Today, June 22nd, 2013, the Arizona Historical Society hosted the 50th Anniversary of the only theme park that Arizona has seen.
This 50th Anniversary was celebratory in spirit, but was bittersweet, being that this theme park, which opened in 1963, closed in 1983. However in those 20 plus years, its impact on Arizona, the employees of Legend City, and its visitors cannot be denied.
The Park was founded by Louis Crandell, who mentions that Disneyland served as an inspiration for Legend City, where stories of Arizona's Legendary people and tales of the old west could live on. Louis Crandell, and his family moved to Utah shortly after Legend City opened. Most of the Crandell family still reside in Utah, today. And yes, Louis Crandell and his five children all attended the celebration.
In preparation for building Legend City, Louis Crandell took several trips to Disneyland. He visited so often, that they knew him by name. He also says that the Operations Manager of Disneyland was helpful in the planning of the new park! I wanted to find out specifically who and which people from Disneyland assisted with the planning and building, and was able to ask Louis Crandell's son, unfortunately, his son did not know the specific names. Perhaps someone out there does know. . .
I won't go into all the details of what this park included, however I will mention of few of the people that took part in the celebration, and a little glimpse of what this park was like . . .
Now, first I must admit that I never actually visited Legend City, as I didn't move to Phoenix until after the park had closed, however I am very much fascinated that some of the people who put together Disneyland, also had a hand in Legend City. But, with some of the online information and the stories I heard today from some of the people who worked there, have aroused my curiosity even more.
In brief, at the time Legend City opened in 1963, it was half the size of Disneyland. If you look at a map of the parks layout, you will definitely see some similarity between it and Disneyland. The major difference, being that Legend City was entirely based on the old west. In essence, the entire park was one big Frontierland. In fact, after seeing some of the photos and hearing about some of the attractions, I dare say that Louis Crandall must have also visited Knott's Berry Farm, and been inspired by Walter Knott, too. You see, Legend City did have its own panning for gold, and a building that reminds me of the old Haunted Shack at Knott's!
Legend City also had it's own "Golden Horseshoe", and it was called the Golden Palace Saloon. One of the performers in the saloon, was Vonda Kay Van Dyke, and she became Miss America 1965!
Another show that took place in the park is one that was known by all Arizona kid's in the 60's and 70's, and was televised on a local tv station, was the Wallace and Ladmo show. Wallace even made an appearance on stage.
One other attraction is worth mentioning, and they attempted to give us an idea of was the attraction was like with an old tape recording, and several photos. The best way to describe this attraction is to say it was a Rivers of America boat ride, done in the style of the Jungle Cruise.
In the near future, the videos that were presented at the reunion will be added to the Legend City Web site, so you can see them for yourself.
Here is the online reunion party information: Legend City 50th Reunion! - Home
And here is a website devoted to the history of this Legendary Theme Park, the only theme park that Arizona has had in its 101 year history, that made its home in Phoenix Arizona: http://owww.legend-city.com/