The 2019 season promises to be the biggest yet for Canada’s Wonderland. The park will introduce Yukon Striker, a world-record-breaking dive roller coaster, and Winterfest, an immersive holiday-themed event, making it truly an amusement park for all seasons.
As well, Canada’s Wonderland will officially open Frontier Canada – which is arguably, the most historically significant event to take place.
To understand the importance of this ‘new’ gold-rush themed section, we’ve got to travel back in time more than 37 years. Back to a time when Maple, Ontario was still farmland, Wonder Mountain didn’t exist and Canada’s Wonderland was merely a fantastic concept waiting to be realized.
When Taft Broadcasting began to build the park, intentions were to open in 1981 with five themed areas: International Street, Medieval Faire, Grande World Expo 1890, The Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera and Frontier Canada.
The latter section would be representative of the rugged Yukon backcountry during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s. Guests would be treated to adventure in the wilderness, and have a chance to experience and learn about life for prospectors, miners, lumberjacks, and Indigenous people who were part of the great gold rush boom along the Yukon River’s headwaters.
The late Pierre Berton, Canadian journalist, historian and nearby Kleinberg resident, was brought on as a consultant to provide historically accurate ideas for the new area. As part of his research he travelled to Silver Dollar City in Missouri to examine their 1880s-themed amusement park. He also drew on his extensive knowledge of the Klondike Gold Rush, having been born in the Yukon and growing up in Dawson City, where his father had moved during the 1898 stampede. He also authored several books on the subject including Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899.
Some of the attractions he proposed included The Chilkoot Tramway and Slide, a Steamboat Ride, The Search for John Franklin: An Arctic Experience and a hands-on Gold Panning Experience, among others.
At some point in the ensuing months, Taft Broadcasting made the decision to postpone the construction of Frontier Canada until the year after opening, in 1982. Instead, the fifth themed area would be International Festival.
The decision to postpone was explained by Mike Filey, Canada’s Wonderland publicist, in The Topic newspaper in July 1980: “Basically we had a choice. We could have forced it and had a watered-down Canadian section in the park, or we could wait and do the job right. We decided that the latter was the best route.”
As was further explained in the Amusement Park Journal in 1981, “First, any new park had to add attractions (in subsequent years) to have the visitors return. Second, it was important that the theme areas that were going to open be done well. If everything had been built at once, quality would have suffered.”
However, 1982 came and went and Frontier Canada was shelved indefinitely, presumably due to financial constraints.
Skip ahead to more recent years under Cedar Fair’s ownership, and you can see Canada’s Wonderland has been busy getting back to its roots. Canadian-themed attractions have been added, such as Lumberjack, Flying Canoes, Soaring Timbers, Muskoka Plunge and even the kiddie area in Splash Works, Lakeside Lagoon. Frontier Canada will now be home to many of these attractions, plus classics Mighty Canadian Minebuster, White Water Canyon, Timberwolf Falls, Vortex and the brand-new Yukon Striker dive coaster.
As to what else is in store for Frontier Canada, well, everyone will just have to wait and see!
Canada’s Wonderland staff are excited to finally bring life to Frontier Canada, after its conception so long ago. It’s created a sense of renewed pride in what we do, to infuse a bit of our Canadian identity and history into our amusement park.