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In 1879, on the shores of Lake Ontario, a small lakeside trolley park opened offering picnic groves, band concerts and a hotel. Today Seabreeze is North America’s fourth oldest amusement park. Why did it survive? How did it survive? Gary Kyriazi goes to find out


Jack Rabbit


Seabreeze A shining example of survival


The Seabreeze family


Seabreeze remains a family business, with the fifth and sixth generation now at the helm. Here are the key family members keeping the fun alive: Rob Norris – president and general manager. Focus on vision for the future, government relations, association work, operations, design and engineering, maintenance and leading the team. Anne Wells – Rob’s sister, vice-president and treasurer. Focus on finance, office operations, personnel, food service, retail stores and insurance. George Norris – Rob’s brother, vice-president. Focus on operations, technology, research & development and entertainment. John Norris – Rob’s brother, vice-president and secretary. Focus on marketing, promotions, public relations and games. Suzy Hofsass – Rob’s cousin, assistant treasurer. Focus on accounting, payroll and taxes. Deb Norris – Rob’s wife. In charge of landscaping and assists in retail merchandise buying. Genevieve Norris – Rob’s daughter, attractions manager and director of personnel. Focus on operations, personnel and buyer for retail stores. Alex and Jack Norris – John’s children, currently in school. Work at the park during the summer. Aaron and Kyle Hofsass – Suzy’s children, currently in school. Work at the park during the summer.


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ocated in a district known as Sea Breeze, just north of the city of Rochester, New York, Seabreeze is the world’s twelfth oldest amusement park, still entertaining guests after well over 100 years. “Reinvention is the only way to go,” declares Rob Norris, park president and fifth generation of the family which became involved with Seabreeze in 1904. And reinvent itself it has. Like many of today's parks, Seabreeze is two operations in one. Guests can enjoy both the rides of Seabreeze and the waterslides of Raging Rivers waterpark for a single price. Visitors to the ride park will find it has a turn-of-the-century feel, with Victorian buildings, soft colours and floral landscaping. The waterpark has a contrasting modern look with white structural steel, seashore landscaping and contemporary graphics. The family’s genesis in the amusement industry were brothers Edward F Long and Fielding Long, who began building carousels in England back in 1876, and later operating them. Seeking new opportunities throughout the northeast United States, the Longs began assembling and building carousels in Philadelphia in the late 1890s. One of the places they settled was in Rochester, where Arthur Long operated a carousel on Ontario Beach from 1892 to 1907. George Long Snr, Arthur's brother, worked there before operating his own carousel at Cape May, New Jersey, in 1899 and 1900. In 1901 he moved the ride to Burlington Island near Philadelphia, where it operated for two years.


In 1903, George relocated to Norfolk, Virginia, but his ride wasn't doing very well there when Arthur wrote to him about opportunities at Seabreeze. In 1904 they brought one of their carousels to Seabreeze to operate as a concession. Only the Trimper family of Ocean City, Maryland, has been associated longer with a park. But Edward's 12-year-old grandson, George W Long Jnr, fell in love with Seabreeze, and with Rochester, and dedicated his life to both.


Hard Work


Seabreeze's evolution from picnic grounds to amusement park mirrors that of America’s other trolley parks: a steam-driven carousel in 1883, a switchback coaster in 1887, a Figure Eight coaster in 1903, the Long brothers’ carousel in 1904. Along came a Giant Circle Swing in 1908, the Laughing Mirror Gallery in 1914 and a succession of “modern” rollercoasters with the Dips (later renamed the Greyhound) from 1916 to 1933 and in 1920, Seabreeze’s surviving coaster, the superb Jack Rabbit, featuring John Miller’s signature gullies and ravines. By the time the Jack Rabbit debuted, George W Long


Jnr, the amusement industry running through his veins, was aggressively managing the park. In 1921 he replaced the old Figure Eight with the Virginia Reel, and a dance hall was erected in 1924, followed a year later by the Natatorium, a large outdoor saltwater swimming pool. In 1926 Philidelphia Toboggan Coasters (PTC) built what, in its time, was the park's tallest rollercoaster, the 93ft-tall Wildcat, dismantled in 1935. In 1937, Long began renting Seabreeze from the trolley company, until he finally purchased the entire park in 1946 for $85,000, renaming it Dreamland Park. “My grandfather was in love with the park,” George


W Long’s grandson and former IAAPA chairman Rob Norris recalls today. “He was hard-working and driven. It was his passion and scrutiny that drove Seabreeze’s growth after he bought it.”


So driven, and aided by his daughters Lois and Betty, and their husbands Merrick Price and Bob Norris, George Long proceeded through the 1950s with a wooden Junior Coaster, a Fun House, a dark ride, train ride and the Over The Falls water chutes in 1958.


Hooked In George Long's drive and dedication to detail, one recalls a Walt Disney type of passion, and in fact, Disney did have an unknowing influence in the creation of Seabreeze's most unique ride. George Long visited


MAY 2012


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