Behind Indiana Beach from the beginning was the Spackman family. Founder, Earl Spackman, developed the property with his son, Tom Spackman, working alongside him. Today the Spackman family vision has driven Indiana Beach to grow from a swimming area in a cornfield to the largest Amusement Resort and Vacation Playground in Indiana, an escape destination enjoyed by nearly 3/4 of a million visitors annually. Over 40 rides and attractions, games, fine dining, dancing, an exciting Waterpark, six roller coasters, and so much more ... it all had to begin somewhere ...
A dam was built creating Lake Shafer, near Monticello, Indiana. Earl Spackman took his family to the new Lake in hopes of purchasing a lot to build a vacation cottage. While the location was beautiful, the sharp banks of the artificial lake made finding a place to swim in the waters impossible. The dam and the creation of Lake Shafer were big projects for the Indiana area. Travelers would often pass by to see the new lake and view the on-going venture.
With an announcement that Lake Shafer would be lowered to provide water for Lake Freeman, Spackman was struck with an idea: People wanted a place to swim and he was going to give it to them. Using a horse and wagon, 2x4s, and a shovel, Earl Spackman and others literally created a beach along the shores of Lake Shafer. In addition, the crew built a bathhouse for guests to change in and a small refreshment stand. In 1926, Ideal Beach opened to the public with a 12 year-old Tom Spackman working hard behind the counter of the refreshment stand.
In 1927, Ideal Beach added some excitement to its lineup with the arrival of a pair of Toboggan Slides. Guests would drop nearly 30 feet downhill aboard these popular thrill attractions, and then skip across the Lake Shafer water. With its first successful attractions in place, Ideal Beach still needed to grow. Spackman knew the more attractions he had in place; the more guests would flock to the Beach and stay for a while. With no master plan in place, it seemed to grow on its own. However, after noticing a small successful dance floor on the other side of the lake, Spackman made one addition in 1930 that stood out from the rest and began a tradition that remains through the present day. A new dance floor was the centerpiece of the legendary Ideal Beach Ballroom. The floor hosted evening dances for guests and residents of the surrounding area. Still in use today, it continues to play host to many special events at the Beach. But, in the '30’s, the Ideal Beach Ballroom was a home to the growing Big Band Era. Expanding twice, the Ballroom quickly became one of the major attractions.
Tom Spackman took over operation of Ideal Beach when his father passed away in 1946. Branching-out the appeal of Ideal Beach, Tom introduced the Beach’s first permanent rides in 1947. The arrival of the Ferris Wheel, Merry-Go-Round, and Roll-O-Plane (also called The Bullet) delighted guests with every ride. Unique to Ideal Beach’s lakeside location, guests could also be thrilled aboard the Wahoo, Jr. ... a Chris Craft speed boat which rocketed guests across the waters of Lake Shafer.
For Tom Spackman’s vision to continue and grow, he knew more people had to come to Ideal Beach. Knowing the immediate area did not have enough population to support the growth, Spackman had to figure out a way to attract more people ... with many people not knowing where Ideal Beach was. Spackman wanted people to know that they could come to Indiana to have fun and enjoy a vacation, he wanted them to know everything that the Beach paradise had to offer, and he wanted them to know where in the world Ideal Beach really was. To accomplish this, in 1950, Tom Spackman elected to change the name from Ideal Beach to Indiana Beach.
The name change made certain that guests were able to tell their friends and family exactly where they had been. But that was only part of Tom Spackman’s mission. People had to know about Indiana Beach, they had to hear about it and all it had to offer and pay attention to what they heard. He wanted them to come, for a day, for a weekend, for a week ... but that required getting their interest in any way he could. Knowing he couldn’t rely on just word of mouth and the window cards of old, Tom came up with promotions, or stunts, to attract attention to Indiana Beach. Some of the best included high-wire acts, escape artists such as The Great Pasha, a man being shot out of a cannon, a promotion welcoming extra-terrestrials to the Beach, and an ex-G.I. living under water!
With attention from the name change and his outlandish stunts, Tom Spackman, Sr. continued to develop his family’s paradise amongst the Indiana Cornfield’s. The “Riviera of the Midwest” was the title which suited Indiana Beach perfectly. Spackman strived to continue to create & maintain this ideal paradise for his guests.
Keeping that central idea in mind, Indiana Beach gained its first icon on the lake with the arrival of the Shafer Queen in 1961. A beautiful paddle wheeler, the Shafer Queen took guests on guided tours of the area surrounding Indiana Beach. The original Shafer Queen was retired in 1972 and became a lakeside restaurant known as The Pronto Princess. The new Shafer Queen was designed by master craftsman Bill Luse and began carrying passengers in 1973. Today, the Shafer Queen remains the largest regularly scheduled paddle wheel boat in Indiana.
Other rides and attractions were added over the years including the Dodg’em, Antique Autos, the Scrambler, and the popular Mystery Mansion haunted house dark ride (now The Den of Lost Thieves). In 1966, Spackman’s imagination expanded the park even further over the waters of Lake Shafer with the addition of the largest suspension bridge in the Midwest. Connecting the Boardwalk Funway to the new south parking lot, the footbridge was a path directly over the lake for guests to arrive at Indiana Beach and take in the spectacular view of the surrounding area along the way. In 1971, Indiana Beach forever altered its skyline when it received its first ever roller coaster: The Galaxi.
In 1985, Indiana Beach adopted its enduring mascot, IB Crow, and his identifying catchphrase, “There’s More Than Corn in Indiana! A far cry from the classic banner that “The Riviera of The Midwest” had given Indiana Beach, “There’s More Than Corn in Indiana!” succeeded in making the paradise readily identifiable to the public. The reach of the campaign, the popularity of the slogan, and the versatility of IB Crow grew exponentially over the years.
The arrival of IB Crow and the uncanny success of the new campaign brought people like never before to Indiana Beach. Now drawing heavily out of Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, & Michigan as well as several other states, Indiana Beach was being discovered as the paradise in the middle of a cornfield. With more people came a need for more attractions. After 60 years, the Beach itself was still the centerpiece to the park, but Spackman saw a need to add more water fun & excitement. In 1987, Indiana Beach added a Waterpark. Given special constraints, all of the water slides and the long Action River had to be literally constructed over and in the waters of Lake Shafer.
In early 1994, Indiana Beach announced its plans to build a wooden roller coaster. Being the first one to be built in the state in over fifty years, and, at the time, the only wooden roller coaster in the state, the announcement was groundbreaking for both Indiana Beach and the state of Indiana. To give the Hoosier Hurricane a unique feel, and help with the space issues, the majority of the coaster was built directly over Lake Shafer with many of the drops designed to bring riders down to the edge of the water. Tom Spackman, Sr. got a firsthand view of his design work as he took the very first ride aboard the Hoosier Hurricane on opening day, May 27, 1994. A unique and exciting out-and-back coaster, The Hoosier Hurricane was the perfect addition to Indiana Beach’s lineup of attractions and it was a ride like no other.
Several new additions started popping up over the next few years. The 1992 addition of the Water Swing let guests glide on the wind over Lake Shafer. The wild Big Flush water coaster delivered wild water fun to any who braved its twists and turns. The exciting Double Shot and giggle inducing Frog Hopper rides arrived in 1999 to the delight of thrill-seekers of all ages. Even IB Crow received a ride in honor of his name as Air Crow took to the skies and let guests pilot their own crow over the water.
Today, Indiana Beach is home to six roller coasters. Of them, three are wooden roller coasters, including the world-famous Cornball Express, voted the #1 Wooden Coaster in the world by ThemeParkCritic.com in 2002! In addition, Indiana Beach is home to Indiana's 1st custom steel coaster, Steel Hawg. Through all its new attractions, new slogans, and new guests, Indiana Beach never forgot its place as a classic facility filled with classic attractions. Whether it’s getting’ their fannies riding on a coaster, relaxing in the summer sun, or dancing & dining with family & friends, generations have enjoyed all that Indiana Beach has to offer. With plans for tomorrow blossoming every day, exciting changes every season, and a continued commitment to quality, there are no limits in sight for Indiana Beach’s future. From a cornfield that a horse and cart turned into a beach swimming area to the largest amusement & vacation playground in the state of Indiana, from its humble beginnings as Ideal Beach to its undying popularity in the hearts of guests of all ages and generations, Indiana Beach has come to represent that there truly is “more than corn in Indiana...”