Our County History
by County Historian Marion W. Coplen

Forty-four years ago, in August of 1909, an interesting spectacle took place on Winona Lake. A huge water carnival was held in which a number of floats took part in a mammoth parade on the lake. The H. J. Heinz Co. had perhaps the most expensive float; it consisted of a huge pickle --denoting one of their 57 varieties--mounted on four boats and illuminated by two hundred electric lights. The Jello Co., the Beech Nut Co. and a Chicago cracker house were just a few of the other companies that entered floats in the parade.

In former columns we have told of how the Beyer Brothers bought the land on the east side of Winona Lake and started what they call "Spring Fountain Park". In 1895 they sold out to a group headed by Sol C. Dickey and the park then became the Winona Assembly Grounds. Very rapidly the park became famous for its chautauqua programs, Bible conferences, and pleasure facilities.

Water carnivals were not the only entertainment features characteristic of Winona's early history. There were usually a number of rides available for the vacationer at the park. In 1903 Alexander McDonald, vice-president of Standard Oil of Kentucky, purchased a three way figure-8 toboggan and an electric merry-go-round for the assembly grounds. Possibly some of our readers rode on these fascinating novelties fifty years ago.

Heinz and McDonald were only two of a number of wealthy men who had interests at Winona in its early history. A list of all the leaders of Winona Lake at that time would include many presidents and vice-presidents of large corporations. H. J. Heinz, whose company entered the float in the carnival, was at one time president of the Board of Directors of Winona Assembly. This huge water carnival of 1909 occurred during the "hey-day" of Winona's early history. Interest lagged soon after, because the park began to have financial difficulties, and many of the men who had invested heavily in Winona lost considerable money. Winona was to come back again, but only after many difficult years.

Warsaw Times-Union Sat. Aug. 8, 1953