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Nina In New York: Save Rye Playland!

Rye Playland, which opened in 1928 in Westchester County, N.Y., is one of the few government-run amusement parks in the United States.

Rye Playland, which opened in 1928 in Westchester County, N.Y., is one of the few government-run amusement parks in the United States.

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.
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By Nina Pajak

Say it ain’t so, Rye Playland!

We hear you’re losing money. Lots of it. Like, $3-$5 million/year for the county. And you know how Westchester feels about money: Loves it. Hates losing it. Just a real sticking point. She’s totally down on not having money, even though we all know there are more important things.

Like the Dragon Coaster. And the Pirate Ship and the Mind Scrambler and the Whip if everything else has a line, and even Ye Old Mill when you hit that point of critical nausea where so much as a bumper car will push you over that line from where there is no return.

Not to mention fried dough. There is always room for fried dough.

ryeplayland Nina In New York: Save Rye Playland!

(credit: ryeplayland.com)

When I think of Playland, a thousand associations come rushing at me like the hyper-chlorinated water at the bottom of the log flume. I can smell the air—powdered sugar and beach and fried foods mingled with the vague but unmistakable odor of children’s vomit. I can feel my teeth vibrating in the back of my head from spinning forty different ways on the Spider. I vividly remember sobbing with my friend and begging for our lives for the operator to stop and let us off, and feeling the morbid desolation when we realized that he was not only unmoved, but amused by our pleas. I remember birthday parties at the ice skating rink and lazy paddle boat races on the Long Island Sound.

I remember the bizarre feeling of pride every time I saw Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy” music video or the movie Big. I think I won a goldfish at one of the games, once. Pretty sure it died. I can feel the loud bass of the “ambient music” and the blast of freezing air conditioning in the Mind Scrambler tent. I’d like to think I went on at least one date there, but that sounds like a fabricated memory based on other people’s lives. I can still feel the gut fear waiting in line to ride the Dragon Coaster yet again, convinced that this would be the time it disintegrated into a billion toothpicks from underneath our car.

It’s very sad that future generations of Westchester and other Tri-State area kids won’t even have a chance to chicken out while waiting in line for the Sky Flyer.

Two years ago, the county sent out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to address the historic amusement park’s financial struggles, which resulted in about a dozen pitches. And now there are three. The final decision will come in September, after the summer season has ended.

I guess I should make good on my summer promise to return before then, lest I miss out on another chance to defy death and gastrointestinal distress.

What’s your favorite memory of Rye Playland?

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Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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