Scarywood boosts Silverwood to record attendance

Some lucky guest at Silverwood Theme Park on Wednesday night will win a 2011 season pass as the North Idaho attraction celebrates a record annual attendance of 600,000 guests.

That’s due in part to Scarywood, the Halloween incarnation of Silverwood, which has brought in crowds in numbers well beyond park officials’ expectations. Some 6,000 people walked through the gates two Saturdays ago, said Nancy DiGiammarco, Silverwood’s spokeswoman.

“We had never anticipated numbers going that high on one individual day,” she said about Scarywood, which is in its second year, but received a $1 million upgrade this year. “We came close to 10,000 (this past) Thursday through Saturday.”

The addition of Scarywood, which extended Silverwood’s season by a month, is expected to contribute to record annual attendance at the Athol amusement park. Last year, attendance hit 578,000, DiGiammarco said. This year, it’s anticipated to go well beyond 600,000.

On Wednesday night, the park will celebrate by awarding the 600,000th visitor with the season pass.

DiGiammarco said she believes Silverwood’s numbers keep rising despite the down economy because people still want to take a family vacation.

“We became the affordable alternative to the big family getaway to Disneyland and those places,” she said. At Silverwood, a family “can load everybody in the car and still have a theme park experience.”

In addition, she said, Silverwood owner Gary Norton has continued to invest and hire despite the recession. He doubled the size of the water park in 2007, added the Aftershock rollercoaster in 2008, and added Scarywood in 2009.

This year, Norton pumped $1 million more into Scarywood, hiring a professional design company that has created haunted features at major theme parks nationwide, DiGiammarco said.

Of the guests who visited Silverwood in 2010, about 400,000 are tourists who spent an estimated $67.9 million in the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane area on services including dining, shopping and hotels, a Silverwood news release said, citing an Idaho Commerce Department study.

“Tourism numbers in Northern Idaho have jumped this year,” said Bibiana Nertney, a spokeswoman for the Commerce Department. “We’re certainly happy to see that. We’re looking toward a rebound in tourism in that area.”

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