At Oaks Amusement Park in Portland, Ore., promotions and events manager Emily McKay is brimming with excitement.
“We are having the biggest opening and event in a long time. We just got a brand new roller coaster, which is a major investment for us that was many years in the making. It’s opening March 24th,” she relates. “It is a German-crafted roller coaster, and a very exciting one. You start with a 72-foot vertical lift, and over the path it takes, there is a reverse vertical drop. Then it goes into a loop and then onto what is known as an Immelman turn - which basically means you are on the track, and you flip all the way upside down and come right-side up the same way you flipped: you go down and back. Then, there’s just a traditional corkscrew making up the last turn. Oregon has not had a roller coaster of this scale ever, so it is very exciting,” McKay enthuses.
The name of this stellar roller coaster is appropriately enough, Adrenaline Peak. It is a precisely designed Gerstlauer Euro Fighter. “It is replacing our Looping Thunder, which was our old showpiece roller coaster for the past 22 years,” McKay says, noting that Looping Thunder was at that time a big upgrade. “It’s still fully operational and fun, and we are looking to sell it to another park. But, we needed to upgrade and update. Portland was clamoring for something newer and bigger.”
According to McKay, “The park itself has been a staple of Portland life since we opened in May 1905, which was before the Lewis and Clark expedition. This is our 113th season, and we are the oldest continually operating amusement park in America. We ran through depressions, recessions, and the war years,” she says.
From hosting birthday parties to fundraisers and even weddings, the park is a renowned and beloved location for locals and out of town visitors alike. It features over 20 rides. The adorable Frog Hopper is a favorite for small children; the Disc O is described as “spine tingling,” and indeed the twirling ride ascends to a height of 47 feet as it dips and spins. The family fun of the historic Ferris Wheel comes with terrific views of the Willamette River and of downtown Portland. Little ones also enjoy the vintage airplane fighter styling of the Sky Fighters ride, and the large-scale playground-vibe of the Big Pink Slide, with three side-by-side slides to sail down. The Scrambler is a fast-moving spinning ride, and the twisty but tamer ride known as The Spider also spins, as it has been doing for over 50 years. The 45-foot Tree Top Drop offers riders not just one drop but repeated excitement along with city views. From the Up, Up and Away balloon themed ride – which also offers great city views - to the relaxing tour of the park offered by The Train, there’s a ride for everyone in the family of all ages to enjoy at Oaks Amusement Park.
The park’s most popular attractions traditionally are its roller coasters, McKay adds. “Our Screamin’ Eagle swing ride is another popular ride, and when we ask people, when we do surveys about the rides they love best, historically, our 1911 hand-carved carousel is always mentioned.” The unit was American-made, hand-carved by Hershell Spillman. “It is the same vintage we are and Portland loves it,” she says, adding that all of the kiddie rides are also a big hit at the park. “We’re very much a family park, and even our new roller coaster has a lower height limit than many roller coasters, at 48 inches.” The reason? “Our whole goal is to have the entire family go on as many rides together as they can.”
With choices of limited, deluxe, and premier ride bracelets, park attendees can enjoy all the fun and thrills they can handle. But if rides aren’t your thing, though, there is plenty of fun still to be had, including mini-golf, and a bevy of carnival games.
Visitors will find air hockey, pinball games, and crane-operated games in the park’s arcade, as well as balloon darts and a basketball toss game of chance. And don’t miss Bob’s Fishing Hole, where this is a winner every time, and great fun for the kids. There are classics like Skee Ball and group games like water races, too.
To promote the venue, McKay says Oaks Amusement Park uses a variety of tactics. “We reach out on social media, we use a lot of that,” she relates. “We also use e-blasts and we do a partnership with other local entities.” She explains that these include local news and radio outlets which the park allows to offer discounts to their listeners. “We have a lot of interplay with the community with what we do, and that includes event-specific and partnered happenings at the park in regard to regular newspaper ads and TV.”
One thing McKay wants people to realize about her park is that it is a non-profit, historical location. “Not everyone knows that. And our mission is to provide wholesome, safe family fun for Portland into the future. We reinvest our profits every year to keep the park going, and to keep it an historic park. We want to keep it true to its character, to the city, and the time it grew out of,” she attests.
The park is open from March through September, but along with the outdoor amusement attractions, Oaks Amusement Park also operates what is known as the largest skating rink west of the Mississippi. “The roller-skating rink is open all year ‘round,” McKay reports. “And it is an amazing rink, in and of itself it is like an amusement park. It’s beautifully designed and has a live pipe organ that’s played American Standards since 1955. The music plays two days a week.”