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Massive traffic down Warwick Neck Rd. Kids, parents, even grandparents all headed in the same direction with a similar skip in their step. Baby strollers, police on ATV’s, food vendors, political candidates, and a palpable excitement in the air. Sounds like a typical scene that surrounds a popular amusement park. You would think that Saturday’s activities were the result of an amusement park that was open and thriving in business.
Not even close. Rocky Point Park in Warwick has been closed since 1995. Yet, this past Saturday October 25th, people flocked to Rocky Point Ave in ridiculous numbers. Living in North Kingstown, this trip should have taken me about 25 minutes on an average Saturday. My trip took roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes. Warwick Police did a really nice job with traffic control once folks got close to the park entrance. There was plenty of parking inside the abandoned park. I have to commend the operations people for the way they laid out the vendors – especially the food vendors and musical tent. Food vendors supplied favorites included those Rocky Point staples – kettle corn, shaved ice, cotton candy and cotton apples, clamcakes and chowder – along with more modern fancies such as lattes and espressos. The Nightlife Orchestra, led by Warwick native Mark Bedrossian , played to a very spirited crowd.
Frankie Galasso, the nationally syndicated and award winning cartoonist, was on site to display his incredible cartoon drawings – several of the famed Rocky Point Amusement Park in its heyday. Galasso has done such a beautiful job capturing those special memories in his many lithographs and now postcards of Rocky Point Park. If your memory of the park is a little fuzzy, pick up one of his lithographs and experience the ultimate flashback – a refresher course in all those great rides and buildings that made Rocky Point Park, according to Frankie Galasso, “New England’s Most Beautiful Amusement Park.” Frank took out one of his Rocky Point Park postcards – which is now featured in the upcoming Farrelly Brothers movie “Dumb and Dumber 2” – and pointed to the spots where the images once were. Frank’s postcards of Rocky Point Park were a big hit at the ceremony.
Next to Frank was Jason Mayoh, the creator of ”Tales of Rocky Point Park”, a comic book inspired by the amusement park. Mayoh’s creative stories and images of Rocky Point in ”Tales of Rocky Point Park” were just one of many items he had for sale. Vintage posters of performers and sporting events – such as a Vinnie Pazienza fight – were also part of Mayoh’s booth. He was a park attendee as a kid in the 1980’s, a teenager when it closed in the 1990’s, and published his comic book series as a adult in 2006. Rocky Point Park still means the world to Jason Mayoh, some 20 years after it closed its doors.
The varied emotions going through my head were like, yep, riding a roller coaster. Anticipation – as I was driving down Warwick Neck Ave. I tried to recall familiar houses or landmarks to signal that I was close to the park. Amazement – the volume of cars and people that came out to this ceremony was incredible. Confusion – the Corkscrew, the Palladium, the Spider were not there – not even a glimpse of any part of those Rocky Point institutions were there. Awe – the amount of land space that Rocky Point Park occupied was massive. Joy – meeting artists like Frank Galasso and Jason Mayoh, who have captured the essence of Rocky Point Park in their works. Wonder – the structures that were left were only bits and pieces – all rusted and seemingly out of place standing alone, yet their existence after all of these years was so impressive in so many ways.
Visitors were not coming to pay their respects for a fallen relative. Rather, to pay their memories a visit. To show their children or grandchildren where the Shore Dinner Hall was or to tell them stories of seeing “Physical Graffiti” at the Palladium or what it was like the first time they rode “The Flume”. Visitors took their time walking the grounds, often pausing to let a pleasant memory overcome them. There were no tears, none that I could see. Just simply an entire region of fans coming back to relive an incredible part of their childhood. Rocky Point Park remains a very special part of RI’s past, present, and thanks to the RI Department of Environmental Management, future. It was nice to ride your incredible rides one more time, even if it was standing still, in the middle of a field, with my eyes closed.