There is something to be said of abandoned amusement parks. Even in dilapidation and neglect, they all carry still a sense of fascination and forlorn delight; even moreso in a park as personal to its community as Miracle Strip Park on Panama City Beach. You see, it’s the silence that gets you.
Where once dazzling lights, laughter and thrills enchanted tourists and locals, where once the heart of Panama City Beach radiated and made clear nights electric there stands the graveyard of classic Panama City Beach. The park is silent now; dark. Erect still are the pieces to be cleared in the coming weeks by Dickens Land Clearing and Rock World. The forgotten wonders; Abominable Snowman, Dante’s Inferno, The Haunted Castle, these pieces, gravestones really, are now considered eyesores. In weeks it will all be gone and so too will the lingering miracle, the fascination that captured Panama City Beach lovers for so many years.
The saddest part of the final clearing of the derelict land is that to this day the park’s fascination, the miracle as it were, still lingers behind those sagging green fences. It is that fascination, that magic which still compels the passerby to climb the fence to peek at the beloved relic, causes adults to tell their kids about Panama City Beach’s old park, pushes the bored teen to sneak in after dark and release his mischievous adolescent energies in a place that is no longer accepting them. The smell of hot dogs, the cloying of sweet cotton, the echoing screams of delight still exist on those grounds.
That will end in the coming weeks.
As the city wipes out its eyesores to make way for a newer, brighter Panama City Beach, Miracle Strip Park has always been at the top of the eradication list, but has taken the longest to be completed.
In a strange way, I, like many residents, sort of hoped they would never take it all. Secretly, I hoped that this one eyesore they might leave to remind us of a more thrilling time. You see, I met my wife at Miracle Strip Park. I had my very first job shifting between working in a candy stand, the arcade and the “ring a bottle” game. Miracle Strip Park was the biggest outlet for all my teenage energies.
This is not the first time the city has said goodbye to the park. I suspect we keep saying goodbye because deep down we all know how much Panama City Beach needs a place like Miracle Strip Park even if as just a memory. Miracle Strip Park provided that spark, that unfailing “Thing to Do” where $5 could buy you the night of your life. The concept of reincarnation has always been an enigmatic prospect in my mind. But in this regard, and for the sake of the city’s future, I hope the spirit of our once beloved park can be brought back. The beach needs it.
Otherwise, we’ll all be left to purchase the pieces of our youth, our memories of Panama City Beach on EBay.