Category Archives: Live Entertainment

Old Attractions Hidden In Plain Sight, Part I

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 slide tower of the Fun House as seen from the Sky Ride in 2018. Photo: B. Miskin

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.

View of the Fun House in 1963. Photo courtesy of Deseret News

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

Steam engine on display near Rattlesnake Rapids. Photo: B. Miskin

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.

Pioneer Village Railroad in 1981. Photo courtesy of Deseret News

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.

Read more about the P.V.R.R. here…

HAUNTED SHACK, 1966-1970s

Scene from Dracula’s Castle in 2018. Photo: B. Miskin

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.

Haunted Shack in 1973. Photo: Laura Moncur, Starling-Travel.com (color corrected)

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.

Read more about the Haunted Shack…

HYDRO-LUGE, 1994-2017

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.

The former location of Hydro-Luge as it appeared in 2019. Photo: B. Miskin

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.

Hydro-Luge around 2007. Photo: B. Miskin

Read more about Hydro-Luge…

SPEEDWAY, SR., 1960-2000

This hill in front of The Spider was once part of the Speedway’s overpass. Photo: B. Miskin

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.

The Speedway, circa 1960. Photo: Lagoon

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.

Read more about Speedway, Senior…

TOP ELIMINATOR, 1996-2011

Pit Row / Rendezvous building in 2016. Photo: B. Miskin

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.

Pit Row in 2005. Photo: B. Miskin

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.

Read more about Top Eliminator…

PATIO GARDENS, 1954-1969

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.

Top of the stage remains above the Prize Center in Game Time. Photo: B. Miskin

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.

Herman’s Hermits at the Patio Gardens in 1967. Photographer unknown

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.

The lighting fixtures, visible in a 1968 photo of a Monkees concert, have been altered, but are still intact. Photos: Unknown/B. Miskin

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.

Click here for a list of famous performers at Lagoon…

RACE TRACK, 1911-1984

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.

2018 aerial image showing the former location of the Race Track (red) and Lagoon Stadium grandstand (yellow).

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.

Race Track 1914
Spectators during a race between automobile driver Barney Oldfield and airplane pilot Lincoln Beachy. The area in the photo is where Double Thunder Raceway is today. Photo: ‘A History Of Davis County’

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.

Read more about the Race Track…

GOLF-FUN / PUTTER AROUND THE PARK, 1962-2008

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.

The old Golf-Fun fountain has been transformed into a planter today. Photo: B. Miskin

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.

Originally the fountain at Golf-Fun was taller, as shown in this promotional photo.

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.

LEFT: Ferris Wheel obstacle in Putter Around the Park, 2007. Photo: Sam Wibatt. RIGHT: Ferris Wheel in a planter by Sky Scraper, 2019. Photo: B. Miskin
LEFT: Bulgy obstacle in Putter Around The Park, 2007. Photo: Sam Wibatt. RIGHT: Bulgy obstacle next to Bulgy The Whale in 2017: Photo: B. Miskin

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.

Read more about Golf-Fun & Putter Around The Park…

There are many other pieces of old attractions that weren’t listed here which will be discussed in the second part of the article to come later.

LINKS

Pioneer Village Railroad

Haunted Shack

Hydro-Luge

Speedway, Sr.

Top Eliminator

Patio Gardens

Race Track

Golf Fun / Putter Around The Park

The Monkees At Lagoon

Fifty years ago this spring, Lagoon was the setting of a key moment in the history of The Monkees.

Although the band was created by Hollywood producers for a TV show beginning in 1966 and media critics nicknamed them the Pre-Fab Four, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork quickly rose to fame as The Monkees. They sold millions of records while constantly struggling to prove they had become more than just actors, but a real, working band.

When their TV show was cancelled after two seasons in early 1968, The Monkees began filming scenes for a motion picture that followed the formula of pop art style films like The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night while still having enough of their own elements to make it unique. As the director, Bob Rafelson put it:

It’s different from the Beatles’ movies. It’s intense and severe, and it exposes much of what all rock groups went through but nobody had the guts to tell. In the movie we saw The Monkees as victims. The energy had run its course with their old audience. We tried to reconfigure them for the more mature audience who had previously rejected them.

The film pioneered some new special effect techniques like polarization and included appearances by Annette Funicello, Toni Basil, Frank Zappa¹ and other stars.

The final scene in the film was a live performance of a new song entitled Circle Sky – a rock song written by guitarist Michael Nesmith. Plans were made to film the performance at their upcoming concert at Lagoon’s Patio Gardens (now the Game Time Arcade). The band arrived in Salt Lake City along with co-producers Bob Rafelson and then-unknown Jack Nicholson. Later that day, the group were guests at local radio station KCPX.

The next day, 17 May 1968, as technical preparations for the concert were underway, The Monkees rode various rides at Lagoon accompanied by an entourage of Salt Lake City policeman and hoards of fans.

The Monkees walking past Lagoon’s Carousel with their police escort. Footage by Henry Diltz
Fans ride Lagoon’s Roller Coaster with members of The Monkees. Footage by Henry Diltz

Fans were already lining up at the Patio Gardens when it was decided that the venue wouldn’t allow for optimal lighting for the film shoot and the concert was moved about ten miles south to the three-year-old Valley Music Hall (the large dome building visible from I-15 in Bountiful). The venue had a circular, revolving stage making for a memorable scene.

Scene from the Monkees’ film, ‘Head’ at Valley Music Hall in Bountiful.

The events of those two days were documented in 8mm film footage and photos by popular rock and roll photographer, Henry Diltz. Some of that footage can be seen in the video below, which is presented with audio of directions being given to the audience who would be a part of the scene. More footage of Lagoon is available on the Jimi Hendrix: The Guitar Hero DVD.

Because of the confusion from changing venues, The Monkees returned to Lagoon after filming at Valley Music Hall to perform a free, half-hour set to show their appreciation to the fans. It was estimated that about 5,000 people attended at each location.

No one anticipated that night that the performances in Bountiful and at Lagoon would be the last American performances with all four original band members before Peter, and later Michael, left the group over the next couple of years.

The title of the movie was changed from Untitled to Head and the band’s name wasn’t really used in marketing campaigns. The film and the soundtrack album largely failed to change perceptions of the band. Instead, many found it confusing and The Monkees were basically rejected by the audience they were abandoning as well as the ones they were hoping to win over.

Almost two decades later, there was an unexpected resurgence in Monkee-mania when cable networks MTV and Nickelodeon began airing the TV series again. This renewed interest in the band helped  make their albums top sellers again and a reunion tour was organized.²

As part of the tour, The Monkees returned to Lagoon, this time performing at Lagoon Stadium, on 29 August 1986 along with Gary Puckett, Herman’s Hermits and The GrassRoots. The band continued to record and release music and even the failed movie, Head, has earned a cult following.

LINKS

Patio Gardens

Monkees Live Almanac – lots of history about the band with several photos of their time in Utah

Own The Monkees’ film Head on DVD

Hear the live version of Circle Sky performed in Bountiful

Own the soundtrack on Vinyl, CD or MP3

Jimi Hendrix: The Guitar Hero DVD – featuring ten minutes of 8mm footage of The Monkees in Utah by Henry Diltz

NOTES

1. Frank Zappa performed at Lagoon just two weeks after The Monkees.

2. Because of other business obligations, Michael Nesmith was only able to join the other three at the Los Angeles concert.

SOURCES

Many Concerts In Salt Lake. Deseret News, 18 May 1968.

Utah-Made Movie Slated. Deseret News, Jan 1969.

Spangler, Jerry. Monkees a fad? Maybe, but not a passing one. Deseret News, Aug 1986.

Bronson, Harold. Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkees. General Publishing Group, 1996.

Head (Original Motion Picture Concert). MonkeesLiveAlmanac.com, accessed 28 Aug 2016.

20th Anniversary Reunion Tour. MonkeesLiveAlmanac.com, accessed 14 May 2018.

A Pioneer Holiday At Lagoon

Frightmares has been an increasingly popular Halloween event at Lagoon for over 20 years now. But before Frightmares, Lagoon tried out a short Christmas event.

In November 1994, possibly for the first time ever, Lagoon opened its doors to the public for a post-season holiday celebration. The three-day Pioneer Holiday was basically a community event hosted at Lagoon, similar to the way the Davis County Fair had been held there in previous years. Pioneer Village was the center of activity for the event and no rides were operating. Visitors parked at the historic rock church on Main Street in Farmington, then walked down 300 North to enter a back gate into the park.

Debbie Bernhiesel, left, Olivia King, Liz Heartlin, Sarah Hale & Denise Hillyard plan Pioneer Holiday. Photo: Paul Barker, Deseret News

It was just a few days after Halloween, but the first of many heavy snowfalls during a record-setting November hit the day before the celebration.

The event started Thursday with a craft boutique and luncheon at the Davis Pavilion. Admission to the craft boutique was free. On Friday night and throughout the day on Saturday, admission to the activities in Pioneer Village was $2 per person or $10 per family.

Guests could stop at the Bakery and grab a hot scone with honey butter, blueberry muffin, cookie, Navajo taco or a funnel cake then explore a variety of activities while listening to the Victorian Carolers from Centerville. The activities included:

  • Taffy-pulling, Santa’s Post Office and crafts for kids
  • Indian storyteller Toker Timothy with his two wolves, Kodashaw & Trouble
  • Quilting bee in the old PVRR Train Station
  • Drawing for a Christmas quilt
  • Mountain man exhibits in a teepee
  • Spinning & weaving demonstrations
  • Holiday food booths

The craft boutique continued in the Davis Pavilion on Friday and Saturday where there was also a steady stream of live music provided by local performers. Here’s a schedule of the entertainment line-up:

Friday, 4 November 1994

  • 5:00pm-5:30pm – Christy Taylor, Miss Farmington
  • 5:30pm-6:00pm – Analisa Semadeni, former Miss Farmington
  • 6:00pm-7:00pm – High Priority (Smoot Family band) with High Desert
  • 7:00pm-8:00pm – Ron Behunin Band
  • 8:00pm-9:00pm – Farmington Chamber Ensemble

Saturday, 5 November 1994

  • 10:00am-10:30am – Mike & Angela Page
  • 10:30am-11:30am – Monte Williams & The Crazy Coyote Band
  • 11:30am-12:00pm – Ester Tingey, fiddler
  • 12:00pm-1:00pm – Mike Hansen, guitarist
  • 1:00pm-2:00pm – Ruth Gatrell Singers
  • 2:00pm-3:00pm – The Hay Day Cloggers
  • 3:00pm-4:00pm – Chamberlin Family and
  • 4:00pm-5:00pm – Cinnamon Creek Singers
  • 5:00pm-7:00pm – The Catalyst Band with Joey Hansen
  • 7:00pm-8:00pm – Cori Conners

If not for the success of Frightmares, which began the following year in 1995, the Christmas celebration may have returned and even expanded to include more events and – with the warmer weather in recent years – a few rides may have been opened, too.

It would be nineteen years until Pioneer Village was dressed up in Christmas decorations again, but it wasn’t for a public event. After Lagoon closed for the 2015 season, Pioneer Village became Christmas Land for a Hallmark Channel movie of the same name.

© 2015 Crown Media
© 2015 Crown Media

Did you attend the Pioneer Holiday event at Lagoon? Please share your memories by commenting below or send a message using the form on the Contact page.

LINKS

Pioneer Village

Pioneer Village stars in ‘Christmas Land’

Lagoon And The Fair, Part I: The Davis County Fair

SOURCES

Lagoon May Beat Record, Exceed 1 Million in ’94. Deseret News, 7 Sep 1994 – Davis Edition.

Boren, Karen. Celebrate ‘Pioneer Holiday’ at Lagoon. Deseret News, 3 Nov 1994.

Lagoon pioneer fest through Saturday. Deseret News, 3-4 Nov 1994.

Live At Lagoon, 1962!

Painting of Lagoon's Patio Gardens by V. Douglas Snow, from Ford Times, August 1961.
Painting of Lagoon’s Patio Gardens by V. Douglas Snow, from Ford Times, August 1961.

Lagoon has hosted hundreds of performances by popular musicians and entertainers over the decades, peaking with the shows held at the Patio Gardens in the 1950s and ’60s. Those who experienced them in person usually have great memories from them and many of those who never got to the chance wish they could travel back in time. If only there were some recordings that could help us feel like we were there. Well, there is at least one concert recording from the Patio Gardens that has been floating around for some time now and is fairly easy to get a copy of.

From the newspaper ad announcing the concerts, 24 August 1962.
From the newspaper ad announcing the concerts on 24-25 August 1962.

On a couple of warm, late August nights in 1962, Stan Kenton and his 22-piece orchestra filled the open-air pavilion with smooth, polished jazz music. During at least one of the shows, somebody was smart enough to put the live sounds on tape.

A Night At The Old Nugget

Released by Status Records¹, which specializes in recordings of jazz concerts of the mid-20th century, this recording from Lagoon’s Patio Gardens is one of the many previously unreleased titles that the record label has made available on compact disc.

The instruments sound exceptionally clear and the chatting of musicians and Stan Kenton is audible between songs. The atmosphere conveys the intimate nature of the venue which many seem to recall. Fans of Stan Kenton and jazz music of that time period seem to agree that this particular mix of talented musicians were the best ever collected under Kenton’s leadership. But even if you’ve never listened to the genre, it’s worth giving this concert a listen to get an idea of what could be heard emanating from the northwest corner of Lagoon on summer nights about 50 years ago.

Cha Cha Sombrero

OWN THE ALBUM

You can own this piece of Lagoon history for yourself by clicking here and help support the Lagoon History Project in the process.

Stan Kenton - Mellophonium Moods

UPDATE: Thanks to a comment on another page of the website, another recording of a Lagoon concert is available – Woody Herman And His Orchestra 1956. Read more about it here…separatorLINKS

Patio Gardens

Alphabetical List Of Performers At Lagoon

Chronological List Of Performers At Lagoon

separatorNOTES

1. The story behind Status Records is a bit confusing and more than I care to dig into for the purpose of this article. But from what I’ve found online, there are two different companies that released music under the Status Records label. The first was based in Bergenfield, New Jersey. It was an imprint of the larger Prestige Records, which specialized in jazz music, and was basically formed to release budget-priced albums. The second Status Records, which is responsible for this Stan Kenton album, seems to have been a revitalization of the old Status Records, but this time based in the United Kingdom. They have reissued many of the older titles in the Prestige, New Jazz and earlier Status catalogs on CD as well as issuing previously unreleased recordings like this Lagoon concert.

separatorSOURCES

Lagoon newspaper ad. Deseret News, 24 Aug 1962.

Recordings. Charlie Mariano Tribute, accessed 3 Dec 2012.

Mellophonium Moods. Amazon.com, accessed 3 Dec 2012.

Labels: Status. RateYourMusic.com, accessed 8 Jan 2013.

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