Lagoon inspires legends.
One recorded in a local history says Lagoon used to shoot off Farmington's pioneer cannon until some mischievous boys filled it with rocks and the blast took off the roof of the skating rink. Another story still survives about the traveling performer, Madam Pianca, who lost her head in the jaws of a lion while performing at the park.Like its legends, Lagoon's business is tied to its past as a place for families who pack up the picnic basket and children and drive to Farmington. Officials are sensitive to the historical role of the park, and change is measured carefully.
For example, the park didn't start charging gate admissions until 1982. Lagoon is unique in the amusement park industry because at most parks everyone pays a flat rate and no food is allowed inside the gate, Dick Andrew of Lagoon's marketing department said.
"We are a picnic park. People come to Lagoon and they kind of expect to eat their chicken and potato salad. . . . Our per-capita expenditures are not nearly what they would be in some of the major amusement parks in the country, even at amusement parks that are no bigger than Lagoon. They just have a different policy and don't have 102 years of tradition," Andrew said.
Along with its tradition as a picnic park, it has had a tradition of value, Andrew said. Ticket prices have remained comparatively low. This will be the first season that Lagoon will base its prices on those charged by other segments of Utah's entertainment industry - particularly rates charged for skiing and concerts.
Ticket prices this season will range from $7.25 for pre-schoolers and senior citizens to a $19.95 ride and water park pass. Disneyland currently charges a flat rate of $18.50 for children and $23.50 for those age 12 and over.
Lagoon is also influenced by a tradition of family ownership. Simon Bamberger, one of Utah's early governors, began Lagoon as a bathing resort on the shores of the Great Salt Lake in 1886.
Known first as Lake Park, it featured a hotel, dance pavilion and summer cottages. For 50 cents admission, guests could enjoy everything from swimming to target shooting. Another 50 cents brought a full-course dinner.
In 1893, the lake began receding and the resort was moved inland around a nine-acre lagoon. The original dance pavilion is part of the Lake Park picnic terrace.
The Bambergers owned and operated the park for almost 50 years until World War II. After the war Ranch Kimball and Robert Freed leased the park from the Bamberger family. The Freeds became the sole owners in the late 1970s.
One tradition at the park that may be fading is the appearance of big-name stars. Entertainers such as the The Beach Boys (who included a mention of Lagoon in their tune "Salt Lake City"), The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Doors, The Rolling Stones and Duke Ellington have played Lagoon. But prices for popular recording artists have made it too expensive to bring them to the park. The park does still feature older bands and less well-known musicians, said Peter O'Bagy of the marketing department.