When visitors came to Cedar Point’s opening day, they witnessed $3 million in new construction, the capstone to a decade of change from a teetering tourist trap past its prime to “The Disneyland of the Midwest,” as the park’s advertisements touted.
Walt Disney’s theme park in California had opened in 1955. Its startling success not only led to construction of a larger version in Florida (Walt Disney World would open in 1971), it thoroughly changed the concept of amusement parks throughout the world.
In the mid-1950s, Cedar Point was limping along; there was even talk of bulldozing the midway and building houses on the peninsula. But there was such an outcry against the plan that George Roose, who’d bought the land with plans for development, opted to keep the park and modernize it, luring to the North Coast E.R. Lemmon, Disneyland’s former operations manager.
“There’s no longer any five-year plan at Cedar Point,” Lemmon said before the park opened for the season in 1961. “Every year will have something new and different added. We are going to bring the atmosphere of Bermuda, Miami, and other storied spots to Cedar Point for enjoyment the year around.”
That year saw the addition of two rides that became mainstays: The Sky Ride gondolas and the Cadillac Cars. The Breakers hotel was newly renovated and plans were being made for an expanded parking lot to accommodate 10,000 cars, many coming over the Cedar Point Causeway, built in 1959.
In 1964, the park added the Blue Streak, a forerunner to the roller coasters that would entice long lines of enraptured fans. The following year, the park drew more than 2 million visitors. In 1967, Cedar Point added the racing derby, purchased from another amusement park that did turn out to be on its last legs – Euclid Beach, on Cleveland’s east side. In 1968, Frontierland opened.
For the 1969 season, new additions included the Mine Ride, and, in 1970, the park celebrated its 100th anniversary, its future secure.
Photo caption: Dozens of high school bands from all over the state of Ohio played on opening day at Cedar Point in 1969. They were an opening day tradition in the 1960s and ’70s. This photograph also shows the Wild Mouse coaster, the refurbished Coliseum, the Sky Ride, and the concrete Midway. Photo courtesy Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums.