If you happened to boot up your IBM Personal Computer on June 20, 1996 to check out your favorite amusement forum, you probably would have seen this post by William J. Buckley Jr., with the headline: “HELP SAVE ROCKY POINT PARK. – VISIT IN JULY!”
Buckley’s post read:
“OK FOLKS — TIME TO GET OUT AND HELP SAVE A PIECE OF HISTORY!!! ANNOUNCING — “3 WEEK RUN FOR NEW ROCKY POINT PARK!!!”
Warwick, RI — This time next month, Rhode Islanders (and the world) will
know whether “Rocky Point Family Fair” is the rebirth or the last gasp of
the venerable Rocky Point Amusement Park.”
“The park’s new owners,” continued Buckley, “C.R. Amusements, L.L.C., announced a *three-week trial run* yesterday and said the public, by choosing to attend or not, will
decide whether Rocky Point is worth saving as a seasonal fairground. The trial run opens July 3 and closes July 21!”
If that’s a lot to digest, here’s a refresher course I’ll present with the help of A Redevelopment Plan for Rocky Point Park, a thesis by Robert E. Azar for the University of Rhode Island.
The saga goes back to 1990 when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) seized the Bank of New England and called in a $500,000
loan on the Rocky Point property; but the park apparently needed even more than
$500,000. So to meet its expenses and avoid bank foreclosure and auction, it borrowed $5.5 million at an annual interest rate of 15.5% from Fairway Capital, a consortium of lenders. However, within a few years the park was in trouble again. To avoid a foreclosure on a tax lien by the City of Warwick, the
three corporations that made up Rocky Point (Captain Rocky, Inc., Rocky Point
Amusement Park, Inc. and Kiddy Land, Inc.) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in
November of 1994. They claimed $9 million in debts from 145 creditors.
Despite the issues, the park was open for business for the 1995 summer season. In October of 1995, a reorganization plan was approved by a federal judge who
authorized a restructuring of the debt and the creation of a limited liability corporation to take the place of the three bankrupt corporations. The plan allowed the new corporation to either operate the park or liquidate it and create a residential development on the land. The owners chose the second option. On January 12, 1996, C.R.
Amusements, LLC was created. Concurrently, Moneta Capital, the owner of a 51 percent
share of the park, announced that the park’s assets would be liquidated. The auction of the assets went ahead on April 16 and 17, 1996.
However, on the second day of the auction, officials of C.R. Amusements announced that there would be a “Rocky Point Family Fair” July 3rd to 21st, featuring new rides that would be brought in and run by an outside vendor. Kevin D. McCarthy, a spokesman for the Family Fair, announced the July reopening, indicating that there might be a
second engagement in August if the fairground attracted enough visitors.
McCarthy claimed that about 30 rides would be operating, including
the Flume and Corkscrew roller coaster. Both rides had been sold in
April but have not yet been dismantled and removed. He said fireworks displays would be held July 3, 4, 6, 13 and 20, and there would be live entertainment on the midway by the Gifford & Roy Magic Circus. Finally, the chowder and clam cake window at the Shore Dinner Hall would open from June 28 through Labor Day.
No documentation is readily available how successful the July engagement was. Many of those who patronized the Fair reported they enjoy the experience despite the unfamiliar placement of portable rides including a Giant Wheel next to the Flume ride as seen here.
Various YouTube videos shot during the Fair reveal that most of the park’s major rides were in operation, except perhaps the Freefall which was ticketed for relocation to Ohio’s Geauga Lake amusement park.
Interestingly, the Fair installed a factory red Tilt-A-Whirl.
Rocky Point’s previous Tilt had a varied color theme, and to some purists, it was refreshing to see a factory-issued red ride similar to the Tilt that debuted with the park’s reopening in 1948, seen below.
Other interesting ride choices of the Family Fair organizers were the Wipeout and Music Fest flat rides.
As mentioned, most of the Rocky Point fan favorites were operating, including the Scrambler and the Corkscrew.
No matter what was added/replaced on the Rocky Point midway, the thrill of entering the park from the rear of the Castle of Terror/House of Horrors was always present. However, looking at a YouTube video shot while riding that summer, it seemed the ride’s car speed had been increased and there were no apparent sound effects; a radical departure from its prime years.
For some Fair patrons, just sitting down and taking it all in was just what the doctor ordered.
Apparently, the July engagement met the quota, and a second session of the Fair was held in August. Today, there are many reminders of the Rocky Point Family Fair floating around, as patrons and collectors wanted to get a piece of the amusement park’s very last days.
So that’s it for Rocky Point’s last hurrah as an operating amusement park. Of course, since October 2014, people have been enjoying Rocky Point State Park, but that’s a whole other story, shared often in other posts I’ve written here.
Please share your memories of Rocky Point Family Fair in the comments below!
Paul F. Lynds
Tales of Rocky Point Park
Rhode Island Monthly
Jake and Melissa Tasho
A Redevelopment Plan for Rocky Point Park, a thesis by Robert E. Azar for the University of Rhode Island.
To see a video of Rocky Point Fun Fair, go to: here.