by Mitchell Kirk Staff reporter
---- — MONTICELLO — About six years into new ownership that followed decades of leadership from a local family, Indiana Beach isn’t burying its head in its sand when it comes to the amusement park’s future as it prepares to celebrate its 88th anniversary this weekend, one employee says.
The Associated Press reported in December concerns regarding the park like layoffs of non-seasonal employees and the curtailing portfolio of the company that owns the park.
Morgan Recreation Vacations, out of Sarasota, N.Y., purchased the park in 2008 from the late Thomas Spackman, who took over in 1945 and changed its title to the one it bears today. Before that, the park was run by his father, Earl Spackman, who founded it as Ideal Beach in 1926.
“We aren’t burying our heads in the sand,” said Don Hurd, vice president of marketing for Indiana Beach. “We’re looking very positively and optimistic about this year and years to come. Some people don’t know the whole story — things behind the scenes to get the park up and running each year. There are a lot of moving parts to opening a park like we have at Indiana Beach.”
Contributing to the park’s continuing success is the addition of seven new rides this season, all catering to a variety of age groups and thrill-seeking temperaments, Hurd continued. Six were well received in the park’s opening weeks and he expects the same for The Viper when it is completed in the near future.
“The feedback from the park guests has been very positive,” Hurd said. “They really like all the new rides, especially the variety of rides. We have anywhere from real rides down to kiddie rides, and they really enjoy the variety we’ve added to the park.”
Indiana Beach will start its 88th anniversary this weekend at 2 p.m. Saturday by serving birthday cake and balloons to guests in Kiddie Land to celebrate the birthday of the park’s mascot, IB Crow.
The park’s sixth annual Pronto Pup Eating Contest begins at 3 p.m. for those who Hurd said “like to test their gastrointestinal fortitude” as they race to see who can eat three of the foot-long snacks similar to a corn dog the fastest. Hurd said the record currently stands at 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Those interested who are 18 and older can sign up at the park’s pronto pup stand at 11 a.m. The first 10 to sign up will compete. A contest will be held at the same time Sunday as well.
Festivities continue into Sunday with Quarter Night, when it will cost 25 cents to go on rides after 4 p.m. The theme continues after 6 p.m., when hot dogs and Coca-Colas will be served for a quarter each as well.
“It’s kind of our way of giving back to the community and saying thank you for allowing us to be in the area for 88 years and providing a lot of thrills and chills and a lot of happy memories for people,” Hurd said. “It started in 1926 as a little food stand and a little sandy beach and a fishing area and it’s just grown every year. If it wasn’t for our patrons and our guests, we wouldn’t have been around for 88 years, so we must be doing something right to be growing as much as we have.”
The park has plans to continue to grow, Hurd added, going on to hint toward a replacement for The Galaxi, the park’s first major steel roller coaster that was retired this year after 42 years.
“We’re looking to replace the area that the Galaxi had with something new and exciting for our patrons to enjoy later on,” he said.
Reach Mitchell Kirk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5130
IF YOU GO: WHAT: Indiana Beach's 88th anniversary celebration WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday birthday cake and balloons in Kiddie Land, 11 a.m. signup Saturday and Sunday at Pronto Pup stand for 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday Pronto Pup Eating Contest, 25-cent rides after 4 p.m. Sunday and 25-cent hot dogs and Coca-Colas after 6 p.m. Sunday WHERE: Indiana Beach, 5224 E. Indiana Beach Road, Monticello INFORMATION: 574-583-4141, indianabeach.com and Indiana Beach Facebook page