At Chuckster’s, a return to normal summer fun 

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  • Alex Richardson balances on a log swing at Chuckster’s as her family spent the day out at the park after months of being indoors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Corinne Richardson and her son, Zachary, 11, get excited for the day at Chuckster’s in Chichester on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Brothers Zachary (left) and Alex Richardson get excited as they look at all the options for rides and games at Chuckster’s in Chichester on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Alex Richardson, 9, grabs on to the cargo netting on the zip line at Chuckster’s in Chichester as his father, Jacob looks on. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Alex Richardson, 9, grabs on to the cargo netting on the zip line at Chuckster’s in Chichester as his father Jacob, looks on. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Zachary Richardson, 11, rides the zip line at Chuckster’s in Chichester on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 for a day of fun with his family. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Alex Richardson, 9, rides the wakeboard above the ground on the zip line ride at Chuckster’s in Chichester on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Jacob Richardson tries to catch his foot into the cargo netting at the zip line at Chuckster’s in Chichester as he enjoys the day with family on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Richardson bounced off the netting but was able to grab it to go on to the next section of the zip line. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 7/17/2020 3:48:31 PM

Jacob Richardson, unsure about his impending collision while ziplining at Chuckster’s, tried to hook his sneaker into the tightly stretched cargo net.

He failed, bouncing backward with the spring-like action of a trampoline. Boing!

His two sons, Alex, who’s 9, and Zachary, 11, laughed. And learned. They took their turns ziplining toward the net with controlled recklessness. They grabbed it, squeezing their hands hard, no feet involved, and held firmly. A perfect landing that Spider-Man would have loved.

Okay, so it’s a mere snapshot of a father from Dover having fun in the sun with his sons at Chuckster’s various fun parks in Chichester. Big whoop, right? Well, this year, we know, it is indeed a big whoop.

Life was canceled in the spring and remains unsettled now. Conversations turned to quarantines and masks and social distancing four months ago. Politics, somehow, entered the plot, pitting the pro-maskers against the anti-maskers.

The Richardsons are thankful to be on vacation, staying at a nearby lake house. Jacob’s wife, Corinne, and their daughter, 7-year-old Abigail, are there as well.

Until restrictions were loosened recently, the kids were home, their options few. Learning at school ended in March. Classrooms opened at home. Hanging with friends would have to wait.

Chucksters, normally open in mid April, remained silent until late May. Meanwhile, Jacob works at a power plant, in the electric car industry, and he’s been commuting despite any recent quarantine rules and suggestions. That left a problem that’s hounded America since the coronavirus attacked: Who’s watching the kids? Who’s the glue, the individual holding everything together?

Good luck, Corinne, with three children, ages 7 to 11, who never stopped moving the morning we met at Chuckster’s. Good luck teaching, disciplining, loving, entertaining.

“Extremely boring for them at home, and there was a lot of fighting,” said Corinne, shortly after the family of five entered the park, at 10:09 a.m.

When I laughed and assumed it was “fun fighting,” Corinne said, “No, I mean down-and-out wrestling with each other. Fighting.”

Jacob joked about it. He quipped that caring for three children, all of whom were at least somewhat confined to a small area, “was all the more exciting for her at home. And then I get home and everyone’s bouncing off the walls and I’ve walked into the mess. She was a cashier, and now she spends her time chasing kids.”

Not everyone thought those claustrophobic days were all that bad. Zachary, in fact, loved them, telling me, “Fun. Everything was awesome.”

“Because he likes reading,” said Alex, who, along with Abigail, couldn’t wait for the rulers to unlock the chains that had affected so many kids for so long, canceling summer camps, canceling summer vacations, canceling sports practices, canceling family parties, canceling, canceling, canceling.

“I like playing outside,” Alex told me, near the ticket booth, at the front of the park.

That brought us close to 10:30 a.m. The two older children knew how to respond to mom’s sarcasm before they began training for activities high in the air.

“Don’t have fun,” Corinne joked.

“We listen to you sometimes, mom,” Alex said.

“But,” insisted Zachary, “we don’t have to listen to that.”

So they didn’t.

Dad and the two boys took their turns on the Timbertrek. Dan Kelleher of Concord, working his fourth summer at Chuckster’s, showed the family the ropes. He also showed them the cables and the hooks and the harnesses.

A distinctive and confidence-building “click” told them each time when they were hooked up properly, secure and safe, ready to take those long steps needed to get over a wobbly wooden bridge with wobbly planks, ready to fly as high as 32 feet on a zipline.

They walked over a bridge that resembled the back of a sea serpent, rode a snowboard attached to a log, rode in a horse saddle, also stabilized by a wooden-looking log underneath.

“What a stallion,” Corinne yelled.

She was sitting with Abigail, down a gradual embankment, a 7-year-old waiting patiently for her first adventure of the day. High noon was approaching, and Mark Blasko, who owns Chuckster’s, said the crowds have returned, packing the parking lot to capacity on a daily basis.

The zipline course sat in a thickly wooded area. Unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet. Recent coronavirus numbers have not been good.

But let the record show that on July 15, 2020, the Richardson family drove from Dover to Chichester and later flew through the air with the greatest of ease. They wanted to feel normal again.

Earlier, 7-year-old Abigail had lamented that during those first weeks of the pandemic, she was not able to “get out and play by myself outside, or with my other friends with corona.”

On the 15th, though, with high noon approaching, she sat with Corinne, eager for the next activity. One she could take part in, a little closer to the ground.

“Please, mommy,” Abigail said. “I want to do the go-karts.”


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