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Dorney Park's 130th Anniversary!

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Monday, August 11th, 2014

This 2014 season marks Dorney Park’s 130th Anniversary! Although the founder, Solomon Dorney, originally used the property as the “Fish Weir and Summer Resort” in 1860 and then added a zoo (“Zoorama”) and picnic groves in 1870, the amusement park truly began in 1884. We are very excited to celebrate this milestone and thought you would like to hear about past ones that made it possible for Dorney to thrive all these years. It’s interesting to see the Park’s progression over time, so here’s a glimpse of the top 10 milestones.

1. The Start of it All

1884 – Solomon Dorney renamed his estate “Dorney’s Trout Ponds and Summer Resort,” where the streams and trout ponds “enabled him to provide fresh fish dinners at his picnic site.”* As it grew more popular, a hotel, a restaurant, as well as rides and attractions such as a casino, ferris wheel, and swimming pool were added over the next few years. This became the origin of Dorney Park by bringing “city people to the country for fun and entertainment.”

2. Dentzel Carousel

1901 – At the turn of the century, Dorney Park truly got into amusements when Jacob Plarr came as a concessionaire and brought a Dentzel Carousel with him! This ride revolutionized the Park – its “size alone commands respect for this beautiful ride. The splendor of the color, the movement, and the music make it unforgettable.” This merry-go-round remained “as a concession until 1923, when it was put in storage, as [The Traction Company] took over the park [but then] was reactivated for an anniversary in 1954; it was painted gold.” Unfortunately, “high winds and raging flames […] devoured [it] and several other buildings a few days after the park closed for the season in 1983.”

More About Dorney's Revolutionizing Rides


1901 – The Zephyr’s most significant contribution is that it saved Dorney Park during the Great Depression! Robert Plarr had it modeled after the first steamline train, the Burlington Zephyr, when he realized that the only way the Park could survive was by adding a new attraction. And don’t worry, park officials reassure “that despite her age, there are no plans to do away with the classy train ride!”
1923 – “Dorney Park’s coasters were always among the tops in the nation – and still are today” – starting with The Coaster, originally a simple out-and-back ride. It was reconfigured in 1930, receiving its present figure-eight pattern, then was renamed ThunderHawk prior to the 1989 season. It celebrated its 90th anniversary last year (2013), becoming the second oldest operating Philadelphia Toboggan Coaster (PTC) coaster in the world!

3. Alfundo the Clown

1970s – This clown is very nostalgic and symbolic to Dorney Park’s history. He was the Park’s mascot and loomed over its entrance for decades. In fact, his name Alfundo derived from the phrase “Allentown has fun at Dorney.” Don’t be surprised if his face appears around the Park from time to time!

4. Admission Fee

1980 – Lots of people used to have to walk across Dorney Park Road, relying only on a crossing signal and a policeman to visit the Park since its earliest days. “Bob Ott had a personal concern about the safety issues at this intersection, and he lobbied for years to close the road,” but finally decided it was best so “Park patrons could […] roam the property safely, without danger from passing traffic.” Therefore, traffic could no longer travel through the center of the Park, the Park was fenced in, and an admission fee was added.

5. Wildwater Kingdom

1985 – Wildwater Kingdom, Dorney’s water park, was one of the first seasonal water parks in the country, creating a new experience for people in the Northeast! When it opened, it had water slides, activity pools, and one gigantic wave pool. This wave pool was so huge that it was one of the largest man-made ones in the U.S., holding over 560,000 gallons of water. Also, every day that first year, Jim Karabasz, a surfing director, taught surfing. In June of 1985, the World Professional Inland Surfing Championship was held using the wave pool and its massive waves. The wave pool received a renovation and a more realistic wave-making system in 2003 and new seating in 2014.

More About Dorney's Pools


1901 – Over 80 years before Wildwater Kingdom, Dorney was already known for its water fun! Its “largest inland pool in the nation” had cold water (spring-fed from Cedar Creek) and sandy beaches. Swimmers used to be fully clothed and thousands of youngsters took free lessons there to learn to swim. The pool closed in 1962.
– Wildwater Kingdom added a second wave pool, Wildwater Cove, 21 years after the original wave pool. It’s about two-thirds the size and offers geysers, wall sprayers, and cabanas.

6. Cedar Fair

1992 – The fourth and current owner of Dorney Park is Cedar Fair L.P./Entertainment Company, who also owns and operates ten other amusement parks throughout the country. They bought it when they noticed the success of both Dorney Park & the seven-year-old Wildwater Kingdom.

More About Dorney's Owners


– The first time Dorney Park changed ownership is when The Traction Company purchased it from Solomon Dorney. The Allentown and Reading Traction Company, developed by Solomon’s brother O.C. Dorney and other businessmen, had previously worked with the Park by providing people with transportation there via trolley cars. These “trolleys made the explosive growth of the park possible!”
– Dorney Park changed ownership again when it was incorporated as the “Dorney Park Coaster Company, Inc.,” and purchased from the Allentown-Kutztown Traction Company by Robert Plarr, Bill Ruske, and Ray Sandt. Then, just a few years later, Robert Plarr purchased it outright from his partners.

7. Camp then Planet Snoopy

2000 – Dorney Park celebrated the new millennia with the addition of Camp Snoopy, a two-acre comic strip playland with tons of mini-sized rides for kids. Along with it came Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy and more of the world-famous PEANUTS™ characters for kids to meet!

2011 – Dorney Park upgraded Camp Snoopy by filling in the lower half of the area with many new rides and so rebranded it as Planet Snoopy. This theme introduced Charlie Brown's Wind-Up, Flying Ace Balloon Race, Kite Eating Tree, Linus Launcher, PEANUTS™ 500, PEANUTS™ Road Rally, Sally's Swing Set, Snoopy's Cloud Climbers, Snoopy's Junction, Snoopy's Moon Bounce, Snoopy's Rocket Express and Woodstock Whirlybirds.

More About Kids at Dorney


“Kiddyland was a popular stop for families. Child-size rides of every sort provided amusements for the youngsters who did not qualify for the adult rides.” And although it has occupied several locations, “Kiddieland” or “TotSpot” has always been dedicated to big thrills for small fry.

Snoopy and the rest of the PEANUTS™ gang weren’t the first characters at Dorney Park! Before them were Care Bears (1980s) and then the Berenstain Bears (1993-2000) with Bear Country (1995-2000) – where the Camp Snoopy tree came from.
These advertisements show that Dorney Park has always had a soft spot for kids, offering great discounts for ride tickets. In fact, the book cover of “Images of America: Dorney Park” is a photo of kids “celebrating a Children’s Day outing!”


2008 – HAUNT was a major rebranding and expansion of Dorney Park’s preexisting Halloween program. Its first year brought three major attractions – Club Blood, CornStalkers, and Terror Square. Ever since, it has been changing and bringing even more new attractions every fall season. You can even expect 12 total attractions for HAUNT VII in 2014!

 More About Halloween at Dorney

1998 – Cedar Fair brought HalloWeekends to Dorney Park, marking the beginning of Halloween attractions in the Park and offering its Guests a whole different kind of experience.

9. Good Time Theatre

2009 – To celebrate Dorney Park’s 125th anniversary season, Good Time Theatre and the “Snoopy Rocks on Ice” show opened, representing the Park’s largest investment and expansion in theatrical live entertainment throughout its long history. With 18,000 square-feet, 603 seats, a 60-foot-wide by 35-foot-deep stage, and state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems, the theatre was fully constructed in just 12 weeks. The ice show was first to take stage here, featuring professional figure skaters from across the country. The spectacle was produced by Woodstock Ice Productions – owned by Jill Schulz, daughter of late Peanuts creator Charles Schulz – and Dorney Park.

 More About Dorney's Theatre

2013 – All Wheel Sports, a premiere extreme sport action production and finalist act on NBC's hit show "America's Got Talent," premiered with talent from all over the country, including bikers, rollerbladers, gymnasts, and more. The show proved a big hit as it returned in 2014 with a mixture of returning and new cast members plus all new acts.
2013 – The Dance Festival, a weekend event for local dance companies, schools, and groups, also started this year. It offers a workshop run by Shelia Baker of the Broadway Dance Center in New York City and a chance for students to practice and showcase their dances in a friendly, non-competitive environment.

10. Dinosaurs Alive!

2012 – Dorney Park made another expansion with a brand new attraction featuring over 40 life-sized, scientifically-accurate animatronic dinosaurs. Dinosaurs Alive! offers you an educational experience, the ability to control some of the dinosaurs' movement, and the chance to feel like a paleontologist in the dig site.

More About Dorney's Dinos

– Dorney Park started offering even more fun at night by keeping Dinosaurs Alive! open later on select weekend to create a new experience, including s'mores.

We hope you enjoyed learning about Dorney Park’s history. You can come out and join us in our celebration during our anniversary week Monday August 11th through Sunday August 17th. Plus keep an eye out for the Anniversary Ambassadors throughout the park for a chance to get some special treatment and surprises! See everything that's going on this week here.

*Information for this blog was found in Dorney’s “Park History Timeline” webpage and the “Images of America: Dorney Park” book that you can purchase in the Park at Good Time Gifts or online at Dorney’s Marketplace.

Feel free to share any questions or comments below regarding Dorney Park’s history or our 130th Anniversary Week’s events!


I think Dorney Park has a good history behind it. The many changes made to it makes it better than it was. As a gift, my grandpa got me and my family tickets to Dorney Park. At first we thought it was a dingy little park ,but then we realized we were totally wrong. It is 10 times the size of all the amusement parks near us and we have many amusement parks near us. It is a really good place to stop by in the Summer.

- Angela
Saturday, August 16, 2014 at 11:49 AM

Dorney park is the best theme park its a 2 in 1 u have the rides and water park. The rides are extremely scary but safe overall its the best

- Raaed Zaman
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 11:23 AM


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