Elysburg — The number one wooden roller coaster, the best carousel and the best food in the world can all be experienced at one amusement park. Knoebels Amusement Resort is home to these three distinctions and a host of other “best-ofs” in the amusement industry.
During an event this past Saturday aboard the Showboat Branson Belle in Branson, Missouri, Amusement Today announced the 2018 Golden Ticket Award winners. The awards are calculated from an international poll. The survey is sent to a database of experienced and well-traveled amusement park fans around the world asking them to rate the “best of the best” in 23 categories.
“It is encouraging to see a family-owned business make such an impact on the amusement industry,” Tim Baldwin, Golden Ticket Awards communications coordinator, Amusement Today said in a press release. “Even against global competition, Knoebels was a finalist in eight categories. No other park topped that. Plus the fact they took home three Golden Ticket Awards — that’s amazing. It’s very indicative of the commitment and passion the people behind this park have.”
For the first time ever, Knoebels’ Phoenix was named the number one Wooden Roller Coaster in the world. A number of factors make this quite momentous. The Phoenix originally opened in 1948, as the Rocket at Playland Park in San Antonio, Texas. At that time, it was touted as the largest wooden coaster in the world. However, when the park closed in 1980, it was in danger of never thrilling guests again. Then, the idea came about to disassemble, move, and reassemble the coaster in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. This raised some eyebrows, but it happened.
“In the mid-1980s, Knoebels needed Rocket just as badly as Rocket needed a new home,” Richard “Dick” Knoebel, Knoebels’ president said in a press release. “We looked on with excitement as Rocket began to rise as Phoenix, still not fully realizing what this coaster would mean to us and generations of park guests.”
The Phoenix opened to the public on June 15, 1985, and has been a guest favorite ever since. The name, “Phoenix,” is ever so fitting, considering the ride was reborn like the mythical bird that rose from its ashes. The coaster’s appearance may be unassuming, but its design by Herbert Paul Schmeck has withstood the test of time.
“Phoenix is one of only two wooden coasters that have made the Top Ten list for all 21 years. That’s an incredible accomplishment,” said Baldwin. “To see it finally rate as the number one coaster this year has been astounding. The park maintains — and loves — that coaster. It is the quintessential wooden coaster experience.”
Knoebel noted that though Phoenix isn’t the tallest, fastest or longest roller coaster, a number of factors set it apart.
“The timeless design seems to bring joy to riders without fail, some of whom enjoyed the coaster as a kid, and now enjoy it with their own children. Our team members meticulously maintain Phoenix to ensure it operates just as it did the day it opened,” said Knoebel. “We’re ecstatic knowing riders love Phoenix every bit as much as we do. Phoenix has finally risen to the top, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Knoebels also received the Golden Ticket Award for “Best Carousel.” The 105-year-old Grand Carousel was purchased by the park in 1941, and has received the top award every year since its inception.
“We take great pride that the Grand Carousel is the heart of Knoebels — a ride for all to enjoy and a place for the whole family to come together for a happy memory,” Knoebels’ Vice President Leanna Knoebel Muscato said in a press release. “Our Grand Carousel is steeped in tradition and has a rich history of bringing people together, whether it’s by parents teaching their kids how to catch rings, by grandparents singing along to classic organ music as they bounce a toddler in a chariot, or through the incredible team who works tirelessly to care for and maintain the carousel’s timeless beauty.”
The third 2018 Golden Ticket awarded to Knoebels was for its food. The award for best food has been captured by Knoebels 16 times in 19 years. According to Knoebels’ Public Relations Director Stacy Ososkie, there are more than 30 food locations at Knoebels, and no two are identical.
“Our food managers do an excellent job of balancing longtime guest favorites, and adding new items each year, all while ensuring it’s affordable,” said Ososkie. “Some visitors dedicate part of their visit to ‘eating their way around the park.’ A group this year made it their goal to find menu items around the park that span from “A” to “Z.”
In addition to the first place awards, Knoebels was a finalist in other categories:
• No. 3 best park.
• No. 3 best Halloween event.
• No. 3 best dark ride for its Haunted Mansion.
• No. 4 friendliest park.
• No. 5 best indoor roller coaster for its Black Diamond.
• No. 34 and No. 50 in Top 50 wooden roller coasters for Flying Turns and Twister, respectively.