The Best Ride in the Amusement Park – The Swings [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]
The lights, the rides, the excitement of the amusement park! While some people go for the high flying thrills of the roller coaster, or birds eye views from the Ferris wheel, or to take out their road rage on the bumper cars – I’m going for the swings!
Hands down, it’s the best ride at the amusement park. OK, maybe I’m not being as objectionable as I should, but I don’t care – it’s just a good ride. The Wave Swinger or “the swings” as I’ve called it since a kid, is one of the showplaces of modern amusement parks and the classic ride has been thrilling for generations.
From park to park, the ride is known by many different names: The Bavarian Wave Swinger, the swing ride, the swing carousel, yo-yo, Chair-O-Planes and more. Each ride is almost basically the same with several rows of chairs suspended from a rotating disk, which once it begins to rotate and tilt, centrifugal force sends the chairs on a wave filled rotating ride soaring through the air.
The more modern version gained popularity in the 1970’s, when “Kettenkarussell” or Chair-O-Planes was designed by the Zierer amusement park company. Located in Deggendorf, Germany; Zierer manufactures roller coasters, Ferris wheels, and wave swingers for parks around the world. Many of their rides are featured at parks in the United States.
Zierer’s sold about 200 of the swing units, but several other amusement park ride companies have their own versions with Bertazzon America, located in Tennessee as their main competitor.
The basic ride is simple. Guests enter through a queue and select one of the chairs arranged in rows of two, followed by a center seat, that complete a full circle at the base of the ride. Each set is usually a plastic or wicker seat with a metal bar that is lowered to secure the rider in. Another chain is connected to the bottom of the seat and is connected to the bar to hold it in the lower position. Often times, the seats in the off position are only a few feet off of the ground.
Once the ride is engaged, the chairs rotate along the center chassis, where centrifugal force pushes the chairs outward from the center and they go airborne. On most models the upper disc on which the chairs are suspended rises and pivots via a cable pulley system to give the riders even more height. For several minutes riders fly through the air and enjoy a view high off of the ground.When the ride is ending, the upper disc holding the swings will descend and once the chairs are near the ground, the speed will slow to gently lower riders back to the ground without scraping their feet.
Each ride can hold 24, 32, 40, 48 or 64 riders at one time. As a result, the high capacity allows those wanting a second ride to quickly run back through the queue and jump into another seat.
All of the machinery is encased inside the center tower and lower base. The center tower and top disc are usually very ornately decorated and feature hundreds of light bulbs that put on quite a display at night. Under the normal lighting scheme, the lights are lit white for entering and exiting, but during flight – turn red. (Although this is often customized for the park in which the ride is installed.)
Most rides are constructed of stainless steel and decorative plastic and are designed to require little maintenance to last decades at a time. Portable versions can be transported on large trailers to the temporary park or fair setup location. While the “Bavarian Wave Swinger” model at Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, PA looks permanent, it is actually sitting on top of a portable parked trailer that has been hidden from public view underneath a metal platform cover that serves as the base of the ride, with the trailer being partially buried into the ground.
In Europe, a few models are said to rotate backwards, giving riders a completely different sensation!
Now any time I go to a park and they have one of these, I’m dragging my friends on it. It’s by no means the scariest or thrilling ride in the park, but I find it super relaxing. Heck, if they could figure out a way to have cocktail or food service on one of these things, I’d do it!
I’ve ridden on these at many parks throughout the US and in my opinion, here are my favorite locations:
- Adventureland Amusement Park – Farmingdale, New York
- Kennywood Park – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Cedar Point – Sandusky, Ohio
- Hersheypark – Hershey, Pennsylvania
- Morey’s Piers – Wildwood, New Jersey
A big honorable mention goes to Luna Park at Coney Island in New York, New York as well!
Now, I know Las Vegas is in a Ferris wheel phase by adding two large wheels to the Las Vegas Strip, but how about opening one of these, there! People are out there to relax and I’m sure it would do quite well!
But, as technology moves forward a new sky high tower version called the Star Flyer is now showing up at parks. The Star Flyer is the same, except riders climb a very high tower and swing from the rotating disc high up top.
The first ride opened in 2000 and two companies are currently involved in a lawsuit over who created the original ride. Australian manufacturer, Funtime claims to have created the first, while Dutch company Mondial created their own version known as a Wind Seeker.
The Wind Seeker model has been purchased by Cedar Fair amusement parks in America, but after opening in 2011, had to undergo extensive modifications.
The first four models were based on the original Dutch prototype and it was discovered that the swings could rock back and forth and nearly collide in mid air while the ride was in motion. One rider was said to have kicked the car in front of him away to avoid a collision, while another young girl had her knee cap injured when it was struck by the car in front.
The most famous incident occurred on live television in Canada. Citytv Toronto’s Breakfast Television was airing a live segment with a reporter riding the Wind Seeker at Canada’s Wonderland amusement park. When she got to the top, the chairs began swinging and hitting each other. Caught on tape, the anchor asked if they were supposed to do that, in which he received no response from the company.
The addition of new hydraulic dampeners has ended these mid-air collisions and all rides are now open and safe. Nonetheless, the Canada’s Wonderland ride malfunctioned one other time, leaving riders stuck at the top for 20 minutes.
The height of this version also requires the ride to shut down during high winds and bad weather. Despite, these few minor issues, the new rides have so far been relatively issue free and reviews online give the new version high praise.
Another American version opened last year at the new Luna Park in New York City’s Coney Island. While lots of riders lined up for the sky high version, the old fashioned original version was also just as popular and the two looked great together on the property. Hopefully, more parks will adopt both versions and continue to give riders a chance at some fun, soaring through the air!
Name: Wave Swinger
What: chair swing amusement park ride
Invention Date: modern version 1972, tower version 2000
It’s a good time for adults and children alike, and at night the lights make it one of the prettiest rides in the park. I’m still a fan of the classic version, but this summer I’m going to give the Star Flyer a try! Let me know if you have the chance to as well!