YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Spring, summer and fall used to be exciting in Youngstown — when the city had a beautiful amusement park.
But that all changed 39 years ago with the fire at Idora Park.
Today — on the fire’s anniversary — WKBN looks back at the park’s impact on the area.
The fire started on April 26, 1984 by a welder who went to lunch and then saw fire trucks racing to the park.
“The fella who was doing the work said, ”That’s at the Lost River. I think I just burned down Idora Park,'” Jim Amey, of the Idora Park Experience, recalled.
The park still opened that year, before closing in September. Amey was stationed overseas when he heard about the fire. Nine years later, he returned and saw the damage.
“And it just just, you know, hit me right in the heart. It was like, something’s gotta be done to try to save whatever it can be saved from this park. It’s too important to our history,” he said.
Amey took a light from the football throw where he used to work, which started his collection. Nine years ago, he opened the Idora Park Experience, where people can still see their favorite things.
The newest piece in the Idora Park Experience is the ticket booth. It’s where most people had their first experience with the park and got in the gate.
The Idora story has spread across generations. Most families have a connection.
“It’s people coming in saying, ‘I wouldn’t be here for Idora Park because my grandparents met at the dance hall,'” said Toni Amey.
The experience preserves those small pieces, which remain big mementos of history for some people.
Some people may be too young to remember when Youngstown had an amusement park, but there’s still a chance for them to enjoy it.
“They climb in and out of the Wildcat cars, the Jackrabbit cars, in and out of the boat. They want to sit on things. It’s new, and it’s different, and they’re just enamored by it,” said Toni Amey.
A fire destroyed the two main rides at Idora Park, but it has not burned out the spirit. It remains alive and shows no sign of dying.
“It deserves to be honored. It was a great thing that we had, for as long as we had it: 84 years. It was a great thing,” Jim Amey said.
The Ameys are meeting this week with the Historical Society about putting together a plan for preserving the Idora Park Experience, hoping the next stop can be a place where the items are on display, so people can relive their memories.