Memories of Idlewild Park was the subject of the 18th Annual Historic Photography Show hosted by the Pennsylvania Room at the Ligonier Valley Library in Ligonier, Pennsylvania from April 16 through July 9, 2019. The 2019 Historic Photography Show celebrated the history of Idlewild and SoakZone, a much beloved amusement park in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Idlewild has charmed people across Western Pennsylvania and beyond since its origins as a 19th century picnic grove for the Ligonier Valley Rail Road. The Historic Photography Show showed how the Mellon family’s scenic picnic grounds evolved into a traditional amusement park in the 20th century and how Idlewild continues to delight generations as an award-winning family attraction today. Established in 1878, Idlewild and SoakZone is recognized as the oldest operating amusement park in Pennsylvania and the third oldest in the United States.
I was honored to guest curate Memories of Idlewild Park and contributed photographs and memorabilia I discovered while researching my 2018 book Idlewild: History and Memories of Pennsylvania’s Oldest Amusement Park.
Along with the exhibits, we also hosted three events during the run of the show:
Opening Night Reception on April 16 – During the opening night reception guests enjoyed browsing photos and artifacts and were treated to traditional amusement park fare such as hot dogs, root beer and cotton candy.
Evening Presentation on May 14 – Idlewild’s Director of Marketing, Jeff Croushore, joined me for an evening talk where we shared Idlewild history, recent developments up through the 2019 season and many wonderful images of the park.
Rollo Coaster Creations Children’s Program on May 18 – Idlewild’s youngest fans were treated to a tour of the Historic Photography show and a meet and greet with Mother Goose of Story Book Forest before building their very own Rollo Coaster.
Virtual Exhibit Tour
Thank you to Tara Ewanits for video editing assistance!
Many thanks to the Ligonier Valley Library, Pennsylvania Room Archivist Shirley McQuillis Iscrupe, the 2019 Historic Photography Committee, Idlewild and SoakZone and the many people listed below who generously loaned photographs and items for the show. Thank you all for supporting and preserving a wonderful part of Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania and amusement park history!
Barbara & Sam Banales Aimee Manning
Gregory Barnhart Ann Macdonald
Trudy Brisendine Chris Macdonald
Beth Caldwell Molly Macdonald
Eleanor Clark Chad McMullen
Jeff Croushore Cheryl & Art McMullen
Joy Fairbanks Johna McNulty
Bob Frye Liz & Richard Mickinac
Kathleen Giesey Marlene Reckling Murty
Rita Giesey Haylee Oates
Frankie & Scott Graham Heather Oates
Susan Grill Ken O’Toole
Rita Horrell Theresa Schwab
Shirley & Bill Iscrupe Ina M. Smithley
Patricia Kenney Joyce Springer
Kristine Kopay Aaron Steimer
Don & Shirley Kowatch Brandonn Terhorst
Don Lachie Sylvia Toy
Joshua Litvik Ralph Zitterbart
Memories of Idlewild Park received coverage from local media outlets and industry organizations, including:
- Latrobe Bulletin and The Ligonier Echo – show announcements plus front page story on the opening night reception: “Library photo show features local amusement park,” April 23, 2019
- Greensburg Tribune-Review – opening night reception featured in “Out & About: Ligonier library shares ‘Memories of Idlewild,'” April 22, 2019.
- Ligonier Valley Library website and blog
- The National Amusement Park Historical Association
- American Coaster Enthusiasts Western Pennsylvania
About the Historic Photography Show
According to the Ligonier Valley Library, “The mission of the Historic Photography Show (as well as the smaller shows held throughout the year) is to present a facet of Ligonier Valley history that is interesting, educational and may have been overlooked in the past. In addition, the photographs and documents copied become a permanent part of the Pennsylvania Room collection.” Please visit the Ligonier Valley Library at 120 West Main Street, Ligonier, PA 15658 to view past shows and explore the Pennsylvania Room’s vast collection of books and materials. More information can be found at www.ligonierlibrary.org.