Summer at Knoebels
Proving those of us at IAAPA love our work and enjoy sharing it, during a family trip to Pennsylvania, I found it fitting to visit one of America’s finest family-owned parks: Knoebels.
As a fan of the global attractions industry with Pennsylvania roots, I’ve been no stranger to Knoebels in Elysburg, with a handful of visits spread out over the years. This was my first visit since beginning my career with IAAPA in 2018. On this visit, I was greeted with a warm welcome—and a typical friendly roasting from Brian Knoebel, a member of the fourth generation of family ownership at Knoebels.
Joining me on this trip were two friends, local to Pennsylvania, who enjoyed their first visit to Knoebels. They had heard great things about the park from friends, but nothing can prepare you for this quintessential American classic until you actually experience it for yourself. It was exhilarating to spend the day with first timers who continued to be more and more impressed by the charm of Knoebels. Thanks to an all-encompassing golf cart tour from Jeff Kashner, facilities director at Knoebels, exploring the campground was a new experience for me that fully awakened me to the full scope of the tradition of this property. The tour included behind-the-scenes areas such as the maintenance shop, in house lumber store, and sign shop that fuel that tradition and charm of a visit to Knoebels.
There are so many unique attractions at Knoebels that provide a mix of thrills, classic amusement park rides, and rides for the entire family to enjoy. The park offers something for everyone, something that Brian Knoebel is cognizant of. The park focuses on its unique ability to generate wonderful memories for families. Children will grow up and may seek out other thrills in the area during their young adult life, but Brian knows that they’ll be back to experience the park to create those same memories at Knoebels when they have children of their own. Brian may be selling things a bit short; From my perspective, finding something more thrilling than a ride on Phoenix is hard to come by.
I first met Brian at IAAPA Expo 2019 as he joined IAAPA’s Amusement Park and Attraction committee in 2020. I distinctly recall sitting down with Brian in the speaker lounge and chatting with him and sharing fond memories of my visits to Knoebels in the past. A clear memory (as any IAAPA team member will tell you) that time spent off your feet is few and far between during IAAPA Expo. We ended the conversation, I got back on my feet, and was excited to support him the rest of the “APA” committee going into 2020.
Part of the work of the Amusement Park and Attractions Committee is planning sessions for IAAPA Expo. Initially planned for 2020, and now a session at IAAPA Expo 2021, Brian supports the fourth iteration of the “Family Matters” session moderated by Philip Wilson of Extreme Engineering. This session is dedicated to discussing the unique challenges and successes of working within family owned businesses. Brian is a prime candidate to champion this session as the third generation of Knoebels has a very active presence in the park. The visit was bookended with a morning meeting with Dick Knoebel working in the office, and a chance encounter as he made his way back home after a rave review for the traditional Fish Fry on Friday evening.
As someone who’s palette doesn’t extend to fish, I could easily take his word for it having just ate my way across the park throughout the day. From French fries and ice cream, to the famous Cesari’s Pizza, all the food was spectacular. The food journey didn’t end within the park, thanks to the cleverly positioned Kettle Korn stand on the pathway to the parking lot; Kettle Korn was enjoyed by all on the drive home as we recounted the delightful day at Knoebels.