Merced County Times Newspaper
The Power of Positive Press

This Newspaper Will Once Again Stand In Support Of Kids, Kiddieland

Times Editorial

By John Derby & Jonathan Whitaker

Fifteen years ago this month, state inspectors closed down Kiddieland at Applegate Park in Merced. They said the small amusement park — after a half century of operation — wasn’t up to code, and needed a variety of upgrades to reopen.

The move caused a stir in the community, as you can imagine.

Volunteers from the nonprofit Kiwanis Club of Greater Merced are the ones who maintain the park, and they have done so since its opening in 1957. Kiddieland features six rides for children: the Kiddieland Express train, the Go-Gator rollercoaster, the Merry-Go-Round, the Helicopter ride, the Rocket Ship ride, and the Car ride. There’s also a Snack Shack.

The 2008 closure announcement was indefinite; there was no telling how long it might take for children to start enjoying the rides again. Kiwanis members were faced with having to rewire and rework the rides, write updated operations manuals, and create height restrictions for riders. There were new inspection fees on the horizon and immediate lost revenue due to the closure.

One thing was apparent: the 2008 Kiddieland season was over well before it was scheduled to end in the final days of October.

The Kiwanis immediately set their goal on the following spring. Surely they could get the beloved park back open by then. Fundraising and community support were needed. And the County Times did not hesitate to join in the effort.

Publisher John Derby wrote editorials, and staff reporters covered the story like it was one of the biggest events of the year. The newspaper also donated advertising space for fundraising events and sponsorship drives.

The Merced-area community responded, and soon not only the mandated upgrades were being realized, but residents also could see fresh coats of paint and new signage going up at the park.

By the time April of 2009 came around, the new and improved Kiddieland was ready to open. The kids cheered, laughed and enjoyed themselves on Easter, and it was another colorful season of renewal in Merced.

Later the Times earned a public service award from the California Newspapers Association for its effort to “Save Kiddieland.”

Today, the Times is being summoned for support once again. This time it’s to “Save The Train.” You may have read about the most recent Kiddieland predicament on the front page of the last week’s Times.

In the midst of the 2023 Kiddieland summer season, safety concerns are forcing Kiwanis leaders to retire the old train and replace the weathered railroad tracks around Applegate. They served generations of fun-loving families; however, a new era has begun.

The decision has been made to embrace the future and invest in a battery-powered electric train, complete with all kinds of bells and whistles, and accessibility for all to enjoy. An expanded paved route is also in the planning stages. It will be Kiddieland’s most ambitious project in the park’s 66-year history.

We ask readers, local businesses and community groups to please join the Times in supporting the Kiwanis Club as they raise funds to “Save The Train” at Kiddieland.

If we work hard enough, thousands of local kids will be staring wide-eyed at a shiny new Kiddieland Express by next Spring and Easter. Kids grow up so fast. Let’s get this done!

There are various levels of tax-deductible Save The Train sponsorships and they feature display recognitions, including a permanent place on the sponsor board at Kiddieland. Learn more online at: Or email Janet Ramsey, the Kiwanis sponsorship chair at: [email protected], or call (209) 769-8272.

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