It was as if the collective goodwill formed by 50 years of summer nights filled with bright lights and laughter somehow formed a shield that chased off the gloomy, wet weather that dominated the rest of day, and Kiwanis’ Kiddieland celebrated its golden anniversary without a drop of rain falling from the sky Saturday night.

The only concession to the weather, and to a sky that looked menacing with its thick, dark clouds on the horizon, was that the hour-long opening ceremony was moved inside the Stephens County Historical Museum rather than being held outdoors under the Fuqua Park gazebo.

After the official ceremony, hundreds of children and adults shared birthday cake and cupcakes and then packed into the amusement park to take advantage of an evening of free rides.

It was a memory-filled evening.

After a welcome by Kiwanian Melvin Jones, Pee Wee Cary ran down a brief history of Kiddieland.

Duncan Mayor Gene Brown read his first proclamation as mayor, declaring Saturday as Kiddieland Park Day, and Sen. Daisy Lawler presented an official Certificate of Appreciation from herself and Rep. Jari Askins.

Brown and Lawler also briefly shared personal reflections about the park.

“It is a privilege and honor to be here,” said Brown.

“Kiddieland has meant so much to Duncan and to my family.”

Brown then related visiting the park while dating his wife, Mary, and using a trip to the park as a reward for his children.

Lawler recalled her days as a school teacher and arranging field trips to the park.

“The children always enjoyed themselves tremendously, and they were always well taken care of by the Kiwanians. This is a terrific asset to the community.”

Duncan Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Larry David, a 29-year veteran of the Kiwanis organization, shared another aspect.

“Not only does Kiddieland create joy on the faces of small people, it also helps Duncan’s high school students,” he said, explaining that Kiddieland allows the Kiwanis to award nine scholarships to high school seniors each year.

“That’s what I think Kiddieland is all about,” he finished.

Marty Askins shared what he called “random” memories: the early days when you could purchase 10 tickets for a dollar; the high, blood-curdling screams when the train goes through its tunnel; the race to be first in line for the Tilt-A-Whirl, and a child’s thoughts on how to shift your weight in your seat for the maximum spin during the ride.

Askins also shared the “tricks” he would play on his children when driving by Kiddieland on nights they couldn’t stop and play.

“We’d turn the radio up, and say, ‘Look, over there at the pool,’” he recalled.

Askins and others shared their memories of their Kiwanian fathers working their volunteer shifts at night, and feeling special because a child of a volunteer worker could ride for free that evening.

Charlene Sullivan presented a roll of “original” tickets to Kiwanian Mary Roberson and the women embraced; sharing that their fathers, Charles Schick and Albert Russell, were Kiwanians when Kiddieland was planned and developed.

“New” testimonials from three young people were read, and fourth- and fifth-grade students of Mark Twain Elementary teachers Patty Jennings and Monica Smith presented a musical tribute, singing and dancing dressed in retro clothing (poodle skirts) and inviting the audience to sing along to their rendition of, “Wishing and Hoping ... (that Kiddieland is open).”

The birthday bash was taped for broadcast by the PBS show “Discover Oklahoma.”

The hostess of the show, Shel Wagner, wearing a bright pink rain hat that she ended up not needing, said she was impressed with the condition of the rides, and the work that has obviously gone into their upkeep, since “vintage rides can be persnickety.”

More that that, she said, she was impressed by the sense of shared community the Kiddieland appears to incorporate. “I’ve discovered that childhood speeds by,” noted Wagner.

“I think Kiddieland offers you a chance to freeze-frame a little bit of childhood and make great memories,” she stated.

Then the crowd moved out to the gates, where 50 balloons were released and the park was re-opened with an official ribbon-cutting.

And the fun began.

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