Growing up on Long Island, Christopher Mercaldo remembers how, as a child he spent countless hours with his family, marveling at the many different rides and attractions that Adventureland amusement park in Farmingdale had to offer.
Like many kids growing up in the area, Mercaldo says he was smitten with the idea of having his own little slice of Disneyland-magic right here in his backyard.
Adventureland first opened in 1962, at the height of a major suburban boom on Long Island. Over the last 52 years, several attractions have come and gone, but the park has continued providing the same family-friendly fun that it has for years.
“It is so unique,” said Mercaldo, 24. “It’s a small, family owned theme-park… that has stood the test of time.”
This story originally appeared in the June 20, 2014 edition of the Farmingdale Observer
Despite his fear of the large animatic tree, which was a staple at the park throughout his childhood, he always had a thirst for knowledge. Even as a kid he would do his research, always staying up-to-date on who made the latest rides. He said that anytime a new book would come out about a rollercoaster he would buy it.
“My goal is to be the next Walt Disney,” he said. “I hope to have a small park of my own one day.”
As many children do, Mercaldo had always dreamt of one day owning his own amusement park, but unlike the rest of us, he would put his dream to practice. After graduating from Villanova’s School of Business in 2012, Mercaldo went on to work at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Blizzard Beach attractions.
It was then, in 2013, when Mercaldo saw his chance to return to his childhood theme park, by accepting a job as the park’s marketing coordinator. Working at the park, he soon stumbled upon something that would inspire him to pen his first book. Finding a “gold mine” of photographs from the park’s innauguration to the late-80s and mid-90s, Mercaldo took the initiative to scan several thousand photos to preserve Adventureland’s legacy.
“There are grandparents who visited the park as children now bringing their own grandchildren to the park,” he stated. “There are people who have grown up on Long Island or have moved to Long Island or who have moved away from Long Island that all know Adventureland and remember it fondly.”
With a stockpile of photos in hand, Mercaldo would reach out to Arcadia Publishing to see if they were interested in using his photos to map out the park’s history over the years.
On June 16, Images of Modern America: Adventureland hit the bookshelves, providing readers old and young with over 50 years of memories at the theme-park.
“It’s for the people who have made the park. The owners, the builders, the dreamers, and the even the guests themselves,” Mercaldo said. “It’s for the longtime visitor, the one-time visitor, and even for those who have never gotten to experience it in person. Just like a great ride, it’s meant to be fun, it’s meant to tell a story, and it’s meant to be enjoyed by all.”
Images of Modern America: Adventureland features photos of several of the park’s big name attractions, such as the Wave Swinger and the Hurricane, as well as some of the long-retired favorites like 1313 Cemetery Way, Surf Dance, Treasure Island Mini-Golf, and many more.
For Mercaldo, who now works with Ride Entertainment Group in Stevensville, Md., his favorite attraction at the park was the old Haunted House at 1313 Cemetery Way. “I always thought the fascade was cool… it looked like a real haunted house,” Mercaldo said.
An avid amusement park historian, aspiring designer, and thrill-seeker, Mercaldo said he tries to highlight all of the parks attractions over the years. From the Hurricane, which opened in 1991 and is in its 24th season at the park, to the more modern attractions like the Wave Swinger, which he likes for its victorian design and flashing lights, the book encapsulates 52 years worth of history in a neat package.
Images of Modern America: Adventureland is now available at the park’s gift shop, at local Barnes & Nobles booksellers, and online at Amazon.com.