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Backward Glances: Adventureland

Adventureland, the first park of its kind in the Okanagan, was the brainchild of two local residents Sam and Dorothy Pestes. Dorothy, a talented artist and Sam, a teacher with remarkable talents for innovation and building, created a perfect team. Their combined strengths helped them fulfill a dream with imagination and passion and a lot of hard work. Their theme park began to take shape in the late 1960s. The couple had purchased thirty acres of land a few years earlier along Highway 97 what is now Pelmewash Parkway.

Old Woman's Shoe
The Old Woman who lived in a Shoe

During their twelve years of ownership many varied attractions were created, some of the most memorable being the giant slide and their remarkable Time Machine.   “The Old Lady’s Shoe”, a gigantic bright yellow boot served to catch the eye of passing motorists. It also served as a snack bar for visitors. In the background in the photo you will see the large building that housed the Time Machine.

Super Slide at Adventureland
Super Slide

The towering slide, with its majestic view out over Wood Lake, provided a 175 foot high speed thrill ride for all ages.   Each track was waxed to control the speed. Riders sat on mats made from reconstituted gunny sacks. Very high speeds could be achieved and some riders reported “catching air” over the final jump.

The Time Machine was like a miniature Universal Studios as viewers travelled through a series of rooms each providing a unique display. Groups of up to fifteen viewers travelled in a car specially designed and built by Sam. A simulated submarine trip built on the theme of Ogopogo’s Den featured Davy Jones’ Locker, Lost Atlantis, King Neptune’s Cavern, Pinocchio & Jiminy Cricket with the Whale and a futuristic underwater city. Other attractions on the site included Western Town, and a large Noah’s Ark complete with life sized animated sculptures. In all, the ark comprised seven rooms. There was even a small petting zoo to delight the little ones. Visitors were heard to say they’d never seen anything like it outside of Disneyland. All of this was a far cry from the youth summer camp Sam and Dorothy had operated at this location when they first acquired the property.

By the end of the 1970s Adventureland was at its peak employing sixteen staff to tend the thousands of visitors passing through the gates each season. After all their years of dreaming and building, the new reality was that their extensive facility demanded ever increasing work, so the decision was made by Sam and Dorothy to move on. They had achieved and perhaps greatly surpassed all that they had envisioned. The business was sold to the Flintstone Bedrock City Group who continued to operate it for another six years or so. When that company over-extended itself with other projects and failed, Adventureland closed its doors forever. The current owner of the property says that even now a few old pieces of the slide can be found as testimony to what was once a place filled with the happy sounds of children.

And so, like many of those things that gave us such pleasure in earlier days, Adventureland lives on only in the history books and in the childhood memories of many of us who are no longer young. Today Sam and Dorothy live nearby, still active and full of life. Sam has recently authored a book and their quest for new challenges lives on.

Source: Richard Gibbons, Director, Lake Country Heritage and Cultural Society. This article first appeared in The View (September 20, 2014) in Gibbons’ column Backward Glances.

14 Comments

  • thank you

    • You’re welcome. Does it bring back some good memories, Shirley?

  • lived on old mission rd.in the 90’s only heard old stories about adventureland

  • I remember growing up and seeing it so many time and begging to go check it out, but we never stopped.

  • I grew up in Winfield and went there lots. So many memories. I love. Thanks for sharing.

    • So happy to hear that you’re enjoying these articles. It’s so much fun to re-live the past!

      Thanks for the feedback. I don’t see you on our subscriber list. Give it a try as we have lots of great memories for you.

  • We spent a week every summer in the mid 70’s camping nearby. I was 5-9 yrs old and Adventureland was a yearly staple during those years that always captured my imagination; and that slide was the greatest! My sisters and I greatly looked forward to and enjoyed each visit. Too bad you don’t find theme parks much anymore.

  • We use to stop here with our kids in the 70’s on our way from Kamloops, or Fort Nelson on way to Keremeos.

  • Grew up in Kelowna, family in Armstrong, used to drive by it all the time. We never did stop, wish we had, that slide looked like fun!
    Are there any of the old building etc still standing?
    Where was it exactly on the map, I did some Google map searching, but with the highway now up top, it is difficult to see exactly where it was located.
    Thanks

  • Hi Stu,

    There is no evidence left of Adventureland and the land is still vacant, although it is for sale and will likely become a commercial establishment. It is located along the old Highway 97, now called Pelmewash Parkway, just south of the junction with Ponderosa Drive. Check it out on Google maps.

  • I grew up in Calgary, but my mom is from Vancouver Island, so we would frequently vacation in BC and the Okanagan in particular. This was in the Eighties and I fondly remember Adventureland. I even still have a couple souvenirs, emblazoned with their cartoony Ogopogo mascot. It’s really too bad that places like Adventureland, Old MacDonald’s Farm, and Bedrock City aren’t around anymore.

  • This was my favorite place in the world when I was very young, and my grandfather used to take me there once a year when I visited the ranch he worked at, just a few miles south. (I believe it’s a vineyard now). These are the first pics of that old place I’ve found, and it’s nice to read some history. Thank you!

    • It’s wonderful to hear about all the great Adventureland memories! Thanks for sharing.

  • Welcome aboard the Time Machine one of the wonders of modern Science. I was one of those employees, and I am proud to say the first female Time Machine operator. I worked there for 2 summers.
    Thank-you for having this on-line.

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