Entertainment – Amusements, Funfairs And Theme Parks

Entertainment and amusement of the masses is a serious subject, sometimes referred to as “bread and circus”.

An amusement, funfair or theme park, is a group of entertainment attractions, rides, and other events in a location for the enjoyment of large numbers of people. Amusement parks have a fixed location, as opposed to travelling funfairs and traveling carnivals, and are more elaborate than simple city parks or playgrounds.

They usually provide attractions meant to cater specifically to certain age groups, as well as some that are aimed towards all ages. Theme parks, a specific type of amusement park, are usually much more intricately themed to a certain subject or group of subjects than normal amusement parks.

Amusement parks evolved from European fairs and pleasure gardens, which were created for people’s recreation. World’s fairs and expositions were another influence on the development of the amusement park industry.

A theme park can be regarded as a distinct style of amusement park, with landscaping, buildings, and attractions that are based on one or more specific themes or stories.

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HISTORY & ORIGINS

The amusement park evolved from three earlier traditions, the oldest being the periodic fair of the Middle Ages – one of the earliest was the Bartholomew Fair in England, which began in 1133. By the 18th and 19th centuries, they had evolved into places of entertainment for the masses, where the public could view freak shows, acrobatics, conjuring and juggling, take part in competitions and walk through menageries.

The concept of a fixed park for amusement was further developed with the beginning of the world’s fairs. The first World fair began in 1851 with the construction of the landmark Crystal Palace in London, England. The purpose of the exposition was to celebrate the industrial achievement of the nations of the world and it was designed to educate and entertain the visitors.

American cities and business also saw the world’s fair as a way of demonstrating economic and industrial success. The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, Illinois was an early precursor to the modern amusement park. The fair was an enclosed site, that merged entertainment, engineering and education to entertain the masses. It set out to bedazzle the visitors, and successfully did so with a blaze of lights from the ‘White City’.

To make sure that the fair was a financial success, the planners included a dedicated amusement concessions area called the Midway Plaisance. Rides from this fair captured the imagination of the visitors and of amusement parks around the world, such as the first steel Ferris wheel, which was found in many other amusement areas, such as the Prater by 1896.

BLACKPOOL

The modern amusement park evolved from earlier seaside pleasure resorts that had become popular with the public for day-trips or weekend holidays in Blackpool, England and Coney Island, United States.

Blackpool began to develop as a seaside resort with the completion of a branch line to Blackpool from Poulton on the main Preston and Wyre Joint Railway line. Blackpool boomed, a sudden influx of visitors, arriving by rail, provided the motivation for entrepreneurs to build accommodation and create new attractions, leading to more visitors and a rapid cycle of growth throughout the 1850s and 1860s.

The growth was intensified by the practice among the Lancashire cotton mill owners of closing the factories for a week every year to service and repair machinery. These became known as wakes weeks. Each town’s mills would close for a different week, allowing Blackpool to manage a steady and reliable stream of visitors over a prolonged period in the summer.

In 1863, the North Pier was completed, rapidly becoming a centre of attraction for elite visitors. Central Pier was completed in 1868, with a theatre and a large open-air dance floor. The town expanded southward beyond what is today known as the Golden Mile, towards South Shore, and South Pier was completed in 1893, making Blackpool the only town in the United Kingdom with three piers.

In 1879, large parts of the promenade were wired. The lighting and its accompanying pageants reinforced Blackpool’s status as the North of England’s most prominent holiday resort, and its specifically working class character. It was the forerunner of the present-day Blackpool Illuminations.

In 1894 two of the town’s most prominent buildings opened, the Grand Theatre on Church Street, and Blackpool Tower on the Promenade. The Grand Theatre was one of Britain’s first all-electric theatres. When the tower opened, 3,000 customers took the first rides to the top.

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CONEY ISLAND

In the United States, picnic groves were established along rivers and lakes that provided bathing and water sports, such as Lake Compounce in Connecticut, first established as a picturesque picnic park in 1846, and Riverside Park in Massachusetts, founded in the 1870s along the Connecticut River.

A similar location was Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, on the Atlantic Ocean, where a horse-drawn streetcar line brought pleasure seekers to the beach beginning in 1829. In 1875, a million passengers rode the Coney Island Railroad, and in 1876 two million visited Coney Island.

Some of these parks were developed in resort locations, such as bathing resorts at the seaside in New Jersey and New York. A premiere example in New Jersey was Atlantic City, a famous vacation resort. Entrepreneurs erected amusement parks on piers that extended from the boardwalk out over the ocean. The first of several was Ocean Pier in 1891, followed later by Steel Pier in 1898.

MODERN AMUSEMENT PARKS

The first permanent enclosed entertainment area, regulated by a single company, was founded in Coney Island in 1895: Sea Lion Park at Coney Island in Brooklyn.

In 1897, Sea Lion Park was joined by Steeplechase Park, the first of three major amusement parks that would open in the Coney Island area. George Tilyou designed the park to provide thrills and entertainment. The combination of the nearby population center of New York City and the ease of access to the area made Coney Island the embodiment of the American

The first amusement park in England was opened in 1896 – the Blackpool Pleasure Beach by W. G. Bean. In 1904, Sir Hiram Maxim’s Captive Flying Machine was introduced; he had designed an early aircraft powered by steam engines that had been unsuccessful.

Fire was a constant threat in those days, as much of the construction within the amusement parks of the era was wooden. In 1911, Dreamland was the first Coney Island amusement park to completely burn down; in 1944, Luna Park also burned to the ground. Most of Ingersoll’s Luna Parks were similarly destroyed, usually by arson, before his death in 1927.

THE GOLDEN AGE

During the Golden Age, many Americans began working fewer hours and had more disposable income. With new-found money and time to spend on leisure activities, Americans sought new venues for entertainment. Amusement parks, set up outside major cities and in rural areas, emerged to meet this new economic opportunity.

These parks served as source of fantasy and escape from real life. By the early 1900s, hundreds of amusement parks were operating in the United States and Canada. Trolley parks stood outside many cities.

The Golden Age of amusement parks also included the advent of the kiddie park. Founded in 1925, the original Kiddie Park is located in San Antonio, Texas and is still in operation today.

This era saw the development of the new innovations in roller coasters that included extreme drops and speeds to thrill the riders. By the end of the First World War, people seemed to want an even more exciting entertainment, a need met by roller coasters.

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DEPRESSION & POST-WORLD WAR II DECLINE

The Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II during the 1940s saw the decline of the amusement park industry. War caused the affluent urban population to move to the suburbs.

By the 1950s, factors such as urban decay, crime, and even desegregation in the ghettos led to changing patterns in how people chose to spend their free time. Many of the older, traditional amusement parks closed or burned to the ground.

AMUSEMENT & THEME PARKS TODAY

The amusement park industry’s offerings range from large, worldwide type theme parks such as Walt Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood to smaller and medium-sized theme parks such as the Six Flags parks and Cedar Fair parks. Countless smaller ventures exist in many of the states of the U.S. and in countries around the world.

Family fun parks starting as miniature golf courses have begun to grow to include batting cages, go-karts, bumper cars, bumper boats and water slides. Some of these parks have grown to include roller coasters, and traditional amusement parks now also have these.

As of 2008, the Walt Disney Company accounted for around half of the total industry’s revenue in the US as a result of more than 50 million visitors of its U.S.-based attractions.

PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING

Wrestling (colloquially abbreviated to pro wrestling or wrestling) is an athletic form of entertainment based on a portrayal of a combat sport. Taking the form of live events held by touring promotions, it portrays a unique style of combat based on a combination of adopted styles, which include classical wrestling, catch wrestling and various forms of martial arts, as well as an innovative style based on grappling (holds/throws), striking, and aerialism.

The content including match outcomes is choreographed and the combative actions and reactions are executed in special manners designed to both protect from, yet simulate, pain.

These facts were once kept highly secret, but they are now openly declared as the truth. By and large, the true nature of the content is ignored by the performing promotion in official media in order to sustain and promote the willing suspension of disbelief for the audience.

Originating as a popular form of entertainment in 19th-century Europe and later as a sideshow exhibition in North American traveling carnivals and vaudeville halls, professional wrestling grew into a standalone genre of entertainment with many diverse variations in cultures around the globe, and is now considered a billion-dollar entertainment industry.

KAYFABE

The origins of Kayfabe are a subject of broad speculation. Historians are unsure at what point wrestling changed from competitive catch wrestling into worked entertainment. Those who participated felt that maintenance of a constant and complete illusion for all who were not involved was necessary to keep audience interest.

Wrestlers, bookers and promoters all rigourously enforced the illusion and very few were allowed into the closed society of professional wrestling for this reason. Aspiring wrestlers were typically stretched by legitimate wrestlers to both show how tough the sport really was, and to separate those who were serious into joining the profession from those who weren’t.

The practice of keeping the illusion, and the various methods used to do so, came to be known as “kayfabe” within wrestling circles, or “working the marks”. An entire lexicon of slang jargon and euphemism developed to allow performers to communicate.

Occasionally a performer will deviate from the intended sequence of events. This is known as a shoot. Sometimes shoot-like elements are included in wrestling stories to blur the line between performance and reality. These are known as “worked shoots”.

Gradually, the predetermined nature of professional wrestling became an open secret, as prominent figures in the wrestling business (primarily WWE owner Vince McMahon) began to publicly admit that wrestling was entertainment, not competition. This public reveal has garnered mixed reactions from the wrestling community, as some feel that exposure ruins the experience to the spectators.

FAKED ENTERTAINMENT OR REAL HOUSEWIVES

Many variations of the “Real Housewives” syndicate exist.

Have you ever watched something being filmed – they stand around for ages before anything is filmed, then they have several takes. These programmes have all the hall marks of KayFabe wrestling. We can all identify who the “faces” and “heels” are!

Will Smith’s fake slap on Chris Rock at the Oscars in 2022, anyone?

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