Outdoor Amusement History
Presented here are important advances or events during Canada's outdoor
amusement history. Covered are amusement parks, carnivals, pleasure grounds,
beaches, and exhibitions & fairs. Included for interest are some
peripheral, but related, items.
You will find many of these elements discussed (most in detail) in
Closed Canadian Parks along with the
names of those that contributed the information. Facts on modern-day items
may be found under
Canadian Amusement Park and Ride Information
on the CEC Main Page. Past park names here will be
linked to the appropriate Closed Canadian Parks article for those
wishing to go directly there. Present park names and exhibitions/fairs will
be linked to locations outside the CEC website, where known and if available.
THE FOLLOWING MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED
WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR ©
- 1762: Settlers began to use
McNab's Island, Nova Scotia for sports
and recreation, although Mi'kmaq natives had already summered there for
generations. Quoits teams began to use the area this year. A full-fledged
amusement park would open near there starting in 1856.
(Woolnough's Pleasure Grounds)
- 1833: Michael O'Connor opens The Peninsula Hotel on what would
after a storm washes away the isthmus. A decade later, the area surrounding
the hotel would eventually become what may be Canada's first amusement
- 1833, August 28:Slavery is abolished in The British Empire. This
is significant because its anniversary is celebrated annually as
Emancipation Day at several Canadian amusement parks in at least the first
half of the 20th century, if not before.
- 1843: Privat's opens in
Ontario. A hotel (built in 1833) and the surrounding area on
is likely Canada's first amusement park. It sports a bowling alley, a
carousel, swings, a small zoo, and other diversions.
- 1844: The Halifax Steamboat Company begins commercial ferry
service to McNab's Island in Nova Scotia's
Halifax Harbour with the ferry Mic Mac. This opens the door for the
creation of several amusement parks on the island.
- 1844: The first methodist religious meeting is held in a grove
on John Bowslaugh's farm land in Grimsby, Ontario. 13 years later, the same
group would hold permanent meetings on this spot, starting
Grimsby Park. It later becomes a
full-fledged amusement park.
- 1847: North America's first professional zoo opens in Halifax,
Nova Scotia. Called
Down's Zoological Gardens, it
would come to house one of, if not, the largest collection of birds,
animals, and plants outside of Britain at that time. Andrew Down's
collection became revered enough that parts of it would come to be displayed
at many world's fairs and other exhibitions of the era.
- 1856: Charles Woolnough buys property on
McNab's Island in Halifax Harbour where he
builds a pleasure ground for private functions. Within two decades, it would
become a commercial amusement park:
Woolnough's Pleasure Grounds.
- 1858, April 13: Privat's
(possibly Canada's first amusement park), The Peninsula Hotel, and
Parkinson's Hotel all located on
are washed away in a fierce storm.
- 1866: A failed oil-drilling venture by The Sandwich Petroleum
Oil Company discovers mineral water near Sandwich, Ontario. The resulting
publicity sees the company abandon the oil venture and go into the resort
business, with a hotel and bath house being erected. Several amusement
parks and pleasure gardens would grow around The
Sandwich Mineral Springs over the
succeeding few decades.
- 1868, May 28: Halifax, Nova Scotia. The property and huge
collection of wildlife are auctioned from
Down's Zoological Gardens. Its owner had
accepted a post to New York's Central Park but would return to Halifax after
a disagreement with the park commissioner. A new zoological gardens would
open in 1869 but not be as successful as the first.
- 1871, June 8: The Fraser House opens officially at
Stanley Beach, Ontario. (Preview was
May 24.) This renowned hotel is visited by many celebrities of the era,
including Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald.
- 1872, July:Down's Zoological Gardens
in Halifax, Nova Scotia closes (1869 - 1872). Half a decade previously,
another incarnation of the gardens (1847 - 1868) boasted one of the largest,
if not the largest collection of birds, animals, and plants outside
of Britain at that time.
- 1873, July 8:
Woolnough's Pleasure Grounds, on
McNab's Island in Halifax, Nova Scotia,
opens to the public. It had started in 1856 as a picnic ground on the
island catering to exclusive, private parties.
- 1878, June 1st: Victoria Park
opens in what is now Scarborough, Ontario.
- 1878, July 27: Dundurn Park,
Ontario opens to the public. Previously, it had only been available to
- 1878, September: The Thames Navigation Company Begins regular
ferry trips to Chestnut Park (later,
Springbank Park), Ontario.)
- 1878, October 31: Fred Church is born in Ontario. He takes
mechanical engineering at Tufts University and goes on to great recognition
as a designer of roller coasters and other amusement rides in The United
States with partner Thomas Prior. A number of patents are issued to him.
Sadly, only a handful of Church rides are ever erected in Canada.
- 1879, May: Kew Gardens opens
to the public in what is now present-day Toronto, Ontario. A section of the
former Kew Farms had been developed by its owner, Joseph Williams, into a
- 1879: The Toronto Industrial Exhibition opens for the first
time. Toronto had been part of The Provincial Exhibition circuit, which had
been touring Ontario to various cities since 1846. However, Toronto wants
a yearly fair and so starts its own in 1879. It would in 1904 be renamed
Canadian National Exhibition of Toronto.
Eventually, the last two words were dropped.
- 1881, May 24: The overcrowded Victoria ferry leaves
Chestnut Park, Ontario (later to become
Springbank Park) for the journey home.
The now extra-heavy ship scrapes bottom, begins to sink, and rolls over on
to its side. 181 people are drowned, or are crushed by the loosened boiler
and collapsing upper deck. This remains one of Canada's worst shipping
disasters. Business at Chestnut would be severely curtailed by this incident
until revived through improvements to the park, a name change, and trolley
service to it in the 1890s.
- 1882: The Toronto Industrial Exhibition (later to be renamed
The Canadian National Exhibition),
becomes the first in the world to be lit by electricity. This means the
closing hour can be extended to 10 PM.
- 1883: The first electric railway in Canada is installed at
The Toronto Industrial Exhibition (later to be named as The
Canadian National Exhibition). It
consists of a 90-metre layout, but runs little the first season due to
technical difficulties and the fact people were wary of the ground-level
electrical contact arrangement. The next season, this is changed to an
Intended as an exhibit of electrical power for transportation, it quickly
becomes a people-mover at the fair when the line is extended in 1885 to
the streetcar terminal (1884, from another source). The Toronto streetcars
still use horse-drawn cars at this time. The electric railway runs through
the 1889 season.
- 1884: George Hall is born. He will go on to become president
of Crystal Beach, after starting there
as an employee in 1902.
- 1885, Summer: The first roller coasters in Canada open in
Ontario at Hanlan's Point (July 9),
Dundurn Park (August 8), the
exhibition grounds in London (August 20), and in September at The Toronto
Industrial Exhibition (later to be renamed
The Canadian National Exhibition).
It is unsure if the Hanlan model is switchback or circular, but
Dundurn has a continuous-circuit model (oval), while The Exhibition boasts
two: a Switchback and a continuous-circuit. Another opens the same season
(July?) at Brighton Beach.
- 1885, Summer: Windsor, Ontario. Bankrupt Louisville, Kentucky
whisky distiller, George Buchanan opens a summer garden at
Brighton Beach with a hotel and a
roller coaster. He had fled to Canada to avoid his creditors in 1884.
George nets $5,000, only to have it stolen in September by George Junior
and that son's new wife.
To try to salvage the operation, Andrew, a second son of Buchanan, is
sent to Louisville to raise money among his father's friends. No word
has surfaced if he was successful, although the park lasted a few more
- 1885, October 1: The London Exhibition grounds may be the first
example of roller coaster vandalism. A group of boys, aged 10 to 15 years,
break into the closed exhibition's switchback (linear) roller coaster where
they run it themselves. Two cars collide and cause considerable damage to
both. At least one person is injured. Reports show this as accidental but
given the situation, it may have been deliberate.
Despite sporadic police presence, the boys continue to run the ride
off and on for at least the first three weeks of October. No word has
surfaced as to what was the final outcome.
- 1886: N.X. Nathanson is born in Minneapolis, U.S.A. He moves to
Toronto at an early age where he becomes the manager of concessions at
Scarboro Beach Amusement Park and then
at Montreal's Dominion Park. By
1916, he and several investors would open The Regent Theater in Toronto,
that city's first grand movie palace. This leads to the creation of the
Famous Players and Odeon theater chains across Canada.
- 1886: J.H. Ford begins to offer candid photographs of park goers
at Grimsby Park. This predated, by a century,
picture takers/sellers seen at entrances to many latter-day amusement/theme
- 1886, May 25 and July 4: What may be Canada's first roller
coaster accidents occur at
Hanlan's Point and
Brighton Beach. The first occurs on
Hanlan's Switchback Railway. A train leaves the track at the ride's
lowest point and spills nine (seven from another report) passengers on to
the barbed wire fence and/or into water left from spring floods. The
Brighton incident involves an intoxicated man. He falls or is thrown from
the park's coaster ride. All survive, but with bruises and cuts.
- 1887: The Sandfly Express rail service begins from the
Fort Erie ferry dock to Erie Beach Park
in Ontario. It greatly boosts patronage at the two-year old park.
- 1887, September 19: London Ontario. Western Fair opens at its
new location at Queen's Park. As had
Toronto done in 1879, London breaks away from The Provincial Exhibition
circuit to run its own yearly fair. This fair still runs today.
- 1888: Crystal Beach Park,
Ontario opens as a religious campground. This park would have the greatest
longevity of any Canadian amusement park: 102 seasons from 1888 through
- 1888, June 18:
William Young shoots & kills shooting gallery owner Martin Farrell. Young
was a customer at the gallery, which was located next to Charles Herber's
Hotel just south of
Hanlan's Point Amusement Park.
The coroner rules it an accident.
- 1888, August 23: A water carnival is held at
Hanlan's Point Amusement Park
by The Island Campers Association.
- 1888, September 11: Toronto, Ontario. Lord Stanley, then
Governor General of Canada, tours The Toronto Industrial Exhibition (later
to be renamed The
Canadian National Exhibition).
A short welcoming message, allegedly given by him, is recorded on a wax
cylinder phonograph. A 1935 copy survives today and is one of the
world's oldest(*) examples of recorded sound, most previous ones having
been lost to the ages. Listen to it at:
Dawn of Sound.
(*) It may be the third oldest surviving. The only older two
currently able to located are a talking clock recording from 1878 and
a sniplet of a French recording from 1860 on which may be heard a young
girl singing "Clair de Lune".
It should be noted that there is evidence to suggest that the recording
was not made that exact day or by Lord Stanley. See
CAPS 2005 APN
- 1888, September 26: 20,000 watch as Thomas Wensley falls to his
death from a balloon at The Central Canada Exhibition in Ottawa. As the
balloon inflates, he is suddenly taken aloft clinging to an outer seam
(to a rope, by another report). It had been set up as an ascension and
parachute-to-earth display. The report is unclear as to whether Thomas is
the parachutist, balloon pilot or a ground crew member.
- 1889, June 1: Sohmer Park
in Montreal is opened by classical musician, Ernest Lavigne.
- 1890, July 12: The ferry Dove makes its first voyage to
Crystal Beach, Ontario. However,
passengers are unable to disembark when it's discovered that the side-mounted
paddle wheels prevent the boat from approaching the dock. Modifications are
made so that four days later, the first commercial patrons arrive at the
- 1891, June 20: Albert William Austin's
River Park opens in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
This park would eventually come to have two roller coasters during its run,
including the massive, John Miller-designed Deep Dipper. Five of that
coaster's drops went below ground level. The park would operate for half a
- 1891, December 10: 10,000 watch as Canuck strongman, Louis Cyr,
billed as The `Canadian Hercules' and `Canadian Sampson', performs at
Sohmer Park in Montreal. Two teams of
two horses are attached, one set to each of Louis'a arms. They try to pull
him in one direction or the other but do not succeed.
Louis Cyr would die in 1912 at age 49, but many of his records for
feats of strength still stand today.
- 1892: Joe Renker is born in Brooklyn, New York. After a
stint at Coney Island as a sideshow barker, he joins the Clark and Conklin
Shows carnival and is eventually adopted by the family where upon Joe
takes on the name of the owner, James Wesley Conklin. He comes to Canada
in the 1920s where he builds a fair & side show empire to become Canada's
"Carnival King". He becomes known as `Patty' Conklin because of his honour
of standing `pat' on any deals he makes.
- 1892: Norman Bartlett is born in England. He joins the Canadian
Air Force in World War II and begins to formulate ideas for amusement
rides. His patents will number 22 by the 1960s.
- 1894: A clothing-optional beach at
Hanlan's Point, Ontario, is approved for
naturists who prefer to bath unclothed on warm days. This lasts until
the 1930s, but is reinstated in 1999.
- 1894, May 3: Rockcliffe Park
opens in what is now part of Ottawa, Ontario. It is a trolley park, being
owned by The Ottawa Electric Railway.
Hanlan's Point, Ontario, is sold by
the Hanlan family to The Toronto Ferry Company for $50,000. The new owners
invest $250,000 to improve the amusement park. It's used as an attraction
for people, which means usage of their ferry service at normally-off times
- Mid 1890s: The world's first carousel driven by an electric
motor opens at Rockcliffe Park, Ontario.
The park had been developed by The Ottawa Electric Railway which uses the
available power to run the ride instead of the traditional steam method.
- Mid 1890s: Albert Wort begins to build his first miniature
steam locomotive in Woodstock, New Brunswick. His innovative designs
would result in his induction into The New York Inventors' Society.
Another three trains would eventually be built. All four would run in
Woodstock's Island Park, with the first
two beginning in the 1920s and a second pair in the late 1930s.
- 1896: The Ontario Southern Railroad begins electric rail
service to Crystal Beach, Ontario,
from nearby Ridegway.
- 1896, May 25: Trolley service to
Springbank Park is started by The London
Street Railway Company. It is the start of the final demise of ferry service
to that park.
- 1897, May 21: Hanlan's Point,
Ontario: The Toronto Maple Leafs Baseball Team play their first game at
the park's new stadium. The Leafs would last through several stadiums
there before being moved to the mainland for the 1926 season.
- 1898, June 11: Bob-Lo Island Park,
Ontario opens for its first patrons. Regular service begins a week later.
Known as "Bois Blanc", Bob-Lo (later Boblo) Island Park would be one
of Canada's longest surviving amusement parks, running from 1898 to 1993,
with only two seasons not open during that period. Only
Crystal Beach Park exceeds this record.
It ran from 1888 to 1989.
- 1900: River Park's zoo opens in
Winnipeg. It would run until 1925 or 26 when the animals were transferred
to The Assiniboine Park Zoo. That zoo still exists today.
- 1900, January: Noah Phelps dies. Instrumental in the creation
of Grimsby Park in Ontario, he had been
with the park for 41 years, 25 as president of the company. Phelps Avenue in
Grimsby is named in his honour after his passing. It exists today.
- 1900, May 15: Britannia Park, Ontario
opens. A preview was held April, 2. The not-ready park has overnight guests
sleeping in hammocks!
- 1901, July 14: The
Crystal Beach 1500-passenger
Puritan ferry (built in 1892) burns at a Buffalo dock.
- 1902, June 14: Lagoon Park
opens at The Sandwich Mineral Springs,
Ontario on the former site of
Manhattan Park. The owners modernised
the park with electric lights and up-to-date rides & attractions.
- 1902, May 11: Bob-Lo Island
ferry S.S. Columbia is launched. Along with The Ste. Claire
(1910), they would become the best known of the Bob-Lo ferries. A
preservation effort is under way to restore both vessels.
- 1903: The Canada Amusement Company opens
Burlington Beach Amusement Park in Ontario.
It initially includes boat & bath houses, swings & slides, snack bars,
and The Crazy House funhouse. Rides are added later and the park goes on
to last 76 seasons in total until closing in 1978.
- 1903: Bill Lynch is born in Nova Scotia. He goes on to learn
the carnival trade at
Findlay's Pleasure Grounds on
McNab's Island and eventually forms
Bill Lynch Shows. It will grow to become one of the world's largest
- 1903, September 10th:
Hanlan's Point, Ontario. The park's
stadium, built in 1897, catches fire and burns. It is replaced with a
larger one, which would in turn be destroyed by another fire in 1909.
- 1904: The Huntsville and Lake of Bays Railway begins with a
1.8 kilometre run from Lake of the Bays to Peninsula Lake, about 200
kilometres northeast of Toronto. It uses narrow gauge (1130mm) track
and is the smallest commercial railway in the world. This is significant
because when the rail line ceases operations in 1958, two of its later
trains go to Pinafore Park in Ontario.
Both had been built by The Montreal Locomotive Works in 1926.
In 1984, the trains are bought by The Huntsville and Lake of Bays
Railway Society and may be seen there today in their former community
at Muskoka Heritage Place.
- 1904, June 28:
Balmy Beach Park, Ontario opens. It is
located in The Beaches area, now part
- 1904, September: The Toronto Exhibition begins operating as The
Canadian National Exhibition of Toronto
- 1906: Winnipeg Beach Park,
Manitoba, takes possession of a Herschell-Spillman carousel, which had been
built in 1904. This ride goes to Bowness park in Alberta after World War I
where it stays until 1969.
The century-old ride may be seen today at Calgary's
Heritage Park. It is Canada's third
or fourth oldest carousel still in operation. The others reside at
La Ronde in Montreal (1860s or 1880s),
Centre Island in Toronto (1900), and St. Catherines'
Lakeside Park/Beach in Ontario
(1903 or 1907).
- January 16, 1906: The United Kingdom formally transfers military
control to the Canadian Department of Militia and Defense. Except for the
Royal Engineers, this completes the removal of British regiments from
Halifax and the surrounding area that had started in 1904. The engineers
leave in March, 1906. Although done over a two-year period, this
results in a sharp decline in business for
McNab's Island amusement parks
Woolnough's Pleasure Grounds and
Findlay's Pleasure Grounds. One of
the military divisions had been stationed on the island and provided
additional business for both parks beyond what the public gave, plus
other military personnel would spend time at those parks during their
Woolnough's is already in decline and the owner sells out, whereby it is
operated for a few seasons as
Redmond's Pleasure Grounds.
Eventually, this park is sold to competitor James Findlay.
- 1906, May 23:
Happyland Park opens in Winnipeg. Rides
include a Traver Circle Swing and an Ingersol/Miller Figure 8,
(Note that one postcard reference gives a May 24th, opening date.)
- 1906, June 2:
Dominion Park opens next to The St.
Lawrence River on Notre Dame East in Montreal. It sports a Scenic
Railway, Shoot-the-Chutes and an extensive boardwalk/midway.
This design is copied for
Scarboro Beach Amusement Park, Ontario
opening the following year.
- 1907: Vancouver businessmen gather to discuss promoting the city
through the opening of an annual fair. They form The Vancouver Exhibition
Association and secure Hastings Park in the city's west end as the site.
The fair opens three years later and grows to become The
Pacific National Exhibition, second only
Canadian National Exhibition in size.
It comes to include two of Canada's great amusement parks:
Happyland and the present
- 1907, June 1:
Scarboro Beach Amusement Park, Ontario
opens to the public. It is funded by Harry and Mabel Dorsey with $600,000
(an incredible sum for the time), and is based on Montreal's
Dominion Park which had opened a year
earlier. It is the largest amusement park ever in that area, yet would
survive for only two decades.
- 1907, August 10: A storm damages
Happyland Park in Winnipeg. One
consequence is the escaping of a circus elephant and lion.
- 1908, August 20: Winnipeg's
Happyland Park declares bankruptcy.
The $150,000 park garners only $6000 when sold to new owners.
- 1908 - 10: Albert Wort begins running his miniature railway in
Woodstock, New Brunswick. Starting in the mid 1890s, he builds everything
from scratch, save for the castings. His locomotive designs are so original
that some of his innovations would be incorporated into later steam engine
designs and lead to him being awarded membership in The American Institute
of Inventors. This train, and later three others, would find a permanent
home in Island Park.
- 1909: Parc King Edward Park,
Quebec has its first season. It has, or would grow to have, a race track,
theater, zoo, picnic grove, dance hall, theater, restaurants, and an
amusement area with one of the largest roller coasters of that era: The
- 1909: Famous musician, Ernest Lavigne, dies. (1851 - 1909) He
had started Sohmer Park in Montreal,
which saw many great musical acts and sporting events during its history
(1889 - 1919).
- 1909, May 29: The Backety-Back Scenic Railway opens at
Crystal Beach, Ontario. This most unique
ride, designed by John Brown, has several switchbacks and a tunnelled section
incorporated into the design. It lasts until 1926.
- 1909, August 10: Fire destroys most of
Hanlan's Point Amusement Park, Ontario,
including a large stadium. One employee, cashier Clara Andrews, dies. Lost
are The Gem Vaudeville House, a theater, the School of Fun, a Restaurant,
Penny Arcade, Shooting Gallery, the Amusement Hall, and at least three
roller coasters: an Ingersoll Figure 8, an Ingersoll/Miller
Grand Scenic Railway, and a Dip the Dips.
The park and stadium are rebuilt for the 1910 season. Unfortunately, the
three or four coasters lost are replaced by only two. An earlier fire in
1903 had destroyed the first stadium, so after this second loss, the 1910
structure is made of concrete.
- 1909, September 7: Canada's first airshow is held over
Scarboro Beach Amusement Park,
Ontario using a single Curtis biplane called The Golden Flyer.
It is piloted by Charles Willard only seven months after Canada's first
heavier-than-air, powered flight. That event had occurred in Baddeck,
Nova Scotia, February 23, 1909 in a plane piloted by John McCurdy called
the Silver Dart.
The aircraft was designed by McCurdy, Frederick Baldwin, and Alexander
Graham Bell, whom was living in Nova Scotia at the time. Baldwin and McCurdy
form Canada's first aviation business in March of that year: Canadian
Aerodrome Company. McCurdy would later become Nova Scotia's Lieutenant
- 1910, June: The Fort Garry Lumber Company offers the
attractions at Winnipeg's Happyland Park
- 1910, June 22: 17-year old Louise Koch is thrown from
Crystal Beach's Backety Back Scenic
Railway near, or just inside, a tunnel. She dies of her injuries during
the boat trip to hospital.
- 1910, June 30: Steamer ferry Canadiana (launched March
5th) begins service to
Crystal Beach, Ontario. It has a
capacity of 3,500 and sports two dance floors. The boat would run until 1956
and ferry an estimated 18 million people to the park during those 46 years.
The ship went to salvage recently, but some artifacts have been saved to
be displayed on the former park grounds.
- 1910, July 1: Ferry Trillium (launched June 18) first
sees service between Toronto and
Hanlan's Point. That ferry still runs
today after rescue from the scrap heap and then a complete rebuild in the
- 1910, August 16: The Vancouver Exhibition in British Columbia
officially opens, presided over by Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier. (An
unofficial preview had been held the previous day.) 5000 people attend
the ceremony and make it a success. The fair grows into The
Pacific National Exhibition, one of
- 1911: The Scenic Railway at Winnipeg's exhibition grounds
opens. It is the Ingersoll/Miller Figure 8 moved from the faltering
- 1911, July 6: 50 people are injured after an overcrowded dock
Queen's Park in Aylmer, Quebec.
- 1912, Spring: Cowboy performer Tom Mix is injured in two events
while at Dominion Park with
Weadick's Wild West Show. His jaw is damaged by a steer's horn and
he is later thrown from a bucking bronco. Each incident results in him being
knocked unconscious. After the second injury, against his protests, Tom is
taken to hospital where he is treated. He recovers and continues on
with the rest of the tour. Later, Tom with his horse Tony would go on to
become one of the silent's screen's best-loved cowboy stars.
- 1912, July 17 - 19: Canada's first flights of a seaplane are
held at Stanley Beach, Ontario as an
exhibition and park promotion. Walter Brookins is the pilot.
- 1913, June 28: Montreal's
Dominion Park suffers a fire that
destroys three attractions. No deaths occur but some injuries result from
trying to control the large crowd in the park at the time. The park
rebuilds one of the attractions but replaces the other two.
- 1914: A fire at Grimsby Park
in Ontario sees 35 cottages lost. Unconfirmed are the possible loss of a
Figure 8 roller coaster and The Park House Hotel, which was destroyed
in some fire, but the year is uncertain.
- 1914, September 5: It is reported that George `Babe' Ruth hits
his first professional home run out of Maple Leaf Park at
Hanlan's Point, Ontario while with The
Providence Grays. The ball supposedly lands in Lake Ontario upon which
the park bordered. Ruth is 19 years old at the time.
- 1915, November 9: Walker LeRoy is born in Port Arthur (now
Thunder Bay), Ontario. He eventually becomes a maintenance consultant for
the amusement park industry and is employed at Oaks Park in Oregon. Walker
is instrumental in the building of
Playland's Coaster in
Vancouver and will return every summer to visit it until his death in 1999.
- 1916: The Giant coaster opens at
Crystal Beach, Ontario. One of the last
side-friction designs ever built, this coaster is Canada's longest-lived.
It runs for 74 seasons until 1989 when it is torn down a few months after
the park's closure.
- 1916, Week of July 31st: Dare Devil Babcock performs his
bicycle loop-the-loop at Dominion Park.
Many parks have such entertainment at this time and Dominion has a large
central area devoted to exhibitions of this type.
- 1917, December 6th: Two ships, one carrying several tonnes of
munitions for the war in Europe, collide in Halifax Harbour. The resulting
explosion destroys the greater part of Halifax and Dartmouth with a force
not seen by a man-made detonation until the atomic bomb test at Alamagordo
over a quarter century later. The thousands of dead, injured, and homeless
result in curtailed business at
Findlay's Pleasure Grounds on
McNab's Island for at least the 1918
- Circa 1918: World War I pilot, Norman Bartlett, is discharged
from The Royal Canadian Air Force, where upon he builds his first
toboggan run. He eventually leaves Canada to move to The United States and
work at Custer Speciality, an Ohio amusement ride company. In the 1920s, he
teams with roller coaster designer, John Miller where that toboggan run
idea becomes the basis of Flying Turns, a trackless roller coaster.
Today, similar designs are called Bobsleds. He later becomes allied
with the Alan Herschell company, a major American amusement ride
- 1918, June 30: The Lake View Hotel at
Grimsby Park, Ontario is destroyed by
fire. Major renovations had just been done so as to ready it for a July 1st
re-opening. It is never rebuilt.
- 1919, March 24: Sohmer Park
in Montreal burns and never reopens. It is considered by some to have been
the city's first major amusement park.
- 1919: The Harbour Commission in Toronto, starts a boardwalk
project. By 1924, it runs three kilometres from
Sunnyside Beach Park to Exhibition Park
(Canadian National Exhibition). Easter
parades are held along this walkway until the mid 1950s when they are moved
- 1919, June 15: The projected opening of The Giant
roller coaster at Winnipeg Beach,
Manitoba is delayed by a general workers' strike.
- 1919: The Burke Brothers are accused of charging prices
higher than agreed upon at their Burlington, Ontario concession in
Wabasso Park. The Hamilton Parks
Board of Management, which oversees the area, pledges to investigate.
- 1919, July 5: The first parachute jump by a Canadian is made at
Crystal Beach by Frank Ellis. Such
aerial stunts and displays became popular at Canadian parks in this era.
- 1919, August 2: With the workers' strike over, The $40,000
Giant roller coaster finally opens at
Winnipeg Beach, Manitoba. It runs
until at least 1966.
- 1919, August 10: Fire destroys
Dominion Park's Mystic Rill,
a wet dark-ride, and also part of the Scenic Railway in Montreal.
Eight people on the dark ride die. The coaster is replaced by a Fred Church
Dips in 1920. This is the second fire this park endured. (See
June 28, 1913.)
- 1919, August 23: W.G. Barker and three other pilots begin daily
air displays over The
Canadian National Exhibition using
Fokker D.VII planes. This lasts for the entire run of the fair through
- 1921: Patty Conklin arrives in Winnipeg, Manitoba where he would
hook up with a small carnival. A few years later with partner Speed
Garrett, his carnival outfit would eventually become
Conklin Shows, the largest
carnival company in North America.
Lakeside Park in Ontario takes
possession of a former
Scarboro Beach Amusement Park carousel,
Built in 1903 or 1907, it continues to operate today.
- 1921, May 26: A new twin-decked concrete pier is dedicated at
Crystal Beach in Ontario. Part of
a general expansion of facilities at the popular park and beach, the
structure still exists today despite the demise of the park in 1989.
- 1922, June 28:
Sunnyside Beach Amusement Park in
Toronto opens with ceremonies held at the new bathing pavilion. This park
would become one of the most fondly remembered parks in Canada. It would
close in 1955.
- 1923, June 9: Parc Belmont Park
first opens in Montreal. It would operate seasonally until 1983.
- 1923, August 23:
Toronto newspaper, The Evening Telegram, sponsors a water nymph
Sunnyside Beach Amusement Park.
Prizes are awarded to the best three of the girls and young women
who participate. This may be one of the influences of the idea for the
Miss Toronto contest which would be started by the park in 1926.
- 1924: The Derby Racer, a unique carousel-style ride
opens at Sunnyside Beach Park, Ontario.
It is developed during World War I by Thomas Prior and Canadian-born Fred
Church, and is to be the only one ever installed in Canada. After Sunnyside
closes, it goes to the
Canadian National Exhibition where it
runs until the 1980s.
- 1924, March 28: The Lake Erie Excursion Company sells
Crystal Beach Park to The Buffalo &
Crystal Beach Corporation, which is headed by one of the park's
concessionaires, George Hall. (The Hall family would be associated with
this park for over 60 years.) The new company pledges to spend $250,000
- 1924, July 24: A five-year-old boy is killed after gaining
access through a fence to the "Figure 8" coaster at
La Salle Park in Burlington. He
is struck by a train and dies on site shortly afterward.
- 1925, February 1: Schultz Brothers of Brantford, Ontario complete
the Crystal Beach breakwall with images
of dancers etched into the concrete. It is used to protect the ground between
the lake and park's new dance pavilion. Part of the wall still exists today.
- 1925, May 1: Dancers first attend The Crystal Ballroom
at Crystal Beach Amusement Park, Ontario.
It sports the largest permanent, single dance floor ever in Canada, at 3500
square metres. The ballroom would last until the park's demise in 1989.
- 1925: The Giant Dipper roller coaster opens at
Happyland in Vancouver. Many consider
this Prior & Church ride one of Canada's finest roller coasters of the past.
It will operate through the 1947 season and be torn down in 1948 to
facilitate enlargement of the racetrack. Rolling stock goes to the Western
Washington Fair where it may be seen still in use today.
- 1925, July 29: The Sunnyside Outdoor Natatorium debuts
at Sunnyside Beach Park, Ontario. Known
as The Sunnyside `Tank', it is the largest outdoor pool in the world at
2100 square metres. It holds 2000(!) swimmers at once in its 3.4
million litres of water. The pool still exists today.
- 1925, August 1: A showoff rider standing up on The Giant
coaster at Winnipeg Beach, Manitoba
is thrown from the ride. No injury report has surfaced.
- 1925, September 12:
Scarboro Beach Amusement Park in
Ontario closes. (1907-1925)
- 1925: Already providing midways for events in Nova Scotia, Bill
Lynch permanently removes the amusement rides from
Findlay's Pleasure Grounds on
McNab's Island, Nova Scotia. He had
formed The Bill Lynch Carnival Company, which later becomes Bill Lynch
Shows. This travelling carnival eventually grows into Atlantic Canada's
- 1926, June 5: H.F Blackwell opens the ill-fated
Bellevue Park in Trois Riviers,
Quebec. The park receives church and city related backlash due to being
open on Sunday and because it competes with the city's annual exhibition.
After an August move to another location, the park closes and never
- 1926, July 29: The Pavilion dance hall opens at
Stanley Beach, Ontario. With two 2000
square-metre dance floors, it is likely the largest dance club ever in
Canada. The Pavilion would later become the famous Stork Club.
- 1927: The Traver-designed Cyclone opens at
Crystal Beach, Ontario. This
is considered by many to be Canada's most famous coaster, and by others
as the most ferocious coaster ever built. It would come to be torn down
in September of 1946 due to high maintenance costs and low ridership.
- 1927, July: 30 cottages burn at
Grimsby Park, Ontario after a
coal-oil stove explodes. It hastens the decline of a park which is already
- 1927, August 27: The Princes' Gates officially opens with the
new season of The
Canadian National Exhibition.
Originally built as "The Diamond Jubilee of Confederation Gates", because
the opening officials were England's Duke of Kent and Prince of Wales, it
became known under the shorter title of "Princes' Gates".
- 1928: The Dartmouth Ferry ceases service to
McNab's Island, Nova Scotia after business
declines to the once-popular spot.
Findlay's Pleasure Grounds had closed by
1925 and the island's popularity for other recreations had diminished.
- 1928, May 5: The blueprint of The Deep Dipper roller
coaster for River Park, Manitoba is made
official. Designed by John Miller, it is one of Canada's largest-ever
- 1928, June 13: A permit is issued for The Deep Dipper
roller coaster at River Park, Manitoba.
The ride operates through to the 1941 season.
- 1928, August 17:
Crystal Beach, Ontario. The provincial
Attorney-General orders a dance marathon to stop, brought on by negative
feelings toward such events from a public which saw the marathons as
- 1929, April: At
Sunnyside Beach Park, a new ride called
The Whoopee debuts. A gear failure causes two riders to be thrown off
on June 29th. Afterwards, the ride is renamed The Swooper.
- 1929, July: Ferry John Hanlan, built in 1884, is burned
off Sunnyside Beach Park, Ontario as
"entertainment". It had serviced
- 1929, October 29: The stock market fails in Canada and
world-wide. The resulting economic depression sees many Canadian amusement
- 1930s: Charles Trudeau becomes part owner of Montreal's
Parc Belmont Park. His son, Pierre,
would go on to become Canada's 15th Prime Minister in 1968.
- 1930, September 1:
Erie Beach Park, Ontario closes forever
(1885 - 1930). The property is bought by
Crystal Beach's owners and some rides
are moved to there. Schmeck's two-year old Wildcat roller coaster is
dismantled, but becomes lost to history.
- 1932, April: The
Stanley Beach Casino in Ontario is
destroyed by fire. It is never rebuilt.
- 1932, May 24: Beaches Park
opens on the former sites of
Balmy Beach Park, and other beach area
- 1934: The number of fairs and exhibitions hits an all-time low
in the Prairie Provinces due to the lingering depression. Steadily rising
from before the turn of the century to a high of 318 in 1921, they are
reduced to only 61 by this year.
- 1934, September 2: Hull Electric suspends streetcar service to
Queen's Park in Quebec. The park closes
not long after.
- 1936: Canadian-born roller coaster and amusement ride designer,
Fred Church, dies. (1878 - 1936)
- 1937: Patty Conklin secures the contract to supply the midway
Canadian National Exhibition. He is
the first non-exhibition owner to place permanent rides on an exhibition
midway. That CNE contract continues to this day.
- 1938, May 30: An accident on
Crystal Beach's Cyclone
sees 22-year-old Amos Wiedrich thrown from the ride. His lap bar is
apparently not secure, or it fails, and opens during the ride. The
death results in his estate being awarded $3000 in December 1939.
- 1939, September 4: Woodstock, New Brunswick. After
Island Park's exhibition is cancelled in
anticipation of military use of the grounds to prepare for war, the first
infantry and artillery units of the Carleton-York Regiment arrive at the
park. The park would not reopen until 1946.
- 1939, September 10: Canada enters World War II. This results in
a number of amusement parks and fair grounds being used for military
training because of their large open areas. They remain closed until
after hostilities cease six years later.
- 1939, September 28: New Brunswick inventor Albert Wort is awarded
membership in The American Institute of Inventors for his steam locomotive
designs. His miniature locomotives and rolling stock ran in Woodstock and
then at Island Park, opposite Woodstock,
from the 1910s onward.
- 1939, December 17: Sergeant Bernard Gregson of Milltown, New
Brunswick is the first Canadian soldier to set foot in Great Britain during
World War II. This is significant because he was trained at
Island Park, New Brunswick, which had
been expropriated for training soldiers after the 1939 season. This park
would reopen for the 1946 season.
- 1940, June: Boblo Island,
Ontario. Canadians are required to have a passport to visit a Canadian
amusement park! The ferry would pass through U.S. waters and thus the
Americans are able to impose this restriction. It is done to police
illegal aliens and keep them from entering The U.S. via Bob-Lo.
- 1940, December 31:
Grimsby Park, Ontario. The park's
dance hall burns. The area, which is in decline, sees most remaining park
property sold to housing developers.
- 1941, June 9: Unusually large crowds of Americans at
Boblo Island Park in Ontario cause long
line-ups for the ferry to Detroit at departure time. This results in
numerous extra trips. Many do not get on a ferry until almost 3 AM.
- 1941, September 1: River Park in
Winnipeg, Manitoba closes for good, (1891 - 1941) although it is rumoured
that a few rides run for several seasons afterward.
- 1941, September 6: The
Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto
closes for the season and for the duration of World War II. The grounds
had already been used to train and house military personnel since just
after the 1939 fair closed. The fair runs in 1940 & 41 around this, but is
put on hold after this year and not opened through the 1946 season. The
fair begins again in 1947.
- 1942: Hastings Park, which housed
Happyland and Vancouver Exhibiton, is used
as the processing center for the war-time displacement of over 8,000
Japanese-Canadians (plus other nationalities). These citizens are moved
to camps in British Columbia's interior for the duration of the war.
During the intrim, men and women are segregated into buildings at the park
that were designed for animals only, so conditions are very dificult.
Toilet and shower facilities are far from adequate.
- 1942, May: The demolition of
River Park, Manitoba begins. Auctions for
equipment run into June. The Deep Dipper roller coaster is not
destroyed, but is instead dismantled. However, time has lost track of it.
What became of one of Canada's best-ever wooden coasters of the past?
- 1942, July 1: At
Boblo Island, Ontario for Dominion Day
(now Canada day) celebrations, a 14-year old girl slips from a ferry
boarding walkway and drowns before she can be rescued.
- 1942 - 1946, August: The
Pacific National Exhibition, Vancouver
does not open. As during World War I, its grounds are being used to train
and house military personnel for World War II. This lasts through 1946. The
fair finally reopens for the 1947 season.
- 1944: The Baby Dipper roller coaster at
Happyland, Vancouver is demolished to make way
for an expansion of military facilities. The Canadian military had
occupied the area as a training grounds for World War II since the fair
closed after the 1941 season. The ride had run since 1928.
- 1946, September 1:
Crystal Beach, Ontario Assistant General
Manager James Mitchell sends a letter to Herb Schmeck, President of
Philadelphia Toboggan Company requesting "... a coaster that will be
thrilling, fast, smooth and a ride that anyone between the ages of 10 and
90 can ride with perfect safety". The Comet would come out of this.
- 1946, September 2:
Crystal Beach's famous Cyclone
makes its last run. Demolition begins two weeks later. It would be
replaced two years later with The Comet.
- 1947, April 19: Boblo Island Park,
Ontario. Passport requirements for Canadians are dropped with the
re-commencement of a ferry from the Canadian shore. As a border protection
measure, ferries had been stopped to prevent undesirables from entering
The United States via Bob-Lo Island during World War II.
- 1947, August:
The Canadian National Exhibition in
Toronto reopens after a five-season hiatus during which its grounds were
used to train Canadian military for World War II.
- 1948, February and March: Vancouver.
Happyland's Giant Dipper roller
coaster is demolished to make way for the expansion of the racetrack.
Canada loses one of its best roller coasters ever. The trains go to The
Western Washington Fair.
- 1948, May 22: The Comet roller coaster opens at
Crystal Beach, Ontario. It may be seen
today at the Great Escape in New York State.
- 1948, December 31: The dancehall at
Grimsby Park/Beach, Ontario burns. This
park has a long, sad history of fires.
- 1949, June 2: Ferry Northumberland, which serviced
Lakeside Park, Ontario, is lost in a
blaze at the Lakeside Park dock. The Ontario government imposes strict fire
regulations soon after. The ferry's owners, Canadian National Railway, does
not wish to spend the money to upgrade to comply with the new regulations
and cancels all ferry service to the park at the end of the season.
- 1949, September 17: Passenger liner Noronic burns at a
Toronto dock. Sister of the Hamonic and built in 1913, the 110-metre
ship is the largest of its type on the Great Lakes. Noronic is
employed in cruise service at the time, and being near the end of
the season, carries just under 700 crew and passengers. The fire
starts in a maintenance closet and spreads quickly because the ship's
interior is all varnished wood, has no fireproof bulkheads, and the ship
has no sprinkler system. As well, the crew was undertrained regarding fire
fighting, plus few fire drills were practised.
The heat is intense enough that steel melts, decks and supports buckle,
and bodies are cremated to ash. Fortunately on that night, many are spending
time off ship, limiting the death toll to somewhere between 109 and 150,
depending on the source referenced.
This incident is included here because fire regulations were tightened
so much after this and other ship fires, that many owners did not want to
invest money to retrofit vessels on these routes. They had become less
profitable than before World War II due to declining passenger sales because
of improved air and road transportation. With so many of these ships taken
off the lakes in the 1950s, amusement parks depending solely or primarily on
ferry service saw a drop in patrons. See
Lakeside Park/Beach for an example.
- 1950, August 9: A half-century tradition ends for Ontario
youngsters when the Toronto Transportation Commission terminates its
free bathing car service. Only eight children ride on the final
two cars this day. Started in the 1890s, children with bathing
suits and towels had been transported to & from the
Sunnyside Beach Park area (and other
beaches) at no charge during summer months.
- 1950, September 6: Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians set a
record in Ontario at Stanley Beach's
renowned Pavilion Dance Hall (later The Stork Club) when more than 7,000
- 1953, August 26: Patty Conklin opens another permanent
attraction at The
Canadian National Exhibition in
Toronto: The McKee/Davis Flyer roller coaster. It would run
through the 1991 season.
- 1954, August: At the
Pacific National Exhibition, the
British Empire and Commonwealth Games are held in Canada. The games
see two runners break the four-minute mark in the same one mile (about
1600 metres) race. This is the first time this is accomplished. The
participants are Britisher Roger Bannister (who, a few months earlier,
was the first person ever to run the mile in under four minutes), and
Australian John Landy.
- 1954, September 9: In a
Canadian National Exhibition event,
16-year old Canadian swimmer, Marilyn Bell, becomes the first to cross Lake
Ontario. She swims the 51 kilometres from New York State to The Boulevard
Club at Sunnyside Beach Park in 20
hours, 57 minutes. A park at the landing site is created in her honour.
- 1955, October:
Sunnyside Beach Park, Ontario closes
for good after 34 seasons.
- 1955, November 26: The tender call for demolition of
Sunnyside Beach Park, Ontario is placed
in local newspapers. The contract is awarded to Kepic Brothers on December
5th for $335. By February 1956, the park is gone.
- 1956, May 30:
Crystal Beach ferry Canadiana
ceases service after 45 seasons and an estimated 18,300,000 passengers.
- 1957: Canada's first Wild Mouse rides open at
Boblo Island Park and The
Canadian National Exhibition (both in
Ontario). In 1958, the CNE ride is moved to
Parc Belmont Park, Quebec where it
remains for over two decades.
- 1957, August 31: Vancouver. Elvis Presley performs before
25,898 fans at The
Pacific National Exhibition
in Empire Stadium. It is the last of only three dates Elvis ever plays
outside of The United States during his entire career, making this
his final non-U.S. performance. The other two shows had also occurred in
Canada - in Toronto and Ottawa in April of this same year.
The show is marred when fans damage barriers and the stage in an
attempt to get closer to Presley. At the end of the show, a decoy
`Elvis' is used to lure fans elsewhere while Presley makes a getaway
- 1957, Fall: After almost 50 years of entertaining western
Canadians, the amusement area of The
Pacific National Exhibition, in British
Columbia ceases operations. It used the name
Happyland from the 1920s until final
closure. Reasons are sited as declining patronship due mainly to the loss
of its two coasters in the previous decade. The park is torn down. Among
the items lost is the last surviving model in Canada of the classic
- 1958, August 18:
Playland opens on the other
side of Vancouver's
Pacific National Exhibition grounds to
Happyland. A new roller coaster is
erected, the Phare-designed Coaster. Half a century later, it is
still considered a top-ten wooden coaster by many of today's enthusiasts.
- 1960, May: Boblo Island Park
offers a free cruise to Archie Richardson on opening day. He had been on
the first cruise to Bob-lo in 1898 and is chosen from 15 persons located
whom had taken that first cruise and were still living.
- 1961: MarineLand
opens in Ontario as a nature park with marine exhibits. It would grow into
a full-fledged amusement park in the 1970s and 80s with the addition of
- 1964, August 22: Vancouver,
Pacific National Exhibition.
The very first career performance of The Beatles in Canada occurs at The
Empire Stadium before 20,261 fans (20,621 from other sources). Ticket
prices range from $3.25 to $5.25 and include American support acts with
which The Beatles are touring: Bill Black's Combo, The Exciters, Jackie
DeShannon, and The Righteous Brothers. If one considers fast changeovers
between acts, allows 10 to 15 minutes for each support artist and about a
half hour for The Beatles, this fits nicely into the 95 to 100-minute
show put on that night.
Attempts are made to breach the 3-metre high field gates as fans seek
to get closer to The Beatles at the start of their set. They do so on the
third try, but fewer than 20 make it through before the gates are again
A bootleg album is made of their 29-minute performance (27 and 28
minutes from other sources). The Beatles -- Vancouver 1964 uses
cuts from an illegal tape recorded via the stadium's house audio
system, and it employs excerpts derived from a radio show broadcast
live on site during the concert.
- 1965, August 25: A Tumble Bug car at
Boblo Island Park, Ontario, breaks free,
leaves the track, and crashes into a fence. One person is killed and eight
others are injured. One of the eight remains in a coma and eventually dies
three years later.
- 1965, October: The Skylon Tower in
Niagara Falls, Ontario opens. It is 160 metres high with a 30-metre dome
containing two dining areas, one of which is a 276-seat revolving
restaurant. An amusement park eventually is incorporated in the basement.
- 1966: Ontario's Stanley Beach
closes its Incline railway after more than 90 years of service. At its peak,
it carried 10,000 in one day alone. The cars were saved and may be seen
- 1966: The Mactaquac Dam project is completed on the Saint John
River in New Brunswick. The project began in 1964 to provide power and flood
control. The river begins to back up when the flood gates are closed,
eventually covering Island Park opposite
Woodstock. This ends over half a century of entertainment provided by
that amusement area.
- 1967, April 27: The
Expo 67 World's Fair in Montreal
officially opens with an invite-only ceremony for 7,000 media and VIPs
including all Provincial Premiers. The next day, the gates open for the
public. A Category One fair, as sanctioned by The Bureau of International
Exhibitions (formed in 1928), it is the first official World's Fair in the
Western Hemisphere and boasts the most participating nations (62) of any
to that date.
Expo has a large amusement area called La Ronde. Attractions
include a huge dark ride called Gyrotron, an Arrow junior coaster:
Les Petits Montagnes Russes, and an 1880s (or possibly 1860s) Belgian
carousel. The coaster and carousel may still be seen today. The Belgian
merry-go-round is the oldest carousel in operation in Canada, and possibly
North America, if the 1860s date is correct.
- 1967, October 29:
Expo 67 in Montreal closes. It
sets an attendance record to that date for official world's fairs of
50.3 million. (There were more at the Paris 1900 fair but that
was held before the creation of the Bureau of International Exhibitions in
1928.) A one-day record for Sunday, April 30 sees over half a million
through the turnstiles.
The area continues for a number of seasons afterward as "Man and His
World". The fair's legacy includes the La Ronde amusement area and a
number of structures left standing which remain in use today.
- 1967: The IMAX film format development begins by Canadian
film-makers Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor and Robert Kerr after pondering
the various film media of
Expo 67. The format would
eventually be featured at major theme parks world wide.
- 1969: Heritage Park in Alberta gains possession of a 1904
Herschell-Spillman carousel which had previously been at
Bowness Park, Alberta and
Winnipeg Beach Park, Manitoba before that. The
unit is restored and returned to service where it may still be ridden today.
- 1969, August 2:Rainbow Valley
opens on Prince Edward Island. Starting with just boating, picnicking and
a UFO-style gift shop, the park would grow to become a favourite on the
- 1970: Canada's carnival king, Patty Conklin, dies at age 78.
(1892 - 1970)
- 1970, May: The Canadian-developed IMAX film format debuts at
the Fuji Group pavilion at Expo 70
in Osaka, Japan. The first film is Tiger Child. Many theme parks
world wide now have IMAX theatres.
- 1971, May 22: Ontario Place opens. Its 800-seat Cinesphere
Theater is the first permanent, commercial IMAX theater. The opening film
is North of Superior. This theater still operates today.
- 1972, September 2: George Hall Senior dies (1884 - 1972).
Starting as a concessionaire as early as 1902 at
Crystal Beach, he became president of
the park's owning company in 1924. He was instrumental in the development
of that park and is still president at the time of his death.
- 1972, October: Nova Scotia carnival owner, Bill Lynch
dies. (1903 - 1972) He began as a games & rides operator on
McNab's Island in the 1910s and
then started a road show which grew into Atlantic Canada's largest
- 1973, May 27: The Sky Streek roller coaster opens at
Boblo Island Park, Ontario under the name
- 1974, June 9: Severe winds force The
Boblo Island ferry Ste. Clair off course
into the shallows of The Detroit River where it grounds. Almost 800
passengers are stranded for three hours.
- 1974, December 20: Ontario's
Lakeside Park has its dance pavilion destroyed
in a fire. Arson is suspected.
- 1975, June 23: A 26-year old man is thrown from the rear car of
the Comet roller coaster at
Crystal Beach, Ontario as it rounds a
curve. It is the only known fatality on this ride.
- 1976: The former United States Pavilion at
Expo 67 catches fire and burns. It
is situated near the La Ronde
amusement park. All the dome's skin is lost but the structure remains. It
lies abandoned until the 1990s when it is rebuilt as a science center.
- 1976, May 19: The ferry Trillium begins service again
after a complete refurbishing. It had serviced
Hanlan's Point, Ontario from 1910
through the 1955 season, was removed from service and allowed to deteriorate
until 1973. In December of that year, it was towed to The Metro Works
marine yard to commence restoration.
- 1979, January 13: Stanley Beach's
famous Stork Club in Ontario is badly damaged when an arsonist sets
a fire in a garbage dumpster near the building. The club is never rebuilt.
- 1981, June 14: The Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion in Toronto is
rededicated after a complete restoration. It had been designed by A.H.
Chapman and had been the focal point of
Sunnyside Beach Amusement Park from 1922 until
the park's closure in 1955.
- 1981, May 23:
Canada's Wonderland opens
in Ontario. It remains Canada's largest and most visited amusement/theme
- 1982, July 19: The CTV (Canadian Television) show Thrill of
a Lifetime films two people riding The Comet roller coaster
through a mound of shaving cream at
Crystal Beach Amusement Park, Ontario.
- 1983: Kingswood Music Theatre opens next to
It is a covered amphitheatre that seats 15,000.
- 1983: The Dragon Mountain roller coaster opens at
It breaks several world steel coaster records of the time including
largest in area, longest layout, most length of tunnels, and longest lift
hill. At 57 metres, it is also the tallest when designed, but one or more
coasters open earlier in the season before Dragon Mountain so it
never gets to hold that record. The ride continues to run today.
- 1983, July 18: Daniel Glada and Norman St. Pierre begin to ride
Parc Belmont Park's Cyclone in
Montreal. 22 days later, after 503 hours on board, they held the world
- 1983, August: At a cost of $250 million, Phase II of the West
Edmonton Mall, Alberta, opens with 115,000 square metres of space holding
240 stores, a huge amusement park, and an ice palace. The amusement park
is called Fantasyland, but is changed to Galaxyland after
complaints from The Disney Company.
- 1983, October 13: Montreal's
Parc Belmont Park closes forever after
61 seasons (1923 - 1983). The classic Cyclone roller coaster is
torn down that fall and the following spring.
- 1984, July 11: Opening day for a convention of The American
Coaster Enthusiasts held at
Crystal Beach, Ontario.
- 1984, April 3: Ontario's
Crystal Beach Amusement Park is sold
out of receivership to Crystal Beach Park Limited and lasts five more
seasons before final closure.
- 1984, December:
Crystal Beach Amusement Park in Ontario,
auctions its 1906 Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel (#12) by the piece.
Almost $650,000 is generated.
- 1985, July 20: The twin-tracked Le Monstre roller
coaster at La Ronde, Quebec opens,
with the second track completed for the 1986 season. This Cobb design is
the largest wooden coaster ever in Canada, both in height and shear
Happyland's Giant Dipper
(1925 - 1947) was longer, however.
- 1985, October 26: Ontario park,
Wasaga Beach Playland, is auctioned
after the owners retire with no heirs. It had run for over 40 seasons.
- 1985, December 20: The Mindbender roller coaster debuts
as the world's largest, triple-loop, indoor coaster at Fantasyland (now
Galaxyland) in West Edmonton Mall, Alberta. It is run for a short trial
period into January and then closed until March while final inspections
and tests are carried out.
- 1986, March 16: West Edmonton Mall's Mindbender roller
coaster opens on a permanent basis.
- 1986, May 2:
The Expo 86 World's Fair opens
in Vancouver. It includes The Scream Machine, a multi-inversion
Vekoma roller coaster, and the debut of the IMAX 3D film format. It's
shown at The CN (Canadian National Railway) IMAX Theatre within the
- 1986, June 14: An accident with the Mindbender roller
coaster at Fantasyland (now Galaxyland) in West Edmonton Mall, Alberta
claims three lives and injures a fourth. A truck disengages from a rear
car causing it to fishtail and eject its four occupants.
The ride is closed for several months and reopens in a modified form
with shorter trains using non-trailered cars and over-the-shoulder
- 1986, October 13: Canada's
Expo 86 closes. Some of the
fair's structures grace Vancouver to this day.
- 1987, May 23: Schooners Beach Club opens at
Crystal Beach, Ontario. The decision to
serve alcohol is made to bolster falling patronship at the park. However,
noisy drunks leaving the club late at night become a factor in the park's
eventual closure in 1989.
- 1987, August 13: The Laff in the Dark at
Crystal Beach has an electrical short
and fills with smoke. This causes one car to stall and the succeeding car to
collide with it. Riders escape through emergency doors and no one is injured.
- 1987, August 15: The Mindbender roller coaster at
Fantasyland (now Galaxyland) in West Edmonton Mall, Alberta reopens
after 14 months of down time after an accident which had claimed three
lives. The trains are modified to be one car shorter. All following cars
now emulate the lead one by having four trucks instead of trailered,
- 1988, May 27: The NAPHA-WNYCC(*) Convention visits
Crystal Beach to celebrate its 100th
Anniversary and the 40th anniversary of The Comet. Earlier that
weekend they also had gone to
and The Canadian National Exhibition.
(*)National Amusement Park Historical Society-Western New York Coaster
- 1989, June 23: The Tree Topper Atlantic Canada's first,
and still only, wooden coaster opens with Upper Clements Park, Nova
Scotia. This Cobb design (his last - he died in 1990), is built on the
side of a hill in a wooded area. It remains the last-built wooden coaster
- 1989, September 4:
Crystal Beach Amusement Park, Ontario
closes forever, after 102 seasons (1888 - 1989). This is the longest-lived
amusement park in Canada's history.
- 1989, October 17:
Crystal Beach Amusement Park is auctioned.
The Laff in the Dark, Giant roller coaster and the ballroom
do not sell and are all demolished.
- 1990, February: One of Canada's oldest carousels is auctioned.
The 1878 Mangels-Illions carousel at Boblo Island,
Ontario nets over $1 million in a piece-by-piece sale.
- 1990, June 4:
Crystal Beach Amusement Park, Ontario. A
28-year-old man is pinned against a wall during demolition of The Penny
Arcade. A wheel on the safe broke allowing it to tip over onto the worker.
He dies while awaiting rescue, likely from asphyxiation.
- 1991: The first (and still only) suspended coaster in Canada
Ontario as The Vortex.
- 1992: Splash Works water park opens as part of Canada's
Wonderland. It boasts Canada's largest outdoor wavepool with between
7 and 9 million litres of water. The park eventually comes to
cover 8.1 ha and have eighteen speed slides.
- 1992, June: The Flyer roller coaster at The
Canadian National Exhibition is torn
- 1993: Paramount Communications acquires
Canada's Wonderland for
its Paramount Parks division.
- 1993, February 10: After declaring bankruptcy, Ontario's
Boblo Island is purchased at auction
by Northern Capitol Corporation for 3.7 million.
- 1993, March: Burnaby Village, British Columbia opens it's antique
carousel to the public after a complete restoration. The ride is a 1912
Parker Toboggan, #119. It had previously run at Vancouver's
Playland Parks from 1936 until
being sold to Burnaby Village in 1990.
- 1993, July 3: A one-day attendance record of 17,812 is set
at Boblo Island for a music festival and
fireworks. However, it's not enough to save the park which closes for
good less than three months later.
- 1993, September 24: One of
Boblo Island Park's owners, Michael
Moodenbaugh, is critically injured in a car accident. Without his input,
the planned-for running of Boblo's amusement park for two more seasons
evaporates in the face of corporate interest. His partners wish to sell
the rides and equipment, then the land, for a profit.
- 1993, September 30:
Boblo Island Park has its final day. It
closes after 95 years in existence (1898 - 1993), with only two seasons
missed during The Depression.
- 1994, June 25: The Comet opens at The Great Escape in
New York State. This coaster was saved from destruction when it was sold
at auction after
Crystal Beach Amusement Park's closure
- 1995: Top Gun (now Flight Deck), Canada's first
inverted coaster opens at
- 1995: Clarence Reid and Terrance Hubley, principals in Nova
Scotia's Bill Lynch Shows, die from injuries received in a car crash. The
result sees the carnival company broken up into smaller units.
- 1999: The clothing-optional beach at
Hanlan's Point, Ontario, is reinstated
after a previous one was closed in the 1930s.
- 1999, March 10: Walker LeRoy dies at age 83. (1915 - 1999) Born
in Ontario, LeRoy became a respected consultant in the North American
outdoor amusement industry.
- 1999, June: Developer John Oram announces his intention
to recreate Boblo Island Park near
Amherstburg, Ontario. His dream has never been realised.
- 2000, October 31: Ramsi (Ismar) P. Tick dies at age 75.
(1925 - 2000) He tried unsuccessfully in the 1980s to save
Crystal Beach Amusement Park from
- 2001: The City of Montreal sells
La Ronde to Six Flags Corporation.
- 2002: La Ronde in Montreal
opens the first four-abreast inverted coaster in Canada: Le Vampire.
It is also Canada's first from the company of Bolliger & Maibillard.
La Ronde now boasts eight roller coasters.
- 2004, May:
installs the first lie-down roller coaster, Tomb Raider (now
Time Warp) in the country. Riders go around the course in a
face-down position and also perform inversions. It has a unique
`pusher' lift mechanism.
- 2005, May:
installs the first launched roller coaster in Canada:
Italian Job Stunt Track (now Back Lot Stunt Coaster).
Riders travel through a layout themed to a motion picture stunt
driver's set. This brings the park's coasters to a total of fourteen.
- 2006, May 13: Canada's fastest roller coaster opens at
La Ronde. Goliath hits
110 km/h and also has the longest drop at 52 metres. The park now has
- 2006, June 30:
is bought by Cedar Fair Entertainment.
- 2008, May 4: The tallest and fastest roller coaster in the
country debuts at
Behemoth attains 123 km/h from 70 metres up.
- 2012: With over 40 full-size, animatronic prehistoric animals,
Dinosaurs Alive opens at
- 2012, April 27: The tallest and fastest roller coaster in
the country, Leviathan, starts rolling for riders at
It is 98 m tall with an 80-degree drop and reaches a speed of 148 km/h.
This is the park's 16th such ride, placing Wonderland in third place
world wide for having the most roller coasters.
- 2012, June 9: Fourteen zip lines are featured in
Adventure Park at
Upper Clements Park
in Nova Scotia. It is the largest selection in Atlantic Canada.
For Important Dates
Outside of Canada, See
David Althoff's Roller Coaster Almanac
Canada's Outdoor Amusement Past