By: Hillary Delaney
In 1968, it was announced that Boone County would be home to a large amusement park. The concept for “Frontier Worlds,” as the park was to be called, was conceived by Fess Parker. The popular actor had portrayed “Davy Crockett” and was still starring in the popular “Daniel Boone” television series when he began the process of developing this project in 1968.
Parker had been considering larger cities as locations for the park. Both St. Louis and Denver were in the running, but those locations didn’t have the charm of Kentucky’s Governor Louie Nunn on their side. “We countered with Florence, population 5,837 and Burlington, population 350, and Gunpowder Creek, and we won,” the exuberant governor told the press. The planning was then in full swing.
Parker had purchased 76 acres, and had an option on 1,500 more in the Walton area. His initial projected budget was $13.5 million. Parker’s vision of the project was a journey through the “frontiers” of American history, beginning with the Mayflower landing. The frontiers would take visitors through time, culminating in a science and space-themed area. The actor’s plans also included super-attractions: the Rocky Mountain Thrill Ride, the Huck Finn Raft Adventure, the Salem Witch Whirl-through and the Anti-gravity Walk-through.
Actors portraying heroes from history and legend would be scattered throughout the park, offering an entertaining look into our history. Additionally, a showboat-style venue was planned, complete with live stage shows for park visitors to enjoy. Parker’s plans for the Boone County acreage didn’t end with the park, however. He also planned to develop residential, commercial and public recreation areas surrounding the amusement park. The success of Disneyland, along with Parker’s love of history, motivated the actor to pursue the “Frontier Worlds” project. Parker had worked closely with Walt Disney during the filming of the “Davy Crockett” mini-series, and rode with him in the opening parade for Disneyland.
Sadly the publicity Parker generated backfired. The Wachs family, who owned Cincinnati’s Coney Island, had begun exploring the idea of relocating their park in 1964, due to repeated flooding and parking concerns. The 1968 announcement of the “Frontier Worlds” project prompted the Wachs family to move more quickly. Taft Broadcasting purchased Coney Island Park from the family in 1968, then went on to develop the Kings Island Park in Warren County.
Fess Parker’s dream of a history-based theme park was dashed, as were the hopes of many in Boone County, with an eye on future growth. “Daniel Boone” returned to California to pursue other investments, and the rest is history.