll-plane “Hammer,” Tahoe Express train and the Tilt-a-Whirl.

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“It’ll get’cha,” manager Robert Bryant said of the spinning ride.

Mason eventually wants to take a trip back in time on the two-year remodeling plan by bringing back burro rides, a park mainstay in the early days.

New to town is the Sponge Bob boat ride and arcade games of the next generation to complement an antique palm reading machine.

After being still all winter, the go-carts started rolling again last weekend for the summer season. Bryant said hundreds of people showed up over the holiday, with many inquiring about the rest of the park.

“People have come in looking for the ride they grew up on, and now they bring their kids,” Bryant said. He strolled the grounds with his wife, Doris, to get a clear assessment of the park revamp.

The remodeling job primarily involved a massive cleanup that included hauling away dumpsters full of debris.

The Amarillo, Texas, couple determined that running an amusement park sounded more appealing than retiring from the corporate life they left behind.

It’s been an experience.

“One woman came in here looking for the monkey cage. She said: ‘Where’s my monkey cage?'” Doris Bryant said with a Southern twang that rivals a fiddle. “Our kids say: ‘My parents just ran away to the circus. We didn’t know what we were getting into.'” Their children range in ages from 26 to 40.

Since the Bryants’ arrival in March, they’ve received a quick education in Tahoe life that started with April’s unusually wet weather. Trying to complete the $100,000 overhaul turned into a challenge on the grounds when the snow began to accumulate.

Beyond the weather, there’s the mind-boggling beauty of the lake. The couple viewed it with fresh eyes — their first time in the basin.

It takes a child at heart to put the enjoyment, muscle, effort and will into a place set on Springmeyer land for more than a half century.

Some of the rides are older than a lot of adults, but it’s the children who make them worthwhile.

Doris Bryant recalled a father who taught his daughter how to drive a go-cart last weekend. She described the girl as having a red-letter day.

“You just know that girl will always remember this,” she said.

The park will be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting June 20. Prices are $1.50 per ticket or $25 for 20 rides.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at