Circle swings date back to the era of the first mechanical carousels. In William F. Mangels definitive book, The Outdoor Amusement Industry, he credits the widespread introduction of the modern circle swing to Harry Traver and Rudyard Uzzell who installed their first one in Elitch’s Garden in Denver in 1904. From 1903 to 1907 more than 80 circle swings were erected around America. The Traver swing consisted of a high steel tower from the top of which six radial arms extended. From each of these a carriage was suspended by a long steel cable, and they were rotated at high speed. The more elaborate Maxim circle swing, by Sir Hiram Maxim, noted American-British amusement inventor, first appeared in 1905 at Coney Island, Philadelphia’s Willow Grove park, and Blackpool.
Circle swings have proliferated since, led by the popular Wave Swinger, until most modern parks feature one today. They have gotten taller, too. Six Flags Darien Lake, outside Buffalo, introduced their new Starflyer from Funtime this year, and I was among the first to ride it, pictured here. Dubbed Six Flags SkyScreamer, it is promoted as New York State’s tallest thrill ride. It’s certainly the tallest StarFlyer in New York. It’s the only one.
StarFlyers are what I think of as Wave Swingers on steroids. They can be built as tall as one can afford. Icon Park in Orlando afforded the tallest one so far, the $10 million (€9 million), 450 foot (137 m) Orlando StarFlyer. Darien Lake’s is 242 feet (74 m) tall, and offers a spectacular view of the park. They also have a Zierer Wave Swinger. But SkyScreamer is mis-named. Riders weren’t screaming. They were admiring the aerial view it offered. It’s a little like drone photography, where the camera is carried aloft for a different point of view. Riders get a different perspective. It was beautiful.
My ride was early in the morning, and the higher we went the colder it got. Comfortable at ground level, whirling around high in the air at 35 mph (56 kph) was chilly, but once hoisted there was no getting out. But spinning in chilly air got me thinking…Funtime has this magnificent tower ride so what else could they do other than hang chairs from the chains?
The first thought, and a good one I think, was to hang Flying Scooters. You know, those airplane like gondolas with large wings one can direct to make you climb and dive. At 242 feet that would be exciting, don’t you think?
Or, instead of being seated, what if everyone flew in a prone position, Superman-style? Flat gondolas would be hanging from the same arms that currently hold the chair swings. You would get an unobstructed view of the ground as you whirl around.
Speaking of whirling around, how would it be if passengers sat in round baskets like in a balloon ride that could whirl around their center as they whirled about the tower? That may be too much of a good thing, but circle swings are a good thing that continue to evolve. And revolve.