Category Archives: Pioneer Village

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.


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, (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…


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…


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.


Pioneer Village Railroad

Haunted Shack


Speedway, Sr.

Top Eliminator

Patio Gardens

Race Track

Golf Fun / Putter Around The Park

Old Attractions Hidden In Plain Sight, Part II

As new attractions are added, sometimes old ones have to go, but they don’t always disappear completely. Here’s a few elements of past rides and attractions that have remained at Lagoon.

Click here for Part I of the article that covers the Fun House, Pioneer Village Railroad & more…


Rose Terrace in 2005. Photo: B. Miskin

Lagoon has dozens of picnic terraces in the northeast portion of the park. The smallest one, the Rose Terrace, sits east of The Bat. It was actually part of a much bigger structure and dates back to the park’s beginnings on the shore of the Great Salt Lake.

Lake Park’s Dancing Pavilion is the tall, open air structure on the left. It was later relocated to Lagoon. Photo courtesy of Deseret News

When Simon Bamberger moved most of the buildings from Lake Park inland and renamed the resort Lagoon, the Dancing Pavilion was taken apart and rebuilt at the new park. Later on, the building was modified to become the Lake Park Terrace with the cupola being turned into its own separate structure. The Lake Park Terrace was demolished after the end of the 2004 season to make room for The Bat, making the Rose Terrace the last surviving piece of the Lake Park resort.

Read more about Lagoon’s Picnic Terraces…


Nestled in a corner of the Midway, south of Jet Star 2, is a town square that looks like it came from Victorian-era New England. The biggest draw now is the shaded eating areas and fast food restaurants. Fifty years ago it was much more than that.

Opera House Square in 2018. Photo: B. Miskin

Once called the jewel of summer theater on the Wasatch Front, the 300-seat theater and surrounding square was built using as many authentic furnishings as possible. Year after year, successful shows were put on by Robert Hyde Wilson and actors from the University of Utah. Opera House Square also featured the full service Gaslight Restaurant, Ice Cream Parlor, General Store, Popcorn Wagon and ragtime piano player performing in the square between shows.

Interior of the Lagoon Opera House.

In 1980, Lagoon switched from the free admission, pay-per-ride policy to a pay-one-price admission fee, which included unlimited rides, but not shows at the Opera House. Later on, Lagoon leased the Opera House out to other theater companies. In 1989, despite several seasons of critically-acclaimed productions, attendance dropped so much that the show ended two weeks early. It hasn’t reopened since.

Even without the original amenities, the square still provides a quiet, relaxing oasis amidst the modern thrill rides. Subway opened in 1997 with Arby’s arriving in 2001. The theater is still used for entertainment rehearsals and recently, the exterior has undergone repairs to keep it looking fresh.

Read more about Opera House Square…

ROLL-O-PLANE, 1947-2002

Sit & Smoke Station, south of the Touchdown game, September 2019. Photo: B. Miskin

When the Davis County Board Of Health banned smoking in public and private outdoor spaces in 2008, they allowed smoking in areas designated by property owners. Lagoon created eight smoking areas around the park, each with sheltered benches.

One of these sits in the middle of a small lawn next to the Touchdown game on the South Midway. This marks the former location of the Roll-O-Plane, not far from its cousin, the Rock-O-Plane.

Roll-O-Plane in 1991. Photo courtesy of Lagoon

The Roll-O-Plane that stood here was actually the last of three different Roll-O-Plane rides at Lagoon. The first was installed in 1947, but after being damaged in the 1953 fire, a new one was purchased in 1954. An updated model replaced that one in 1972 and it operated on this spot for about 30 years before metal fatigue led to the ride’s removal.

Read more about Roll-O-Plane…


Sunset on Lagoon Lake, 2018. Photo: B. Miskin

Reportedly originating as a pond for harvesting ice, Simon Bamberger purchased the acre of land the pond was on and developed it into Lagoon. In the beginning, activities on Lagoon Lake included boating and even swimming for a short time until a portion was sectioned off and made into a pool.

Water Skeeters, 1991
Water Skeeters in their final season. Photo courtesy of Lagoon

Over the years, other water attractions were added such as a fleet of small motorboats and a miniature steamboat. The Water Skeeters – human-powered paddle boats – were the last of the attractions to let guests venture out onto the lake. They closed in 1991.

Row boating on Lagoon Lake, 1953. Photo courtesy of Deseret News

In the early ’90s, Lagoon had some grand plans for the lake that were revealed in the Deseret News. The idea was to build a boardwalk around the edge and place a tall masted ship in the middle for diving shows. Unfortunately, nothing ever came of the plans. Turn Of The Century swings out over the lake the same way the Rockets did before it and a train has circled the lake since 1947.

Read more about the Water Skeeters…

STAGECOACH, 1976-2009

Stagecoach and skeleton horses in the Pioneer Village Scare Zone, 2017. Photo: B. Miskin

The Stagecoach was one of the first rides in Pioneer Village when it opened at Lagoon in 1976. With a loading area south of the Pony express Museum (where Swig is now), guests took a ride behind the Telephone Museum and over Farmington Creek to the open land east of the village. After Rattlesnake Rapids opened, the path was altered.

A view of the east side of Pioneer Village and the Pioneer Pavilion in 1980. From a film by Joseph L. Hatch
Stagecoach in the '90s.
Stagecoach in the 1990s. Photo: Lagoon

The Stagecoach was operated by the Thurston Family who owned the Clydesdale horses. When patriarch Dale Thurston retired, his children took over for a season or two before closing the ride in 2009.

The wagon sat by the old stable for many years before being moved behind the Train Museum. During Frightmares it has been used to decorate different walk-throughs in Pioneer Village.

Read more about the Stagecoach…


Front of the Biergarten along what was the back of the Lagoon Music Theatre. Photo: B. Miskin

The Biergarten recently opened in an area bordered by Cliffhanger, The Spider and Roller Coaster. Much of this area was where Speedway, Sr. was located from 1960 to 2000. The Lagoon Music Theatre was built between Speedway, Sr. and Roller Coaster in 1982.

The entrance to Lagoon Music Theatre in 1992. Photo: Lagoon

Many park guests remember relaxing in the shady amphitheater for nightly performances of song and dance. But it closed in 2008 and remained closed until construction began on the Biergarten in 2018. Most of the east planter and part of the short wall along the back of the theater were saved and incorporated into the design of the small German village.

Read more about the Lagoon Music Theatre


Engine No. 999 on display in Pioneer Village. Photo: B. Miskin

In the Model Train Museum there’s a small train encased in glass. Unlike the toy trains surrounding it, this was once part of a train ride that operated in different parts of Lagoon starting around the 1920s. After two or three decades, the engine and tender were put on display next to Lagoon Lake. When Opera House Square opened, the display moved over there, which is where a miniature train enthusiast saw it and connected Lagoon to someone who could get it running again. The train was brought back to life again in time to become a part of Pioneer Village in 1976. The loading platform was just south of the Bonanza Shooting Gallery and west of the Log Flume.

Lagoon Miniature R.R. in 1977. Photo courtesy of Deseret News

This train ride closed again in the 1980s in preparation for the construction of Lagoon-A-Beach, but never re-opened. The little locomotive was a unique piece of equipment (which was likely custom-made), and it was probably getting difficult to maintain by that time.

“The Olde Engine House” used to stand at the loading area for the Lagoon Miniature R.R. Photo: B. Miskin

Some stretches of track were still visible for at least a decade after it closed, but all of the track has been removed now. The structure from the loading platform was moved east near the Log Flume exit and now covers a group of vending machines. The engine and tender were repainted and put back on display at the Model Train Museum in 2002.


The former Dodgem building in 2019. Photo: B. Miskin

The Scamper bumper cars have only been around since 1977, but the building it occupies has been home to a bumper car ride since the 1940s or earlier. The existing building could’ve replaced an older one that originated with the Dodgem that opened in 1925.

Dodgem building visible beyond the damaged Roller Coaster station after the 1953 fire. Photo courtesy of Deseret News

The building currently houses Scamper and Carousel Candy It can be seen in the photo above, which was taken the day after a large fire destroyed much of the park in 1953. Dodgem continued to operate there until 1965. A newer bumper car ride – the Auto Skooter – opened the following year. Around the early 1980s, this and other buildings along the central Midway got a new Victorian-style facade.

Read more about Dodgem and Auto Skooter


The Old Woman’s Shoe in 2012. Photo: B. Miskin

Not far from the Carousel, near the Baby Boats, sits a giant shoe that’s been turned into a house. It represents the old nursery rhyme about the old woman who lived in a shoe. Many people will easily make the connection and some will remember being able to go inside when they were kids. This was just one of several small attractions based on nursery rhymes that were originally part of Mother Gooseland when it opened in 1956. There was also Jack & Jill’s Hill, Peter Peter’s Pumpkin Shell, Humpty Dumpty on his wall and others.

The Old Woman’s Shoe as it appeared sometime around 1956-60. Photo: Janice Staker Brown

Over the years, pieces of Mother Gooseland were removed, but the shoe has remained for over 60 years. The doors were locked some time around the early 1980s, but it still adds character to Kiddie Land, as the area has been named since 1985.

Read more about Mother Gooseland…


Picnic Terraces



Lagoon Music Theatre


Auto Skooter

Mother Gooseland

Old Lagoon Attractions Hidden In Plain Sight, Part I

Pioneer Village Jubilee

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.

Main Street Clock
Photo from a 1992 Lagoon brochure.

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.

Read more about Pioneer Village here…


Pioneer Village


Deseret News, 11 Jul 1988.

Life in the old West being revived in Pioneer Village Jubilee. Deseret News, 19 Jul 1988.

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.


Pioneer Village

Pioneer Village stars in ‘Christmas Land’

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


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.

America Screams…At Lagoon!

There’s an old documentary about amusement parks called America Screams which aired on PBS in 1978. It was an hour long, but was later whittled down to a half hour when it was released on VHS. This edited version can be seen on YouTube. (The Lagoon sequence starts at the 7:30 mark and ends about 30 seconds later).

It’s a rare glimpse at amusement parks and roller coasters at a time when both were experiencing a major resurgence in popularity. On top of that, it’s narrated by the legendary Vincent Price!

The documentary came about when an author and a filmmaker decided to do something that had never been done before. Here’s what the filmmaker, Scott Campbell, told me about how it began and why Lagoon was chosen to be a part of it.

“My partner and good friend, Gary Kyriazi, had written a book, The Great American Amusement Parks, and he wanted to make it into a film. We were both at UCLA at the time and I was majoring in film, so we said, ‘Hey, sounds like fun. Let’s pool our resources and shoot it.’ So we did. He used the contacts he had made while writing the book and he picked the parks. He liked featuring the smaller ‘mom and pop’ parks because that’s how the industry started. He was also very interested in how the amusement park became the theme park – and Pioneer Village was a part of the beginnings of that kind of concept.”

The success of Disneyland and Walt Disney World helped move the industry towards more storyline-based experiences. Pioneer Village opened in 1976 as Lagoon’s first true themed area.

“Interestingly, we shot an entire sequence at Lagoon (and Pioneer Village) for the original hour version of AMERICA SCREAMS that aired around the world. But when it went to VHS, I had to cut it down to 30 minutes, so the nighttime sequence was removed, along with the Lagoon section. There was even a sequence shot in Lagoon’s Fun House (lugging lights from L.A. for that was not a lot of fun), but that sequence didn’t make it into the film – again due to time constraints.”

While we may never see that Fun House sequence, Campbell was kind enough to share the full Lagoon sequences from the original version with the Lagoon History Project. This first clip begins in the parking lot at the old Auto Gate when it was located near the west end of Roller Coaster. Also shown are views from the Sky Ride including a great shot of the old Wild Mouse. It ends with scenes of Pioneer Village which were cut for the VHS version.

It’s easy to see why Pioneer Village was once called a “living museum” when you see employees roaming the dirt paths and boardwalks in period clothing and kids playing with a working water pump.

The original broadcast version also includes another treat. This nighttime sequence is a blend of shots from Lagoon and Lakeside Park in Denver set to the ’60s hit song Palisades Park by Freddy Cannon. It alternates between the two quickly, so I’ve marked the shots that I can confirm are from Lagoon in the clip. The Roll-O-Plane, Loop-O-Plane and possibly the Skee-Ball game could be from Lagoon as well.

Campbell called Lagoon a “wonderful, friendly park” and shared this about making America Screams:

“Price was a joy to work with…and he loved the parks and ‘rolly’ coasters.”

“…that film was a blast to make – most of the parks paid for the travel – they considered it great promotion! You see roller coaster and amusement park documentaries all the time now, but AMERICA SCREAMS was absolutely the first…by a long shot. I remember people saying to me and my partner at the time, ‘What in the world are you making a film like that for – you’re nuts! It will never sell.’ It went on to do great, not only in the U.S., but all around the world, as other cultures peeked in at what the crazy Americans were up to.”

There have been many invaluable photos shared with the Lagoon History Project over the years. They are a great help in confirming dates and attraction information and they have led to very helpful and unexpected discoveries. But unfortunately, these contributions are few compared to how many historical photos of Lagoon actually exist in attics and basements. Film footage (especially from the days before video cameras were commonplace) is even more rare, so I’m extremely grateful for Scott Campbell letting me share these forgotten scenes here. It was great conversing with him about this pioneering achievement.



See more old footage of Lagoon and old Lagoon TV commercials on the Lagoon History Project’s YouTube channel and 14 more videos on Vimeo that aren’t on YouTube.



America Screams., accessed 21 Apr 2016.

Selected Television & PBS Specials., accessed 12 Apr 2017.

Email messages to the author from Scott Campbell, Feb-Mar 2016.


40 Years Of Pioneer Village At Lagoon

Pioneer Village began in the East Millcreek area of Salt Lake City in 1938. Furniture store owner Horace Sorenson collected pioneer-era buildings and artifacts as others were tearing them down or throwing them away. He opened his collection to the public and eventually turned it over to the Sons Of Utah Pioneers who operated it until the mid-1970s.

Postcard showing Pioneer Village as it appeared in its original location.
Postcard showing Pioneer Village in Salt Lake City.

In its original location, Pioneer Village was out of the way of most tourist traffic and attendance dwindled. The S.U.P. was considering relocating when Lagoon showed interest in acquiring the collection. The S.U.P. favored Lagoon since they wanted to keep the collection together instead of being sold off individually and the two parties struck a deal. The sale helped fund a new headquarters for the S.U.P.

Ox-Drawn Wagon ride at Pioneer Village in Salt Lake City, 1957. Photo: Janice Staker Brown
Ox-Drawn Wagon ride at Pioneer Village in Salt Lake City, 1957. Photo: Janice Staker Brown

Beginning in spring of 1975, the collection was carefully relocated to Farmington. It was forty years ago on Memorial Day, 31 May 1976 when Pioneer Village was dedicated at its new home by Spencer W. Kimball, president of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints at the time.

Spencer W. Kimball in the Rock Chapel on the day he dedicated Pioneer Village at Lagoon, 31 May 1976. Photo: Deseret News
Spencer W. Kimball in the Coalville Chapel on the day he dedicated Pioneer Village at Lagoon, 31 May 1976. Photo: Deseret News

Since then much has changed and much has remained the same. Attractions have come and gone, display items have been rotated in and out of storage and trees have matured. Lagoon has also added to the collection and included a variety of attractions over the years.

A view of the east side of Pioneer Village and the Pioneer Pavilion in 1980. From a film by Joseph L. Hatch
A view of the east side of Pioneer Village and the Pioneer Pavilion in 1980. From a film by Joseph L. Hatch

The Log Flume was purchased from a park in Oregon. It opened a year before Pioneer Village was completely relocated. When everything was finished in 1976, features added by Lagoon included an old-fashioned shooting gallery, ice cream shop and bakery. Lagoon’s original miniature train was fixed up after decades of being in storage to take kids around a track that circled the buildings on the north end of the village. When that ride had run its course, the loading area later became a fishing pond, but fishing only took place for a season or two (the pond is still there today). A larger train circled the entire village and used the old Kaysville Depot on the south end to load and unload.

1978 Opera House cast in the seating area east of the old P.V.R.R. station (now the Model Train Museum). Photo: Lagoon
1978 Opera House performers pose in the seating area east of the old P.V.R.R. station (now the Model Train Museum). Photo: Lagoon

The Old Mill became famous for its barbecued corn on the cob. An old clock from Main Street in Salt Lake City was moved to the Village in 1977. A family-operated Stagecoach ride took guests along a path outside the Village where deer, bison and other animals could be seen.

The Lagoon Show Band performs on Main Street in Pioneer Village in 1980. Photo: Gary Thomas Ogden
The Lagoon Show Band performs on Main Street in Pioneer Village in 1980. Photo: Gary Thomas Ogden

The shady Village Green featured concerts and other entertainment, but the most popular entertainment by far was right on Main Street where wild west shootouts were held regularly. A rare event was held in Pioneer Village in the early ’90s when it was opened to the public in November for a pioneer Christmas celebration.

Wild west shootouts were a popular tradition for many years. Photo: Scott Taylor

New museums and displays were added over time like Don Ogden’s Miniature Circus, the David E. Sperry Model Train Museum and the Coin, Silver & Currency Collection. The biggest addition came in 1997 with the opening of Rattlesnake Rapids. Over the past year, most of the buildings on Main Street have been repainted and just this month, the old Pony Express building found new life as a Swig ‘n Sweets location offering a variety of flavored drinks and cookies.

The new Swig location opened this year inside what was once the Pony Express Museum. Photo: B. Miskin
The new Swig location opened this year inside what was once the Pony Express Museum. Photo: B. Miskin

Today, Pioneer Village continues to provide a relaxing, quiet atmosphere away from the noise and modern thrills of the Midway where you can grab a treat and learn more about how life was before automobiles, interstates and shopping centers. The authentic buildings still provide a humbling insight into the lives of those who shaped the place Utahns call home.



Pioneer Village attractions

Pioneer Village stars in ‘Christmas Land’

The Map Room

Map RoomHistorical maps are now available in the Lagoon History Project’s Map Room. The maps can be navigated similarly to Google Maps as they allow you to zoom in and pan across. There are currently six maps: three Sanborn maps and three guide maps. More will be added later on.

Go to the Map Room

Sanborn maps were originally created to help insurance companies determine fire risks. A large percentage of the country was mapped by the Sanborn Map Company from 1867 until 1970.

Loads of information can be gleaned from these old maps. To help you compare the locations of the older buildings to the current layout, the original entrance was on the east side of the park next to the railroad tracks. The main entrance as we know it today would have been close to the center of the old Dance Pavilion. The Swimming Pool/Lagoon-A-Beach has always occupied the same basic area. You’ll also see how the size of the lake has been scaled back over the years as well as some old attractions we don’t hear much about like the Bump-The-Bumps, Joy Wheel and The Whip.

The Pioneer Village map and the 1988 map came in a press kit from that year. It’s uncertain how long this particular Pioneer Village map was distributed. Since the 1989 map had to be scanned in portions from a 24″ x 36″ map, there are some areas that don’t quite align, but it doesn’t detract too much from the map.

All guide maps have their inaccuracies, but they still give us a good idea of what was and wasn’t there at the time. The 1989 map seems to have really squished things in on the extreme northern and southern ends and are placed in awkward configurations. It also shows a guest walkway from Pioneer Village to the South Midway which never existed. Some things you’ll see in these maps from the 1980s include the connecting walkway from Pioneer Village that goes between the Prison and Gingerbread House (instead of alongside the church as it is now), the East Gate on Lagoon Lane, former picnic terraces and old rides like Tri-Star, Flying Carpet, Speedway and more.

I’m always looking for old maps and brochures (as well as just about anything else related to the park’s history) so if you have anything to share, please contact me at



Old Lagoon Maps!. Email message to author, 20 Sep 2008.

Another old Lagoon Map. Email message to author, 22 Sep 2008.

About Digital Sanborn Maps. ProQuest Digital Sanborn Maps, accessed 2 Dec 2010.