The Ride Of His Life

Junior Alex East sits at his computer surfing the web. He’s not on Facebook or Twitter like most other teens, instead he’s on sites like and searching for recent stories on his favorite, now closed theme park, Joyland.

“Nothing has come up recently but every story that I do read, I go to the comments and there’s always like 80 to 160 comments from people about how they want to get together as a city and raise money and go in and fix it and reopen it someday,” East Said. “I’ve always wondered why no one has taken that initiative and pushed the idea further than just the text. So basically the idea is just a big fundraiser throughout the city and maybe some private corporations to buy the park, refurbish it and reopen it in late 2012 or early 2013.”

A while back East tried to circulate a petition to reopen Joyland but soon learned that a petition would do no good. When the park owners have no money there is nothing that can be done without the city’s help. Joyland is a very significant symbol in East’s life. It means more to him than just simple worn down rides. He wouldn’t be the person he is today if not for that amusement park.

“Joyland is the driving force behind the reason I want to design rides. I rode that rollercoaster at Joyland when I was two and ever since then, I’ve been into amusement parks. So I know my story behind it and I know that a lot of other people in the city have emotional attachments to it as well, since they grew up with it over the years,” East said.

Ever since that first ride on a roller coaster when he was two, East has been fascinated with them, especially their design. Supported by his friends and family, East dreams of becoming an engineer and wants to eventually build the roller coasters he is designing.

“I plan on going to K-State and studying architectural engineering and then eventually after that I would probably go up to the Philadelphia Toboggan Company; they design roller coasters and stuff like that,” East said.

For others wanting to follow in East’s footsteps, here’s his advice.

“Do really well in math because it’s a lot of math. I don’t like math, but you need to work on math,” East said.

But studying math isn’t the only thing that East does in his free time, he loves to build roller coasters.

“I like to know how things work so I can build them from my perspective,” East said.

His knowledge on how things work and his drive to build things has focused on roller coasters from a young age.

“I didn’t build the first one I got. My parents bought me a mini Ferris Wheel when I was two,” East said. “When I could start building things I picked it up.”

Throughout the years East has accumulated about 6800 K’Nex through birthdays and other holidays. This led to the creation of a model roller coaster that has given him some attention. Taking about 5 days to build, this model is more then a simple hobby.

“It’s been on TV twice and shown in the event at Exploration Place,” East said. “When it was on TV in 2008, the people from Exploration Place saw it and contacted me.”

Even though his model roller coaster has gained him attention he still has one big goal in mind.

“If I could accomplish one thing in my life it would be to reopen Joyland,” East said. “It’s a place easy to call home.”