An entrepreneur story

Silverwood owner Gary Norton writes, publishes a book about his life

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SHAWN GUST/Press Gary Norton, owner and founder of Silverwood Theme Park in Athol, has published a memoir about his life and experiences surrounding the park.

ATHOL - Silverwood Theme Park owner and creator Gary Norton said he revealed a lot more about himself in his new book than he ever wanted to share.

"American Theme Park: The Creation of Silverwood" is an American entrepreneur story, said Norton, 64, who lives in a house just west of Silverwood.

The self-published book covers all the periods of his life leading up to the creation of Silverwood. From there, it takes the reader through the process of building the ultra-popular park.

"It's kind of a wild ride more than anything else, and it ends up with the building of a theme park," he said. He started the theme park in 1988, after moving to Spokane in 1974 from California.

The book seeks to satisfy the curiosity many visitors have about how Silverwood sprang up in rural North Idaho, he said.

"I didn't do it as a business practice, or with a business plan; it was just having fun," he said.

The park began as a personal passion for Norton, as something fun to create.

"It was fairly unsuccessful to start," he said. "It was a very bad business move, and then we just turned it around and made it work."

The book reveals Norton's hobbies, talents, and work and life experiences, including details about the computer company he built in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Norton said he first got the idea to create a theme park after repeatedly visiting and wandering around Disneyland. He made visits while on breaks from work as a computer programmer in Southern California.

The book will take readers back to his roots in Florida.

"It talks about the things that interested me as a kid, and different traits and things that you learn, and you'll see how they tie into running a business," he said.

He said his experiences as apilot got him interested in buying an airport, and his interest in model trains got him interested enough to buy a steam train.

"And from that I bought a theme park for some place for the steam train to run," he said. "So one thing leads to another."

But the theme park nearly went broke, because there weren't enough people visiting it, he said.

"So it took everything you could think of to make it work," he said. "And that's what's in the story, how it all eventually worked."

The book ends in success. Today, Silverwood Theme Park stretches across 216 acres and is the largest theme and water park in the Northwest.

The 270-page book will be released at an introductory price with Norton available to sign copies from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Silverwood.

If you go

Gary Norton book signing

Sept. 1 and 2, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.,

Silverwood Theme Park

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