Sign of the old times has had its ups and downs in Muskego
Group works to restore roller coaster relic from city's early days
Muskego — A fragment from Muskego's original glory days, when people came from miles around to ride the roller coaster at Muskego Beach and swim in Little Muskego Lake, is making a comeback.
The sign proclaiming the Tail Spin roller coaster, the signature ride at the amusement park, is being restored. It now sits in front of the Old City Hall at the Muskego Old Settlement Centre, S8074 Racine Ave., where drivers can see its bold blue color and big white lettering.
Restoring the sign is important, said Jerry Hulbert, president of the Muskego Historical Society, which is restoring the sign.
"Muskego is what it is because of that park," Hulbert said. "The amusement park really drove development."
The amusement park opened in 1925 on Muskego Beach, a park used since 1861 for boating, swimming and fishing, said Gary Kulas, also of the Historical Society. Muskego Beach extended from about Park Drive beside Muskego Elementary School west along Janesville Road almost to Pioneer Drive.
The start of what people generally think of as the Muskego Beach amusement park is pegged at 1927, when the park added the Cyclone roller coaster and had all the rides that served fun-seekers for decades thereafter.
Lots of communities had amusement parks, but the Cyclone was taller and faster than most, Kulas said.
However, the wooden coaster was no match for separate episodes of high winds that damaged twice in the 1950s, Kulas said.
The roller coaster was rebuilt in a more compact design in 1967, and the new wooden coaster was named the Tail Spin, he said.
That also is when the park's name changed to DandiLion Park, Kulas said.
DandiLion Park itself closed in 1977, the Tail Spin was dismantled in 1983, and the sign eventually ended up at an antique shop.
Years passed while the huge sign sat outside waiting for a buyer. By the time the Historical Society was able to purchase it, the sign was in tough shape, with paint peeling and its lighting shot.
Spearheading restoration is Skip DeBack, who grew up in Muskego and who designs signs by day and has worked on the Tail Spin sign by night since late summer.
It's a real labor of love, DeBack said. His family came to Muskego when he was 10 years old and he grew up riding the Tail Spin.
"It was exhilarating," he said.
Bringing the sign back to its former splendor hasn't been easy. He and friends, many from the Muskego Lions Club, scraped and sanded for hours. Rozman True Value of Muskego donated paint.
The original sign was red but was changed to blue some time along the line, he said. In the end, the blue version was chosen because the lettering shows up better and because the city generally employs a blue city-of-lakes theme, he said.
Donations are being sought for the upcoming expenses of replacing the lights at the bottom of the sign and replacing its neon lettering. That probably will cost about $3,000, he said. Donations may be sent to the Muskego Historical Society, P.O. Box 137, Muskego, WI 53150, with a note on the check that it is to be used for the Tail Spin sign.
More information also is available from Hulbert, (262) 679-1173.
The society recently sought to establish a permanent location for the sign at Janesville Road and Park Drive, within a few hundred feet of where it once was seen.
But the society withdrew its request so that it could address some objections from nearby residents raised, he said. In the meantime, the sign is on a trailer and the society will take it to community events, he said.
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