Lakeside in Winter

On Changing Denver this month, we head northwest to Lakeside Amusement Park. For more than a century, Lakeside has been a popular destination for people of all ages, but only between May and September. What happens during the park’s off-season? Where do the people of Lakeside go? And who are they?

Here’s more information on David Forsyth’s book, Denver’s Lakeside Amusement Park: From the White City Beautiful to a Century of Fun.

Our theme song is “Minnow” by Felix Fast4ward.

Elk Minister and Chimney Choir generously allowed us to use their music in this episode. “Into the Void of Emptiness” was the first single of Elk Minister’s upcoming album, “There’s a System of Control,” which will be available through iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, CDBaby and other distributors, like Elk Minister’s website, bandcamp, and soundcloud on January 13. The tracks “In this Light,” “I Know the Way,” and “In the Underworld” all appear on Chimney Choir’s album “Boomtown“. Their new album “(dream)” is available now.

Rebecca Aronauer is a fiction writer who organizes Making the Mountain, a quarterly event series featuring local artists at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

You can peruse crime data for Lakeside at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s website.

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Thanks for listening!

For your reading pleasure, here is the text of the short story Rebecca Aronauer wrote for this episode.

A Lakeside Husband

You can never really tell when the seasons change in Colorado. I’ve lived in Lakeside for five years now, and I’ve seen enough snowstorms on Mother’s Day to know that a warm day in April doesn’t count for anything. There isn’t spring or fall here; there are only shadows of winter and summer. And in a town built for an amusement park like Lakeside was, summer is just another word for in-season. To me, summer starts the first time I yell to myself about day-drinking thrill seekers taking over the roads.

And today when a driver turned left at Sheridan and 44th and nearly ran into me, summer began.

My little girl Lanie was in the car and I shouted a bunch of words she shouldn’t hear and hopefully won’t repeat to her mother. I wasn’t even angry with that driver. I was angry with all the idiots like her who were going to descend onto my statutory town for the rest of the season and try to run me off the road.

Of course Joanne, my wife, didn’t care about the near-accident. She just wanted to hold Lanie. That’s all either of us wanted to do when Lanie was born—Lanie used to like it too—but now that she’s three, she’s squirming more.

“Why are you telling me about something that almost happened?” Joanne said. She was talking in a sing-song voice to Lanie, and as she spoke, the Zoom Drop Tower fell and screams of fear overtook our conversation. Lanie herself began crying and begged to be let down.

Joanne’s family built Lakeside; they had. benefited from fluctuating traffic for generations, and near accidents didn’t do much for her. To her, a story about a zealous left turn was about as relevant as a report from the mirror that I was bald. And maybe that’s not a story, but I’m still a bit disappointed every time I catch my reflection.

“Are you coming tomorrow?” Joanne asked.

Tomorrow was Saturday, and Saturday was her Lakeside day. She went with friends from high school who had strong stomachs or her mom, who was always happy to be in the alternate universe her family had designed.

“I’m helping a guy from work move,” I said.

“You know Saturday is our day,” she said.

Of course I knew that. Also, I had no friend from work who needed help moving. She probably knew that too.

The truth was that I got a little nervous on rides. And anyway, theme parks were terrible. They had all the con of a casino, without even the hope of money to be made. There were only lines to wait on, crap food to consume, and toys to win and then throw away or hoard.

I used to be indifferent to the whole amusement park industry. My animosity began five years ago, after I had rearranged my life for a woman I had met on a singles cruise.    

“So all day tomorrow, you’re moving some guy instead of going down the road to the park with your daughter?”

The Zoom Drop Tower fell again; strangers screamed. I stared at the Ferris wheel needlepoint her mother had made for us and said nothing.

People keep telling you who they are until you believe them, and then they’re just living and you stop wondering what their actions mean. Joanne had told me about Lakeside when we first met. I had thought she just was into rides and was proud to be part of a family with some history. So she loved Lakeside? That would take up her time, but not mine. At worst, Lakeside was nothing more than a self-serious hobby, like podcasting or marathon training. And when you meet someone who wants to be in love and is even open to being in love with you—well, that’s a lot to have in common.

But Joanne’s love of Lakeside wasn’t a hobby. It was a kind of religion for her, and she wanted to raise our daughter in the same faith. I had agreed to go on the High Holidays—Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day—but I hadn’t converted. I couldn’t do Saturday services.

She knew that, but wasn’t happy about it. Every week, she asked me to go, and almost every week I found a lie. We could have fought for hours about it each time, but usually things ended with some light bickering. Neither of us liked fighting—another thing to have in common—and she didn’t ask me too many more questions about my coworker.

Maybe that’s not a story, maybe it’s just another near-accident, the kind that Joanne has no interest in. But things that almost happen—like the Zoom Drop Tower nearly breaking my back before slowing to a safe stop—have their place. And I’m not ready for a story about disappointment, betrayal, divorce, and joint-custody with an amusement park.

We visited Lakeside on the last Saturday of the season last year. Hope this whets your appetite for when the park reopens in May!