Fresno's Blackbeard's marks 30 years -- and then some

The Fresno BeeJune 29, 2014 

Hundreds of people braved the first day of an expected week of 100-plus-degree high temperatures at Blackbeard's Family Entertainment Center to celebrate the park's "30th anniversary" with discounts and freebies Sunday.

Thirty years, however, is selling the park's tenure short by a few years. Blackbeard's current owners, Greg Florer and Don Jackley of Fresno, took over the park in 1984. But the park on Chestnut Avenue between Ashlan and Dakota avenues was originally built and opened in 1977 by Stephen Christensen and Jack Hammond.

Back then, Blackbeard's consisted of two miniature golf courses, an arcade and a snack bar -- and not much else. A batting cage, a third putt-putt course and a water slide followed over the next year.

Still, 30 years of ownership under Florer and Jackley and the growth of the park's attractions in that span are plenty of reason to celebrate, said Marissa McPhail, representing the park's public-relations firm Alliance Advertising.

Don Morgan of Fresno, visiting the park Sunday with his 11-year-old son Parker, recalled his teenage years in the late 1970s when he and friends would mow lawns for a little cash, "then we'd walk over here and play miniature golf and video games for hours," he said.

A lot has changed since then.

Over the years, Blackbeard's has grown substantially. The park's offerings now include multiple water slides, bumper boats, a couple of racing tracks for motorized carts, children's carnival rides, a roller coaster, a ropes course and laser tag.

New to the 15-acre park this year is a stage where actors stage pirate shows, complete with simulated swordplay, on sweltering summer weekends. Shade awnings were installed over the stage just in time to provide some relief to the actors this weekend. "This weekend has been a luxury" compared to prior weekends without the shade, said pirate "captain" Chris Borden, who choreographs the actors' on-stage sword combat.

Hot weather didn't seem to bother visitors on Sunday.

"The weather's not the best, but people are still coming out to enjoy the activities," McPhail said. "Fresno is known for being one hot city, so we always get big summer crowds coming for the water slides."

Johnny Moran, 11, of Fresno joined the pirates onstage and had his face painted with a mustache and goatee. He said the water slides "are OK," but his favorite thing is the go-karts.

Morgan and his son were in line for the bumper boats -- a brief, splashy respite from temperatures that were already approaching 100 degrees by the early afternoon.

Both said they like playing the miniature golf courses that Don Morgan enjoyed as a youth. "You know, that's just hours of good entertainment," Don Morgan said. But, he added, their favorite things are the go-karts. "After all, I guess I'm still just a big kid."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6319, or @TimSheehanNews on Twitter.

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