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Kennywood Park

Three Rivers

Kennywood Park

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Location Details

PHONE: 412-461-0500
ADDRESS: 4800 Kennywood Boulevard
West Mifflin, PA 15122
HOURS: Mid-May- Labor Day Gates open daily at 10:30am- late evening

Event Details

Nationality Days

Description

The year was 1898, and the Monongahela Street Railway Company decided to lease a popular picnic site — Kenny’s Grove — and the land surrounding it. Since 1818, the Kenny family had made its living, and fortune, mining coal from this tract of earth, about 12 miles from Pittsburgh proper.

Andrew Mellon held controlling-interest in the Railway Company, and he coined the name Kennywood Park. At the time, Kennywood was one of a number of trolley parks — gathering spots located along the tracks — that were cropping up throughout the country.

In the early days, Kennywood not only boasted beautiful picnic grounds, but also a man-made lake, a dance pavilion, a cafeteria, and a merry-go-round. During the next several years, patrons were treated to new and exciting attractions. 1900 saw the grand opening of the bandstand; 1901, the Old Mill ride; and 1902, a state-of-the-art figure-eight roller coaster.

However, as the challenges of running an amusement park grew more demanding, the Railway Company sought to sever its ties. By 1902, it had subleased Kennywood to a Boston-based firm and later to a group of Aspinwall businessmen. By 1906, the lease, as well as the day-to-day responsibilities, went to A. S. McSwigan and F. W. Henninger.

These two gentlemen and their descendants managed to guide the park through changing lifestyles, economic conditions, and fashions, and a few cataclysmic events. Kennywood has survived several fires and severe storms. Throughout the decades, visitors have enjoyed now-classic attractions, like the merry-go-round (featuring 50 moving horses) and Noah’s Ark; a variety of old-fashioned but still-thrilling wooden coasters like the Jack Rabbit (built in 1921), the Thunderbolt (built in 1924), and the Racer (rebuilt in 1927); more modern, high-tech rides like Phantom’s Revenge and Aero 360; and, of course, food from the Potato Patch.

Encompassing 140-plus acres, Kennywood was named a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and remains a Pittsburgh institution. It is a place for first kisses and first roller coaster rides, a place to be taken to as a child and then to bring your own children. It is also a place to celebrate ethnic heritage and pride.

Kennywood has always welcomed the region’s diverse populations. In the beginning, explains Andy Quinn, the park’s director of community relations, nationality days simply added ticket sales. Now, they are “ingrained in the fabric of western Pennsylvania.”

That tapestry includes Carpatho-Russian, Italian, Slovak, Serbian, Greek, Byzantine, Hungarian, Slovene, Polish, and Croatian Days. But these gatherings are about more than bumper cars and arcade games. “Often,” Quinn says, “nationality days feature religious services, programs, and speakers.”

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