By Dom Joseph
When it comes to amusement parks in the area of Youngstown, the first locations that come to mind are Kennywood in Pittsburgh or Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. What many don’t know is back in the 1970s Youngstown had an amusement park of its own, and it was a major success.
Idora Park was located on the south side of Youngstown, and was once a successful amusement park. Known as “Youngstown’s Million Dollar Playground,” Idora Park was the most popular attraction in the Mahoning Valley.
Idora Park was home to roller coasters and thrill rides, many of which are still remembered to this day. When asked about what he remembered about Idora Park, Alex Forte of Hubbard had one thing to say: “Wildcat.” Wildcat was one of the two roller coasters in the park, the other coaster was the Jack Rabbit.
When it comes to Idora and the many rides it held, the memories quickly began to pour in for Forte and Liberty’s Ray Knight. They may have grown up in Trumbull County, but they knew they made many trips to Idora Park.
“I remember the Jack Rabbit, the antique cars, the planes that were on chains, that was an awesome ride — wow,” Knight said. “It was always really crowded, very popular and I remember the french fries for sure.”
“I remembered riding the Wildcat, and saying ‘Woah, I need to go back to the Jack Rabbit,’” Knight said.
“I was a roller coaster person. I’d ride the Wildcat and the Jack Rabbit, get on the ride, then get back in line,” Forte said.
“Transportation wasn’t what it is today, but we tried to go at least once a year,” Knight said.
“In June after school, one parent would bring four kids from the neighborhood to the park,” Forte said.
Idora frequently held special promotions for local businesses and groups.
“There was Boy Scout Day, General Motors Day, all kinds of stuff for those groups,” Forte said. “We used to go to the ballroom, and would always check out the great deals they’d have on special promotions for the companies that were there,” Knight said.
The park was a major success, but everything came to a tragic end. On April 26, 1984, the park caught fire, burning down multiple rides and concession stands. The park was devastated, and was unable to recover. On Sept. 16, 1984, the park closed its doors.
Very little of the amusement park was salvaged. The fire claimed the Wildcat, and many of the files saved on the park. Fortunately, one piece of the park remains: the Merry-Go-Round. Known as Jane’s Carousel, the ride was saved and restored. Today, it rests in an all-glass display under the Brooklyn Bridge, in New York.
As for the park itself, Idora has been cleaned out. Little to no reminders of the park remain, but the legacy of what once was continues to live on.
“It was a great park, for sure,” Forte said.
“How could I ever forget Idora?” Knight said.
Idora Park fans can relive the park’s glory days at the Idora Park Experience Museum in Canfield, which houses many of the iconic rides, including Wildcat and Jack Rabbit coaster cars and one of the silver rocket ships.