Thursday, May 30, 2013

Arcade appeals to generations of visitors

If lights flash and dance everywhere you look, buzzers sound, children laugh and carry fistfuls of prize tickets, and that pinball machine in the back has eaten almost all your beer money — then you’re in FUN-LAND.

FUN-LAND Arcade and Snack Bar has been in business 63 years to date. And if you ask someone of age to bring their grandkids to the beach, three attractions have identified Panama City Beach over those years: Miracle Strip, Petticoat Junction and FUN-LAND.

“We have third generations that come in,” said Joel McDavid, general manager at FUN-LAND for 12 years. “There are baby boomers that come in to bring their grandkids and say, ‘When I was their age I was in here.’ ”

McDavid reflected on when he was 10 years old, coming to FUN-LAND, never dreaming of one day managing the iconic arcade.

FUN-LAND is the last surviving vestige of the three landmarks that embodied the desire for an amusement park-themed beach. Though technically not an amusement park, the clown logo and outside appearance was intentionally misleading to give the impression of a circus mixed with an amusement park — a marketing method to compete with the Long Beach amusement parks of the day.

Originally opened by Don Remsnider in spring 1950, FUN-LAND is the oldest arcade in North Florida, McDavid said. It was purchased four years later and has been owned by the same family since, only changing hands once from father to son in 1990.

“When I was growing up, we were open 24 hours,” said owner Steven Toronto. “We didn’t have doors, so we couldn’t close if we wanted to. But, over time we gradually started closing at night.”

Eventually rain doors were installed, but the business survived with only a few simple ingredients: a grill, dance floor, jukebox, pinball machines, foosball tables, skee ball, voice-recording machines, photo booths, “test your strength” punching bag gadgets and about anything else coins could be stuck in.

“We are still pretty low-key,” McDavid said. “We don’t advertise. People just walk in from the beach still in their swimsuits and flip-flops, eat lunch and then go back.”

Closing times are still fairly flexible, according to McDavid. It’s usually whenever the last person leaves.

Full article: http://www.newsheral … itors-1.150309?tc=cr

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