Monticello, Indiana, USA
When people think of Indiana, often time they think of corn, corn, and corn. However, an amusement park located in the heart of Indiana begs to differ that stereotype with their slogan, “There’s more than corn in Indiana!” The park? None other than Indiana Beach at Monticello, Indiana. Located on the shores of Lake Shafer, Indiana Beach has been a longtime staple of fun for the state. But how did Indiana Beach become the amusement resort it is known as today?
The story starts back in the roaring twenties, a boom time for the amusement industry and the heyday of America. Father and son Earl and Tom Spackman took advantage of a newly created man-made lake in Indiana called Lake Shafer, caused by the construction of two dams outside Monticello, Indiana. The duo wanted to build a lakeside cottage in the area, but the sharp banks of the lake made swimming impossible. However, a few years later, the waters of Lake Shafer were lowered to flow water into another man-made lake, nearby Lake Freeman.
Earl Spackman concocted a brilliant business idea. If people were looking for a swimming hole and a day of fun in Indiana, he knew he would make lots of money off of it. Using man-power and horse and buggies, Spackman ended up building a “beach” on the shore of Lake Shafer. Along with the beach, a small refreshment stand and changing rooms were built and in 1926, Indiana Beach opened to the public, but under the name of “Ideal Beach.”
Earl hoped to keep guests longer at the beach and in 1927, the first amusement rides were built at the park. A pair of Toboggan Slides[/i] were built, which took riders up thirty feet and slide down into the waters of the lake. The park became a hit and the city of Monticello eventually became a tourist destination. With that status, competition was bound to come and just across the lake was another form of entertainment of the twenties, a dance hall. Spackman realized with the addition of the slides, more entertainment meant more money and in 1930, the park added its own dance hall which still exists today known as the Ideal Beach Ballroom. Over its long history, the ballroom was expanded twice.
While amusement parks faded throughout the thirties and forties due to the Great Depression and World War II, Ideal Beach still flourished despite hard times. More additions during those eras included the roof garden, a pier, a skating rink in 1940, a bowling alley in 1941, and miniature golf in 1944. Unfortunately, Earl Spackman died in 1946 and the park’s duties now belonged to his son Tom. Capitalizing on the success of Ideal Beach, Tom brought even more amusement rides in for the 1947 season. Rides such as the Ferris Wheel, Roll-O-Plane (also known as The Bullet), and a Merry-Go-Round were added as the park’s first permanent amusement rides. Tom also introduced a unique attraction for the park, where guests could board a speedboat to glide over the lake known as the Wahoo Jr.
Despite the local success of the park, Tom realized if he wanted to expand the park more, more people needed to visit. Ideal Beach was a scarce name that barely described where the place was. In 1950, Tom renamed the park to its current and more widely known name, Indiana Beach. While word-of-mouth is a popular form of advertising, Tom wanted to pull even more guests in with oddities and a plethora of promotions to pull in guests. Advertising paid off and Indiana Beach eventually made its first motto, “The Riviera of the Midwest!” Also during the 1950’s, the country was experiencing the baby boom, with many young families looking for a way to entertain young children. Indiana Beach hopped on the trend of adding children’s sections to amusement parks with their addition of Kiddyland in 1952. Kiddyland also brought the park its first roller coaster, a classic Herschell Little Dipper roller coaster simply known as Little Dipper. In 1954, land was raised on the south end of the park for expansion, known as Paradise Island. Also, in 1959, the Aqua Theatre was added.
Playing off the Riviera gimmick, in 1961, the park’s famous paddleboat known as the Shafer Queen began to take guests on a journey that circles Lake Shafer. The attraction was so popular that in 1972, the original boat was retired for a new version in 1973. The original boat still operates today, but as a floating restaurant known as the Pronto Princess rather than the amusement ride it was. Throughout the 1960’s, Indiana Beach hoped to become the Disneyland of Indiana by rapidly adding classic attractions to the park, many of which still operate today. The Dodgems, Antique Autos, Scrambler, Sky Ride, and the Mystery Mansion dark ride are some of many rides added in the sixties. The park became even more popular that in 1966, a new south parking lot was added with a long suspension bridge designed to give guests a picturesque view of the lake and the park.
The park’s first major thrilling coaster was added in 1971 with the addition of Galaxi, an SDC Galaxi roller coaster. The ride still thrills guests today with its simple figure-8 layout full of twists, turns, and sudden drops. However, the park’s first coaster, the Little Dipper, would unfortunately be removed some time in the 1970’s. Additions have lulled during this decade, but a new dark ride would be built in 1978 called Superstition Mountain.
The park still continued to grow and in 1983, a walk through haunted house was added by the name of Dr. Frankenstein’s Haunted Castle. But 1984 would give the park its next big thrill, the Tig’rr Coaster. Designed and manufactured by Anton Schwarzkopf, Tig’rr is a Schwarzkopf Jet Star roller coaster that takes riders on a twisted steel course all in trains with no restraint. But 1985 would bring the park its famous mascot and its current motto to make the park even more identifiable to the public than its old motto. The park introduced I.B. Crow, a friendly crow that always clucks the motto,” There’s more than corn in Indiana!” Since his introduction, he has been plastered all over Indiana Beach’s signs and has remained in every advertisement for Indiana Beach as the campaign successfully got word out not only to locals but people in neighboring states.
In 1986, the park added its first water ride, the Rocky’s Rapids Log Flume. But over the years of rapid expansion and success, it seemed like what started the park in the first place, the beach, has faded. Not for long though, in 1987, the beach was transformed into a water park. A slide complex consisting of three slides and an Action River attraction were built over the lake itself and to this day remains a summertime favorite at the park. To close off the eighties, in 1989 the park added a new Chance Giant Wheel called the Giant Gondola Wheel.
The park entered the nineties with its broadening audience and in 1990, the park added the Falling Star, a Zamperla flat ride. In 1991, the park’s successful yet cramped water park received new additions. First, the Action River was expanded to accommodate two new water slides. In 1992, the park added its first flat ride over water, the Water Swing, a Chance Yo-Yo. But 1994 would bring the park its biggest addition ever, a white wooden roller coaster storm known as the Hoosier Hurricane. Designed and manufactured by Custom Coasters International, Hoosier Hurricane gave the park Indiana’s first wooden roller coaster in more than fifty years and in its earlier years gain critical acclaim among enthusiasts. The Hoosier Hurricane takes riders on a mad out and back course that spans the entire park and built mostly over the shallow shore of Lake Shafer. Since its opening on May 27, 1994, the Hoosier Hurricane remains the park’s biggest thrill ride which takes riders seventy-seven feet high with speeds over fifty miles per hour.
After the storm, Indiana Beach kept up the pace of rapid expansion. A new upcharge Sky Coaster attraction was added in 1995 and more land on the north end of the park was raised for more expansion. In 1998, the classic Mystery Mansion dark ride was updated by Sally Dark Rides into one of the very first shooting dark rides ever made, the Den of Lost Thieves. Also added that year was the Big Flush, a soaking slide complex just outside the water park. In 1999, the park added two tower rides to its lineup of rides. The first was the Double Shot, an S&S tower that launches riders up and down a seventy-five foot tower giving riders pops of air throughout the ride. The second ride was the scaled down version known as the Frog Hopper, also manufactured by S&S.
A new millennium was dawning and the year 2000 arrived with nothing big for the park. However, the classic Dr. Frankenstein’s Haunted Castle was renovated to become even scarier with the addition of new animatronics. However, following the success of Hoosier Hurricane, Indiana Beach decided it was time for another major new wooden coaster. Once again, Custom Coasters International was chosen to design a family sized wooden roller coaster that would be shoe horned into the park’s Kiddyland section that boasts the same forces found on the Hoosier Hurricane. The result? Cornball Express, a twisted mad-dash full of airtime hills and turns destined to make Cornball another success for the park. Despite a corny name, the ride packs a punch with a height of fifty-five feet and speeds over forty-five miles per hour making the ride a family coaster that packs a punch.
In 2002, the Superstition Mountain dark ride began to fade in popularity at the park. With aging special effects and other factors, the park thought Superstition Mountain needed a face lift. But how could a dark ride be improved other than adding a shooting feature? Indiana Beach once again contacts Custom Coasters International for another roller coaster. Carefully keeping as much of the structure as possible, the ride was transformed into an oddity for a wooden roller coaster known as the Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain. The refurbishment included new animatronics, unique covered and face-to-face roller coaster trains, a unique elevator lift hill, and a small twisted course full of hairpin turns and drops. Despite being the park’s smallest roller coaster at a height of thirty-five feet and speeds of twenty miles per hour, the Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain became another popular addition to Indiana Beach and one of Custom Coasters International’s last rides designed.
Following the addition of Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain, Indiana Beach added another classic flat ride to the park’s line up. In 2004, the park opened Air Crow, a Larson Flying Skooters flat ride built over the lake. The ride is the first ride to feature I.B. Crow as the main theme. In 2006, the park introduced a first-of-its-kind ride to America, the Splash Battle. The ride is a heavily interactive water ride in which guests board ‘submarines’ and soak fellow riders through the rides course. The year after, the park built a mini 3D-theater featuring the film “Escape from Dino Island.”
The park continued to build itself up from the ground in 2008. Unprecedentedly, the park built the steepest drop roller coaster in the world, Steel Hawg. This compact ride has a 111 degree drop and two inversions, it was a milestone coaster for Indiana Beach as its first steel in 24 years and first inverting coaster. It was also a proof of change for the Beach, as it broke a three coaster steak of wooden coaster. In 2010, tradition changed again in the park as it offered a season pass for the first time, already introduced in many parks around the world.
While beaches in Indiana seem to cross our minds as an oxymoron, Indiana Beach begs to differ. From a selection of classic flat rides and world class roller coasters to the charming boardwalk atmosphere. Indiana Beach hopes to remain to be the ideal beach of the Midwest and prove to tourists that “There’s more than corn in Indiana!”
Present Roller Coasters (5)Edit
Past Roller Coasters (1)Edit