|The State Fair Amusement Park Midway Entrance. Photo: 1992|
Cramer, a farmer, and former farm equipment dealer, resigned from the State Fair Advisory Board in December to undertake the venture. Cramer, reached Monday night in Ohio where he had a speaking engagement, said he had sold his implement dealership a year ago and "was looking for something to invest in and occupy my time." Blomsness-Thebault had indicated an interest in the Kiddieland theme park but they were concerned they didn't have anyone in the Springfield area to manage it. We decided it was a natural fit — they have the experience in the amusement park business; I have a knowledge of Springfield's business community and business experience.
|Major Ride - Sellner Tilt-A-Whirl. Photo: 1992|
|Kiddie Ride - AH Hi-Lo Kiddie Coaster. Photo: 1992|
- Expanding boundaries by 20 percent into the nearby playground area, bringing the amusement park area to 3.8 acres.
- New landscaping, including grassy areas, planters, and new blacktop throughout.
- Construction of new entrances, restrooms, a concession area with patio, and new fencing. The main entrance will be shifted to the northeast corner, closer to the Giant Slide.
- Bringing in 12 new or almost-new rides, including a Huntington Train, able to seat adults as well as children, Jungle of Fun (with climbing ropes, punching-type bags, play area filled with balls), giant inflatable jumping pillow, Yo-Yo (a spinning swing-type ride), Apple Ride, Go-Gator and Spider Ride.
- Rides similar to those in the current amusement area include a carousel, Tilt-a-Whirl, child-scaled Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and mini-boat and mini-motorcycle ride. A second Ferris wheel will be brought in this year during the state fair in honor of the 100th anniversary of Jacksonville manufacturer Eli Bridge Co.
- Other rides will be brought in during the state fair and if future demand warrants it in the off-season, Hall said. There will also be games of chance and concessions.
- The bumper-boat area will be restored to its former use as a decorative fountain.
- Ride prices will range from $1 to $1.50, with some one-price promotions during the fair and "economically attractive" packages for companies, schools and other groups.
|Trains - (3) G-16 Locomotives (16 gauge) with a total of (10) coaches and one"Calf" auxiliary power unit. 2/3 mile of track with signals, switches, etc. Photo: 1992|
|Kiddie Ride - AH Wet Boats. Photo: 1992|
|Major Ride - Big Eli No.5 Ferris Wheel. Photo: 1992|
|Eleven JOHNSON Go Carts. 1991-92 Honda 5 hp. gas engines. Photo: 1992|
|Kiddie Ride - Swing Ride. Photo: 1992|
Work will begin on the new "Adventure Village" at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in May, following an agreement reached Thursday between fair officials and the longtime operators of Kiddieland. However, the Holliday family will continue to press a lawsuit seeking damages for the loss of the amusement park contract, said attorney Grady Holley. "That's going forward," he said. The agreement reached Thursday called for the Hollidays' rides, buildings, and equipment to be removed by May 1 from the southeast corner of the fairgrounds adjacent to Sangamon Avenue and Peoria Road. John Holliday, his wife Margery and daughter Donna had operated the children's ride area at the fairgrounds, informally known as Kiddieland, for 18 years. Their most recent contract expired last fall, with winter storage privileges, the terms of which have been in dispute.2
|Major Ride - Eli Scrambler. Photo: 1992|
|(9) RAINBOW INDUSTRIES Electric Rechargeable Bumper Boats. Photo: 1992|
|Carousel - 1950 Allen Herschell 3 Abreast (3 Row) Merry-Go-Round with (36) aluminum horses and (2) chariots and Baptist Sound System. Photo: 1992|
|Kiddie Ride - Trailer Mounted Kiddie Cage Feris Wheel. Photo: 1992|
The rides of the state fair amusement park, long known as Kiddieland, will be auctioned at 10 a.m. April 29th. Norton Auctioneers, based in Coldwater, Michigan, will conduct the sale. "We were down there yesterday," said Daniel Satow, senior vice president of the auction firm, which specializes in liquidating amusement parks, museums, and other specialty items. "It's a nice little park, a clean park." Kiddieland, operated by the John Holliday family for 18 years, is being replaced by Adventure Village, a new children's theme park to be developed later this spring. "There's an awful lot of good memories there," said Donna Holliday, who operated the park with her parents. "Part of you looks at it, and your heart is breaking, and part of it, you're smiling because you do have good memories and good friends there." Among the items expected to generate the most interest is the 1947 Allen Herschel merry-go-round. "It's just the staple of an amusement park," said Satow. Also for sale will be three child-sized trains, a small roller-coaster, an Eli Ferris Wheel, Eli Scrambler, and Tilt-a-whirl. The go-karts and bumper boats will also be auctioned, along with other rides. The likely bidders will be other amusement parks and festival operations, Satow said. "We have occasionally sold trains to local businessmen who wanted it in the yard for their kids, or grandkids, but we expect it to go to little amusement parks or family theme parks," Satow said.
|Pony Carts. Photo: 1992|
A newspaper article on August 6, 1993:
The sod was newly laid, and most of the rides have not yet passed final inspection, but Adventure Village was already getting a thumbs-up Thursday from children invited to a preview at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. "There's one word to describe it — beautiful," said Dale Snyder, 14, surveying the colorful rides, which include a gilt-and-mirrored carousel. "I think it's a lot better and much funnier [more fun] than what used to be here," said Howard Beavers, 13, fresh from a trial spin on the new larger train that will circle the expanded amusement area on the southeast corner of the fairgrounds. Rides like the Octopus and the Jungle-of-Fun climbing/activity center will go over well, they predicted. However, the teenagers agreed they missed seeing the animals in the Kiddieland petting zoo and they think kids will wish they could still cool off in bumper boats. The bumper boat area has been restored to its previous use as a decorative fountain. "That was cool," Dale said of the bumper boats. "It seemed like when you went by, everybody was riding it, just to get wet" The children were among those invited to bring the fairgrounds to life for the annual preview for press and officials. Other preview highlights included a rededication of the Artisans Building as a museum-quality art exhibit with limited craft demonstrations, and a ride down the Giant Slide by Illinois County Fair Queen Nikki Bauman, of Olney, who soiled a white suit and ripped white stockings in the process but kept smiling. First Lady Brenda Edgar and clown-faced Ronald McDonald made a joint appearance to promote a new "Help Me Grow" tent adjacent to Kids Korner. The tent features information on a wide range of children's services, from car seat safety to immunizations. Also Thursday, fair officials announced one street at the fairgrounds will be renamed to honor longtime motorsports director Bill Oldani, who died recently.
Another street will be renamed "Pat Henry Lane" to recognize the "lifelong enthusiasm" of the Springfield woman who has acted as a volunteer state fair historian for many years. "Pat Henry has spent a great deal of her life not only recording the history of the fair but also touring the state, giving slide shows on our behalf," said Joe Khayyat, state fair spokesman, who presented a plaque to a surprised Henry. Like Adventure Village, the fair still has gaps to fill in the final week before opening day. The Twilight Parade is next Thursday night at 6 p.m., but there's still no parade marshal. "We're working on it," said Bud Hall, state fair manager. Jam Productions and fair officials are also scrambling to lineup last-minute replacements for Bell Biv Devoe and Poison, which were scheduled for prime Saturday night Grandstand spots, August 14th and 21st.
Also shadowing this year's fair is a lawsuit filed by the Hollidays family, who ran the Kiddieland amusement area for many years on the site that has become Adventure Village. The Hollidays also put in a bid to create a revamped amusement area but lost out to the Adventure Village partnership formed by Blomsness-Thebault, an amusement firm out of suburban Chicago, and Greenview businessman David Cramer. The Hollidays will be refiling the suit Monday, said attorney Grady Holley, after agreeing to a technical dismissal in July. The pending opening of Adventure Village doesn't affect the suit, Holley said. "The issue still exists on whether what was done was right or not," he said. Adventure Village will remain open after the fair into October and operate in warm weather months in the future, as will the Giant Slide.
Adventure Village will not open to the public until Thursday, following the Twilight Parade. Rides will be discounted to $1 apiece from 6 to 10 p.m. parade night, said Dwight Walton, promotions coordinator for Blomsness-Thebault. During the fair, rides will cost from $1.50 to $2.50 (three, four or five 50-cent tickets) in both Adventure Village and Happy Hollow, which will also be run by Blomsness-Thebault. The same tickets and one-price specials can be used in both areas this year for the first time. Hall said. There will also be a variety of discount packages available. Monday through Thursday, August 16th-19th, $10 will buy unlimited rides in both areas from noon to 4 p.m. The final Sunday, August 22nd, fairgoers can pay $12 for unlimited rides from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Coupons in a fair guide that will be available on the fairgrounds will offer additional discounts. Prices are not set for after the fair in Adventure Village, said Walton, but a pay-one-price unlimited ride package is being considered.
A newspaper article from May 13, 1994:
Adventure Village, the renovated amusement park at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, opens for the season today. The park will be open from 5 p.m. until about 9 p.m., weather permitting, said Judi Cole, marketing consultant. On Saturday, the park will have a grand-opening featuring roving characters including Barney, Baby Bop and Beauty, and the Beast. The "Wild Bunch" dancers will perform. The hours Saturday are noon to 9 p.m. and Sunday hours are noon to 6 p.m. Adventure Village will operate only on Friday evenings and weekends through May, Cole said. The park can be booked by private groups at other times. Starting in June, the park will be open Wednesdays through Sundays through August. In September, the park will return to a weekend schedule. All-day ride wristbands are available. During the week, the unlimited ride wristband costs $4.95 for children, $1.95 for an adult accompanying a child. Nonriding adults are free. Saturdays and Sundays, the all-day wristband is $5.95 for children, $2.95 for an adult with a child. Tickets can also be purchased individually and rates will change for the state fair and other special events, including the Heritage Days festival on Memorial Day. Reduced rates are available for groups, Cole said, and special birthday party packages are available. The park is considering building a game center with skill games such as Skee Ball, Cole said. The park raised about $900 for the planned Children's Museum in a preview event last weekend, according to museum organizer Marygael Cullen. Rides were rained out two of the three days last weekend. The park does close in inclement weather, Cole said. Adventure Village includes 12 rides aimed at ages 14 and under, and a concession stand, Cole said. It will be used in June for several days by a New York film company.
A newspaper article from June 22, 2011:
A guy can have only so much fun with a Giant Slide. At least that's how Dennis Herrington, who has been the sole owner of the Giant Slide at the Illinois State Fairgrounds since 1995, sees it. He's now 57 years old, has had health problems, and has no children at home to help him operate the iconic structure just inside the Main Gate of the fairgrounds. So he's hoping to sell it before this year's fair starts in August. "You don't just go put a 'for sale' sign on it," he said. Instead, he's working with Prairie State Bank & Trust and through word of mouth to find a buyer. Asking price: $175,000. The slide, which Herrington said is about 40 feet high and 130 feet long, was erected in 1968 by private owners. Pam Gray, the state fair historian, said she wasn't immediately sure who built the slide. But a total of 208,807 tickets were sold at 25 cents apiece during the 1968 state fair, making the new slide the fair's most popular attraction, according to newspaper archives. About 29,000 tickets were sold on the first Sunday of the fair. The Bud Shymansky family purchased the slide in time for 1973 fair and operated it until 1993, when Springfield businessmen Herrington, Lars Buchloh, David Mayes and Steve Vincent bought it. By 1995, Herrington had bought out the other partners, who were concentrating on their other businesses.
Springfield's Giant Slide isn't unique among state fairs. Herrington estimates that 30 to 40 other state fairs also have giant slides. But the one here has gained some notoriety over the years. Gov. Jim Thompson made it a tradition to ride down the slide with his family — and once with a visiting Chinese dignitary — after cutting the ribbon to open the state fair. He did that all but one of his 14 years as governor. He missed 1986 because the operator couldn't get proof of liability insurance until noon of the day after the fair opened, then it rained in the afternoon.
The first state fair for Herrington and his partners was in 1993, which also was the first year for a transformed and renovated Adventure Village, formerly called Kiddieland. Adventure Village is privately operated. It still operates during the warmer months even when the state fair isn't in session. But Herrington opens the slide only for special events, such as this weekend's Farm Bureau convention. He just doesn't have the time or the inclination anymore. "The kids are grown, I'm getting up in age, and I've had a few inner-ear problems," he said. "People in real estate always talk about not falling in love with the property. It was a lot of fun when the kids were younger. I'd just like to do things to make life a little easier. And liability insurance isn't cheap," he added. "You can't just go down to State Farm and buy that. You have to go find it." His youngest daughter is away at veterinary school, and his oldest daughter works as a designer for Abercrombie & Fitch in Columbus, Ohio. "You want family in the booth taking money," he said. "We were there from the time we opened until the time we closed every day. I only hired family or friends of my kids." Herrington said he has picked up several clients for his full-time insurance/financial planning business from operating the slide. There also is a prestige factor. "It was kind of neat when people would say, 'Oh, you're the guy who owns the Giant Slide,'" he said. "It's a family thing. You also see a lot of people you see only once a year at the fair. We'd have families come back year after year to go down the slide." 'Too chicken now' the slide apparently does stir memories — some good, some bad, but always exciting. Susie McClure of Taylorville said the State Fair Parade and opening night is important to her family, and that includes a ride down the Giant Slide. When she started dating her future husband eight years ago, she was reluctant to go down the slide but was eager to participate in his family's traditions. "The food was delicious and the slide and the Sky Ride were wonderful," she said. "I survived and vowed to take part the following year." The next year was different. "Apparently they had greased the slide and only a few people had gone down before us," she said. "After the first hill, I didn't touch the slide again until the end. At the bottom, my feet hit and I flipped head over heels." Her husband and his family still ride the slide every year. But after a rug burn, bruises and much embarrassment, she hasn't been back. "I'm too chicken now," she said. "But it was quite a ride down that time."
Megan Mander's entire family was watching when her father, Rich Mander, took her as a 3-year-old down the slide for the first time in 1987. She said the story is that he didn't have a tight enough grip on her, and at the second or third bump, she flew several feet in the air and landed right back in her father's lap. "I came away unscathed and with no traumatic fears of that Giant Slide!" she wrote in an email. State fair landmark Herrington said that Shad Shymansky, Bud's son, helped the new owners operate the slide the first two years so they could learn the ropes. He said he's in the final year of an $8,200-a-year, four-year lease with the fair, but doesn't anticipate any trouble renewing it if he can't sell the slide. "It's always been easy to negotiate with them," he said. Herrington said a new buyer could probably dismantle and move the bright yellow slide in a day — if they wanted to. "It could be moved," he said. "It's on scaffolding, and there are probably 24 to 30 sections. But it's one of the landmarks of the state fair." Herrington said he sold 47,000 ride tickets in 1995, the last year Happy Hollow was located in the sunken grassy area south of the Exposition Building. The carnival area had been there since 1907 but was moved to the area west of the Fire Station in 1996. He says he now sells between 25,000 and 30,000 rides during the fair each year, at $3 a ride or two rides for $5. "It would benefit a lot of the vendors, not just myself if they'd move Happy Hollow back to where it was," he said. He also thinks someone could make an additional $25,000 to $30,000 annually by opening the slide for special events, even opening it for picture-taking purposes. "If I can find a buyer, great," he said.
Dennis Herrington said he has "lots of memories" of the Giant Slide during the years he's been an owner since 1993. But these stories stick out:
On Aug. 22, 1998, a couple was married at the top of the slide, then while their teenaged children watched at the bottom, rode down together, kissing — or trying to — all the way. In 1999, about 30 Illinois state troopers ended their shift on the last Sunday of the fair and rode down the Giant Slide in unison, dressed in full uniform. A couple of years ago, Herrington saw an elderly woman "almost crawling up the steps" of the slide. She said she had been riding the slide for 30 years and had her nieces, who were in their 60s, with her. Herrington told her he'd feel safer if someone rode down with her, so he got on the mat with the woman and they both slid to the bottom, where she "kind of rolled over on her hands and knees" to get off the mat.
A newspaper article from July 18, 2011:
The Giant Slide at the Illinois State Fairgrounds has been sold to a local buyer who intends to keep the 43-year-old attraction in operation at the fairgrounds. "I don't think that was ever in doubt," said Dennis Herrington, the Springfield man who has owned the slide since 1995 and put it up for sale last month. "Nothing's going to change," Herrington said. The new owner doesn't want to be identified immediately. "We're still negotiating a few final things," Herrington said. 5 bids were submitted. Herrington, 57, said he put the slide up for bids with the help of Prairie State Bank & Trust. He declined to disclose the sale price, but said earlier he was asking $175,000. Many people expressed interest in the slide, and five actually submitted bids for the structure, which operates under a leasing arrangement with the state fair. Herrington has had health problems and no longer has children at home to help him operate the slide, located just inside the Main Gate in Adventure Village. Erected in 1968 the slide, which is about 40 feet high and 130 feet long, was erected in 1968 by private owners. The Bud Shymansky family bought the slide prior to 1973 fair and operated it until 1993 when Herrington and three other Springfield businessmen bought it. By 1995, Herrington had bought out the partners, who were concentrating on their other businesses. Former Gov. James Thompson made it a tradition to ride down the slide with his family each August after cutting the ribbon to open the state fair. Springfield's Giant Slide is one of more than 30 such slides operating at state fairs around the country.
A newspaper article from May 5, 2012:
New rides are coming to Adventure Village at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, but only during the run of the state fair itself. American Midway, which operates rides at Adventure Village, has been removing the old rides since January. They will be replaced by new rides still geared to children and families. However, the new rides will be there only during the run of the Illinois State Fair, August 9th-19th. "Adventure Village, as far as being open in non-fair season, has ceased," American Midway general manager Pat Repp said. "Adventure Village will now operate only during the fair." Adventure Village had been open from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year. However, Repp said, economics caught up with the area. "It just came down to where it couldn't support itself," Repp said. "We made a decision to cease the operations and clean it out and clean it up." That includes new and more varied rides. "We're still going to focus our attention on family and the kids," Repp said. "We're not going to be putting in thrill rides or teenage-type rides. We are going to put as many or more rides in and a different mix of rides. We think the public and fair-goers are really going to like what they see this year." Once the 2012 fair is over, the rides will be removed until next year. Department of Agriculture spokesman Jeff Squibb said the Adventure Village rides will be "newer and better. For the fair, it will be advantageous," he said.
Another children’s amusement park has been lost to time.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.