Editor’s note: A version of this was previously published on the author’s website.
Lagoon’s wooden roller coaster is the park’s second-oldest ride, behind the Carousel. The coaster, originally known as the “Dipper,” opened in 1921.
However, the Davis County Clipper newspaper of May 8, 1905, reported the “dipper coaster” was to have arrived that spring. It was promoted as “the only attraction of the kind west of Chicago.”
The wooden roller coaster didn’t arrive for another 16 years, though. It was both costly and difficult to obtain.
The Clipper newspaper of May 27, 1921, stated the “Lagoon Dipper” was now open. It cost $75,000 (almost $1 million in 2018 value) and was built by a Colorado company. Also, it was similar to the wooden roller coaster at a rival resort, Saltair.
Brian Nicholson, Deseret News archives
Thrill seekers make the first turn on the wooden roller coaster at the Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington Saturday, July 30, 2005.
An advertisement in the Utah Daily Chronicle of May 27, 1921, called Lagoon “Utah’s greatest pleasure resort” and the “Coney Island of the West.” The ad also referred to the Lagoon Dipper as “the wildest ride you ever took.”
The Bamberger Railroad offered rides to Lagoon every hour for just 35 cents a round trip. Also, a paved highway to Lagoon was in place and auto parking at Lagoon cost 50 cents (so a charge for parking at Lagoon goes back almost a century). There was room to park up to 1,000 cars.
The Salt Lake Telegram of May 27, 1921, said of Lagoon’s new roller coaster:
“Among the important new features that will be found is the ‘Lagoon Dipper,’ a giant roller coaster that is said to be the largest in the United States, and while full of thrills from start to finish, is as safe as a rocking chair.”
Lagoon also boasted of an artificial white sand beach in that era, named “Waikiki Beach,” as well as “Witzell’s Jazz Band.” Lagoon also stressed “fresh water,” compared to the briny waters at its competitor, Saltair.
(Note that Saltair’s “Giant Racer” wooden roller coaster had opened much earlier than Lagoon’s, back in 1893. The coaster was improved in 1916-1919. The ride blew down in 1957 during a windstorm and was never rebuilt.)
Most LDS Church members probably erroneously believe “Stake Lagoon Day” is a modern invention created by a contemporary Lagoon. But Stake Lagoon Day dates back well over a century.
June 8, 1905, was the Salt Lake Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ special Lagoon day, perhaps the first mention of such an annual event.
Lynn Arave, Deseret News archives
Lagoon’s historic wooden roller coaster, that first opened in 1921, as seen from the Skyride on the east side.
Stake Lagoon Day is a still a special day annually each summer for some stakes in northern Utah, where they can receive discounts on daily passports to visit Lagoon.
“We discontinued the official (Stake Lagoon Day) program in 2016, but stakes are still able to schedule a day individually if they choose to,” Lagoon spokesman Adam Leishman stated.
Back in 1905, wards such as the Salt Lake 16th and 17th wards had a special combined Lagoon Day on June 16. Even LDS Sunday Schools and MIAs scheduled Lagoon days in that era, according to the “At Lagoon: Season opens with heavy excursion bookins for June” list published in the Deseret News on May 29, 1905.
How popular were stake Lagoon days in their early years? The Jordan Stake day on July 13, 1906, used two trains and carried an estimated 2,500 people to the resort. Not all were likely from the stake, but most were.
Lagoon was a hit as a reunion/gathering place from the beginning. For example, on July 19, 1897,Lagoon hosted a reunion of returned missionaries that served in the Pacific Islands. President Joseph F. Smith, then second counselor in the First Presidency, attended the event, which included the roasting of several hogs, reported the Davis County Clipper in “Reunion at Lagoon” on July 23, 1897.
This reunion included 114 returned missionaries and 34 natives from the islands. A repetition of the Lord’s Prayer was given in four different Pacific Island languages at the event. In August 1906, this reunion attracted a record crowd of 9,000 people to Lagoon (see Deseret News, Aug. 9, 1906).
An “Old Folk’s Day” was also another popular annual event at the resort. One such event was held there on June 25, 1907. Any resident of Davis County over age 70 was invited for free to be Lagoon’s guest. Pot roast beef, boiled ham, mutton, all kinds of cake and lemonade comprised the menu at the Old Folks’ Day, according to an article in theClipper on June 21, 1907.
But special Lagoon days were not limited to the LDS Church.
Picnicking was and always has been popular at Lagoon.
The Methodist Church Sunday School had its own day on June 30, 1905. The Swedish Brotherhood, the Boiler Makers and Machinists, the Miners Union, Davis County Public Schools and the ZCMI shoe factory all had special Lagoon Days in June 1905, according to the “At Lagoon” list.
The University of Utah track team even staged a meet at Lagoon on June 3, 1905.