LOS ANGELES — It was an all-hands-on-deck family affair when Adventure City finally reopened in California after being shuttered for 403 days because of the pandemic.
Allan Ansdell Jr., owner of the small amusement park just a few miles from megavenues Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm in Orange County, looked on as his parents, also owners, swept the parking lot, pulled weeds and offered warm hugs to rehired employees.
Trina, Ansdell Jr.'s wife, who oversees human resources, wiped dust from colorful balloons and disinfected rails and shields around the rides. In a box surrounded by protective shields at the entrance of the park, oldest daughter, Brielle, 30, acknowledged every visitor as they came and went.
Nearby, grandnephews and a grandniece waved pom poms to celebrate the long-awaited reopening and welcome visitors.
Ansdell Jr previously painted nearly 150 yellow social distancing dots on the streets of the park that last opened its gates on March 8, 2020.
The April 16 reopening was a success. Though it was only at 25 percent capacity due to COVID-19 precautionary measures, tickets for the first three days sold out. Ticket sales at Disneyland went live a day earlier.
Ansdell Jr., who built the park 28 years ago, wasn't entirely joyful about the big day.
"It's mixed emotions," he said, recalling when he had to let most of his 150 employees go, including his wife.
"Parks are seasonal," he said. "Sometimes you have a rainy month. We always have enough in our reserves for three or four months of who knows what. But nobody has a reserve for a year."
The closure was hard for everyone, he said.
"I'm glad that we are getting through it," he said. "I'm glad we are reaching the end ... But it's been tough."
Sandy Martinez, 32, the park's barista, is among the former employees who came back for the reopening.
"I didn't look for any other job because I love working here," said Martinez, who began her career at the park when she was 18. "They are like family to me."
Maintenance manager Kevin Kinne, 63, who got coronavirus and recovered, also returned.
Installing bubble machines on the eve of reopening, Kinne said he missed watching the kids and the happiness.
He said he has held jobs at bigger parks but would rather work at Adventure City any day.
"Oh God, I wanted to come back to work so bad," he said. "We are a small park so we all know each other. We are all friends."