Updated: Mar 19, 2020
A theme park can provide a mixture of thrills, adventures, memories and of course the forgotten taste buds. I find true delight in the smell of fresh popcorn, funnel cakes and watching the enchantment that overcomes as people enjoy them. For a carny, the theme park “junk food” might be a normal thing, for we, pass those stands every day. However, for a guest that might be the only treat that they allow themselves to have.
As Joe (my 10 year old rescue Chihuahua) and I took a drive up highway 285 this weekend, we stopped at one of my favorite locations a little outside of Bailey, Colorado, called Coney Island Boardwalk. Since I was a child this stand has moved locations, but I clearly remember the true excitement of being able to eat at a giant hot dog stand. We spent our weekends exploring the mountains of Colorado, fishing around the South Platte river, kissing fish (well okay that was me), and camping on land that was not yet blocked off by invasive fencing.
As a young child, I was not entirely interested in fishing, for I found the concept boring; however, we always fished in the same spot. There was that enjoyment of regularity such as knowing the rocks that fit your tiny butt, or the flattest rock to take a nap on. For the rest of my family, they might have been looking for that perfect spot on the river. As an adult, I visit the location regularly and walk the path that as a child seemed forever long. There were times when I would sit down, cross my legs and arms and sit on the trail. My family with all the gear would continue on and I would wait and wait, for I knew they had to come back for me. The trail seemed long and after a day of talking and kissing fish I was purely exhausted.
The location that we knew better than the back of our hands was near the abandoned South Platte Hotel; which sits at the confluence of the North Fork of the South Platte. According to the Denver Water website, this location was a popular choice in the 1900s and only accessible by train. This is a huge part of Colorado history and as you park your car, look at the hotel behind you and walk over the old green stairs to get to the trail you can feel the overwhelming power of history.
You can almost hear the sound of the train rolling through the tight canyons, stopping at the hotel to let off patrons and the sound of laughter and conversation that would have encompassed the area. I try to imagine what the conversations might have been like, and what staying at the hotel would have felt like. After a long day of fishing there were times when my parents would treat us to the Boardwalk for a hot dog, onion rings, or in my sister’s case (fries) and soda.
As a carny, I see hot dogs every day, either through the catering efforts, or in the park, however I still remember the enjoyment of eating at a large hot dog stand in the middle of the mountains and near rivers that controlled my heart. The love that I have now for the theme park and the journey of my childhood are twined into a world of meshed memories and delight.