4 Fun Facts About the Whip at Heritage Park

Heritage Park’s beloved historic carnival ride turns 100 years old this year. Here are four things you should know about it.

Photograph courtesy of Heritage Park.

Before bumper cars, spinning strawberries or the Tilt-A-Whirl, there was the Whip. Consisting of bucket-shaped cars flinging around an oval platform in a signature “whipping” motion, the Whip paved the way for countless carnival rides. That history has been preserved through the still-operational Whip at Heritage Park, which turns 100 this year.

For the past 14 years of the Whip’s life, the park’s mechanical maintenance supervisor Howie Smith, has helped keep the ride alive and whipping.

“It’s always rewarding when you get these rides going,” Smith says. “Seeing the kids smile away, and screeching and hollering — it’s pretty cool.”

The Whip, seen here in a photo from Glenbow Archives, was a mainstay of carnival midways throughout the 20th century. Photograph courtesy of Glenbow.

 

Here are four things you should know about the ride as the Whip turns 100

  1. It’s the last known portable Whip in the world. Built in 1921 by W.F. Mangels & Co., the Whip spent its early years travelling Canada and the U.S. with Conklin & Garrett All Canadian Shows. In 1984, the ride was donated to Heritage Park by Jim Conklin — son of Conklin & Garrett co-founder J.W. Conklin. Though it is now stationary, it is believed to be the last-known portable Whip in existence.
  2. It’s a precursor to rides like the Tilt-A-Whirl and TeaCup Ride. While the Whip may not be the midway mainstay it once was, its influence is undeniable. Patented in 1914 by William Mangels (whose company also manufactured Heritage Park’s model), the ride is considered the first “thrilling ride,” and was often found as one of three rides at carnivals alongside a Ferris wheel and a merry-go-round.
  3. Several original parts are still operational. Two of the eight Whip cars at Heritage Park have retained their original front panels and, along with a large ring gear at the ride’s centre that facilitates movement, there are also several original metal components at the ride’s ends (where the whipping motion happens) and two original stub shafts. While not original, the floral paint job also has historic roots: it’s based on a 1923 photograph taken at the Johnny J. Jones Carnival in Edmonton.
  4. Whatever can’t be fixed or replaced is made-to-order. In addition to daily and seasonal safety checks and repairs, the Whip is thoroughly inspected every five years by Heritage Park’s mechanical team, after which parts no longer up to snuff are retired. Any parts that can’t be fixed or replaced are rebuilt by Bison Machining Limited in Longview, where millwright Jean-Louis Frank fashions parts from scratch for the Whip and other Heritage Park attractions.

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This article appears in the July 2021 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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