Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Long Beach Island Fantasy: Part 2

Editor's Note: Be sure to check out Part 1 of this two-part series as well!

On behalf of Mayor Gator, I'd like to welcome you to the second and final segment of our Beach Haven adventure!

Pictured above is yet another one of Fantasy Island's stately entrances. The grandeur of it all might give you the impression that this is a gated park. Not so! Everything is pay-as-you-go, although a POP admission is available on certain days.

Something drew me to this particular token booth. I can't quite put my finger on it...

Ar! It seems me kiddie pirate ship captain be stashin' his booty in a heavily guarded booth. How many doubloons ye be askin' for the Giant Wheel, matey?

Oh, I suppose you were expecting tickets! In that case, you're out of luck because tokens are the standard form of ride currency at Fantasy Island. The kind man in the booth noticed that I was taking photos and went to the trouble of finding me a bright, shiny token to use, but sadly that photo is horribly out of focus so these will have to do. (My husband mentioned to him that I was doing a story about the park for my blog. I'm sure he was very impressed.)

The use of ride tokens is not the only thing to add an extra touch of class to Fantasy Island. The park's carousel, which was added in 1988, is a throwback to the carousels of the early 1900s. It was custom designed for the park by Chance Rides, and the horses were forged from molds that were based directly on the hand-carved designs of such greats as Charles Looff and Gustav Dentzel. The folks at Fantasy Island obviously take great pride in their carousel, as an entire section of the park's web site has been dedicated to it.

It ain't big and it ain't flashy. But it does earn Fantasy Island a spot on RCDB! The Dragon coaster opened in 1986. It was one of several new rides that Ed Florimont added to the former park's existing line-up when he took over.

For reasons that I cannot explain, there are some rather off-the-wall props sitting behind the Dragon coaster. Like this doll house...

...and this angry looking man!

I guess I'd be angry too if I had peg legs and was stuck behind bars.

Fantasy Island touts itself as a "Family Fun Park", and its wide selection of family-oriented rides is more than enough to validate that claim. But in the evenings, they kick the fun up a notch with yet another form of diversion: Free entertainment! The park's rotating entertainment line-up features a wide array of kid-focused entertainers who specialize in everything from magic to animals.

Though many new rides have been added to Fantasy Island over the past 25 years, Hartman's Park lives on through a handful of rides that have transcended the ownership changes. Among these are the bumper cars, tilt-a-whirl, and scrambler, which Florimont chose to keep and refurbish when he took over the park.

Park history lessons sure work up an appetite. Think hamburgers, fries, and cotton candy. Can't eat foods like those without paper products getting involved. Oily, sticky, ketchup-covered paper products....YUM!! This clown was moved to tears just thinking about it.

Ed Florimont was in the business of games, so it stands to reason that Fantasy Island would have a pretty impressive collection. But those shown here are just the tip of the iceberg! Right inside the park's main entrance is the legendary Casino, a family arcade featuring hundreds of games in a plush, upscale setting. The original casino building was 7000 square feet, but a massive $1 million expansion project doubled its size in the year 2000.

Fantasy Island is a place where old and new coexist harmoniously. For instance, the Himalaya that has resided at the park since its rebirth in the mid '80s stands next to the comparatively new Drop Zone, which was added in 2002. Yet one thing has remained constant through the years: Fantasy Island's commitment to character, cleanliness, and families.

That is one hungry, hungry hippo.

So what do you get when you cross a Victorian-style family fun park with a series of lip-smackin', refuse-eatin', cuteness factor-havin' trash cans? One enchanted enthusiast!

It all could have ended when the Hartmans decided to get out of the business in the 1970s. But thanks to Ed Florimont and the many capable staffers who have revitalized and cared for this park over the past couple decades, Fantasy Island remains a gem of Long Beach Island and, indeed, the entire Jersey shore community. If you're in the area, be sure to drop in and pay them a visit!

For even more Fantasy Island photos, check out our public album on Facebook!