The 35th Anniversary Worlds of Fun season has ended, yet 2008 won't end without a 2nd anniversary. The beginning of November marks WorldsofFun.org 11th anniversary online. The internet and the world was quite a different place back then. The Orient Express would still operate for six more seasons, Film still dominated photography as the digital camera was still in its infancy. Amazing to me at the time was that older rides were being forgotten, The Sky Hi, The Schussboomer, The Extremeroller were becoming dusty memories, long forgotten it seemed. Instead of letting those rides and their memories die off I started researching through old copies of The Star, and what little I could get from the park itself. In November 1997 on a rainy day I started a free personal website on Tripod to put some of the information I had found online. A repository so to speak. Little did I know what that little website "26 Years! The History of Worlds of Fun" would become and who I would meet along the way.
The beginning though I believe didn't start in November 1997 though, it didn't start in 1983 when I first went to Worlds of Fun as a child, it started in 1969, when Lamar Hunt and Hunt Midwest Enterprises first began planning a fun world in northern Kansas City. That is where I would like to start. The true Beginning.
History tells us the idea of Worlds of Fun began taking shape in 1969, but physical progress first began in November 1971. The official ground breaking ceremony.
There it is.... Worlds of Fun all 500 acres of it. No Zinger, No ELI, No Voyager. Just the folks that were going to make it possible. In the center is Lamar Hunt, to his right, the tallest in the picture is Jack Steadman. Present at the balloon release were Mayor Charles B Wheeler Jr (yes the downtown airport was named after him), George W Lehr (Jackson County Court Judge), Edward J Bauman (Clay County Court Judge), Richard K Degenhardt (Kansas City Chamber of Commerce), Stan McIlvaine (General Manager of Mid-America), Al Lambino (Project Architect for Randall Duell & Associates), and Charles Pafford (Construction Director Mid-America).
3,000 total balloons were released that day (along with a dynamite detonator in the background), each with a certificate attached redeemable for two passports (tickets), for free admission to Worlds of Fun during its 1st year of operation.
Concept artwork showing the Scandinavian gate. Originally the Scandinavian gate was the backgate, as the Americana gate located were the Grand Prix is today was the main gate until 1995 when the trams were discontinued.
More concept artwork, in this case for the Ski Heis in Scandinavia (now Tivoli East). The Scandinavian section was originally designed to pay homage to the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark. Ski Heis was the Scandinavia stop for the Sky Hi in Americana. It was a Von Roll sky ride that was incredibly popular for parks during that time. Von Roll sky rides still operate at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH, the two Busch Gardens parks in Tampa, FL and Williamsburg, VA and Great America in Santa Clara, CA to name a few. The Sky Heis was removed at the end of the 1987 season.
One of my favorites, it shows the oldest artistic renderings of Worlds of Fun from the park's designer Randall Duell & Associates. First for orientation the main Americana gate is in the upper right hand corner, with the Cotton Blossom and the Henrietta already there. Notice the Sky Hi/Ski Heis is shown but appear with Balloon-shaped cars, as well as the Tivoli Theater makes an appearance, but in this case an open-air theater.
Overall the park appears more ornate in some places then it actually ended up being, especially with the two "dreams" that never actually appeared. First being the ornate carousel that appears in the upper center section (I have a feeling that Worlds of Fun's carousel idea was recycled at the Great America parks) as well as the overally ornate Tivoli Gardens in Scandinavia.
Tune in next week as we take a look as progress is made on the construction of Worlds of Fun!
Special thanks to Brandon Stanley at Worlds of Fun for letting us borrow some of these wonderful photos that you see today and in the future.