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Lagoon's Patio Gardens

Utah’s Lagoon used to be more than just an amusement park; it once housed a large concert venue within its gates, hosting many performances by music legends from the 1950s to the early 1970s.

In 1953 a fire tore throughout Lagoon, Utah’s only amusement park, and destroyed many buildings there. Then owner, Robert Freed, saw this as an opportunity to update the architecture of the park to something much more modern–to create the “New Lagoon.” One of the buildings constructed during the renovations was the Patio Gardens, a concert venue to replace an old, ruined Dancing Pavilion. While Lagoon had live performances before the 1950s, Patio Gardens, with its stage and dance floor, became the new house for concerts. The performances in Patio Gardens over the next two decades included some of the most popular national artists and would make Lagoon nationally known, especially within the 1960s counterculture music scene. 

One such popular group was the Beach Boys who, on September 7, 1963, thrilled their youthful Utah audience with their song “Salt Lake City,” claiming that Salt Lake City had “the grooviest kids.” The Beach Boys returned to Lagoon again and again with their final performance of fourteen appearances taking place on September 12, 1970.

The Beach Boys were just one of many popular groups that performed at Patio Gardens. Other notable counterculture bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Monkees, The Who, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane also performed there. Even The Beatles were in discussions to perform at Lagoon, but their high asking price led to their exclusion. Patio Gardens also housed more classic acts, such as Benny Goodman, the Utah Symphony, and Ella Fitzgerald. 

Most bands had a good experience, with some even returning to perform again or immortalizing the venue in songs, as the Beach Boys did. However, there were also bands who hated the venue and, more importantly, the crowds. On May 25, 1968, The Doors performed to a crowd of about 3,500, nearing the venue’s 4,000-person capacity limit. Jim Morrison, the band’s lead singer, declared that the crowd was dead for his first performance of the day, hurled vulgar insults to the audience, and after three songs walked off of the stage, never to return. 

Regardless of the failure of The Doors concert, Patio Gardens is remembered fondly by many Utahns. Patio Gardens closed in 1973 after operating for twenty years. Where music legends used to perform is now the home of the dark ride Dracula’s Castle and Lagoon’s arcade. The original light fixtures and the top of the stage (the rest of which is hidden by a wall) are the only reminders of what helped make Lagoon so famous.

Images

Postcard of Patio Gardens
Postcard of Patio Gardens Lagoon postcard showing Patio Gardens at night. Source:

Postcard of Patio Gardens. Photography. Lagoon History Project. https://lagoonhistory.com/project/the-new-lagoon/

Herman's Hermits at Patio Gardens
Herman's Hermits at Patio Gardens Herman’s Hermits performing on stage at Patio Gardens. 1967 Source:

Herman’s Hermits at Patio Gardens. Lagoon History Project. 1967. https://lagoonhistory.com/project/media/1967-yearbook/

Douglas Snow's painting of Patio Gardens. 1961
Douglas Snow's painting of Patio Gardens. 1961 Source:

Snow, V. Douglas. Lagoon’s Patio Gardens. Painting. Lagoon History Project. 1961. https://lagoonhistory.com/project/live-at-lagoon-1962/

Location

Metadata

Mikelle Andersen, Brigham Young University, “Lagoon's Patio Gardens,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 24, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/778.