A theme park called Jazzland opened in New Orleans East in 2000, filling an “empty hole” in the city that Ponchartrain Beach left when it closed in 1983. The park included Mardi Gras-themed rides, live music, and local food. Six Flags acquired the park in 2002 and ran it until 2005, when Katrina flooded the facilities. The park has remained abandoned ever since, caught in an ugly web of insurance claims.
This past November, a short video documenting the dilapidated state of Six Flags New Orleans appeared on YouTube and made the rounds on the Internet. Untapped correspondent Guy D. Choate went to check out the site in December with his friend Christopher Stanis. I saw their photos pop up on Facebook and asked Guy to write an account of his experience. Guy currently lives in New Orleans and keeps a daily photo blog at getoutofthisplace.tumblr.com. Christopher Stanis is currently deployed to Iraq as a U.S. Army Historian. He also keeps a blog at Shooting Under Fire.
My friend Christopher from the Pacific Northwest came to visit me for a few days before heading off to Iraq for what will be his fourth tour of duty in the Middle East in the past few years. When I asked what he wanted to do while he was here, he told me he wanted to see something that was both non-touristy and exclusive to New Orleans.
Since I’ve only lived here a few months, I’m still practically a tourist myself so I hadn’t been around long enough to find the holes in the wall of this unique city. However, I had seen a video that was making the rounds on the Internet about the old Six Flags Theme Park in town.
The video showed evidence of what was once a typical theme park but was abandoned five years ago when Hurricane Katrina came through and has been totally neglected since. The video promised rusty roller coasters, overgrown weeds attacking the walking paths, and busted glass everywhere.
The place was exactly as promised””eerily vacant and somehow still intact for the most part.
There was a group of teenagers walking around when we first showed up, confessing to taking a couple of lights from the ferris wheel as souvenirs. We didn’t judge them, since we’d already procured oversized Yosemite Sam hats for ourselves to wear as we walked through the park, inspecting various roller coasters, the log ride, and the Dippin’ Dots trailer advertising “The Ice Cream of the Future,” which seemed like it could only be true in a post-apocalyptic future.
Our feet fell six inches through the rotted-out floor as we stepped carefully through the first-aid station, littered with dozens of unopened Band-Aids, syringes, and gauze pads. We stood in a wrecked projection room, looking down onto rows of dusty theater seats facing a screen that was no longer there. We crawled into the roller coaster cars that would never make another loop around the only track it was ever intended to follow.
According to the video, the amusement park is slated to be torn down and sold for scrap metal at the beginning of the year. There’s something about being there just before it’s torn down that comforts me. It’s kind of like being able to say you were at the last concert given by an obscure band before the musicians all died in a train wreck.