Note: This was originally written for the Usenet Newsgroup rec.roller-coaster and appeared there in plain-text form on May 9, 1998 under the title, "Coaster Manifesto". It's almost a parody on the form of a 'manifesto' so the statements are a little 'over the top' (so to speak), but it's worth thinking about anyway.<define>
It is a sad but true fact that history tends to be recorded by those who end up as winners. To the victor belongs not only the spoils, but also the newspapers, the books, the film, television, radio, and other information technology.
The unfortunate upshot of all this is that long after the fact, historians make use of this information to develop an image of the place and time. The problem is that, as any good historian will admit, these materials which survive as the historical record are rather limited, and tend to merely tell the story of people doing bad things to one another. The details of their stories, including such details as their means of recreation, go unrecorded as part of mundane everyday life. Because such details are not recorded, they are ultimately lost. And students of history, consequently, are left to study the bad things that people did to one another, and the economic and political repurcussions of those actions.
Unfortunately, one of the side effects of this kind of history is a kind of tunnel vision as we live through our own lives. Because the kinds of things we do tend not to be significant in the same way as those grand historical events we study, we think of them as mundane. Or if not mundane, then certainly not newsworthy. We are so engrossed in the act of living our lives that we fail to examine our own activities with a historical eye, and worse, we have a habit of not merely ignoring that our lesiure pursuits are culturally and historically significant, but even actively denying the fact, dismissing anything not directly connected with our employment, politics, religion, or family as "mere frivolity."
It is for this reason that amusement parks, amusement rides, and most particularly roller coasters scarcely register in the collective consciousness. Some 200 million people visit America's amusement parks each year, supporting a multi-billion dollar industry. Just about everyone knows what a roller coaster is, has probably ridden at least one, and will probably relate an amusement park memory if you prompt him. Everyone is familiar with amusement parks, everyone rides the rides, and the images of the amusement industry show up everywhere. Try using a keyword-based search engine on the term roller coaster and you will get thousands of hits. And yet, amusement parks and rides are largely ignored. A closer look at that keyword search will show that most of the hits have nothing at all to do with amusement rides. Most people watch the industry so closely that they don't even know their favorite parks have been ground into dust until they try to buy tickets. Go to a restaurant, or ride a bus, or otherwise eavesdrop on a few real-world conversations. Notice how often amusement rides come up? Unless you picked on a group of ride nuts, I can almost guarantee that they are not even mentioned. Media coverage is even worse, as in the unlikely event that an amusement ride is featured, it is almost certain to be in the discussion of an accident or a look at how dangerous amusement rides can be.
As ride enthusiasts, it is our goal to bring amusement parks into focus as important features of modern life. In our own way, we intend to bring to amusement rides the kind of recognition already afforded to music, visual arts, film, and other "artistic" forms of recreation; we intend to associate with roller coasters the kind of excitement and attention that we lavish upon sporting events. We believe that amusement parks are at least as notable as places of recreation as theatres, arenas, ballparks, and concert halls. Our purpose is to increase the appreciation and encourage the preservation of amusement parks and rides. Our purpose is to advance the recognition of the amusement park as an important part of our cultural heritage, and as a historically significant part of not only our past, but also in the definition of our present and future.
We achieve these goals as enthusiasts through the activities of our organizations, both enthusiast organizations such as the National Amusement Park Historical Association, the American Coaster Enthusiasts, and the National Carousel Association, but also through our support (if only through park attendance) of industry associations such as the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the World Waterpark Association, the Showman's League, and the Outdoor Amusement Business Association. We achieve our goals by patronizing amusement parks and carnivals, not merely those major regional and national parks which can support themselves through advertising promotion, but also those remaining local parks which are less well known and less well supported. We achieve our goals through our formal publications...magazines, books, and films promoting the amusement industry. We achieve our goals through our statements made to and through media channels as we dispel myths and promote our favorite rides and operators. And we advance our cause through the personal and electronic communications with each other made possible by formal and informal park meetings, written correspondence, telephone calls, and other forms of electronic communication such as electronic mail, Internet news, and the World Wide Web. But most important, we achieve these goals through our enthusiasm, as enthusiasts are enthusiasts before activists, and it is the personal appreciation which is often the most useful tool for promoting preservation and recognition.
In short, it is our goal as amusement park and amusement ride enthusiasts to promote the appreciation and preservation of amusement rides. To call attention to this well-known, but generally unnoticed facet of our cultural lives.
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