FIREWORKS- Fireworks displays were a frequent attraction at Indianola and there was a massive firework display almost every 4th of July. Some years, the Indianola fireworks were the only 4th of July fireworks in town.

One of the most sensational fireworks displays ever mounted at Indianola was in July 1915. Indianola hosted an extravaganza called "The Opening of the Panama Canal." The exhibition dramatized, with fireworks and dancing girls, a fictitious battle between the US and Colombia at the opening of the Panama Canal.

Following a parade of nations and entertainment of the delegates by vaudeville acts, Colombian forces attacked the canal. US and Colombian battleships and artillery bombarded one another. Thunderous explosions roared as the US destroyed the Colombian forces. The victory celebration was cut short when a nearby volcano erupted with appropriately fiery spectacle.


MYSTERY THEATER- This small but popular attraction traded in the eerie and mysterious.

Housed in a re-purposed railroad touring car, The Mystery Theater presented a new illusion each week, calculated to delight and mystify visitors.

A typical illusion was the Transformation of Cleopatra. An attractive young woman arrayed in Ancient Egyptian finery portrayed Cleopatra. As the audience watched, the beautiful Cleopatra changed before their eyes into a writhing, serpentine column of smoke and flame .

ICE SHOW- The summer of 1922 brought the usual heat and humidity to the city of Columbus. At Indianola Park, it brought ice and snow.

For the 1922 season, Indianola erected a temporary ice rink on the grounds and brought in an acclaimed group of figure skaters and ice dancers from the New York Hippodrome. The star of the show was pretty, German-born Hilda Ruckert who captivated the city with her good looks and thrilling performances. Audiences loved the show and the novelty of ice in summer. It played to packed houses all summer long.

Miss Ruckert enjoyed performing at Indianola and spent most of her off-hours in the pool where she became a fairly proficient diver. Celebrated Columbus Dispatch cartoonist Billy Ireland took in the show and noted the novelty of an ice skater with tan lines.

DANCE MARATHON- Dance marathons were a new fad sweeping the nation in the late 1920s and, in January 1929, Indianola Park's ballroom hosted a dance marathon.

Thirty couples vied with one another in The World's Championship Dance Marathon, a contest of continuous dancing, to see who would be the last couple standing and win the $1000 first prize. Spectators by the hundreds crowded Indianola's dance pavilion to watch the drama and cheer for thir favorites.

Most couples had dropped out by the two week point, unable to endure the fatigue, aches and pains, and lack of sleep. Seven committed couples kept going. The last challenger didn't fall until 48 days and 11 hours of continuous dancing (1,163 total hours) had passed.

MOVIES- Many visitors may have seen their first motion picture at Indianola. Starting in 1910, Indianola projected one-reel, silent films outdoors on a canvas screen for the entertainment of evening visitors.

No record of the films shown exists but popular films that first year included dramas like Edison's Frankenstein, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, A Christmas Carol, A Lad from Old Ireland, and In Old California; comedies featuring a buffoon named Bumptuous; and travelogues like Fruit Growing in the Grand Valley Colorado or Grand Central Powerhouse Explosion. None of these ran more than 15 minutes long.

Motion pictures at Indianola fell by the wayside once movies ceased to be a novelty and became an industry with its own distribution system and film-only theaters.

Right: Silent film star and Ohio native Lillian Gish in a scene from one of her early films.

Lillian Gish

MISCELLANEOUS- Indianola would try anything to draw a crowd.

In July of 1910, the nation was obsessed with The Fight of the Century. On July 4, champion Jack Johnson was going to take on former champion Jim Jeffries in Reno, Nevada. Indianola capitalized on the event by hiring a telegraph operator to receive descriptions of the fight as it happened live. Park employees conveyed the developments to those who had gathered to listen. Thousands of fight fans turned up.

The same year, a disguised young lady, referred to as "Dolly Dimples," roamed the grounds challenging park-goers to recognize her. If any one successfully identified her, the park offered a prize of $100 ($2100 in 2006 dollars). Hundreds visited the park to try their luck.

Indianola also enjoyed great success with annual baby beauty contests. Over $500 in prizes were awarded to winners in categories like prettiest, fattest, strongest, best natured, etc. A September 1909 baby beauty contest drew 200 contestants and more than 5000 spectators.