Andrew Novick and Chris Getzan briefly panicked when Lakeside Amusement Park’s carousel broke over the summer after 114 years of nonstop use.
“We were there for a site visit about a month ago and asked why it wasn’t running,” said Novick, who along with Getzan programmed this year’s Summer Scream fundraiser at the park. “I was like, ‘Tell us it’s not true!’ I never appreciated it so much until it was torn away from us for a brief time.”
Fortunately — and improbably — Lakeside’s owners quickly tracked down a used replacement for the carousel’s 1908 C.W. Parker motor, returning the ride to its place of honor in this year’s all-new, immersive Summer Scream program, which returns Thursday, Aug. 25.
Tickets, $65 in advance or $75 for the day-of (and $10 less for Denver Film members), were still available as of this writing.
The longtime benefit for the not-for-profit Denver Film, returning after a two-year hiatus, brings back the things that have made it a perpetual sell-out in past years: An adults-only night at a historic, neon-soaked theme park, with unlimited rides, free drinks and a buffet of unique arts and culture. Given that Lakeside doesn’t normally serve alcohol, it’s been a raucous affair full of surprise guests and entertainment, inviting new and well-heeled visitors to a slice of Denver that usually caters to working-class families.
“This park was built to last compared to a lot of others of its day,” said Getzan, who has helped create History Colorado’s acclaimed citywide scavenger hunts over the last two years. “We’re hoping to show people the behind-the-scenes of that.”
That translates to an immersive makeover highlighting the park’s history from an outside perspective, said operations manager Brenda Fishman. She regularly entertains dozens of “wacky ideas” from programmers wanting to rent out Lakeside — music festivals, theatrical projects and more — but rejects them all due to the real-world logistics that programmers tend to overlook.
Summer Scream is essentially the opposite, she said, taking over the park with a mix of love and authority and creative ambition, and allowing her to take a hands-off approach. This year’s event will feature costumed actors, themed pop-ups and other surprises that return the park to an era of boardwalk strolls and parasol twirls.
Novick and Getzan are deeply embedded in Denver’s arts community and their guests reflect that: Erin Rollman from Buntport Theater; choreographer and aerialist Amber Blais and Starry Night Productions; comedians Shanel Hughes and Carey Lieberman; illusionist Professor Phylex; acrobat Gail Force; and groups like Denver Skates, Mile High Soul Club, and many others. They’ll channel the park’s charm, but visitors can also connect with Lakeside historian David Forsyth, who wrote the 2016 book “Denver’s Lakeside Amusement Park: From the White City Beautiful to a Century of Fun.”
Forsyth does crazy things like riding each of the 76 animals on the carousel each year, Novick said, and will be giving tours of the park.
“He’ll be one of our guests showing off Lakeside’s collections, some of which haven’t been seen in decades, and we’re so excited to have him,” Novick said.
Novick and Getzan delved into Lakeside’s archives for older items that trace its classic roots, poring over postcards and architectural details and signs to imagine an early 20th-century park that was part of Denver’s City Beautiful movement. Fishman didn’t see the big deal about some of them, having grown up at the park (she’s the daughter of owner Rhoda Krasner), but also realized that outsiders probably saw it as a treasure trove of unique, insighful artifacts.
“We’re looking to capitalize on more events like this that are right for the park,” Fishman said. “This one really highlights the geography and site.”
Iconic Denver rides such as The Wild Chipmunk and Cyclone wooden roller coaster are popular visits during Summer Scream, and Fishman said the park works hard to keep all the attractions open. Some of them are dark from summer to summer, she acknowledged, but they’re not all historic — like the newer Spider ride — and there are plans to reopen more classic rides in the future.
“We want people to engage at this event, because they’ll have a chance to learn things that people who have been to Lakeside 100 times have never even heard about,” said Novick, who also grew up going to the park, of Summer Scream. “We’re going to make people work for (their entertainment) a little, which is more rewarding in the end.”
“My hope is that at 8 p.m. on this night, we can look at this and say, ‘This is what an authentic boardwalk sideshow amusement park experience was like,’ ” Getzan said. “Just filled with activity and people, and fortune tellers trying to hustle you and things like that. It’s celebrating the continuity of old Denver to new Denver, and it’s an event that’s never going to happen again.”
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