Tradition and romance at its best at Rainbow Park
The Roper family from left: Jack-Harry, John-Henry, Colleen, Layla and Elias (photo T&A)

In 1964 Elvis Presley starred in Roustabout, a film shot in California where he played Charlie Rogers, a singer working for a struggling travelling carnival.

Featured in the film is a portable Ferris Wheel manufactured by the Eli Bridge Company in Illinois. Whilst the wheel that Elvis rode (and sang on) is now in Australia, another portable wheel manufactured in 1938 by the same company, has a new home in Hunstanton at Rainbow Park.

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Photo: Daniel Steele

There have been fairground rides in and around Hunstanton since 1880 and the Roper family have been operating rides on Rainbow Park, at Hunstanton, since the 1960’s taking over the full operation of the Rainbow Park site from its previous owners in 2015.

John-Henry Roper said: “As a family we have always been involved in the fairground industry; we have a proud history of travelling Showmen on both sides of our family, we can trace back at least six generations and there are three generations currently working together on Rainbow Park.

“Although we live here locally and for the most part are permanently sited, we certainly have not forgotten our heritage; we often visit travelling Fairgrounds and some of the equipment still travels to fairgrounds outside of our main season.

“What we do here in Hunstanton is very family orientated. All of our family are involved with every aspect of the business from maintenance through to operation. Being so hands on as a family business is, what we believe, makes Rainbow Park so special.”

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John-Henry 

Installed during lockdown, the Ferris Wheel and the 1950’s Lighthouse Slip (Helter-Skelter) have been brought on site by the Chapman family and have already caused quite a stir in the local area altering the skyline with the statuesque and iconic silhouette of the lighthouse slip and they have stirred up memories of over 20 years ago when a similar style Helter-Skelter stood on the exact spot, owned at the time by Mr William Thompson.

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(Grandad) Henry Roper

These new attractions add to the rides on the park that are owned by the Roper family and a number of independent operators; Rainbow Park really does offer something for everyone, from children’s rides and thrill rides to traditional family favourites.

Colleen Roper said: “Making memories is what we are all about; we love to help our visitors create special memories of their visit that they will always cherish.

“We see families return year after year and we have the privilege of watching families extend and grow - those that used to visit as children are now not only bringing their children but also their grandchildren too and so this cycle continues.

“The unique connection between our family business and their family holiday becomes interwoven and intrinsically linked forever, visitors often become friends over time and that’s something I don’t think happens in any other business.

“We honestly can’t wait to get back to doing what we have always done and our family before us have done and that is provide a fairground to the local people and day trippers or holidaymakers that visit this wonderful resort.

“We are looking forward to seeing the joy on the faces of our visitors, young and old alike, laughing as they drive a dodgem car or feeling a bit dizzy as they are spun on the waltzer. “That magic of seeing a candy floss made for the first time or that unmistakable taste of the fried onions as they eat a hot dog.

“The thrill of winning a prize on the hook a duck or watching the 2pences fall in the arcade. “Where else can you listen to music from every era or step back in time to Rocky Thompsons the old-fashioned sweet shop where you will see every sweet from your childhood and probably buy a bag of pink and white nougat?

“We think there really is nothing like the magic of a fairground, the sight, sounds and smells all create an extra special feeling of a time when you didn’t have a care in the world and after the last 12 months we are sure that is a feeling we all want to experience again.”

The fairground is following all the guidance the government has provided for their industry as they reopen in line with Step 2 of the recovery roadmap and they have a ‘Good to Go’ certification from Visit England. Visitors will see extra signage, floor markers and queuing systems. As well as numerous hand sanitiser stations and the necessary PPE being worn by team members who have all been trained how to work covid securely. There is even an NHS QR code where you can log your visit using your smart phone.

“Working together with the local authority, our staff and our visitors is key to making sure we can remain open as a responsible business supporting the covid recovery strategy.

“We wish everyone the very best that life has to offer all we ask is that you make every moment a memory and you we look forward to seeing everyone make those memories at Rainbow Park very soon!” John Henry added.

Looking around Rainbow Park as the team prepared for the re-opening Richard and I were struck by the amazing engineering that is behind the Fairground, some of the mechanics are nothing short of wondrous and the traditional designs and painting are colourful and exciting. The Lighthouse Slip entrance (that you can see on the cover of the May edition) has been designed, built and decorated to replicate the Park’s former Helter-Skelter. Tradition and romance at its best.

Now whilst I can’t promise you’ll sing like Elvis when you ride the Ferris Wheel in Hunstanton this summer, you may be able to conjure up your inner romantic like the 11-year-old hero Bobby in the 2001 film Hearts of Atlantis when he experiences on a Ferris wheel (also made by the Eli Bridge Company) that magical first kiss "by which all others in your life will be judged and found wanting."

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May's cover, photo by Daniel Steele