Wirth Watching: The History Of Lagoon


FARMINGTON, Utah (Good 4 Utah) – It’s been part of summer in Utah since most of us were kids, and since most of our parents were kids. It is Lagoon. Its roots go back 130 years. It began as a stop on a railroad, in hopes of getting people to ride. Now the amusement park is the center of summer fun in Davis County.   

Many of us remember when it was one price per car load. You would put about a dozen kids in the ol’ Plymouth and cruise up those country roads in Davis County, past nothing but open fields. And then there it was, right at the corner of a farmer’s field.

It all began in 1886 on The Great Salt Lake. It was called Lake Park. It was a stop on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Then Simon Bamberger bought it and moved it 3 miles to Farmington where he had his own railroad.

It turned out to be a good idea. The Deseret News says 6,000 people showed up on Labor Day in 1901. The big thrill was the ‘Shoot the Chutes.’ That’s where one took a boat down a big slide, and in a big splash, and hit the lagoon.

Of course the carousel was, also, popular when it arrived in 1906. It’s the oldest attraction at the park. It has 45 characters and thousands of memories.  

Julie Freed grew up with lagoon. She’s the third generation to be the caretaker and owner of the famed carousel. Freed told us in an interview, “It’s Hand carved, hand painted, this carousel is very, very special to Lagoon. It’s on the national registry and actually there was a fire at Lagoon in November of 1953 and it took 500 firefighters, all the firefighters of Davis County, to make sure that this carousel didn’t burn down.” Even still, there were a few charred treasures from that fire.

But before that fire in 1953, Lagoon chugged along for years, until World War 2. As part of the War effort the park closed its gates. That’s when the Freed family bought the amusement park.

After being closed for 4 years, the Freed’s wondered would Utah still want to show up. Julie told us, “So my grandfather Peter Freed and his brothers, after World War II, were looking for something to do and Lagoon, forty acres at the time, had been closed during the war and it was pretty rundown and they decided that they wanted to see if they could open it again. So in 1946, my grandfather tells this story, that on opening day he sat at the front gate and they were just wishing someone, anybody would come. And he remembers counting on his fingers the people that came through the gate and eighteen people came and they thought that was the greatest thing ever, I mean they couldn’t believe that people wanted to come.”

The people of Utah did come back. They came back to scream on the roller coaster of 1921 vintage. They came back to the speedway. And they came back to the boats. Indeed it was time to imagine you were on the lake or imagine you were in a speedboat. You were back to Lagoon. And back to eat cotton candy.

Lagoon beat the odds. It’s one of the few family owned regional parks left in America. It’s one of the few places left where not only did you ride the Ferris wheel as a kid, but so did your great grandma. And it was the place where you first played in Mother Goose land.

Although, I have turned down every chance I have had to ride the roller coaster in my 45 years in Utah TV it is one of the last of the great wooden coasters around.. The carousel is more my speed as long as I don’t get too wild of a horse.

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