Why is Silverwood an incredibly fun and memorable experience for families?
I took an exclusive peek beyond the rides and discovered what makes Silverwood more than just an amusement park.
Gary Norton opened the park on June 20th, 1988, and although now regionally known as the largest theme park in the Northwest, what many don’t know is that Silverwood is family owned and operated. Which is no small feat, considering that many of America’s family-owned theme parks have sold to big amusement chains or gone belly up.
So what can be attributed to Norton’s success? As the only original founder of any park running, Norton remains engaged in shaping the vision and growth of the park. It was his out of the box thinking and big vision that has created what Silverwood is today, but he’s had a little help. Many of Gary’s children hold positions within the park, a few live around the area (Everybody Loves Raymond style) and have children of their own who are also employed by the park. In addition, Silverwood is home to many longtime employees who are an integral part of its history and like family to the Norton’s. Together, they are building a locally owned, family operated legacy that will last for generations to come.
Why does this matter?
As consumers, we go to theme parks for many reasons. We all love an escape from our day to day lives. We love the rides. We love the food. We love the sights, smells, and sounds. We love the thrill of the coasters. We love the wonder of the mechanical engineering and creativity that went into making our favorite attractions. All of these and more go into our decisions to continue spending our time and money at these destinations.
However, recently another reason became clear to me. In the last year, I lost several close friends and I was reminded why we go to theme parks. Most of us take friends or family with us on these vacations. Why? We do this because we are sharing these amazing experiences and creating memories. These memories will hit us at unexpected times. The smell of popcorn, the sound of the rides, or seeing a forgotten souvenir can bring those happy times to mind. Memories are the heart of Silverwood.
I was fortunate enough to visit the park and get the inside scoop from some of the longtime employees and family members who graciously shared some of their favorite memories and stories with me. HR Manager Michele Sheets (Formerly Norton) shared with me her experiences in great length. As she reminisced, she recalled working just about every job within the park before working her way into the HR Department. At a young age, she helped work on the historic Engine No. 7 but began her official employment running the pony rides, which is now home to the popular carousel ride inside the front gates.
When I asked her about her favorite park memory growing up, she laughed and said calmly “one time, I almost blew up my brother.” During the days of the airshow, the Red Baron pilot would swoop down and fire upon Snoopy. Show theatrics required somebody to push the effects button. In her excitement, Michele may have pushed the button too soon; giving Snoopy (her brother) quite the surprise! She also shared memories of playing for hours on the Red Barron ride with her siblings when it first arrived at the park and revealed some of her favorite hidden gems within Silverwood. (Follow future blogs for these tidbits!)
I also had the pleasure of learning more about Assistant General Manager Juston Henry. He has been at Silverwood for 28 years! He began his career at the park while in high school working as a Ferris Wheel Operator and worked his way up. He admitted that he has been at the park so long he often catches himself calling things by their old names. His most memorable moment on the job? The day that Leo the Lion got loose and was lying in the middle of the freeway. Police surrounded the area and while everyone stared at each other unsure of how to handle the situation, Leo got bored and eventually moped back to his cage (with a little encouragement from his trainer).
Silverwood is built on the memories of the Norton family and longtime employees. It is these experiences that allow them to create a theme park where families can create their own lifelong memories and share special moments. The Norton family is excited about the continued growth of Silverwood and how far it has come. From stomach-dropping roller coasters to a theme park/water park combo to designated kiddie rides, Silverwood has what it takes to keep families coming back for more.
And although Silverwood has a lot of things to celebrate, I believe that the most important ingredient is the people and the memories behind the creation of the park. It is the people, the history and the family that have created an experience memorable enough for the original kids to want to bring their kids to the park to relive their favorite childhood memories. Silverwood is built by a family for families and they understand how to give you the ultimate experience.
Stay tuned for more adventures, inside tips, and how to have some good old fashioned adult fun!
About the author:
Hi, my name is Allison Rose, and I live and breathe social media! I have lived in Spokane for 30 years and love the PNW and all it has to offer. I own 1-Stop Media, a social media marketing firm in Spokane, WA. Also, I work with other female influencers to provide a free blog for women, Build U Girl Gang. This resource is a place for women to share their authentic selves and inspire other women. I am engaged to a wonderful man and have two beautiful stepdaughters who are 9 and 10. My family absolutely loves spending time at Boulder Beach! I live for the bumper boats, log ride, and para-sail — but I mainly look forward to the train ride and, of course, a visit to the candy store.
I have grown up watching this park evolve. The very first time I visited Silverwood, the only roller coaster was the Corkscrew. I was always mesmerized by the old-time western feel of Silverwood as a child. It was like going back in time or being in a movie!
We have never went but here nothing but wonderful stories about silver qood. Qe hope to have enough money this summer to buy tickets for all our kids. So we can have a good time probably once in a life time story.
Love the water park. Its been a while since we got to come visit, definitely ready!!!
I have never been there, at least not yet, but this is great information when I do take a road trip out there to explore Miss amazing looking place. Would love to bring my grandson’s out
I absolutely love Silverwood, in fact we just got back from two days there. I will continue to take my family there year after year.
I’ve never been, but I hope to start building memories here this summer.
Have not been here yet, but am vacationing here this summer with my granddaughter. Would love to take her there!
I love silverwood. Made lots if memories with my family and hope to make many more with my own kids.
Our favorite summer thing to do ~
Hoping to take My family to silverwood this summer!!!
Went to silverwood fathers day cant wait to go back and bring both my kids this time!!
I love reading every one of these posts just to get me more ready to visit the park!
Silverwood has had a big impact on my childhood, visiting the park every summer with my dad.
Now i try to go every summer i can just to relive those moments!
Silverwood is a family favorite of ours! I remember earning tickets through “Reading is the Ticket” and my kiddos are now doing the same. The train is one of the favorite stops for the family!
I have not been
I follow all things Silverwood and I really enjoyed this post. I feel like I know the ins and outs of the park, I enjoy learning about the history. In fact, when we come, we make sure to watch for newbies and share tips for maximizing their time in the park! Thank you!
Went to Silverwood not too long ago and had an amazing time!
Love the wave pool!
We love taking our family vacation to Silverwood every year. A time to connect with our tween without anyone else or technology. It’s fun. This year we will be adding in our newest addition to the fun…she’s still too little to enjoy it but she will soon enough.
So many fun memories I have of silverwood, can’t wait to come back this fall
Its nice to learn a nit more about Silverwood, and it’s beginnings. Thanks!
Love Silverwood! Great place to go with family.
We love Silverwood! Hopefully we can visit this year! ❣️🥰
Is Leo the Lion still there?
I love going to silver wood next month well be my kids first time going
Its been 3 years since our last family trip to Silverwood. Can’t wait to go back. Its the perfect place to make family memories.
Thanks for sharing!
We have never been! It would be awesome to take our children. We have always wanted to come.❤️
My family has visited Silverwood nearly every summer. The train is possibly our favorite attraction!
We love Silverwood. Missed out on getting discounted season tickets.
Loved some of the old memories like the ponies!
We love Silverwood!
We have never been there. But we plan to make many memories with our family and friends there
We love Silverwood!
Would love to experience Silverwood with my kids. Sounds like a great time and a fun experience!!
Would love to experience Silverwood with my kids. We’ve never been and would love the experience.
One of my best childhood memories is riding the train and seeing the robbers will rolls of toilet paper haha! So much fun!
Cant wait for the opportunity to take my family to silverwood soon ♡
We can’t wait to come back to Silverwood in August 😎
I love the theme park in the summer
I come to Silverwood every summer with my family. Love the cabanas.
We love silverwood
I really would like to win some free tickets!!
Our family needs these memories cant wait to go here
I can’t wait to go. Free tickets for someone in our family would be awesome
I love silverwood I can’t wait to take all 6 kids this summer
I love Silverwood. This will be my 3rd year in a row going. We have a group of 17 going and this would be awesome to win to help us out.
Actually the enchanted forest in Turner Oregon is still owned operated and designed by its original founder, so Mr.Norton is not the only orginal founder to still operate a theme park.
Enjoyed a mother daughter trip to Silverwood in 2005 and am looking forward to another one this summer for more fun!!
Looking forward to my FIRST ever trip to Silverwood this summer!! Super excited for the day!
Love to go to Silverwood with my family. We always have a great time.
Can’t wait to experience Silverwood this summer!
Can’t wait to take my boys here they have never been before
Would love to take my two boys and my daughter and give them the same experience I had when I was a child you never forget those memory’s
We love Silverwood. It has brought many happy memories for my family and I. Happy 31st Year!
We try to go a few times every summer. My kids love it and it’s a great way to spend a hot summer day with family. Planning to go again this summer.
I can’t wait to take my kiddos!
We are so excited for our first upcoming trip to Silverwood! Thanks for the tips!
We’ve only been once, but this year we plan to get there when the doors open at 10:00 am instead of arriving at 11:00 am. We’re excited to visit again this summer!
What a great story, being the only family owned amusement park is sure something to be proud of! I love Silverwood and hope to take the kiddos this summer!
Hoping to win some tickets for our family trip to Silverwood in July.
I had a great time at Silverwood. I loved the train ride and we got to see the baby buffalo. We are looking to get season passes.
Visited Silverwood for the first time this summer and had a great time. Looking forward to many more visits.
The kids love going to silverwood during the summer. Looking forward to taking them again this season.