Funland has kept four generations of one family happily employed—much to the delight of patrons.
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At 9 a.m. on a weekday morning, walkers in bathing suits and cover-ups are headed toward the beach. There is a bit of activity in the boardwalk shops, but the garage-like doors at Funland are down, hiding the beloved amusements from view. The helicopter and teacup rides inside are at rest, as though taking a breather from the night before, and bumper cars slumber in neat rows.
Under a bright blue sky, Randy Curry is building a cubby area for the newest ride, a contraption that unfolds like a giant monster and whirls passengers upside down. On the first few runs, the guests’ sandals and cell phones went flying. The cubbies will hold these items while guests are in the air.
Barbara Fasnacht is watering baskets of purple petunias outside. Trying to dodge the snaking hose, workers unload bottled water.
But the peace comes to an end when the garage doors roll up. As the day goes on, Funland emits a cacophony of noise. Spooky sounds drift from the Haunted Mansion. Bumper cars collide. Toddlers squeal from the wooden boats that circle a mermaid with seaweed-like hair, and teenagers shriek when the Sea Dragon—a gondola-type ride that swings like a giant pendulum—reaches its stomach-dropping, vertical peak.
The flashing lights. The screams. The neon-colored stuffed animals dangling above arcade games. They’re all part of the fun at Funland, which is finishing its 48th summer. The amusement park is as beloved a boardwalk landmark as the Dolle’s sign.
“I have pictures on the carousel from when I was a toddler,” says Brenna Gause, 11, of Harbeson, who regularly visits Funland with her cousins from Wilmington. “It’s what we do when we’re all together.”
Douglass Mowrey of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, who regularly rents a house in Rehoboth Beach, has gone from the kiddie rides to spinning rides to the Sea Dragon. But thanks to her 4-year-old daughter, she’s back to the kiddie rides. “They have rides for all ages, although for the 1-year-olds, mom or dad has to squeeze in there with them,” she says—and it can be a pretty tight squeeze.
Funland even attracts celebrities. Margo McDonough recalls the June evening when her oldest child, Ryan McDonough Fisher, now 18, was a toddler riding in the little boat. Kathi Lee Gifford’s son clambered into a neighboring boat.
“Frank was dressed pretty low key,” McDonough recalls, “But Kathi was decked out, most especially in bling. There were rocks on her fingers, in her ears and around her neck. She definitely was a sharp contrast to the rest of us doting moms in our standard-issue khaki shorts and T-shirts.”
Page 2: Family Fun, continues...