I took these shots last week while visiting Wild West City in Netcong, New Jersey. Wild West City is an authentic western heritage theme park inspired by Dodge City, Kansas in the 1880’s. The park has been around since the late 1950’s and when I was a kid, I took numerous school bus trips to its grounds. It hasn’t changed much in all these years. Some of these images have been featured on CNN HERE and HERE.
Below is the text from the CNN story I wrote about this photo set:
I Saw a Shootout in Dodge City. . . New Jersey
I took a trip to Wild West City last weekend and took these photos. Wild West City – started in the late 1950’s after the American Foundation for the Preservation of the Old West purchased a large tract of land in Byram Township, New Jersey – is an authentic western heritage theme park that features continuous live-action shows and living history. The setting has been made to resemble Dodge City, Kansas in the 1880’s.
When I was a child, school bus trips from around the state of New Jersey would make the journey to this western culture preservation and educate kids on what it was like to live in old west. This was especially important for inner city kids, who rarely had the opportunity to travel very far outside of the towns that they were from. I visited Wild West City two or three times as a child, always looking forward to hanging out with the cowboys and farm animals at the park.
Cuts in education funding has since dramatically reduced school bus trips like those to regional educational attractions. In order to stay relevant and find new audiences in the pop culture maelstrom, in recent years the staff at Wild West City has been sponsoring a number of special events during their main summer season. Recent activities have included: a special weekend of reenactments featuring scenes based on the iconic western-themed Back to the Future Part III, where “Marty McFly” and his famed DeLorean took to the streets; National Cowboy Day celebrations; and performances & educational workshops by Native American Tribal Dancers, which we were able to enjoy during our visit.
Wild West City stands as one of the last examples of post-war tourist culture on the East Coast of the United States. In the 1960’s western towns emerged up and down the east coast. Carson City in Catskill, New York; Cimmaron City in Monticello, New York; Wild West Ranch in Lake George, New York; Cowboy City in Farmingdale, New Jersey; Ghost Town in Maggie Valley, North Carolina; Six Gun City in Jefferson, New Hampshire; Frontier Town in both North Hudson, New York and Ocean City, Maryland along with Wild West City were all popular tourist destinations. According to Wild West City’s website, they, along with Six Gun City and Frontier Town in Ocean City, Maryland are the only operational western theme parks along the east coast today.