As we reach the halfway point of the 2019 season at Lagoon, let’s look at what’s been happening so far.
When the park opened on March 30th, the first noticeable change was the area in front of Dracula’s Castle which had been reconfigured with new steps and new planters.
A section of Wild Kingdom Train’s tracks was replaced after the concrete from the station to the tunnel was torn out and re-poured.
Lagoon-A-Beach opened a week late on May 31st because of weather conditions on the planned opening date. (Spring weather was considerably cooler than most years).
The new, ornately-decorated Biergarten had a soft opening June 9th with the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on June 20th.
It features two restaurants with completely new menu options not found anywhere else at Lagoon. There’s indoor and outdoor seating and details such as the fountain above, based on one in The Hague in The Netherlands.
Construction on the new ride, north of the park, seems to be progressing at a steady pace.
Drone videos from CrossfireGaming on YouTube has been great at documenting the progress. Recently, construction has gone vertical, as seen in the screenshot below.
Other small additions are being made here and there. A new electrical sign was finally placed in front of Centennial Screamer, which was relocated to the north Midway last summer.
Lagoon’s Instagram account has been busy lately with live tours of areas off limits to guests and interviews with a variety of park employees. So far they have shown followers around the top of Cannibal’s tower, a greenhouse and some maintenance facilities. Most of the videos are only available for 24 hours so you have to keep an eye on their account – @lagoonpark.
Shake It Up, a food stand in the former Day At The Races location on the south end, seems to be getting closer to opening. We still have half of the season to go.
August 19th will be the last day of daily operation for the park this year. Lagoon will be open only on weekends after that, with a few extra weekdays during Frightmares. Lagoon-A-Beach is set to close September 7th with Frightmares beginning September 13th.
“…the picnics are really the backbone of our business here at Lagoon.” – Peter Freed
With millions of dollars worth of thrill rides and attractions, it may be hard to believe that statement by former Lagoon president, Peter Freed. But its part of what keeps people coming back to Lagoon year after year.
Picnics for families, schools, companies, churches and other groups have been a major part of the Lagoon experience since it opened in the late 19th century. Local papers often announced group and company “excursions” to Lagoon in the early days. In 1946, the Freed brothers and Ranch Kimball began leasing Lagoon and started fixing it up after it had been closed during World War II. Peter Freed was in charge of getting different organizations to hold their parties at Lagoon again. It took time, at first, to generate interest in Lagoon again, but soon it snowballed and helped bring life back to the park. Peter described the process in a 2008 interview:
“We would offer them lots of things. Originally we had about three picnic boweries, very old, old decrepit picnic boweries. We would say, you can have this bowery for yourself. We’d reserve it. We’ll have a welcome sign for you saying ‘Welcome whatever-the-name-of-the-company-is to Lagoon.’ And then if they wanted drinks, we would bring drinks to them. It started very small, like everything else, started small. Actually, the picnic business at Lagoon is absolutely paramount to it now. That’s one of the major reasons that we’ve done as well is because of the picnics.
Throughout the history of the park, it’s been a common sight to see families packing in food to the picnic areas. For a short time in the 1960s, Lagoon operated a tram that took guests from the parking lot to their picnic spot. Other traditional parks across the country used to allow guests to bring in outside food and drink, but Lagoon has kept the tradition going decades after other parks ended the policy.
For years, added features like PA systems and bingo supplies have also been available to those who make reservations. In addition to picnic shelters, Lagoon also maintains lawns for small family picnics and large playing areas for group activities.
As Lagoon has grown, new picnic shelters have been added, sometimes several at a time. Six were built in 1957 with four more in 1965. When Lagoon started hosting the Davis County Fair again in 1966, they built the Davis Pavilion, which was used as an exhibition building during the fair each year, as well as many other large events.
Many more terraces were added when the park expanded eastward in the 1990s. Since around 2006, some of the older, wooden structures have been replaced by new steel buildings.
The structures serve multiple purposes beyond providing shade for summer parties. Dance competitions are held in a few of them every spring and the larger terraces have occasionally become venues for ice skating performances, hypnotists and other special shows. Towards the end of the season, some of the picnic terraces and pavilions are transformed into haunted walk-throughs for the annual Frightmares celebration. Once the season is over at the end of October, the shelters become storage for ride vehicles and parts for the winter and some even serve as temporary maintenance shops.
Check out this list to learn more about the history of each of the current and former picnic terraces.
As new rides and attractions are added to Lagoon, sometimes it’s necessary to remove an older attraction – often to the dismay of fans. But even when an something is removed, remnants are often left behind or repurposed. Here’s a few fragments of the past hiding in plain sight. These are things guests see all the time without realizing or remembering they were once part of a living feature of the park.
FUN HOUSE, 1957-1990
To anyone visiting the park after 1990, it’s an odd-shaped building with a long, sloping roof. But to others it can trigger a deeply-cherished childhood memory. It’s actually part of a larger building that used to be the Fun House.
The attraction, completed in 1957, was a replacement for an older Fun House that burned down in the fire of 1953. There were spinning turntables, moving stairs, a spinning barrel – everything you’d expect to find in a classic Fun House. The odd-shaped portion in back housed a set of gunny-sack slides.
A common explanation for the popular attraction’s closure is one that is well-known in the amusement industry – liability. With all of the fun things one could do in the Fun House, there were even more ways to get hurt doing them. There are also many who remember the Fun House turning into a kind of “day care” where adults would leave their kids to play while they went to enjoy less kid-friendly rides.
The slide tower is the most recognizable element left of the Fun House, but the rest of the building still stands as well. Parts of it have been carved out to accommodate new food outlets, games, lockers, the Safety & Security office and storage space.
PIONEER VILLAGE RAILROAD, 1976-1988
On the way to Rattlesnake Rapids there’s an old miniature locomotive on display bearing the name “Rattlesnake Railroad”. Currently, the Wild Kingdom Train is the only train ride at Lagoon. But from 1976 to 1988, there were two train rides of the same scale, both manufactured by Crown Metal Products of Pennsylvania. The second ride circled the perimeter of Pioneer Village and was named the Pioneer Village Railroad.
Since part of the P.V.R.R. ran through what became Lagoon-A-Beach, it had to close during construction in the late 1980s. At one time, it was planned to connect to the Wild Kingdom track for one long train ride, but that plan was never carried out and the P.V.R.R. ended up staying closed permanently.
The station is now the David E. Sperry Model Train Museum and a section of track can still be seen behind the building. The truss bridges were relocated further upstream on Farmington Creek for use on the Lagoon Trail, which runs along the east boundary of the park. The train that was used for the P.V.R.R. is now used for the Wild Kingdom Train. It replaced the engine that is now on display near Rattlesnake Rapids, which is about where the track used to be when it passed the Log Flume.
The different rooms and scenes in Dracula’s Castle have been changed and updated countless times since the ride opened in 1974. A gorilla that leans over passing riders was added in 2017. Before then, he appeared in Frightmares walk-throughs including the Pioneer Village Scare Zone and Psycho Dave’s Junkyard. For many years, he could be found at the end of Terroride, but that wasn’t his first home at Lagoon.
The gorilla was originally featured on the front of the old Haunted Shack, which was a fun house of sorts. Photos of the ride when during its earlier years don’t show the gorilla, but he was there in at least the early 1970s, as shown above. The Haunted Shack closed some time before 1980 and the gorilla has roamed the park ever since.
This one is a pretty recent addition to the list of former rides. There’s a fairly large lawn just north of The Rocket and Flying Aces. It may seem mysterious to anyone who hadn’t visited the park before 2018 since it’s completely fenced off with no access points.
This was the site of the Hydro-Luge from 1994 until it was dismantled in 2017. With construction going on just north of here, the logical explanation for its removal seems to have something to do with the new ride being built.
In front of The Spider sits a humble hill, that few notice, even as they rest on a bench under the shady trees. Even people who remember the ride don’t realize this is the last piece of one of Lagoon’s most popular rides of the 20th century. This hill was originally part of the overpass for Speedway, Sr., an automobile ride based on Disneyland’s famous Autopia.
It’s likely that the ride closed because of increasing maintenance costs. The piece of land it once occupied was replaced by two rides – Cliffhanger and The Spider. The service station was also torn down and the Soccer Darts game now sits in its place. Most of the cars were scrapped, but a few were sold.
After riding Cannibal, guests exit through a gift shop that is made to match the feel of the ride – except for the south side of the exterior, which has an unusually large sign above a ticket window for Double Thunder Raceway.
The building was built almost two decades before Cannibal opened. The Pit Row sign used to be on front. In addition to the gift shop, there was a ticket counter in the middle for the Top Eliminator dragsters and later, Double Thunder go-karts. In the back northwest corner, there was a small room used for training drivers for Top Eliminator. The large back doors where people now exit from Cannibal were garage doors for the dragsters to be pulled into the building for winter storage. The ticket window on the south side was formerly a door where riders entered the Double Thunder area, which could only be accessed through the building at the time.
After the 2011 season, the ride closed and demolition began on the track in preparation for construction of Cannibal. The control tower was torn down a few years later. A less noticeable piece that still remains is a hill at the west end of Cannibal, which was part of the long berm that extended along the north side of Top Eliminator to reduce the noise from the dragsters.
The large building that currently contains the Game Time arcade, Dracula’s Castle and the Frightmares attraction, Seance, was originally Lagoon’s Patio Gardens – a legendary concert venue that showcased some of the biggest acts of the 1950s and ’60s. Today, you’d never know it once echoed the sounds of Jimi Hendrix or the Rolling Stones, but there are a few small elements still visible from those days, aside from the building itself.
The stage was on the north side of the room and you can still see an overhang near the prize counter. The starburst-style lighting ornamentation is also still intact. The game on the outside southeast corner was where the ticket booth used to be.
Lagoon always drew the biggest acts of the day, but when popular music started veering away from the family atmosphere Lagoon was trying to uphold, management decided to end the concerts and focus on their own in-house entertainment. Concerts were still held sporadically at different locations in the park in the ’70s and ’80s, but it was rarely anything like what was common in the glory days of the Patio Gardens.
After the Patio Gardens closed, the building was converted into a roller skating rink for a short time. Then it became the Penny Arcade and finally the Game Time video game arcade. Dracula’s Castle was built into the southern portion of the building in 1974.
If you’ve visited Lagoon on a busy day, you may have had to park out in a large field north of the park. Or maybe you noticed the field from the top of The Rocket or Sky Scraper. Even looking at aerial images on Google Maps, many might not realize this was once one of Lagoon’s many attractions in its early days.
Although horse racing was declining elsewhere in the United States, it was just beginning to gain popularity in Utah when Lagoon added their own horse racing track in 1911. Horse racing was outlawed in 1913, but the track and grandstand were still used for a variety of races and events.
Lagoon’s management was close to having stock car races on the track in the 1960s, but that plan was quickly abandoned. Soon after, Lagoon began hosting the Davis County Fair again every year. A new grandstand was built for that purpose while also hosting rodeos and demolition derbies throughout the rest of the season. The county fair moved to a new fairground east of I-15 in the ’80s and Lagoon expanded northward in 1986, taking a chunk out of the old race track. The concrete grandstand remained and a few concerts were held there in the ’80s, but it was demolished in the late ’90s to make room for the Double Thunder Raceway.
A large, cone-shaped stone planter stands in the middle of several new kiddie rides at the north end of Kiddie Land. Some might think it looks like it used to be a fountain, which it was. But it was also part of something bigger when it was built.
Lagoon’s first miniature golf course was designed by a nationally-known professional in the 1960s. Known as Golf-Fun, each hole featured an obstacle based on different regions of the United States. A couple decades later, it was renovated and renamed Putter Around The Park. This time the obstacles were miniature versions of Lagoon attractions. There was a double loop resembling Colossus: The Fire Dragon, a swinging pirate ship for Tidal Wave and others.
Many new kiddie rides were being added in the first decade of the 21st century and it’s possible the course just wasn’t popular enough to take up such valuable park real estate. Before Putter Around The Park closed in 2008, Bulgy The Whale had already taken over a portion of it near the entrance. Jumping Dragon was the first to open on the former course, followed by Tipsey Tea Cups, Red Rock Rally, Flying Tigers and Ruka Safari.
Even with the addition of five rides, Lagoon managed to retain many trees and the old cone-shaped fountain as a flower planter. The obstacles often popped up as decorations during Frightmares. Recently, the Bulgy The Whale and Ferris Wheel obstacles have been repainted and placed in flower beds in the park.
The last month of Frightmares brought with it the end of another season at Lagoon. At the beginning of the month, the new south restrooms were completed. Soon after, the old restrooms built in the 1980s were demolished.
Aside from some busy weekends and the UEA fall break, it was a fairly uneventful month. However, there has been a lot of progress on the Biergarten planned for 2019 and plenty of undisclosed work going on north of the park near 200 West.
The park closed quietly October 30th, commencing a long five months for fans without trips to Lagoon. One thing to be aware of is the popular Black Friday season pass sale coming November 19-26.
What was new at Lagoon in September this year? Frightmares! But more specifically, there were some new additions and updates to Frightmares attractions in 2018.
Frightmares began on September 14th this year with all the shows and walk-throughs in full swing. Séance returned with an elaborate new entrance, including two tick windows on the south side. The show itself is still the same great show. Hackenslash now has a 360-degree stage built over the top of the Bamberger Fountain. The new show in the Carousel Theatre, Mariner, is based on a poem from 1798.
A new kids’ walk-through was added in the south end of Lagoon-A-Beach. Treat Street is accessed through a gate in Pioneer Village and consists of four booths based on Lagoon rides – Colossus: The Fire Dragon, Flying Aces, OdySea and Samurai. (The sign was added September 28th).
A brand new entrance was created for the Fun House Of Fear and Nightmare Midway (formerly Terrors Of The Past) and lots of things were added to other houses, especially Frightening Frisco.
Aside from Frightmares, work continues to progress on the demolition stage for the new Biergarten between Roller Coaster and Cliffhanger. Many trees, all of the concrete walkways, the Speedball game and even the old ramp on the Roller Coaster building were torn out in preparation for construction work.
The biggest news at Lagoon in August was probably all the work happening on the upcoming Frightmares event. Almost all of the walk-throughs were underway this month, including some new additions.
The most promising addition seems to be the new facade for Seance, shown above. There’s also a new temporary stage being added to the Bamberger Fountain and some small, colorful buildings for a kids’ walk-through.
A change to the park schedule was made that extended daily operation by two days. A special discount was available as well as a few perks for season passholders, but attendance was still relatively low on those days. Shows in the Carousel Theatre ended the weekend before.
Lagoon is now only open on weekends, but Frightmares begins Friday, September 14th with some new attractions so stay tuned!
Out of the hundreds of concerts at Lagoon’s Patio Gardens, some might assume there are many recordings of those concerts available. But in reality, they are extremely rare. For a long time, I thought Stan Kenton’s 1962 concert was the only one. But I was pleasantly surprised recently when a visitor to the website left a comment about a live recording of Woody Herman from 1956.
This CD features the concerts from the 27th and 28th of July, 1956. It was the second of three visits Woody Herman made to Lagoon over the years. The recording apparently originated as a live broadcast by the old Utah radio station, KYBL. It begins with an announcer stating his location at “New Lagoon” – which is how the park was marketed for a few years after being rebuilt from the large fire of 1953.
Woody Herman had a few different bands that played with him during his long career. After his first band was nicknamed “Herman’s Herd”, the usage continued with the Second Herd and Third Herd. The latter group recorded music and toured together from 1950 to 1956.
A notable member of the Third Herd is piano player Vince Guaraldi who later became a well-known jazz artist on his own. Now his name is almost synonymous with Charlie Brown television specials.
Without today’s sophisticated soundboard technology, the piano wasn’t picked up very well on microphones, but Guaraldi’s distinct piano work can still be clearly recognized, like in “Opus de Funk”.
These concerts have been made available by Storyville Records – a Danish record label that started out by reissuing US jazz albums for fans in northern Europe and has since accumulated and released a staggering amount of jazz performances that are often hard to find in America.
Many who have lived in or around Utah for long time will remember ZCMI. For those who are unfamiliar, ZCMI was a regional department store chain that started in Salt Lake City in 1868. The company was eventually sold in 1999 and today the remaining stores have become either Macy’s or Dillard’s.
Now for the Lagoon connection. In the 1990s, ZCMI was a sponsor for Lagoon’s entertainment, such as the long-running show, Rock U2 The Top. In August 1998, ZCMI mailed out a small catalog to customers featuring back to school fashions in various locations around Lagoon.
If you look past the somewhat awkward teenage models, you’ll also see a few things that have changed since that photo shoot two decades ago: Centennial Screamer with its original backdrop, the old ticket booth at the entrance to Colossus and the Skee-Ball games.
Expand the viewer below to flip through the catalog.
This wasn’t the first fashion shoot ZCMI did at Lagoon. Back in the heyday of the Lagoon Opera House, ZCMI ads appeared in the programs with photos taken at Opera House Square like the ones below from 1978 and 1979.
Lagoon’s biggest foray into the fashion world was a clothing line sold at J.C. Penney stores in the area during June and July of 1989. Designed by local artist Martin Blundell to help promote the new water park. The line featured swimsuits, sweatshirts and t-shirts that were specifically designed to endure water, sand and sun. They were later made available exclusively at Rad Brad’s Surf Rags at Lagoon with the possibility of expanding outside Utah if it became profitable enough.
It’s been a long, hot July, but there has still been plenty of different things happening at Lagoon.
The remains of Hydro-Luge were finally removed from the park after sitting there since spring. There is now just a large, smoothed out expanse of dirt where the ride once was.
Complimentary charging lockers provided by local company, Bad Apple, were added in front of Game Time, behind Rendezvous (the Cannibal gift shop) and in Lagoon-A-Beach. They are free and have charging cords for Apple, Samsung and other Android phones and devices.
At the end of the month, changes were being made at the Campground. Subway signs were removed for what will be Lagoon’s third Swig location. Subway had been operating at the Campground since the late 1990s.
There were a lot of promotions for discounted admission in July including Independence Day, Pioneer Day and the Summer Daze week-long promotion.
Work on Frightmares started a little earlier this year at the Davis Pavilion and soon daily operation will make way to weekend-only openings.
In 1988, Pioneer Village celebrated its Jubilee year with a week full of music, contests and demonstrations from pioneer life.
Although Pioneer Village opened at Lagoon in 1976, it originally opened in Salt Lake City in 1938 by Horace Sorenson, owner of the old Southeast Furniture store who had amassed a large collection of pioneer artifacts.
The Jubilee coincided with Pioneer Day and included demonstrations of “bead work, hide tanning, boot making, weaving, spinning, basket making, braiding, sand sculpture, paper cutting and many other crafts” according to the Deseret News, who sponsored the event along with KSL & KUTV.
Entertainment was provided from noon to 9pm every day on the Village Green Stage – a former venue north of Carriage Hall which featured many country musicians in the 1970s and ’80s. “Oldtimers” dressed in clothing of the 1880s would also wander the area and interact with guests.
Watermelon and pie eating contests with “valuable prizes” were also held each day and there were pig races around the street clock at the south end of Main Street.