The Original Rockford Nostalgic Website
Kiddieland Park - Sherwood Park
Kiddieland Park was incorporated by Ernest W Gutzmer, Leslie E Gutzmer and Ernest R Gutzmer and was located northeast of Rockford on Illinois Highway 173 adjacent to Loves Park and the River Lane Outdoor Theater. Illinois Highway 173 was later renamed to Forest Hills Road, and the parks new address became 5810 Forest Hills Road. Kiddieland Park opened in 1950 and was billed as fun for the whole family. Kiddieland Park was the first local area amusement park since the demise of Harlem Park in 1928, and Central Park's closure eight years earlier in 1942. Amusements included children's auto rides, boat rides and pony rides.
The featured attraction at the park was the "Rockford Limited", one of the largest and most modern small gauge trains be built in recent years. The train which was highly detailed was equipped with sway action springs and air brakes on each wheel. Powered by a 22-hp engine, the engine and train were completed after nearly two years of building in the shops of the Miniature Train Company of Rensselaer Indiana. The train offered young and old a real thrill as a it pulled in and out of the station as the engineer pulled the whistle cord. The train which was 76 feet in length, traveled over 3,100 feet of track. They would also add a large merry-go-round to the park in September 1950 just north of the refreshment stand.
In 1951 Kiddieland Park featured seven rides, concessions and other attractions and had been enlarged and could now accommodate thousands of visitors nightly. The sound of carnival music and the smell of popcorn, cotton candy and other foods were in the air. The park was open daily from 4 PM to 10 PM and Saturdays and Sundays from 2 PM to 10 PM during the summer months. The park would remain open on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays during the school year until weather forced it to close for the season. Ticket prices at the time were 13¢ or 2 for 25¢.
There was several contests at Kiddieland over the years. In 1953 during the month of June, Kiddieland Park ran the Name Me contest where you could win prizes naming the parks new Pet Deer, Skunk and two Raccoons. Or you could bring a box top from Wheaties which entitled you to a free ride on any ride.
The park would eventually grow larger and add more rides over the years including Tubs of Fun, Tilt a Whirl, Boat Ride, Children's roller coaster with an oval layout, Rocket Plane, Scrambler, Haunted House, Merry-go-Round, Bumper Cars, two performing chimps named KoKo and Tico, Pony Rides and of course the miniature train and other attractions, food and novelty stands.
In 1957 the newest addition to the Rockford area's entertainment facilities, Sherwood Lodge, which was a part of Kiddieland Park, located just south of the park on Forest Hills Road. The spacious 5000 square foot lodge was functionally beautiful, featuring modern kitchen, plumbing, heating, electrical and public address system that made it ideal for social or business purposes. The lodge was available on a rental basis for all manner of parties, banquets, balls, weddings and dances, it was ideal for both small and large gatherings. Because of it's design, combining log walls and an arched roof with sound cushioning tile, the building had perfect acoustics, excellent lighting, a dance floor and stage. Many family reunions, Christmas parties, business shows, wedding receptions and other social functions were held here. During the 1960's and 70's there were many "battle of the bands" held at the lodge.
Controversy arose in January 1962 when the city of Loves Park annexed the rural property on which Kiddieland was situated. Kiddieland Park owner Leslie Gutzmer stated that he would prefer not to be annexed to either Loves Park or Rockford. In addition to Kiddieland the annexation also included Woodward Governor, Rockford Blacktop Construction Company, Seven Up Company Warehouse and the American Chicle Company, who all opposed being annexed to Loves Park.
In February 1962 papers were filed in court for the dissolution of Kiddieland Park. The park would continue to operate and in October 1962 the park underwent a change in owners and name to Sherwood Park Kiddieland with M. W. Kling as president, Ronnie L. Kling, vice president, and Milton Kling Jr., as secretary- treasurer. The Klings trained animals, they had several chimps who would entertain at Kiddieland Park and other affairs. The Klings would obtain the chimps when only months old and raise them as one would a child, with diapers, and baby clothes and kept in a playpen until they were old enough to climb out on their own. KoKo is pictured above at the park. Notice the price of ride tickets have increased, good for adults and children alike - 15¢ each or 7 for a $1. You could buy the Budget Book of 30 for $4.
When long time owner Milton W Kling, Sr. turned the park over to his sons, the Kiddieland name was dropped and it was renamed Sherwood Park for the continuation of its final years. In December 1967 with a major expansion planned, Sherwood Park purchased the giant wooden roller coaster "Jetstream" including it's colorful lighted sign from the just closed Riverview Amusement Park in Chicago. The Jetstream was the only roller coaster at Riverview that was not demolished, in fact it was just installed in Riverview two years prior and was not even paid off. Because of insurance concerns the roller coaster was never rebuilt here locally and Sherwood Park sold the roller coaster and it ended up in a amusement park in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In 1977 the Warner-Lambert Company would purchase Kiddieland Park and Sherwood Lodge for an expansion project. Sherwood Lodge and the wooden buildings at Kiddieland Park were donated to the Blackhawk Area Council of Boy Scouts of America. Many volunteers and the Boy Scouts dismantled the buildings and moved them to a different location. The rides were sold and Kiddieland, Sherwood Park and Sherwood Lodge now only live on in our memories.
Rockford Kiddieland, 5900 West State Street next to the Robin Theater. 1952
In July 1919 Rockford residents John E. Cook and A. J. Williams opened the New Milford Amusement Park six miles southeast of Rockford after obtaining a five year lease on the six acre property. The park was along the Kishwaukee River at the Eleventh Street cement road at the New Milford bridge. The park was ideal for picnics and outings and many local companies took advantage of the beautiful grounds for company picnics and social gatherings. A large pavilion was constructed on the grounds where dancing was a popular attraction. Music for the most part was provided by Williams six piece orchestra.
Kiddies Paradise, 11th Street and Blackhawk Road, 1951
Petta's Drive In had a Pettaville Kiddieland, probably a small playground, 1953
North Towne Shopping Center offered a baby sitter service that included a "Kiddieland" , rides 2 for 25¢
Fun 4 All Amusement Park, 4909 West State Street, 1990
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