No admission fee and new name when Six Gun City reopens
JEFFERSON - The overall theme will remain western, but owners of the former Six Gun City are making changes to the park they believe will allow them to add activities and events that will interest a wider audience and make it more affordable for families.
When the park opens Memorial Day weekend, it will have a new name, Fort Jefferson Fun Park, and there will be no admission price. Visitors will pay for rides, food, and gifts, but not to get into the park itself.
This will allow visitors staying at the adjacent Fort Jefferson Campground to wander in and enjoy the park while there, Tom Brady, general manager of the park, said. It will be a big benefit to families who may have older members not interested in the rides, but with kids who are.
The land on which the park sits was purchased in 1941 by Brady's parents James and Eleanor Brady. It was known as the Charlie Crawford daily farm and the Bradys continued to farm it for several years. In 1954, they opened a dairy bar on the property.
In the 1950s, westerns were really big in movies and television. Brady said his father, an outdoors man, decided he wanted to be a part of it and together the family started building what would become Six Gun City. It opened in 1957, and is still family owned.
In recent years, attendance hasn't been as strong as it once was. In fact, the park didn't open right away last summer. Brady said the family considered selling it, but ultimately decided not to.
Business may be down in part because westerns aren't as strong as they used to be, but Brady thinks the main reason is the economy and changes in family situations.
In many families, both parents are working these days, sometimes two jobs, he said. And teens are working more than they used to.
That makes it harder to coordinate a family vacation where everyone can get away at one time. And, when every family member has to pay admission, it can get expensive, he added.
Doing away with admission is not the only change planned.
There are about 45 buildings on the property. Some used to house the park's collection of carriages, wagons and farm implements. Those were all sold at an auction last November.
About 10 of the buildings no longer in use will be renovated into cabins with a western theme.
People will be able to stay nights right on the park grounds and this will help integrate the park and adjacent campground, which Brady said has grown to 100 sites, for both RVs and tents.
Brady said they will probably be changing the hours of the park somewhat to allow it to be open later to accommodate planned bonfires and eventually a barbecue pit and music events.
People will be able to come in and enjoy a barbecue and music, paying only for the food and entertainment, he said.
"This will open up a whole new aspect to the park," he said. "I personally believe this will become really popular."
For those who do come for the rides, and there are about a dozen, an all-day pass will be available for $18.95, which Brady said is about $5 less than the admission price had been.
Some of the cowboy skits Six Gun City was known for won't be done any more, but different ones will be added, Brady said.
They are thinking about doing a kids' rodeo for the younger set. Kids will ride stick horses and be awarded ribbons.
The picnic pavilion will be available for private events, such as company picnics, family reunions and birthday parties.
As Rome wasn't built in a day, the new Fort Jefferson Fun Park won't be changed in a summer, but this new approach is something Brady said the family has been thinking about for some time.
"We believe that what we're doing will build attendance," he said.
New possibilities are opening up all the time. Brady said when locals learned of his plans, some approached him about being able to come in and walk around for exercise.
Absolutely, he told them. Perhaps when they're done walking, they'll stop for a small snack before they leave.