Daniel Boone’s Fess Parker Tried to Open a Theme Park ‘Frontier World’ Based on The Show: Why it Failed

by Charles Craighill
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Any child of the 60s will remember the old tune “Daniel Boone was a man, yes a big man” from the television show. Fess Parker, the towering man who played Daniel Boone, however, wanted to do more than just a television show. Parker played both Boone and Davy Crockett, two frontier heroes in different shows. Both iconic characters wore a coonskin cap and a fringed suede suit, and both characters ruled the wild frontier.

In honor of the two frontier heroes, Fess Parker decided that he wanted to open a theme park based on their kingdoms. Originally, Fess planned for “Frontier World” to open in Boone County, Kentucky near the junction of I-75 and I-71. Fess had the celebrity firepower and theme park connections to make it happen. However, this plan was foiled by the construction of a competing theme park.

Daniel Boone Gets Kicked Out of Kentucky

Fess Parker knew that “Frontier World” had all the right pieces to succeed and bring in money by the truckloads. He also had the support to back it. While Parker took on acting as his primary career, he also had a surprising amount of connections in the theme park business. So when he officially announced his plan to build the park in 1968, many people expected it to bring in hordes of tourists.

What Fess Parker did not anticipate, however, was Cincinnati’s Coney Island theme park to relocate to just north of the Ohio border. After Parker’s announcement, the Coney Island board of trustees knew they had to act to keep their park afloat. Led by Gary Wachs, Coney Island made its move.

Unfortunately, Coney Island’s board also contained several big-shot businessmen from Cincinnati. Those tycoons effectively blocked Parker’s ability to gain financial backing on his theme park. This drove Fess Parker and his “Frontier World” out of Kentucky for good.

Fess Parker Tries Again in California

Old Fess Parker didn’t give up that easy, however. The Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett actor remained determined to open his park. His next target? The northern California Bay Area. In 1972, Fess Parker officially announced that he would give the park another go in Santa Clara, California. He and his investment group grabbed around 400 acres out by the bay to build the epic theme park.

Now, Fess Parker had the idea, he had the land, and he also had the market. All he needed now was some investors. Who better to talk to than Ray Kroc, the McDonald’s tycoon? Parker and his lawyer met with Ray Kroc, and the millionaire showed enthusiasm for the project. So much enthusiasm that he offered a large multi-million sum to get the park up off the ground.

Parker’s lawyer, however, thought that they could squeeze Kroc for a little bit more. This backfired to Fess Parker’s dismay, and he once again was left with no investors. As a result, he was forced to sell a large swath of the land to J. W. Marriott and abandon his dream of opening “Frontier World.”

Outsider.com