Brand Loyalty: Kennywood Park

Growing up outside of Pittsburgh, PA, there was nothing more exciting than a summer’s trip to Kennywood. Founded in 1898, Kennywood is one of the oldest amusement parks in America, and is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Today, the park is made up of a mix of steel coasters, thrill rides, traditional wooden coasters, and nostalgic game and food stalls. As a kid, the most exciting part of going to Kennywood (well, second most-exciting after the rides and Potato Patch fries) was trying to spot the “Kennywood signs” on the way to the park.

Because of its unique location on a bluff above the Monongahela River just outside of Pittsburgh, our family would drive through city streets and back roads instead of taking a highway to get there. The bright yellow Kennywood arrow signs were posted miles and miles away from the park, and served as an indicator that you were headed in the right direction. Finding them was like a supercharged scavenger hunt; some were as small as street signs and others as big as billboards. Finding one before any of your fellow passengers was something to boast about.

The yellow arrows have been part of the park’s branding for decades, which can be seen in this photo from the Kennywood archives from the 1950s.

But the arrows were much more than a directional aid in a pre-GPS world. They served as an important reminder that you were nearing the park and were about to spend the day laughing and screaming with friends and family. They were (and are) branding at its best; both functional and instantly recognizable. They built up the radius around Kennywood as an extended entryway to the park, and helped funnel fun-seekers through the hilly and winding streets of the Steel City until they pushed through the turnstiles into the promenade.

In fact, the yellow arrows have become so ubiquitous that they were integrated into one of Kennywood’s rides. The Aero 360(see what they did there?) has two huge arms designed to look like the park’s signature signage.

Nowadays, the arrow signs outside of the park are a thing of the past. Ever-increasing laws, theft and overgrown foliage (pictured above in a photo taken in July 2016) can make the arrows difficult to find, but they will always be the brandmark of a fun-filled day at the park.

Visiting Kennywood as an adult is a completely different experience from when I was a kid. I’ve swapped being scared of roller coasters for being afraid I’ll throw my back out on them, but the excitement I feel on the way to the park remains the same. The big yellow arrows may be vanishing from view, but they’ll always point to a special place in my memory reserved for warm, summer days at one of America’s great amusement parks.

- Pat

PS — If anyone from Pittsburgh ever tells you that “Kennywood’s open” yinz better look dahn at yer pants n’at, cuz it means yer zipper’s dahn.

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