White County Locals Reflect on the History of Indiana Beach

June 1926, that's the year Indiana Beach, then called Ideal Beach came to Monticello Indiana. The iconic summer staple was created by the now local Legend named Earl Spackman. Some say since the Spackman family sold the park it's never been the same.

Posted: Feb 19, 2020 7:18 PM
Updated: Feb 19, 2020 7:27 PM

MONTICELLO, Ind. (WLI)- After nearly a century Indiana Beach is permanently closing and ceasing all operations. While the news came as a shock to several people who live in the community, others say they saw it coming. Either way, people in the community say the park's rich history is something that will always be remembered in White County.

“The beach early had a lot of the big-name bands,” said Judith Baker the Director, of the White County Historical Society. The Glenn Miller Band was a big name that came here. The Thomas Dorsey band played at Indiana Beach. It wasn’t just local rinky-dink bands, we are talking about bands that were known across the nation.”

June 1926, that's the year Indiana Beach, then called Ideal Beach came to Monticello Indiana. The amusement park has always had a lot to offer. It not only had attractions for kids, but the boardwalk and dance halls were also a staple of the popular summer getaway. The iconic summer staple was created by the now local Legend named Earl Spackman.

"It was just a perfect opportunity as a good entrepreneur that he was to start Ideal Beach," added Baker "In time his son Tom continued and it stayed in that family unit then up until they sold."

Baker says the name was changed sometime in the 1950s to Indiana Beach. The well-known summer attraction was sold by the family in the mid-2000s and hasn't been locally owned since. Some say since the Spackman family sold the park it's never been the same.

"I'd say it went away from being a family-oriented park to a big corporation,” said Todd Mcfadden who grew up in Monticello. “I mean Tom was always out there he'd always talk to people and now they don't do that. "

Now the park is permanently closed, which even the mayor of Monticello says wasn't a surprise.

"If you have lived here for any amount of time it had been part of the rumor mill for years," said Monticello Mayor Kathy Gross.
Mayor Gross says that Indiana Beach is part of Monticello’s culture.

“It's part of our heritage,” said Gross. It's our history. It's an amazing legacy. There are few people who grew up here who didn't work there for one of their first jobs.”

Mayor Gross said her first job was even at Indiana Beach. She said her job was to pick up cigarette butts off of the boardwalk. She worked there in the mid-1970s which says is when it was at its busiest.

“You could barely walk down the boardwalk, added Mayor Gross.

While the mayor wasn’t surprised by Apex Parks' decision to close the park, some people in the community say they were shocked when they heard the news.

"That was a big reason that I moved down here I have three kids and I was thinking this is a great place to live and that was a huge plus," said Carina Batalis who Lives in Monticello.

The legacy of Indiana beach may have come to an end this week, but locals hope the park's memories will live on forever.

"I hope that the people remember in a time period that a smaller amusement park gave your local family a lot of fun,” said Baker.
The White County Historical Society has a large collection of photos and newspaper clippings that chronicle the evolution of Indiana Beach. For information on how to look at the pictures and literature visit their website by clicking here.

Indiana beach did release a statement on Wednesday saying “Despite significant effort and a great deal of investment in infrastructure and rides, we have not seen an improvement in operating results. As such, we made the difficult decision to cease operations. This was not a decision entered into lightly. Team members are being assisted by their supervisors and the company is working to minimize impact to those affected. Guests may visit www.indianabeach.com.

The statement didn't provide any explanation for season ticket holders. It directed further questions to indianabeach.com, where there is a document you can fill out with specific questions. We asked the company for specific information on whether season ticket holders could expect their money back. Apex has not responded.

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