Keenan's grandfather eventually ran seven Mill rides around the country. Donate today. A handwritten sign near the gear mechanism used to read: “Daily Grease Bronze Boxes Every 2 Hours; 9 a.m.; 11 a.m.; 1 p.m.; 3 p.m.; 5 p.m.; 7 p.m.; 9 p.m.”. These themed dark rides originated in the late 19th century and are known by a variety of names, including tunnel of love and river cave. In my time, there were three times when concrete walls had to be replaced.”, The decision to sell the family landmark after so many decades wasn't hard, said John Keenan. They were 10 cent hot dogs when I started.”, Generations of Keenans posing in front of Ye Old Mill. He built and maintains the current fleet of boats. Originally located at the first Pleasure park in Southport, it was moved to Pleasureland in 1922. In recent years, Ye Old Mill was in danger of being torn down by order of the State Fair Board to make room for a picnic area. It allows you three, three-and-a-half minutes of peace, solitude, quiet," said Jim Keenan. They returned home for at least parts of recent fairs to help, but that was becoming more difficult as their own families grew. Though old mills have drops, they are not as steep as the last drop on a mill chute (hence the name "chute"). Leslie Ball and Ochen Kaylan have been the last ones to ride Ye Old Mill for the season for the last fifteen years. The State Fair's Ye Old Mill turns 100 years old. "Pretty much, that's how it's designed," said Jim Keenan, John's son, and the youngest generation running the ride. Local Hospitality Company Rolls with the Punches, 3M Forms Coalition to Guide Racial Equity Investments, Twin Cities Office Market Holds Steady in Third Quarter, Pandemic Fallout: Alchemy 365 Closes Uptown Studio, Downtown Retailer Hubert White Bets on Edina for Holidays. The ride's name stems from the fact that most were themed around caverns, with styrofoam stalagmites and stalactites housing detailed displays from around the world, through time and from myth and legend. And when his father grew ill, John took over for good and eventually moved his family to the Twin Cities in 1967. And so every year, we get to get our tickets, they unscrew the light bulb and around we go.". “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. called Operation Ruthless. The 1951 Alfred Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train features a tunnel of love ride that becomes the scene of a murder.[6]. As the family that owns the ride prepared for the centennial season, they talked about Ye Old Mill's history, which dates back to 1913. called "May the Best Stan Win". The boats drift along on a gentle current, typically generated by a paddle wheel. John Keenan has been working on the mill ride for 59 years. This was my first ride through the revamped version, on September 12: The giant skelerector, added a few years ago, was poised to threaten those about to enter the tunnel: The last drop on a mill chute ride is typically steeper than its first drop: though it is typical on roller coasters to have the steepest first drop, water rides have fiercer endings. “When it was first built, the channels were lined with railroad ties and tar,” he said. (Photo from Minnesota State Fair Archives). He said a century ago, his grandfather, also John Keenan, owned and ran Vaudeville theaters around the country. Renovations and infrastructure improvements are complete and it’s ready to go for the 102nd time when the fair opens Thursday. “We had a lot of fun doing nothing. Was a part of Nallin-Jennings half of Park in. (Photo from Minnesota State Fair Archives), The roof blew off in 2007, and the 100-year-old electric motor had seen its share of emergency repairs. There were two major themes: a relaxing romantic ride encouraging the couple to cuddle, or a spooky horror ride encouraging the couple to cling to one another. Marna Keenan said: “It was really a lot of nothing. “So it really was time to sell,” John Keenan said. And it was wonderful.”. It holds about 60,000 gallons. The body was found under two and half feet of water beneath a conveyor belt that moves the ride's boats. The decision to sell the family landmark after so many decades wasn’t hard, said John Keenan, who turned 76 this week. "And you get that with the Old Mill. They also opened that space to many law enforcement officials at the fairgrounds. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. And although no longer owners, the Keenans will still enjoy that first-day rush Thursday morning when they show up with children and grandchildren to take the first four-minute official ride on the newly non-Keenan Mill. It's tradition, Jim Keenan says. You can best see the structure of it from the 2nd floor of the Cottonwood Court building. The siding and porch are new, and I'd heard that there was "all new stuff" inside. Known as the world's oldest operating old mill attraction, the ride has been renamed and rethemed several times, to "Around-the-World" in 1954, "Hard-Headed Harrold's Horrendously Humorous Haunted Hideaway" in 1974, and "Garfield's Nightmare" in 2004. The concept of the river cave is also very similar to those of the early scenic railways in that they attempt to be both educational and entertaining. Jim Keenan, John's son, and the youngest generation running the Ye Old Mill ride. A tunnel of love is seen in a 1996 episode of Hey Arnold! MSP Communications, 901 N. 3rd Street, Suite 195, Minneapolis, 55401 © 2020 Key Enterprises LLC All rights reserved. Ye Old Mill was built at the Minnesota State Fair in 1915 by John H. Keenan of Oklahoma City, and for more than a century was operated by Keenans of one generation or … The boys were a great help to their parents over the years, but are now grown, and all but one live outside Minnesota. "And he kind of saw the writing on the wall. The ride is a 971-foot concrete trough, with 15 inches of water at the start, and 35 inches at the end. The Minnesota State Fair's Mill opened in 1915 and is the only one that survives. "The River Caves of the World" at Pleasure Beach, Blackpool. “I didn’t wander far from our little area all those years,” John Keenan said. A psychologist the rest of the year, before and during the fair he tends the boats and machinery that make it work. They've been the last passengers on Ye Old Mill ride for the last 15 years, since they bought the fair's final fare in 2000. But this year, the third generation of Old Millers — John and Marna Keenan, who are in their 70s —  enjoyed their first truly relaxing summer ever, after the family sold the historic ride in January to the State Fair. And fair officials said they were delighted to buy out the Keenans and keep the mill operating as it had been for generations of Minnesotans. "And the mechanism that brings the boats out of the water and puts them back into the water is really based on a farm implement: Manure spreader.". Once a popular feature of many amusement parks, river caves are now relatively rare and can be found in only a few locations, mainly in the UK and United States. As the family that owns the ride prepared for the centennial season, they talked about Ye Old Mill's history, which dates back to 1913. The darkness provided a degree of privacy and the frightening scenes offered a socially acceptable excuse for the physical contact at a time when public affection or even holding hands was considered inappropriate. A "mill chute" is a variation of the old mill, featuring roller coaster-like drops at the end, in which riders get soaked. When he's not running the Mill, Jim Keenan is a psychologist in Golden Valley. "It was our first time riding the Ye Old Mill as a couple," Ball remembers. Anybody that's been to the Fair at all over the years knows of it and has been on it.". And when their own four sons were old enough, they began helping, too. Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer told the Star Tribune: “It’s such an important part of the fair. An old mill is a type of amusement park ride with unaccompanied boats floated on guideways through dark tunnels. The furthest I usually got was across the street to get a couple hot dogs, and then right back again. This undated photo shows fairgoers walking past the Ye Old Mill attraction at the Minnesota State Fair. A 1990 episode of the TV series 21 Jump Street was called "Tunnel of Love". "I did some maneuvering to figure out how I could sit in a boat with Leslie, when there was a big group of us," Kaylan said. The park was closed in 1902 and later reopened as Luna Park, with renamed and rethemed attractions. Opened by John Keenan in 1915, Ye Old Mill is the fair's oldest attraction. In 1980, Dire Straits released a single entitled "Tunnel of Love" from their album Making Movies. Here, he holds a board that has been used for years to make sure the width of the walls around the trough are the same year to year. Riders travel slowly on themed boats along an artificial river that meanders through decorated caves and tunnels featuring different themed scenes of lighting, sounds, props, animatronics, or other visual effects. After weeks or more of preparation in July and August, they’d always felt an air of excitement and relief when the gates finally opened and the crowds came rushing toward the gurgling waters inside freshly painted walls. With the development of other socially acceptable opportunities and less stigma for unmarried couples to engage in physical contact, these rides became less popular and were either re-themed into children's attractions or torn down completely. John and Marna Keenan enjoyed their first truly relaxing summer ever, after the family sold the historic ride in January to the State Fair.

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