Middlebury, Connecticut: Something old is new again at Quassy Amusement & Waterpark here as the landmark property opens for its 109th season on Saturday, May 6. The park will officially unveil Bella & Bessie’s Sweet Shoppe & Pizzeria, located on the site of the former popcorn stand in the heart of the iconic lakefront venue.
What’s special about the new retail outlet is something quite nostalgic. The park acquired taffy-making apparatus dating back to the 1920s and will fire up the refurbished machinery to produce its own homemade sweet treats.
In addition, Quassy will introduce two new rides: Skipper’s Clippers pirate ships and Up, Up & Away balloons. Both interactive children’s rides will be located at the lakeside kiddieland area.
“Needless to say, it’s been a busy offseason for us,” park President Eric Anderson said of improvements. “We started on the new building shortly after closing last fall and announced the acquisition of the two rides in November during our annual trade show in Florida.”
Honoring Two Women
“The family (owners) really gave it some thought when it came to naming the new building,” Anderson said of the process which started after it was determined the old popcorn stand would be replaced.
Considering the park’s heritage and 80 years of family involvement, the owners decided the new structure would be called Bella & Bessie’s Sweet Shoppe & Pizzeria.
Bella was Vasiliki Bolakaki, who came to the United States in 1927 with her new husband, John Frantzeskakis (Frantzis). They were accompanied by another married couple and close friends, George and Vasilia (Bessie) Terezakis.
The women spent many of their first days in the U.S. at Lake Quassapaug, which had a small amusement facility overlooking the sparkling lake.
That same year John Frantzis and business partner Mike Leon purchased the Chocolate Shoppe in downtown Waterbury, Conn., only a few miles from Lake Quassapaug.
It was in 1937 that John Frantzis, Mike Leon and George Terezakis, who had worked as concessionaries at the summer property, purchased Lake Quassapaug Amusement Park.
Leon remained involved in park operations until his death in 1958. The Terezakis family eventually sold its interest in the park to Eric Anderson and his wife, Emily (Frantzis).
Today, Quassy remains a “family affair” as it is fully owned by the Frantzis and Anderson families with Anderson and George Frantzis II overseeing daily operations.
The new store will have other sweet treats such as cotton candy and candy apples along with popcorn and other novelty food items. Quassy will also offer homemade pizza with a variety of toppings in the new structure. This season will mark the first time the iconic park has made its own taffy.
Adults Can Ride, Too
While considered children’s rides, both of the new attractions at the lakefront will also accommodate adult riders. “That feature, plus the interactive elements incorporated on both rides made them ideal fits for us,” George Frantzis II said of the rides. “The up and down motion of the pirate ships (Skipper’s Clippers) are controlled with joy sticks while music and a variety of sounds add to the experience.”
The Up, Up & Away balloon baskets have spinning action controlled by the riders. This marks the third straight year Quassy has introduced new rides within the park.
More Laser Action
The Quassy Quest Laser Maze, added as a special attraction inside the redemption arcade in 2012, will receive a major update this year with the addition of a Beam Buster program from developer Funovation of Longmont, Colo.
“This will add another dimension to our popular laser maze,” Anderson said of the upgrade. “Beam Buster is exactly as it sounds: you try to break as many beams of light as possible during the allotted time. The more you break, the better your score.”
The laser maze will continue to offer its traditional programming as well, which has different levels of participation as players attempt to maneuver through a field of lasers without breaking a beam of light. “The new feature will be more thrilling for youngsters and those young at heart,” the park official added.
May 6 and 7, opening weekend at the park, will feature a $45 carload special in support of the Greater Waterbury Campership Fund, which helps send underprivileged children to summer camp. The offer is valid for up to 10 persons safely seated in one car and includes the parking fee. Rides will operate 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days with Quassy’s annual egg hunt for prizes at 3 p.m., Sunday, May 7. The park has supported the Campership initiative for decades.
Splash Away Bay waterpark and Quassy Beach open for the 2017 season on May 27.
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