Allen Fasnacht

May 12, 2016, 16:49 PM

Jodi Helmer

When Allen Fasnacht was in his teens, his parents purchased a picnic pavilion called Willow Mill Park and operated it for six seasons. The park, which was located in Hershey, Pennsylvania, had a few rides, including a small wooden roller coaster, carousel and miniature train.

Allen Fasnacht

The family fell in love with the amusement business and, in 1961, purchased a small amusement park in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, calling it Funland.

More than 50 years later, the family still owns and operates Funland. Fasnacht calls operating amusement park, “An exhilarating experience.”

“I was born and raised in Hershey [Pennsylvania] and HersheyPark was our own private playground,” he recalls. “Amusement parks are the happiest places on earth for playing and working.”

Funland operates from May through September and has a total of 19 rides, including a carousel, bumper cars, boats and carnival games. When the park opened in the 60s, guests paid 10 cents for a single ride ticket; today, tickets are just 30 cents as part of their goal to provide, “Today’s fun at yesterday’s prices.”

At just 50,000 square feet, including 200 feet of boardwalk frontage, Funland is a small park. But providing a festive atmosphere for families requires a lot of manpower. Four generations—a total of 30 family members—work at the park alongside a dedicated team of seasonal workers. And Fasnacht hopes the fifth generation will come to work for Funland to carry on the family tradition.

“I am proud of our family. It’s been our good fortune to work together for so many years,” he says. “It’s been a joy for us.”

While every team member is valued, Fasnacht believes the mechanics perform an indispensable service by keeping the rides running safely.

Fasnacht is quick to note that he lacks the skills to repair rides and leaves the fix-it jobs to more mechanically-inclined members of his family. He accepted other important roles: Ride operations and park cleanliness, which includes collecting the trash.

“My family keeps reminding me that I started at the top and I’m working my way down,” he quips. “My job security is great; no one else wants my job.”

While others might not want his job, Fasnacht has enjoyed every minute of the last 56 summers. His favorite part of the day is filling in for the ride operators because it allows him to witness the joy the children experience in the park. In fact, Fasnacht, who is in his 80s, won’t even consider retiring.

“Funland doesn’t need me,” he says. “I need Funland.”