Monday, July 25, 2016

Ogden's Lorin Farr Park before rodeo fame: World-class bicycling, different park name

 Charles A. Maccarthy, left, and an another cyclist races around the Ogden "Saucer"
 track in Glenwood Park (now Lorin Farr Park), circa about 1910.                                                            (Photo from Utah State Historical Society.)

By Lynn Arave

MENTION Lorin Fark Park today and it probably conjures up images of Ogden’s famous Pioneer Days Rodeo. However, the Park had a storied history long before rodeo fever took hold in Ogden and much of it was under a different name.
A park was first developed on the site, 769 Canyon Road, in about 1880. However, it was originally called Glenwood Park for more than three decades.
The park was a focal point for Ogden’s Fourth of July and Pioneer Day celebrations. Some of Ogden’s first fireworks displays were staged there.
Football, soccer and baseball games -- even track meets were held in the park during its early decades.
The adjacent Jones’s Grove, by the Ogden River, was considered the most refreshing summer swimming hole in the early 20th Century and even out of town tourists went there to cool off. In late winter, ice harvesting dominated this shady area by the Ogden River.

Long before rodeo came along in the park, there were world-class bicycle races there.
The “Saucer,” an indoor bicycle racing arena (velodrome) was built at the park in 1900. But in 1905, the race track did not make enough money to pay its bills and was struggling.
Still, the Los Angeles Herald had this headline on July 18, 1907:
The story stated: “Time for the Professional Mile Is Reduced to 1:48.1; Amateur Also Sets New Mark for Competitors -- At the Glenwood bicycle saucer track here tonight two world's records were lowered.”
By the 1910s, the rise of the automobile, the sport of golfing and then World War I equaled a drastic demise in the popularity of bicycle racing. Soon, the bicycle arena closed and was torn down.
A group of Ogden businessmen, led by William Glasmann, leased the park in 1911 with the hopes of developing a resort superior to anything Salt Lake City had. That effort didn’t fully succeed, but by 1918 there was a merry-go-round in the park and a children’s playground.
It was recommended in July of 1912 by the Daughters of the Pioneers for a new park name, to honor one of Ogden’s most prominent pioneers. After much debate, some favored the present title and others a neutral “Pioneer Park” moniker, but the Farr name soon won out.

                                             Lorin Farr

Lorin Farr (1820-1909) was a Mormon Pioneer, the first mayor of Ogden and the first president of the Weber LDS Stake. He also used to own the land where the park is and directed the building of a pioneer fort in the area in 1850.
By the 1920s, winter ice skating was a popular pastime at Lorin Farr Park and Ogden City had full control of the park again.  In the summer of 1922, a curfew was put in place and more lights added in the park to help prevent vandalism and teens making out.  Vandals damaged many park trees with hatchets.
In the spring of 1923, the park was spruced up and auto parking was expanded. Throughout the 1920s, a dance hall and “Penny Dances,” with 10-piece orchestra were a summer favorite there.
On July 4, 1923, the park was the center of Fourth of July festivities, with picnicking, games, pony rides and 60-foot tall Ferris wheel.
“Wild West Shows,” a forerunner to today’s rodeos, were popular in early 1900s Ogden and across the nation.
However, “Ogden Rodeo is called off” was an August 4, 1920 headline in the Ogden Standard-Examiner. A lack of proper facilities doomed that rodeo.  The first rodeo was held a year later in September of 1921 at Lorin Farr Park.
“Get ready for Ogden Rodeo” was a July 22, 1925 headline in the Standard. This two-day rodeo attracted cowboys and cowgirls from throughout the west at the Park.
“Two carloads of horses and carload of cattle were purchased for use at the show,” the Standard reported. “One of the added features will be a wrestling match Saturday afternoon between Dan Wynn and Jack Reed.”
“Pioneer Days” was coined/expanded and the Ogden rodeo really took off in 1934 when Ogden’s “Cowboy Mayor,” Harman W. Peery, organized a western festival to boost the spirits of the locals and entice tourists to visit the city. Ogden’s “Pioneer Stadium” was then officially created.
Today, the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo, run almost entirely by volunteers, ranks alongside such great rodeos like the Pendleton Roundup and Cheyenne Frontier Days. Ogden Pioneer Days, repeatedly voted the best rodeo in the Wilderness Circuit, draws more than 30,000 annually to its PRCA rodeo and corresponding events.

  Lorin Farr Park merry-go-round in the late 1940s.        (Photo courtesy of Rod Nelson.)

Lorin Farr Park’s “Kiddy Land” -- “A little Lagoon,” featured a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, whip ride, train and little boat ride. The first merry-go-round arrived in the late 1940s, but was sold in 1952 and moved to Rexburg, Id., where it still operates. 
Lagoon Corporation added another merry-go-round in Lorin Farr Park in 1954. All the amusement rides were gone by the late 1970s, though.
There were also monkeys – “Buster and Browne” at the Park in a large cemented round pit from the late 1930s until the late 1950s.
In the 1980s, the pool boasted a 72-foot-tall incline where toboggan type sleds slide down and zoom across the water.
In more recent decades, Pioneer Stadium has hosted monster truck shows, truck pulls, car shows, demolition derby’s, bull fights, barrel racing, mixed martial arts competitions, boxing matches, walk-a-thons, circus events and even celebrity appearances complete with helicopter arrivals.

                      The Lorin Farr swimming pool and slides today.

Today, Lorin Farr Park still has a summer swimming pool with water slide tubes and a nearby, 12,800-square-foot skating park. The park also offers two reservable covered picnic areas, playgrounds, rock wall lined walkway along the Ogden River and restrooms. A large parking lot provides off street parking. Lots of shade make this a very relaxing spot and the nearby Ogden River offers fishing opportunities.
A traditional log cabin, once serving as the park caretaker's home, is now a hospitality/VIP facility complete with lighted patio.

                  Lorin Far Park's rodeo stadium.

(-Written by Lynn Arave and originally published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner's "Wasatch View" magazine in July of 2016.)