Pop goes the wagon
I often get asked how I got into the theme park business. The answer is I just did. There was no place to learn and no one to teach me. Whenever I needed something I figured out how I could build it, using whatever I could find along with the simple tools I had at hand. In the beginning we didn't have the modern tools nor the fancy materials we enjoy now. We flew by the seat of our pants, making do. The projects are certainly bigger and much more complex these days but we still seem to operate at the same edge of the envelope.
One of our very first projects was a popcorn wagon - a very small business we started in Chemainus, BC. about 1985. I first looked into buying a wagon but quickly discovered they were far, far out of our budget. The solution was to build one ourselves. I scrounged some antique wagon wheels from somewhere. I got a friend to weld up the frame from scrap steel. We located a used popcorn kettle and then fashioned a plywood wagon around it. We sanded it down and painted it with a brush. Janis sewed up the striped canopy. In the end we spent but a tiny fraction of what a new unit would have cost. It turned out that the popcorn selling business wasn't nearly as lucrative as I had imagined and so we sold the wagon, recovering all of our investment - plus a little.
I discovered I loved to build creative projects much more than I liked operating them. While our little street vending venture wasn't a huge success it did provide us with some great experience in the theme building business.