Darren and Jennifer Young are the new owners of the renamed Windsor Playland Safari at the Hants County Exhibition, and they’re happy to keep it in the family.
Darren’s father used to own and operate the park but, after 40-plus years in the business, decided to sell.
“He operated the business all along, but had some health issues come up this winter that forced him out of the business,” Jennifer said. “Rather than let it go out of the family, we decided to step up and buy it and try to keep it in the family.”
The business started in New Ross as the Go-Kart 500, but moved to Windsor in the summer of 1993. It was called Windsor Playland Park.
The business was originally established as a way to keep young people occupied and out of trouble. Over the years, it turned into a regular day trip location for families throughout the Annapolis Valley.
“We wanted to keep his dream going,” she said.
The plan is to give the whole park a makeover. It is going to have a ‘safari jungle’ theme for the coming summer season.
Where they met
For the Youngs, the business also holds personal significance because it’s where they met.
“I was a lifeguard; his dad hired me, and that’s how we met,” Jennifer said. “It was the summer of 2000. I was a lifeguard and he worked here and within a couple of years we were pretty much official. 17 years later, here we are.”
“Now we’re back to where it all began,” Darren said, who noted he was born into the business.
The couple currently live in Digby, where Darren operates a lobster fishing business.
“Right now we’re kind of juggling between both jobs. I’m off fishing, working here, back and forth,” Darren said.
“It’s hard to walk away from something you’ve grown up with all your life," he said.
“By the time it’s ready to open in June, I’ll need about two weeks of sleep,” he added with a laugh.
They currently live off of the lobster business and are hoping to reinvest revenue from the park back into upgrades until it becomes self-sustaining.
Windsor Playland Safari will offer the usual pool, waterslide, go-karts and mini-golf. But there’s going to be some new additions as well.
A canteen is opening this season, which will offer food and refreshments for guests, which Jennifer says will be made with as much local product as possible.
“Speaking long term, we’re planning to completely overhaul our golf course - add to it; add traps - and we’re starting that this summer, but it’s a big process,” Jennifer said. “Beyond that we’d like to see another waterslide added... down the road.”
Jennifer said they’ll start opening for business on weekends as soon as weather permits, potentially mid-June.
They’re planning to hire staff as things pick up including lifeguards and maybe support for the canteen.
An official grand opening is expected to be held in July.
Although it’s still not known what will eventually happen with the Hockey Heritage Centre, the Youngs say they see the expanded playland as synergizing with an arena facility, if it’s located at the exhibition.
The land the park is situated on is currently leased from the Windsor Agricultural Society.
“We’re hoping this will appeal to anybody really. It can be hard to find things to do with your kids,” Jennifer said.
“A big part is the locals,” Darren said. “Like any small business, we really need local support.”