Legends: Pioneers of the Amusement Park Industry, Volume One
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Ripley Publishing has launched a new book series that pays homage to the creative pioneers who have made the world’s amusement parks, theme parks, amusement rides and waterparks what they are today. Legends: Pioneers of the Amusement Park Industry, is the first in that series.

There have been hundreds of books written on individual parks, on individual rides and attractions and on the amusement business as a whole, but few have been written specifically about the people who dedicated their lives to creating the industry.  This series, written by industry veteran Tim O’Brien and published by Ripley Publishing, adds faces and personality to the rich history of the industry, an industry that entertains more than 300 million people a year in North America alone!

Presented here are the most detailed and comprehensive biographies ever written about 10 men who were instrumental in shaping the 20th century fun park landscape. Written in a casual, easy to read style, the passion of these pioneers beautifully shines through.

"For this first volume, I have chosen 10 larger than life characters with whom I have had the privilege of knowing for at least 15 years. Interviewing them for this book was more like talking with old friends than conducting a formal interview," explained author and historian Tim O'Brien. “By being a journalist in the amusement industry for this long, I had the opportunity to interview these guys long before they had reached legendary status.”

 O'Brien added that when he first met them, "they were just hard working men who had been around for a long time and were successful in what they were doing. They were pioneers, yes, but becoming a legend was the last thing any of them had on their mind. They had too much work to do."

One thing all 10 had in common as they blazed their respective pioneering trails was there were no road maps to follow. They did it their way with gut instincts leading the charge. They learned as they went. They made mistakes, but amazingly few. All somehow possessed an innate skill and a clear vision for what they were attempting and where they were headed. Maybe that’s why they are now considered legends.

Buzz Price had no data bank to refer to when he conducted the original feasibility study for Disneyland or when he directed Walt to the location in Anaheim where the park should be built. Ron Toomer had no g-force numbers or more than a basic knowledge of friction when he left the space industry and joined Arrow Development Company to design the world’s first Runaway Mine Train roller coaster for Six Flags Over Texas. He had never ridden a coaster until he designed and built one.

When you read the chapter on the Father of the Waterpark Industry, George Millay, you’ll learn of his amazing visionary skills that led to the creation of three SeaWorld marine parks, Magic Mountain theme park, and seven Wet’n Wild waterparks. You’ll read of Harold Chance’s pioneering journey through life as you learn the history of Chance Rides, a ground-breaking American ride manufacturer and one of the most prolific ride builders ever.

You’ll discover how Carl Hughes of Kennywood Park became the first non family member to reach top management at the park and at the same time you’ll be treated to a short primer on the history of the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (IAAPA), the group that Hughes helped to develop into the world’s largest amusement industry trade association.

To most, John Graff is known as the now-retired top official of the IAAPA; but few know of his pioneering efforts in theme park law and contract work when in the early 1970s he became the first lawyer for the parks division of the Marriott Corporation. Dr Roberto Ortiz, a physician in Costa Rica, raised funds to create that country’s first modern theme park as an on-going revenue generator for the country’s largest children’s hospital that he built 17 years earlier. Today, the park contributes nearly $300,000 a year to the operating funds of the hospital.

Marty Sklar, who started working for Walt Disney four weeks before Disneyland opened in California in 1955, has attended the opening of and contributed to the creation of all 11 Disney parks worldwide. His creative instincts and managerial skills took him to the top rung of the Walt Disney Imagineers, where he has worked for more than 50 years.

You’ll meet Bo Kinntorph, the affable Swede from Liseberg Park who was the first non-American president of IAAPA and who is widely recognized as the one who made the IAAPA the truly international organization it is today. Jeff Henry, from the family who created and still owns the Schlitterbahn waterpark resorts, took his “crazy ideas” and became one of the world’s most productive and creative waterpark ride builders and park designers in the history of the waterpark industry.

All but George Millay were still alive upon publication of this book. Buzz Price is the oldest at 85, coming in two months older than Carl Hughes and four months older than Harold Chance. Jeff Henry is the youngest at 51.

O'Brien's approach to the writing of these industry celebrities is casual, somewhat whimsical and at times a bit irreverent. He notes that he felt this approach was the best way to communicate the colours, quirks, eccentricities and personalities of this particular group.

A student of the amusement park industry will never have a better opportunity to become acquainted with these legends. The author knew these men well and had two decades of his own notes and photographs to draw from to craft original and in-depth stories about each. His first-person insight and his dialogue with those who worked with, for and sometimes against these pioneers, makes this a fresh, informative read that needs to be on the bookshelves of any and all who ever walked through a park and wondered, “Who in the world came up with that crazy idea?”


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