Mackay's Tourist Park

Published in the Arco Advertiser on February 20, 1999.

First came the automobiles and improved roads; the came the tourists! By 1920, Mackay was already a town of some consequence, and thanks to the mining industry, the central mountain region of Idaho had been opened up and discovered, its scenic wonders, hunting, fishing's, and recreational opportunities tasted. The area no longer a secret; tourists were on their way and they were all to come this way. Large crowds of visitors to Lost River Fairs held in Mackay in 1914 and 1915, and trainloads of fishermen from Pocatello were an indication of the area's great popularity and what would follow.

The village of Mackay immediately saw the lucrative benefits of visitors to this area, and in 1920 a tourist park was developed near the river in a grove of cottonwoods adjacent a fair and racetrack area already established there. From the very beginning the little park proved a big success, not only with campers and fishermen all season long but especially when Mackay had special events going on.

From 1921 well into the 1930's Mackay was the site of an annual Lost River Fair & Race day and generally had something special on the agenda for each 4th July. With what was touted as the finest race track in the state, attendance at these was very good. A swimming hole was created at the park and along with the location of a first rate golf course developed adjacent the park in 1930, its facilities were even more used.

In 1935 the first of Mackay's annual free barbecues was held there. Old timers present at the early feasts tell of cooking the meat in a covered pit, and altought the meat was very tasty, its quite often came served with the grit of sand. But in 1938, as part of a "New Deal" public works project, a number of improvements were made at the park including construction of the largest outdoor barbecue oven in the state to provide the "tons of meat" for the annual event. Within a few years, under the same program, rest rooms and a covered bandstand and speakers platform were erected and the well and hand pump replaced by a pressurized water system. With the most recent addition (1995) of larger rest room facilities BBQ goers no longer need to wait standing in line with their legs crossed.

Since 1947, "Mackay's Wildest Rodeo" has drawn thousands to the grounds along side the attractive park where rodeo fans and friends enjoyed its hospitality. Also, for a number of starting in 1947, the would be the site of annual fish fry breakfast for hundreds of visiting airmen who would fly into Mackay just for the occasion.

For nearly 80 years, the tourist park has been the preferred camping spot for visiting conventioneers, mountain bike races, Good Sam Club caravans , family reunions, and weary travel wanting a scenic, secure place to spend a day or two. It has been the site of (64) free barbecues and has become one of the Mackay's most prominent landmarks. Thanks to farsighted village officials, years ago and many since, Mackay today can feel pride in the hospitality shown its visitors at the Tourist Park. -- It is a good place.


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