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Personen: Paul Roads, Wonderland Park founder dies at 84
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Assistent Thorsten Janke
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Link zum Beitrag #1420 Verfasst am Donnerstag, 12. Juni 2003 08:54
Aus der Juni-Ausgabe der Amusement Today:

Paul Roads, founder of Wonderland Amusement Park in Amarillo, Texas, died May 7 at the age of 84. Funeral services were held May 12 at the St. Paul United Methodist Church before a capacity crowd. Burial was in Amarillo.

Mr. Roads was born on Oct. 10, 1918, near Augusta, Kan., to Melvon Alonza and Bernice Roads.

He graduated from Augusta High School and from Cessna Welding School. He worked for Cessna as a welder and a machinist.

On May 23, 1943, he married Alethea Mikesell in Wichita, Kan., where they had two children, Paula and Danny.

The family moved to Arizona for one year where he worked in the ice cream business before moving to San Angelo, Texas, to develop an amusement park with Roy and Hazel Neff, his brother-in-law and sister.

Soon after, discovering that the Neff's Amusement Park would not be able to support two families, Paul moved his family to Amarillo in 1951 where he and his wife founded Kiddie Land in the city's Thompson Park. Mark Miles, then the city of Amarillo's Parks and Recreation director, convinced Paul and Alethea that Amarillo would be a good place to start a new park.

When the park opened on Aug. 12, 1951 [Sic!], it featured three rides: the Allen Herschell boats, a kiddie car ride and a Herschell Little Dipper roller coaster. The park's first ticket stands were made from the wooden crates that the rides were shipped in.

With the help from his in-laws, Robert and Ruth Mikesell, he operated the park and added at least one ride each year.

In 1958, he quit his day job as a welder at the Amarillo Air Force Base to work full time at Kiddie Land. It was then that he was inspired by Alice in "Through the Looking Glass," resulting in a name change for the park to it's current Wonderland.

Wonderland grew every year thanks to the addition of new rides, some of which Roads made in-house. One example of that is still in operation today, the 1974-built Fantastic Journey dark ride, a ride that took nine months to build and that to this day created the biggest attendance boost in the park's history.

In the late-70s he met two individuals from a New Hampshire firm that would change the look of the park forever. O.D. Hopkins and Jerry Pendleton worked with Wonderland to create eight outstanding rides for the park, some of which include the park's log flume, the Texas Tornado double loop roller coaster, the Pipeline Plunge and the 2000-built Shoot the Chute. No park in the world has more Hopkins rides than Wonderland Park.

"Paul Roads did more for the advancement of the small park industry than anyone," said longtime friend Jerry Pendleton. "He was the guy who took the first big step to buy big equipment, making his small park much larger than what the surrounding populace said it should support."

"Simply put, his park's success was built on three principals: build it, keep it clean and the people will come, and they did," he said.

Today, and for the past 30 years, the park has been operated by the Roads' daughter Paula and her husband, Paul Borchardt. More than 200,000 visitors make their way to Wonderland each year. Wonderland has grown to 15 acres, features 25 rides and a mini-golf course, built by Mr. Roads, and employs more than 150 people.

For 2000-2001, Wonderland won the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce Top 10 Small Business Award.

Active with other small amusement parks, Mr. Roads and his wife started the Small Amusement Park annual mini-convention as a way to communicate, learn and share ideas with fellow park owners. He was a past board member for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.He also served as Sergeant at Arms and received the Outstanding Member award in 1988.

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