OCEAN CITY — The historic Trimper’s Rides amusement park is celebrating its 125th anniversary this summer and will be recognized for the accomplishment this weekend by a national historical association.
Trimper’s, which opened in 1893 with a pair of hotels and a handful of amusements in the fledgling seaside town of Ocean City, is one of the oldest continually-operating amusement parks in the country. Of the 4,000-plus amusement parks that have existed in the U.S., Trimper’s is one of only 13 to have reached the 125-year milestone and only 10 of those are still in existence.
The achievement will be commemorated by the National Amusement Park Historical Association (NAPHA) and the American Coasters Enthusiasts on Sunday at 11 a.m. with a special ceremony at the iconic park. Noted NAPHA historian Jim Futrell, who has dedicated his career to researching and documenting the history of the nation’s great amusement parks, said Trimper’s holds a special place in the country’s history.
“We are thrilled to be able to share this historic occasion with Trimper’s and the American Coaster Enthusiasts,” he said. “Trimper’s Rides and Amusements is very special in the industry, not only for surviving for 125 years, but for the longtime legacy of the Trimper family, the longest contiguous family ownership of any amusement park in the United States and second longest in the world.”
Two years ago, Futrell’s research determined Trimper’s was the oldest family-owned and operated amusement park in the U.S. and a case could be made for it being the oldest family-owned amusement park in the world. A family-owned park in Great Britain has technically been around longer, but it began as something different and only added amusement rides well after Trimper’s was up and running.
Daniel Trimper and his wife Margaret opened the park in 1893 with two hotels and a handful of amusements. In 1900, after a severe storm, Daniel Trimper rebuilt the Sea Bright Hotel and modeled it after the Windsor Castle in Great Britain and the two hotels coupled with the growing amusement park became known as the Windsor Resort.
In 1912, Trimper’s purchased the massive carousel that still operates today from the Herschell-Spillman Company in New York. The massive carousel is 50 feet in diameter and was driven by a steam engine in the early days.
Over the years, the Trimpers added numerous rides in the historic indoor portion of the park and several have historical significance, including the smaller carousel and the kiddie Ferris wheel, which date to the 1920s. Trimper’s also has one of the largest collections of antique kiddie rides manufactured by pioneer William F. Mangels and the park is recognized for its vintage haunted house and pirate’s cove attractions.
“With its large collection of vintage rides, many of which are rare in today’s industry, Trimper’s represents on the best remaining examples of the classic seaside amusement park experience,” he said.
In the 1950s, the Trimper family began adding outdoor rides and the pace of expansion increased through the 1960s with new rides being added nearly every year. One of the most popular rides in the park, the double-loop Tidal Wave roller coaster, was added in 1985.
Today, Trimper’s is largely run by the fourth and fifth generations in the family to operate the iconic park.
“We’re very honored to receive this recognition,” co-owner Brooks Trimper said. “Mr. Futrell is an amusement park historian and he has written books about the different parks up and down the coast. It’s a great honor to be recognized as one of the oldest operating parks in the country.”
Trimper said reaching the 125-year milestone was a labor of love for the family and there are no plans of slowing down any time soon.
“It’s sad to see some of the older parks around the country closing up,” he said. “It’s a constant battle and one we take very seriously.”
Trimper said one of the main challenges was keeping the park relevant for new generations’ more fixated diversions other than classic amusement park rides.
“It has become increasingly challenging because kids have less interest in amusement park rides and more interest in video games and other diversions, so we are constantly looking at ways to keep it fresh and appealing to younger generations,” he said.
However, Trimper said the family is cognizant of retaining the rides and attractions enjoyed by countless visitors over the last century and a quarter.
“It’s a double-edged sword for us,” he said. “There is so much nostalgia here and any time we take out a ride or an attraction, we get a lot of backlash from people who have been coming here for years. At the same time, we always want to add new things to keep it fresh and appealing and there is only so much square footage.”
NAPHA’s commemoration of the 125th anniversary of Trimper’s on Sunday is a precursor of sorts for a larger celebration of the milestone later this summer. Trimper said the family is planning to mark the 125th anniversary with a special celebration at the park on Aug. 17.