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Enjoying a blast from the past — at Midway State Park

George Westbrook waved at his daughter, Zoey, 8, as she rounded a curve on the Big Dipper roller coaster at Midway State Park, screaming with delight, her arms thrown up in the air.

"For her age and her size, this is a great place," the Silver Creek dad said, leaning against the chain link fence around the fast, yet not too-scary ride. "It's not huge like Darien Lake. Cost-wise, it's the right price. For our area, it's perfect."

On an overcast Friday — when the temperature topped out at just 69 degrees and with only days to go until the first day of school — moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas brought their kiddos to this old-timey amusement park in Bemus Point on Chautauqua Lake.

Cool enough for long-sleeved sweatshirts and with a smattering of fallen leaves on the grassy areas, autumn felt just around the corner.

But, for a few more days, it was still summer — and everyone at the park Friday seemed determined to make the most of it.

A decade ago, New York State bought the park and while a few upgrades have been made, Midway remains a slice of the past.

Bumper cars and bumper boats. The dizzying Tilt-a-Whirl and slippery, rainbow-hued Fun Slide. A Herschell carousel. Kiddie rides that go round and round and a miniature choo-choo train.

Fifteen dollars buys a wristband that gets anyone over 42 inches tall on just about any ride as many times as they please. It's $10 for kids shorter than that.

And, for any parent who endured the grueling waits for rides at fancier parks over summer vacation, there's the simple joy of no lines.

For Molly Loughlin, of Warren, Pa., Midway is a rite of passage.

Her grandson, Evan Swanson, 12, who is about to start the seventh grade, is the sixth generation in their family to play skeeball at Midway.

"My great-grandmother would come here," Loughlin said, as Evan and a friend jumped from one game to the next at the arcade. They were cleaning up: between them, they won 400 tickets that earned them a whoopie cushion, beach ball, yo-yo and an Airhead candy.

When Loughlin was a child, her family would rent a summer cottage near Midway, and her great-grandmother and grandmother would make sumptuous picnics of pork chops and mashed potatoes.

"Like a sitdown meal," she said. And they would all play skeeball.

Another tradition seemed to be in the making at the arcade Friday, as Jim Payne of Bemus Point helped his daughter, Kiley, 3, hold the mallet for Wack-a-Mole. His son, Hunter, 7, was happy to do it by himself. They whammed away on the pesky critter.

Holders of season passes, Payne often brings his kids to the park and has enjoyed watching them grow into new rides.

"He was able to do the bumper cars himself this year," Payne said. "She's looking forward to it next year."

Monica Smith, who lives outside Pittsburgh and rents a cottage in Westfield, has watched her grandson Mason Scitticatt, 9, outgrow the rides. He prefers the arcade and miniature golf with his grandfather. "He's growing up," she said.

Her granddaughter, Makayla, 6, still likes them. "She loves it," Smith said.

She was looking forward to a weekend packed with summer fun before the grandkids had to leave: picking up beach glass at Lake Erie, ice cream cones at the Farmer's Daughter and grilling outside.

"It was a very, very good summer," she said.

For Rebecca Menendez, of Rochester, and her kids, Midway was the perfect way to wind down the summer. "This is always on our summer bucket list," she said, sitting on a bench as her kids, Jack, 6, and Lauren, rode the Big Dipper for the third time. Their family just got back from a two-week trip to California.

"Last Friday we were at Legoland," Menendez said. "And guess where they wanted to go today?"

The children raced over to beg Menendez to be allowed to go on the Big Dipper yet again. The mother gestured to the entrance. There was no line at all and they got right back on the ride, something you most certainly cannot do at Legoland.

Midway closes for the season on Labor Day. It's open this weekend and next weekend, not weekdays.

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