IAAPA News - Member Milestone - October 2018


FROM LEFT: Silverwood General Manager and IAAPA Board Member Paul Norton, park founder Gary Norton, and IAAPA Chief Operating Officer Doug Stagner

Silverwood Celebrates 30 Years

by Doug Stagner, IAAPA Chief Operating Officer

What started as a public showplace for the hobby trains and airplanes of Gary Norton quickly blossomed into a full attraction. Thirty years after its founding, Silverwood is a thriving theme park, water park, and campground. 

Silverwood became a loyal and active IAAPA member long before the park even opened its doors.

Gary’s son Paul Norton, now Silverwood’s general manager, recalls going to IAAPA Attractions Expo many years ago. Gary and Paul say the annual trade show, along with its education sessions, and the connections made at an IAAPA Expo have fueled the growth and development of their property.

Located in northern Idaho (an hour east of Spokane), the drive to the park becomes an adventure within itself. As visitors travel past the beautiful mountain scenery along the two-lane highway leading to the park, one’s intuition can sneak in and scream, “There’s no way there’s a park way out here!” 

Even today, if you hired a handful of consultants, their feasibility studies would likely all come back against building a park there. Thankfully, that didn’t deter Gary. In fact, he hasn’t used an outside industry consultant in the design and growth of the park. 

You can say, after a successful career in the high-tech field, he is a self-taught industry expert. Gary credits IAAPA with much of the success over the years—along with going to Disneyland repeatedly and sitting on a bench, just watching. During moments of quiet contemplation, Gary would ask himself what park guests like, what they didn’t like. The observations would later influence his park design.

Today, Sliverwood is a beautiful, well-run and maintained property. The main park has a diverse ride and attraction lineup, including many secondhand rides that look and feel brand new. The signature wooden coaster doesn’t meander next to a gift shop but passes under it, visible to shoppers above. The adjoining water park is also self-designed by Gary and features not one, but two adult favorites—the swim up bars. Venture into one of the several park retail stores or food outlets, and you’ll discover rich woodwork, quality decor, and an attention to detail. Again, all done in-house, under the watchful eye of Gary and his team.

After 30 years, Gary and Paul aren’t resting on their past successes. They have ambitious growth plans, including expansions of the theme park, water park, an RV park, and the addition of overnight accommodations. Ensuring the next 30 years will be as exciting, if not more, as the first 30.