Historic Arnolds Park celebrates 120 years of smiles and memories

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Fun for the whole family awaits at Historic Arnolds Park this season as the attraction celebrates its 120th anniversary. (Photo by Caroline Rusk/DCN STAFF)

What started as a boarding house for passing travelers in the 1860s is seen today as one of Iowa's most iconic locations. Arnolds Park Amusement Park, which started out as a water slide that led directly into the lake, will be celebrating their 120th anniversary this season.

The park, which has served as Okoboji's "Coney Island," has grown exponentially since 1889. Whether it was the Roof Garden, the legendary wooden roller coaster or the Tipsy House, generations of people have been able to enjoy the location's rich history and set their own memories at an "Iowa Classic."

"The park has been a significant symbol for this area," said Jeanne Sieh, Director of Marketing and Development at Historic Arnolds Park. "When I've talked to other businesses in the area, they always say that without the Park, the entire area would dramatically drop in meaning and personal value, and that's always a nice thing to hear."

Throughout this summer, the Park will be offering special deals to assist with tough economic times, and in celebration of their 120th year of existence.

"We have some Sponsor Days, where associates and families of the park's sponsors get a discount on admission, and we also have the Party in the Park the weekend of Aug. 1, where there will be discounted tickets as well."

For the regular customer, there are some new cost-saving deals that are being offered this summer, and those have been selling well.

"We have ticket bundling deals, where someone can purchase admission and a meal at the same time, and those can be found online. We also have our H.A.P.I. Family Fun Pack, where a family of four can get admission at a discounted price."

Historic Arnolds Park, regardless of its successful past, has not been without its tough times. A tornado in 1968 left severe structural damage to the Roof Garden and the park itself, leaving the area unsuitable for operation and forcing the park to shut its doors in 1987. Without the dedication of a number of citizens and local businesses, the park may not have reopened in 1989. Also, the "Save the Park" movement in 1999 saved the area from demolition and the construction of lakeside condominiums.

The summer concert series, headlined by R.E.O. Speedwagon on July 18, should also provide significant highlights for a celebration of 120 years of operation.

Even though the future of many industries seems bleak and unassured, Sieh says that the Park is not one of those struggling with financial difficulties.

"It's all about how we've marketed ourselves. We don't say we're something that we're not," says Sieh. "Our sales have been very steady for this year, and are higher at this point of the year in comparison to last year. It looks like a bright future, and we hope to be around for another 120 years."

To learn more about the history of the park or to purchase tickets, visit their website at www.arnoldspark.com or call (712) 332-2183.