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Bidding Farewell

CBS 21

Original Article »

September 19, 2007

The Williams Grove Amusement Park has been in operation since the late 1800s. But it took just a few hours for most pieces of the long-time Cumberland County attraction to go to the highest bidder.

A crowd of about two hundred people followed auctioneers through the 55-acre park in Monroe Township on Tuesday morning. Among the first rides to be auctioned off was a Tilt-a-Whirl, which garnered a $4,500 bid. The winner tells CBS 21 News that he'll haul the ride to Indiana, where it will join his collection of mobile amusement attractions.

"I had a hard time," says Margie Hinchberger, who didn't bid on any items.

The Lemoyne native made a special trip from West Chester to witness the auction for nostalgia purposes. Hinchberger says that as a child, she would visit a relative who lived in a cottage on the Williams Grove property. She and her friends would frequent the park each season.

"The Tilt-a-Whirl was a favorite ride," she adds, "and when I saw the Ferris Wheel was gone, that was sad, too!"

With a quick tongue, the auctioneer moved swiftly through the attractions, selling them at what many felt were bargain prices.

"I'm a little disappointed, and sad myself," says Justin Loh, who's worked at the amusement park for the last 20 years, managing it for the past 10. "We felt pretty good about the carousel going for $50,000. And we thought that the ride would bring that for the memories that people had on that. I'm a little disappointed on the Big Himalaya on the other side of the park, only going for about $5,000. That was a $250,000 ride when it was new!"

Many of the rides will be transported from Williams Grove over the next few weeks, and be added to other small public amusement parks across the country. Others are destined for restoration, like the Grand Carousel and the German Swing, which were bought by a housing developer from Florida. He says the two pieces of machinery will become the centerpieces for the "town square" of a new 750 home development outside of Tampa.

"I think (they'll) be part of a new community that, 150 years from now, will be still cherishing the asset," says John Sullivan of his latest purchases.

Another man plans to reconstruct a small roller coaster on his front lawn. George Farnham paid just $3,500 for the mini-coaster he'll dismantle and haul back to West Virginia.

Loh says he would have liked to see more local bidders take home a piece of local nostalgia, and keep it in the area. He says he expects to see some disappointed faces in coming weeks, when customers return to the Sunday flea markets recently started on the Williams Grove property.

"(They'll) see some of the stuff gone, and all their memories are just taken away," he says.

The 55-acre property itself is still up for sale, and includes a large wooden roller coaster, and serpentine water slide, a haunted house, a pond frequented by ducks and geese, and a large home.

Loh says a proposed sale of the entire amusement park, complete with the aging rides, drew little interest over the past year. But he still holds onto hope that someone could buy the property with the intention of starting a new amusement park.

A seasonal run for the Haunted House, water slide, and large roller coaster is still being considered.

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