Arnolds Park Amusement Park closes due to local COVID-19 spike

Friday, June 12, 2020

Iowa's rock 'n' roll museum also closes

Historic Arnolds Park officials say they take pride in over 130 years of contributing to the tradition that is Okoboji.

But, 2020 has proven to be a challenging year for the amusement park operators due to COVID-19. Starting Saturday, Arnolds Park Amusement Park, the on-site museums and the Queen II will close temporarily. Park management consulted with the Historic Arnolds Park Incorporated executive committee to arrive at Friday's decision.

"Our biggest priority is the safety of our team members here and the safety of the general public," Historic Arnolds Park Incorporated CEO Jeff Vierkant said. "With the recent rise of the cases we've seen locally, we felt it was prudent for us to take a breath, take a step back, and see what trends do here."

The Iowa Department of Public Health listed 119 total positive cases in Dickinson County as of Friday evening 95 of the cases have been confirmed in the first 12 days of June.

Friday's guests were allowed to complete their day at the park. Park officials said they hope to do their part to slow the spread in this community "so that we can come back together later on and enjoy a great summer season."

"We will get through this together," a statement from the amusement park went on to say.

The Iowa Rock 'N Roll Music Association issued a statement of support Friday night.

"Upon learning from Arnolds Park CEO Jeff Vierkant that the amusement park, the Welcome Center/Maritime Museum and the Arnolds Park Museum would be closing once again, we decided it was in everyone's best interest to do the same," Iowa Rock 'N Roll Music Association Executive Director Clay Norris said. "We can't deny the almost exponential increase in positive COVID-19 cases in our county. The safety of our patrons and of our staff is always our utmost concern."

Norris said traffic was strong during the museum's truncated opening. Museum staff members distributed more than 200 free, disposable masks.

"The museum had been closed since mid-March and the pent-up demand was there," Norris said. "Visitors were extremely cooperative. We will follow the lead of Arnolds Park and open again when we feel cases are on a safe, solid decline."

Vierkant said the board executives and management who met Friday didn't establish a plan for reopening the attractions.

"We haven't set any particular benchmarks that we expect to see," he said. "We would just like to see what the trend continues to do."

Park officials will post updates on the amusement park's website and social media pages. Queen's Court businesses near the museums and amusement park have the option to remain open.

"They are absolutely allowed to operate as they see fit," Vierkant said. "We still encourage people to enjoy the property, frequent those businesses and support them."

Two days earlier, Arnolds Park Amusement Park officials canceled the July schedule of Roof Garden Ballroom concerts. Nappy Roots, Ricky Nelson Remembered, The Marshall Tucker Band, Slaughter and The Glenn Miller Orchestra were scheduled to perform. Customers who purchased tickets will be notified of the refund process by email. The staff hopes to reschedule the bands at a later date.

"This was another extremely tough decision to make," Arnolds Park Amusement Park Marketing Director Paul Plumb said. "We look forward to when the time is right to return to the Roof Garden for these fantastic shows."

Historic Arnolds Park officials used Friday's announcement to encourage people to enjoy Okoboji responsibly, including social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing.

"People come to Arnolds Park have a safe and fun time. We, more than anything want to provide that to them," Vierkant said. "We're anxious to get back to serving folks just as quickly as we possibly can."

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