Jeffrey Seifert, staff writer for Amusement Today
All photos courtesy of Cleveland Landmarks Press
For more than a century, families in northeast Ohio could look forward to spending a fun-filled day at Geauga Lake Park.
Then suddenly following the end of the season in 2007, corporate owner Cedar Fair announced the park would never reopen. 100 years of history, memories and tradition were suddenly gone without explanation and, worse yet, no one was given the opportunity for one last visit to say goodbye.
Despite the lack of a proper farewell, the memories have been kept alive by the thousands of fans the park endeared over the past century. One such fan — a former employee of the park — has gathered photos, stories and precious memories and assembled them into a new book: Geauga Lake: Sunrise to Sunset.
Published by Cleveland Landmarks Press Inc., the 112-page book documents the rise of the recreation area once known as Giles Pond to a full-fledged amusement park to its shocking close and now agonizing decay. Author Tom Smolko with writing partner Joe Taylor along with several park historians and Geauga Lake experts have assembled a remarkable collection of images and text spanning nine chapters to tell the story of northeast Ohio’s Geauga Lake Park.
As settlers moved into the area originally set aside as Connecticut’s Western Reserve, the Ohio General Assembly started dividing the land into manageable counties. Geauga County, formed in 1806 was named for the Native American word for raccoon — jyo’aka.
Four employees of Geauga Lake’s main competitor, Cedar Point, in nearby Sandusky, Ohio, left Cedar Point, pooled their resources and formed a new company — Funtime, Inc. On November 5, 1968, Funtime purchased Geauga Lake Park for $5 million. The Funtime years were perhaps the most profitable for the park as these four “disgruntled” Cedar Point employees changed Geauga Lake from a small family-owned park to a force in the industry. Additions to the park included a monorial, observation tower, log flume and multiple flat rides. The introduction of the world’s first steel roller coaster with back-to-back double loops, simply known as Double-Loop, thrust Geauga Lake into the limelight. This was quickly followed by another steel coaster, Corkscrew, in 1978.
The 1970s also brought another attraction to the area. Though originally perceived as competition, George Millay’s second Sea World marine mammal park on the opposite side of the lake heralded a partnership that benefited both parks for 30 years.
In addition to the remarkable yet heartbreaking story, Geauga Lake: Sunrise to Sunset offers an amazing collection of mostly black & white photos including some of the earliest photos ever taken of the area. An appendix lists the disposition of the rides that were sold when the park closed as well as their current location if they are operating. A 15-page color inset features full-color photos of the park at various times, including a look at the abandoned park as it appears today.
The book retails for $21.50 and is available at ClevelandlandMarksPress.com, Amazon and can be ordered through local Barnes & Noble bookstores. It is a must-have for anyone who ever had the opportunity to experience a day at northeast Ohio’s once popular home-grown park.
This article first appeared in the February 2015, issue of Amusement Today, and is reprinted here courtesy of Amusement Today. For subscription information, visit AmusementToday.com.