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Ravell Call, Deseret News
A schoolhouse in Pioneer Village at Lagoon offers a glimpse of pioneer-era education in the West. Lagoon opened the village in 1976.

FARMINGTON — One of the best museums in Utah can be found in a pretty unlikely place — Pioneer Village at Lagoon amusement park.

How was life lived a hundred years ago? Or even earlier? What tools did dentists use? How were early newspapers printed? How did people get around?

Answers to these and other questions about Utah's pioneer past can be found here, surrounded by thrills rides and picnic areas.

"We've tried to maintain it as a living museum," said Dick Andrew, Lagoon spokesman. He admits it's an intriguing marriage — a museum and a theme park. "We look at it as one of the arrows in our quiver of things to do here."

Andrew said unlike some other U.S. amusement parks that also feature such historical treasures, Lagoon has tried to keep the commercialization of Pioneer Village to a minimum.

"We keep making improvements over there," he said, noting that this year the village's north garden was totally refurbished.

Visitors to Pioneer Village could easily spend a half-day browsing through its three-dozen-plus buildings. But even if you have only a few hours, there is much to see and enjoy.

The village is also a good place for a tour when Lagoon's ride lines are too long. It closes just before dark.

"It's not as busy as the main midway is," Andrew said, explaining Lagoon doesn't keep visitation numbers for the village only. However, more than one million people a year visit Lagoon.

Maintaining Pioneer Village is very expensive. The year-round outdoor environment for the historic buildings ages them rapidly.

Revenues from rides and games actually pay for the upkeep of Pioneer Village, which is the largest financial liability Lagoon has ever taken on. Admission to the village is included in the charge for the main park.And, people age 65 and older can get in the park and Pioneer Village for free. (Rides still cost).

Much of Pioneer Village is still the original display, which was previously owned by the Sons of the Utah Pioneers and located in Salt Lake City. But Lagoon — which opened Pioneer Village in 1976 — has added to the artifacts, and some items are rotated from storage every year to provide a fresh look.

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