Memphis, Tennessee, USA
1976 to 2005
Libertyland opened as a full-season park on July 4, 1976 on the site of the Mid-South Fairgrounds. The fair had a long history of amusement rides, but they ran for less than 2 weeks each year.
The Mid-South Fair, originally known as the Tri-State Fair, had been running annually since 1856, and moved to Montgomery Park in 1912. Montgomery Park had been a horse racing track and social venue since 1897.
The fair had long included a ride area, known informally as the Memphis Fairgrounds Amusement Park. This was the original location of the Zippin Pippin and the Grand Carousel, both added in 1923. In 1946 a major renovation of the amusement area was initiated, with new games rides and facades, all modeled on the Canadian National Exhibition. The Zippin Pippin and carousel remained center pieces. [Editors Note: The precise opening year of the Memphis Fairgrounds Amusement Park could not be determined, but because both the Zippin Pippin and Grand Carousel were moved to the site in 1923, this might be the opening year.)
In 1971 a proposal was made for a local theme park. The city liked the idea, and felt the Fairgrounds would be the perfect location - a known amusement area with existing rides. Reconstruction of the area began in 1974, and in the end only the Zippin Pippin and Grand Carousel remained from the original amusement area. The park, with it's patriotic name and red, white and blue motif, opened on the U.S. bicentennial.
Sadly, Libertyland lost money for 25 of it's 29 years. (Both the Fair and Libertyland were run as nonprofit organizations.) Despite efforts to increase attendance in 2005, efforts that seemed promising at first, operators were unable to bring in enough people to sustain the park. The Mid-South Fair executive committee voted to close the park after the 2005 season.
The Mid-South Fair itself allowed its lease with the city to run out in 2008, with plans to more to Tunica County, south of Memphis. The 2009 fair is scheduled to be held at the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, TN. The Tunica site should be ready for the 2010 fair.
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A Memory of Libertyland
by Uncle Duke
Although Ms. Lily and I spent only about an hour and a half there, the finality of the closing of Libertyland causes my mind to wander to one of my best amusement park memories...
It was the final day of the Coaster Zombies' Parks of the Ozarks Tour (2003). Sam, finding that the park would be closed during the tour, arranged for us to have an hour on the famed Zippin Pippin. We rode out of the Magic Springs area at the usual un-godly hour our days began, and headed for Memphis. Fifteen minutes outside of town. A sleepy busload of Zombies are startled back into consciousness with the loud opening vocal of "Heartbreak Hotel." (...seems ironic now...)
Little memory blips swirling still - Pulling into the parking lot...a little glitch in timing perhaps...Zombies walking around the front gate snapping photos...joking with our driver, Reuben, who thought we were crazy (nice crazy, but crazy none the less)...Reuben gets a close look at the coaster. "Y'all not gonna ride that are you?" "Well, yes, actually, early and often – at least for an hour (woo who!)"...then in through a back gate and off to...Revolution for a bonus credit-gaining ride that, through the enthusiasm of the ride crew, turned into two...then back to the main event; Zippin Pippin.
Zippin Pippin – a wild ride of crazy good-airtime with an insane backseat! Elvis's coaster. While he was drinking a tall coke spiked with surplus...well, never mind. A full hour beyond the time we took to ride Revolution. Twenty-one circuits...rode every row and more...the crew never lost their enthusiasm...both they and the coaster kept up ours.
Never got to experience the rest of the park, only seen in the near distance on the second turnaround. Ms. Lily and I knew (thought) we'd be back...
This was a jewel – an oasis in an urban setting – and now it's gone. Like a gem in the hands of an amateur diamond cutter...dust. Only the carousel saved. Barely the glimmer of hope that the Zippin Pippin might run again...purchased, but...
Libertyland. What a fine little park it was.
© Copyright John K. Maxwell 2006/2009 - all rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author.
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Gallery Thumbnails Back to Top
© Copyright 2003/2009 Pete Turrill - all rights reserved. Used with permission.
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ATRA News February 12, 2010
Zippin Pippin Demolished After Partial Collapse But Still May Live Again!
ATRA News February 3, 2010
Zippin Pippin May Be Saved!
ATRA News November 17, 2009
Libertyland Demolition Begins!
ATRA News January 15, 2008
Zippin Pippin may be saved!
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Save Libertyland! page at Carousel.com
Mid-South Fairgrounds Redevelopment Study (4765k - Adobe PDF)
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© Copyright 2010 ATRA: American Thrill Ride Association - all rights reserved.
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