Donley's Wild West Town

28th July 2014

Donley's Wild West Town is a small family-owned amusement park for children located roughly fifty miles north-west of Chicago. It was immediately obvious on our arrival that management places a strong emphasis on presentation; the staff were dressed for the part, and were even adapting their language; we were greeted with an emphatic Howdy! on more than one occasion.

The park added a roller coaster four years ago. The operator on Runaway Mine Cars (#2090) was unusually candid, advising us the he couldn't guarantee we'd be thrilled, but he could guarantee that we'd need a chiropractor. This was perhaps a little unfair; his ride was typical Herschell, a bit bumpy but not uncomfortably so, and we were happy enough when given a second lap.

Boo Canyon

With the credit completed we decided to try the Train Ride, an extremely slow journey around the park area and a field at the back. The journey passed by several visible props, including an Indian camp with several teepees. The operator told us that we wouldn't be stopping today, but if we came back in the fall there would be an opportunity to pick up pumpkins. We also passed by a separate track that led into Boo Canyon; a special route used during hallowe'en.

Our admission included several opportunities to try out weapons. The Western Plains Archery Range had arrows with suction cups on the end rather than the more traditional sharp points, and their somewhat haphazard aerodynamics meant that the few sticks we made were mostly due to luck. Buffalo Billy's Rootin' Tootin' Shootin' Gallery was somewhat more straight forward, with air pistols that could fire cork pellets at clear targets. The most satisfaction was had from Huck Finn's Slingshots, where each hit was rewarded with a metallic ping. Last but by no means least came the Tomahawk Throw, something that I'd love to try again some day.

One of the stand-out features of the park is an interesting if somewhat eclectic museum. Part of the floor space is devoted to a streetscape made up of shops and businesses that might have existed in times gone by, including a medical surgery, a barber shop, a clothing shop, and for some unfathomable reason, a model train set. The remainder is devoted to an impressive collection of artefacts, covering topics as diverse as the American Civil War and how to cheat at card games. A magnificent collection of antique phonographs and music boxes lines the back wall, the latter apparently being one of the finest collections of Edisonia in the United States.

Exploring the museum in full requires at least an hour on its own, and to be honest, I'd recommend enthusiasts plan to spend at least three hours at this park. We gave ourselves two, and felt distinctly rushed.

 

John Ivers

28th July 2014

Four years ago I was privileged to visit the home of John and Sharon Ivers in order to ride the two home-made roller coasters in their front yard. John graciously agreed to allow a return visit today, so that my girlfriend Megan could enjoy the credits too. The driving distance from Donley's Wild West Town was almost three hundred miles, and a later than planned departure meant that the only stop we had time for was a five minute emergency McDonalds en route.

Blue Flash

Megan decided to start with Blue Too, which we boarded together, her in the front car, me in the back. The ride had a bit of a jerk as it engaged the lift hill but otherwise felt like a professionally produced ride, even down to the slight amount of airtime as the train crested the apex. The two bird feeders suspended from the turnaround were a nice touch and a feature that should really be designed into other amusement rides. We swapped seats for a second lap.

That brought us to Blue Flash, upgraded in recent years with a new leather seat. John's homemade looping coaster is a true masterpiece, but it is more than a little unsettling to ride, especially when you've not seen it go; the front of the ride car articulates significantly as it crests the apex of the lift, and the twisting first drop and vertical loop shake quite a bit. On my ride I managed to get stuck on the climb-out, apparently because I've put on a bit of weight since my last visit (!), but I was able to shake myself free and returned successfully to the loading platform. Megan completed a total of eight laps, and the wide grin on her face indicated that the long drive had been well worth the effort.

I'd like to thank John and Sharon Ivers for their hospitality once again, and I'd note what Megan said; they might well be the best grandparents ever.

2014


Donley's Wild West Town

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John Ivers

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