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Updated 05.03.01


The typical season in the Northern amusement parks lasts 100 days. Usually the parks open their gates at the end of April and close at the early September. What happens inside the park during the remaining 8 months? Hopefully a new series of articles, Amusement park behind the scenes, answers this question. In this first part we visit in Finland's two most popular amusement parks, Linnamaki and Sarkanniemi, during the off season.

During the season, there are 500 employees working in the Linnanmaki park. Most of them are part time employees. However, 40 persons work there full time, around the year. In Linnanmaki everything, including the office buildings, is located inside the park. It means that there are lots of action going on even when the park is closed. As a matter of fact, the parks start to prepare the next season as soon as the previous season ends. The place is cleaned up, all the shops and food stands are emptied, food equipment are cleaned, prizes from the games stalls are collected back to storehouse...

The technical department starts immediately to put rides up for the winter. For example the gondolas of the Ferris wheel are disassembled. You can actually see this happen if you commute to Helsinki by local trains. The sight of the stripped Ferris wheel is a clear sign of the coming winter. Some rides are completely dismantled. Some rides stand the weather just by covering the cars with canvases. Various decorations and roof canopies are sensitive, so they are stored indoors, or at least under the roof. Typically all the buildings around the park are full of parts from the rides.

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Midway in Linnanmaki

The major avenues are ploughed so thoroughly, that you can even drive cars on them. In the summer time there is a huge crowd on this street. In the winter, just a handful of park employees pass by. The Top Spin and the Rainbow can be seen in the background.

The maintenance of the amusement park rides take place during the winter. Sometimes a major overhaul is required and the whole ride, or at least the machinery, is sent back to the manufacturer. The smaller overhaul takes place during the months of spring, when the rides are put back in use again. New rides need attention too. The old rides are dismantled and the new ones are build up on their places. Sometimes rides are circulated inside the park. The planting is also a full time job and may take several gardeners. During the off season they work in the greenhouse, excluding the midwinter.

Winter is also a perfect time to construct new buildings. They could be anything between office buildings and games stalls. These games need to be set up too, and machines from the games arcade need to be maintenanced. Some of the arcade games are taken away from the parks during the winter. Large sitdown video games may cost thousands of dollars, so there is no point to keep them idle. Linnanmaki operates a separate arcade during the off season, where many of the games are moved.

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Fairytale Valley, Linnanmaki

The streets are not ploughed in Fairytale Valley during the winter. A lonely path goes through the snowdrifts.

The office buildings are also busy in the winter. Detailed plans must be made for the following season. New advertising campaigns need to be planned. New rides, games and arcade machines are hunted and exhibitions and manufacturers are visited. New prizes have to be selected and ordered. The contracts have to be signed with the suppliers and the subcontractors. Entertainment and outdoor stage acts need to be hired for the summer. And finally, the staff must be hired and trained for the season. This is a big and time consuming operation, even though majority of the part time employees come again. The staff is selected at the end of February and at the beginning of March.

The last two months are really hectic times. The rides are reassembled immeadiately, when the weather gets warm and the snow starts to fade away. The very last month is total chaos. Everything is made in the reverse order compared to autumn. Shops and games stands are filled with items and prizes. Food stands are prepared for use. An outside observer might think that there is no way that everything will be ready for the opening. It is not uncommon that work is being done up to the very last minute, but as soon as the first customers walk through the gates, the illusion is once again ready.

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Troika, Sarkanniemi

Troika is half dismantled for the winter. Only the center and the arms are left intact. Troika in the summer

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Cups and Saucer, Sarkanniemi

Some rides do not have to be dismantled at all. All it takes is to cover it with the canvas. The sides of the Cups and Saucer ride have been lifted up. Cups and Saucers in the summer

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Viking, Linnanmaki

The Viking ship is one of the easier rides to put up for the winter. Viking in the summer

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Frisbee, Sarkanniemi

Some rides survive the winter with minimum attention. Frisbee in the summer

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Red Baron, Sarkanniemi

The airplanes are removed from the Red Baron... Red Baron in the summer

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...and stored under the roof of the outdoors cafe

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Water Flume, Linnanmaki

The rapids are dead in the middle of the winter... Water flume in the summer

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Hurjan Kurun lautat

...The rafts are lifted by the water tower. Kiddie Ferris wheel High Chaparral can be seen in the background.

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Ghost train, Sarkanniemi

The indoor attractions are the most simple rides to prepare for the winter. However, these buildings are not heated. Only few amusement park buildings are. Ghost train in the summer

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Space Shot, roller coaster and Animal Carousel, Linnanmaki

The carousel is almost completely dismantled. Only the frame is left behind. This carousel is 100 years old and its wooden animals and facades simply do not stand the harsh weather conditions during the weather. New rides made of stainless steel and fiber glass are complete opposites. The same rides in the summer

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Magic River, Sarkanniemi

The bank of Magic River could be any deserted beach with boats turned upside down. Magic River in the summer

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Kiddie dodgem track, Linnanmaki

The cars, ceiling nets and the metallic floor platforms are taken to storehouse. The latter two lead power for the cars so they can not be subjected to rust. The plastic canopy stand no low temperatures either. Note how the roof is winched down for easier dismantling. Kiddie didgem track in the summer

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Parts of Ladybird, Sarkanniemi

Parts can be found anywhere in the winter. These parts by the Jet Star belong to Ladybird ride.

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Ferris wheel, Linnanmaki

The gondolas have been taken down from the Ferris wheel. There is only one axle to hold the gondola, as you can see from the picture. Ferris wheel in the summer

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Wave Swinger, Sarkanniemi

It is very hard to believe that this ride is a Wave Swinger in the summer time. Wave Swinger in the summer

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Dragon, Linnanmaki

Only the tale is left intact. The other parts of the dragon are stored indoors. This picture shows how the wheels are rolling on the running rails. Dragon in the summer

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Top Spin, Chair-O-Plane and roller coaster, Linnanmaki

All the wooden parts of the Chair-O-Plane have been removed. The illustrations on the panels survive poorly outdoors. Top Spin in the summer

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Break Dance, Linnanmaki

The cars of the Break Dance are covered in groups. No parts have been removed. Break Dance in the summer

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Jet Star, Sarkanniemi

The trains are covered but there is no way a ride this magnitude can be disassembled or covered. Jet Star in the summer

Special thanks to Sarkanniemi and Linnanmaki amusement parks for the unique opprtunity to visit there midwinter.