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Longtime Indiana amusement park closes gates after 94 years

MONTICELLO, Ind. (AP) — A northern Indiana amusement park that entertained generations of visitors with rides, midway attractions and lakeside concerts for nearly a century has closed, park officials said Wednesday, citing the park’s disappointing performance.

Indiana Beach, which opened in 1926 and was initially called Ideal Beach, offered roller coasters and other rides from its lakeside site on Lake Shafer in Monticello, about 30 miles north of Lafayette. The park was long known for its slogan and jingle, “There’s more than corn in Indiana.”

Park officials confirmed that the business had been shuttered after 94 years of operation in a statement issued Wednesday, a day after news of the closure broke. The statement said that “despite significant effort and a great deal of investment in infrastructure and rides, we have not seen an improvement in operating results,” WLFI-TV reported.

“As such, we made the difficult decision to cease operations. This was not a decision entered into lightly,” according to the statement.

California-based Apex Parks Group had purchased Indiana Beach in 2015 from Morgan Recreation Vacations of Saratoga Springs, New York.

Apex’s purchase marked only the second change the park’s ownership after the founding Spackman family sold it to Morgan. That sale included the amusement park, its campgrounds and hotel.

The park’s closure shocked residents and business leaders in Monticello’s Twin Lakes region, so-named for Lake Shafer and adjacent Lake Freeman, both of which are popular with summer visitors.

“We didn’t see this coming at all,” Randy Mitchell, White County’s economic development director, told the Journal & Courier.

Indiana Beach and Apex were sued last year after a 12-year-old Lafayette boy died in June 2019 while riding the amusement park’s Hoosier Hurricane roller coaster. That lawsuit is pending.

In its heyday, crowds descended each summer on the amusement park, which played host over the decades to prominent acts, including The Who, The Beach Boys, Alice Cooper, The Turtles and Sonny & Cher

Fred Feigel of Lafayette said he was among about 100 people who attended a 1968 performance of Big Brother & the Holding Company, featuring Janis Joplin. He recalled that many park visitors didn’t know who Joplin was and she was able to roam freely during a break in the band’s performance.

“During the break, Janis was in the midway around the games and the rides and nobody was hassling her. She was just having a good old time,” Feigel told the Journal & Courier.