Derry Easter Fest

1st April 2018

Towards the end of last week I learned that a coaster I'd not ridden would be open at an event in Northern Ireland promoted by Cullen's Amusements. Google Maps indicated a drive time of around three hours from Dublin assuming no traffic, making it a little too far for a same day round trip after work, but well within range for a Sunday afternoon after church. The routing took us through Ardee, Carrickmacross, and Monaghan before crossing the border at Aughnacloy. The lack of any checkpoint made the crossing straightforward, and indeed there were only two visible differences on the far side; speed limit signs in miles per hour, and signs referring to our destination as Londonderry. It was amusing to see that a sizeable percentage of them had been vandalised to erase the first two syllables; as with every dispute in this part of the world the argument has been ongoing for decades.

Frozen Coaster

Frozen Coaster (#2416) is a standard layout park model Big Apple built by Turkish manufacturer Güven Rides and owned by Scottish showman Reece Wheatley. A sculpted fiberglass Olaf takes the place of the usual caterpillar figurehead, with a wide grin that precisely replicates that belonging to the snowman from the Disney movie. The station fascia features a painted replica of Anna and Elsa, and though the ride area itself is sparse the track has been given a striking deep blue colour. The result looks considerably better than what one usually sees at parks and fairs, and though we only rode once we very much enjoyed our ride.

Our second stop was at the Giant Wheel, owned by Thomas Wilmot and purchased new from manufacturer Technical Park in June 2017. The cars are not fully enclosed, but they might as well be; each features tall perspex screens on all sides, a sad reflection on changing health and safety requirements in recent years. On the plus side, there are small gaps beside the doors that are just about large enough to accommodate the lens of a small camera. Due to space constraints at the Derry site the ride was being operated without its exit ramp, resulting in a minor traffic jam as disembarking passengers had to ease their way past new arrivals.

Megan and I always enjoy terrible fairground dark rides, making Road To Hell a stop that we'd have made even without the operator's enthusiastic attempts to catch our attention. We boarded our car with no expectations whatsoever, and given that it was a pleasant surprise to discover a ride with presentable scenery that was considerably better than we'd have expected from a portable machine. The highlight came at the end of the layout where an unexpected and substantial gravity driven drop took both of us by surprise. Our on-ride photo was quite entertaining, though we decided against the purchase on the grounds that it'd only take up space in our cupboard.

From there we headed over to Sky Swing, a thirty metre high knock-off Star Flyer built by Czech manufacturer Funlight with two passenger seats. This version of the ride has become almost commonplace in the UK and Ireland thanks to two key features: first, it fits on a single trailer; second, it can be set up in just three hours. The ride experience today was fine, if understated, as it didn't feel like we were that high off the ground. The manufacturer has since developed a larger model; I'm sure I'll catch up with one of those sooner or later.

The highlight of the show for us was a pair of fun houses. Indy's Trail was for the most part a junior affair, with moving floor segments and punch bags hanging from the ceiling; the only effect I'd not come across previously was on the lower floor where an entire corridor tilted from side to side as we walked through it. There was also a small haunted house section with the only illumination coming from a bright green skeleton. At the other end of the scale, Carnival Magic had numerous tricks geared at more adventurous visitors. The lower level had a series of spinning discs on the floor that rotated at an unusually high speed. These were followed by a moving staircase and walkway that was being closely monitored by an operator with his hand hovering over the emergency stop button. The highlight was a steep metal slide that dropped us onto a conveyor belt terminating on a soft mat. The experience concluded with a series of unbalanced squares over water.

Carnival Magic