School trip adds new rides to my bucket list

Last week, I returned to Lake Compounce, an amusement and water park in Bristol that I used to promote some 15 years ago. But my role that day wasn’t as a public relations guy. Instead I was one of eight teacher chaperones for our annual middle school trip.

We brought 90 middle schoolers for our school visit that picture-perfect day. Since the temperatures were expected to reach close to 90, most of the students headed straight to the water park, which has become a huge maze of water slides and water attractions. Since the park is extremely secure and our students are very responsible, our roles were strictly to continuously keep an eye out for students, enjoy the park and go on any rides we wanted to.


I decided this visit to Compounce was part of my “bucket list” in terms of some rides.

Since I am not a roller coaster guy, I automatically skipped Wildcat and Boulderdash, two wooden coasters that are always filled. I also decided against a relatively new coaster ride, Phobia Phear, which looked like a couple of little kiddy cars going straight up, then upside down and straight down. My stomach was in knots just watching that ride. Zoomerang, the other coaster, wasn’t open when we arrived.

Instead I chose the flying swings as my first bucket list ride. I had taken those swings at Dorney Park in Pennsylvania when we brought our seniors there before COVID. I decided to sit on the inside so I wouldn’t be as dizzy and that worked out fine. The ride was high but was just fine for this old guy. A bunch of high school students even gave me a high five when I settled into the ride. I kept my eyes open as the ride went higher and the shrieks from riders escalated.

My next stop was the more low-key Flying Tigers, which was definitely the perfect ride for seniors. I squeezed into a little compartment of a mini-plane, joined older and younger folks and enjoyed circling just above the ground, steering left and right as the ride did its thing.

Throughout the day, I kept returning to one ride Rev-o-lution, which is a circular car that slides back and forth on a track, going higher and higher on each side and twirling around. I kept telling myself, “You can do this, man. Add it to your bucket list and live dangerously!”

But I couldn’t do it. Then, about an hour before we left the park, two of our teachers joined lots of our students, who were going on the ride throughout their day, and had a great time.

“That’s it,” I mumbled to myself. “I’m doing it. †

As I walked toward the ride, a bunch of our students yelled, “Go for it, Mr. Gaynes!”

Like so many things, the anxiety of what’s coming next is worse than the ride itself. The wait seemed endless. Of course, when the ride got underway, it stayed fairly low and there was just a little revolving of the large car. Within minutes that changed and I just started screaming as the car went back and forth, higher and higher, revolving and jerking as I yelled, “Just take me quickly! Just take me!” Then after what seemed like an eternity, it ended. I felt like I was in a daze. But I did it!

One of the other best parts of my visit to Lake Compounce was the opportunity to reconnect with my former client, Jerry Brick, the general manager. Before the trip, I took a chance that Jerry might be around to see if he still remembered me. He responded immediately and said he’d be glad to make time to catch up between phone calls and meetings.

I learned from my quick visit with Jerry that Lake Compounce is now part of Palace Entertainment, an international company that owns some 160 parks. Jerry’s responsibility also includes parks in Australia.

Our school trip to Lake Compounce was a great way to end our school year and I couldn’t be happier that I had added new rides to my growing bucket list.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.

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