S.S. Henrietta/Americana Main Gate
With the new gate addition in 2017 and over twenty years since its demise there is now a whole new generation that can't recall entering Worlds of Fun any different then we do today. However, prior to 1999 for twenty-five years guests would enter the park not through Scandinavia but via Americana, and in many ways, once guests know where the original gate was it makes perfect sense. Originally, the main gate to the park was located where Steelhawk is today, until 1995, guests would board one of the many park trams and ride the quarter-mile to the main gate. Though many parks used trams throughout the latter half of the 20th century, only a few did it with the singular purpose to separate the real world from the theme-park world of escapism. At Worlds of Fun, once you boarded the trams and made the turndown tram road, passed Orient Express and Cotton Blossom, you had entered a whole different world of fantasy, leaving the problems and stress of the real world far behind.
The tram turn around was lined with forest green pines, further separating the gate from the nearby road and highway. The center island was ablaze with red and yellow cannas lorded over by tall, stately oaks and above that billowed the US, Missouri, and Worlds of Fun flags.
Once disembarked from the trams guests would buy their tickets at one of the several, red-painted ticket booths, detailed with white, Americana-style, gingerbread trim. Just past the ticket booths, waited the entrance to Worlds of Fun, and for the first twenty year years of the park's existence, no entrance could be made to the park without first crossing the bow of the SS Henrietta. It was a common misconception, and even one we ourselves added to, to believe that the Henrietta was a model from 1956 "Around the World in 80 Days". It's easy to understand as so many models and artifacts from the MGM Backlot auction of 1970 made it into the park. However, though designed to be virtually identical to the original Henrietta, the Henrietta at Worlds of Fun was of completely new construction in 1973. The Henrietta at Worlds of Fun was a place to find both ticket takers, as well as in the early years Guest Relations, and after the mid-80's Snap Shot photo booth.
After the main gate was demolished after the 1998 season, the basic interior structure of the Henrietta remained and was used for ticket sales for the Grand Prix Raceway. With the addition of Steelhawk, the original box "ticket booth" structure was demolished, yet the original concrete bow structure still remains, though buried under dirt and debris.
Towards the end of the 1998 season, we all knew that the Americana gate was going to be closed, permanently, Since the trams were discontinued in 1995 the gate had been rarely used since it was quite a walk from even the closest parking lots. The grand disconnect from the real world that had been designed with such forethought had become a stumbling block for guests wishing to enter the park.
To this day I have two stark memories of the old gate. One, when I worked at Worlds of Fun in 1994 and would ride the tram in once a week, after work, since I had to wait for my mom to come and pick me up. I never realized it at that time, but it would be the last time I would make that journey on a tram through the old Americana gate. Second, only a few summers later in 1998. By then, the gate was never used, the old Guest Services was boarded up, dead leaves instead of people populated the expansive gate area, and floated in the small lake that surrounded Henrietta. No one was there to get directional advice from the "strollers and wheelchair rentals" sign.
In 2017, almost twenty years after its demolition the Americana gate was finally replaced. For
the two previous decades the old "back" gate had been made to function as the main gate. The new gate
is beautiful, and more than admirably serves more then just to function, but its a new gate for a new
Worlds of Fun. The Americana gate belongs only to history now, along with those attractions it once served
to provide a wonderful opening act for.