An entrepreneur story - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

An entrepreneur story

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

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Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012 12:15 am

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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  • Jullee posted at 2:44 pm on Wed, Sep 5, 2012.

    Jullee Posts: 563

    Silverwood is a great answer for kids in this community. The kids get a job for the summer and everyone has a good time at the park. It brings in tourists that do spend money local like at the grocery stores and local merchants.
    Gary and Jeanne are a wonderful generous part of this community, would love to see the negative people give just 1 % of what the Norton's give back to the area.

  • concernedcitizen posted at 3:32 pm on Sun, Sep 2, 2012.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    I agree with most on both sides of the issue of tax here. Mr Norton is a great guy but the jobs are NOT year round and most are NOT career level.

    That being said, an $800,000 traffic signal is a HE!! of a lot cheaper than a $17million dollar freeway interchange.

  • heatherfeather posted at 11:27 pm on Fri, Aug 31, 2012.

    heatherfeather Posts: 297

    I enjoy taking out-of-state guests to our rural retreat just to see their jaws drop when Silverwood pops into view.

  • Ziggy posted at 5:23 pm on Fri, Aug 31, 2012.

    Ziggy Posts: 1229

    Norton succeeded where many fail. Good for him. I find him interesting.
    Julee, Vox and Idaho Guy (who's from Idaho like we are from Mars) don't like poor people, don't like rich people, and don't like anyone in between. It seems everyone from the great state to the south comes up here mad as heck.

  • SamuelStanding posted at 2:12 pm on Fri, Aug 31, 2012.

    SamuelStanding Posts: 588

    Autographs are waisted on me...I just don't get why anyone would want someone else's signature? Yah, I have heard it increases the value of whatever the object purchased may be...Bottom line...It's someone else's signature! So what?!

  • Why Not posted at 12:52 pm on Fri, Aug 31, 2012.

    Why Not Posts: 5017

    Gary Norton is a wonderful asset for this community.

    His company provides jobs for our kids, as well as bringing tons of people to shop at local company's throughout the area.

    As for his taxes, he contributes plenty, not to mention that he and his family are very generous to the community.

    Now about those jobs, SW has a small but decently paid group of year round employees. The expansion of SW over the years has also provided many higher paying construction jobs. Even during the current slump, SW has kept many people in the construction trade business, even during the winter.

    At the end of the day when you deduct all the overhead costs and paid the taxes, then you think about what do I need to do to keep customers coming, then to do it. That costs money. Then there is is the matter of the economy and the weather. Sometimes a place like SW ends up losing 1/3 of their season and that money does not come back. It's a fine line in any business, making it or not, and its a tough way to earn a living, because only a few people really make money.

    People like Voxpox who whine endlessly about the big bad businessman, they don't have a clue what it takes to build a business and are just angry because they aren't bold enough or smart enough to make it happen.

  • Aumlanka posted at 11:02 pm on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    Aumlanka Posts: 25

    Voxpox you clearly must be nothing more than a troll. The three posts I recall seeing of yours in the past two weeks have been nothing more than hate spewing out of your mouth. First you put down Shelley Woodard for being a janitor (which he was not) like being a hard working person of any trade is a horrible trade. Then you put someone down for a spelling error in their post like everyone wants to take the time to proofread every word of a post in a discussion forum. Now you are are slamming Mr. Norton for self publishing his book. Have you ever dealt with the realities of publishing a book? I recently worked for a CEO who bought the rights to his book back from his publisher so he could self publish it because he would make much more money that way. Most publishing deals pay the author very little if the author isn't a celebrity or already very successful author.

  • idahoguy posted at 8:50 pm on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    idahoguy Posts: 932

    Then quit saying Norton is bringing jobs to all!! Next it was wonderful there in winter. But some of you don't like to go outside in the cold and snow like others do.

  • my own opinion posted at 3:57 pm on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    my own opinion Posts: 397

    In 2008 Silverwood was paying $7.00HR, but hire mostly 14 year olds even as supervisors so how much money does a 14yr-16yr old need when they live at home no bills? Parents better hope they live in Athol since it will cost gas $$ to run your kids back and forth on short shifts. McDonald's paid the same at that time. These jobs are meant for kids not adults. Elder's enjoy and benefit with SS allowances they can work and not make too much over their SS because of the Low wages these jobs pay. Idaho guy- Mr Norton is not responsible for impact fees just another way of pointing the finger at someone your tax goes up just like everyone's boo hoo! DEAL with it!

  • Jullee posted at 2:00 pm on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    Jullee Posts: 563

    Idahoguy, Why would you want to go to Silverwood in the winter ?

  • Jullee posted at 1:53 pm on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    Jullee Posts: 563

    Voxpox, you need to check your facts about how much Gary Norton has paid for out of pocket for the
    Hi Way improvements over the years regarding Silverwood. he does not take tax incentives.

  • idahoguy posted at 1:33 pm on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    idahoguy Posts: 932

    I use to go to Silverwood when it was open year round and they handed you a blanket in the winter snow to ride the train. They employed people year round to. But it was not making enough dough for him so he shut that down. The gate fees were very reasonable and the people got entry level wages working there. Now the gate fees for a family are more like a car payment and the employes still get entry level low wages...ummmm

  • idahoguy posted at 1:19 pm on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    idahoguy Posts: 932

    Norton is getting the only freaking overpass and side roads to his Park this interstate has north of CDA to the border.

    I say it should be billed to him just as developers should be billed for the impact their new homes place on the roads. IMPACT FEES is what it is about. It is not about him having money fools. I am retired at 50 up here, been way more than most of my life and debt free and set for life. Money means little to be as I work on the place here all day on old Levis on a tractor because I get to. But is my life creates a need along the way I expect myself to pay for it.

    No more entitlement programs for the poor or rich. By the way McDonalds also creates jobs which do not pay much but at least they are not seasonal. Remember these are not year round jobs and you hardly make enough to live on so when they get canned in the fall all of them hit up unemployment and other entitlement programs paid for by all of us. If working there was so great why don't you quit and go work there?

  • Triumph posted at 1:16 pm on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    Triumph Posts: 642

    Voxpop you're clueless... I suggest you take an economics class.

  • voxpop posted at 11:52 am on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    Unfortunately Jullee most businesses in Idaho expect taxpayer funding support far too much, and far too often JUST because they happen to provide a few $8/hr jobs. Not a very good trade in my book. Cabela's is another example. They wanted an otherwise useless I90 interchange to support their business and the Idaho legislature couldn't grab their ankles fast enough. And we all know about Cda's downtown businesses and their little skimming scheme, otherwise known as LCDC. Maybe if Norton's book was any good he could have found a publisher.

  • my own opinion posted at 11:45 am on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    my own opinion Posts: 397

    I think Mr Norton is doing an awesome job! Some people are really just jealous when someone is doing good. Of course he is paying his taxes and that includes the roads as do other drivers and citizens. I see a lot of people who are jealous of others here in north Idaho and if you want more in your life get off your bottom and out of your broken down trailer and work hard! we all have to if we want quality in our lives and a decent meal. get off welfare and stop being jealous of others. Thank you Mr Norton keep being who you are and bringing great entertainment to all who visit your park. My2cents your an idiot!

  • Jullee posted at 11:00 am on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    Jullee Posts: 563

    Do a little follow up on the Norton's and you will see that they have paid for many road improvements and their greatest concern is of the traffic and safety there.
    You will also see that the Norton's have donated millions to the community and employed hundreds of people over the years and taken very good care of all their employees.
    They are the standard that every business should go by.

  • My2sence posted at 10:57 am on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    My2sence Posts: 317

    Hmmm, I can't help but think (SILVERWOOD) this might be a last chance (SILVERWOOD) subliminal message, to get folks out to his park, now that (SILVERWOOD) summer is coming to an end.

  • northone9 posted at 10:51 am on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    northone9 Posts: 289

    The lack of "depth and breadth" comes from the people that can't quite figure out that we are all in this together. The United States Of America.........United. Did you all forget?
    I built my company from the ground up. And worked and still work very hard to maintain it.
    But I am not so thick as a brick to understand that if the city doesn't plow in the winter my clients can't get to me. I didn't create the grid that allows me to flip a switch and have power. The protections that law enforcement provides me are essential. These thing are obvious.
    Another thing that is obvious is that when you got nothing else you probably end up taking things out of context and running with them. This is the theme of the RNC. And personally I feel it's disgusting and makes them look like foolish children. Grow up people. There is no argument here.

  • Will Penny posted at 10:32 am on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    Will Penny Posts: 300

    I'd say that the taxes Mr. Norton and Silverwood pay every year goes into the same pot we all pay into to provide roads and services. Oh yeah, Mr. Norton provides a few jobs to the area as well.

  • wheels1 posted at 7:45 am on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    wheels1 Posts: 461

    Idahoguy, sad to see that your lacking any of the depth and breadth of successful people like Gary Norton sours you so.

  • idahoguy posted at 5:05 am on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    idahoguy Posts: 932

    Just wondering he paying for all the road work up there to make getting to his money making operation easier??? Like the overpass? Like the frontage roads? I doubt it.....

  • Will Penny posted at 4:49 am on Thu, Aug 30, 2012.

    Will Penny Posts: 300

    Yup, HE built it!

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