When Camille Jourden-Mark was two years old, her father, Roger Jourden, bought Deer Park with the intention of turning it into an amusement park. At first, the Jourdens lived in a tiny house inside the park.
From a young age, Jourden-Mark and her sister, Lisa (Jourden) Arnouts, worked on the family business. â€œFor my parents, it was cheaper and they’d bring in more money if they built a game for me to run. It was definitely cheaper than hiring a babysitter!â€ Jourden-Mark joked. At the age of about six, the sisters were in charge of selling ice cream cones filled with deer food to customers for a quarter. â€œWe’d argue over who would collect the money and who got to hand over the cones,â€ Jourden-Mark said. â€œSo my dad separated us and built the Duck Pond for me to operate. I got to work at the duck pond on my own after that.â€
In 1988, the Jourdens changed the name to Michigan’s Adventure Amusement Park. During the 1990s four roller coasters and the first water rides were added.
Michigan’s Adventure experienced slow, steady growth. Each year extra revenue was invested into one or two new rides or attractions. To get ideas for additions, the family vacationed at other amusement parks and attended trade shows. â€œMy oldest son had as much input as anyone in the family-Zach’s Zoomers Roller Coaster was named after him!â€ said Jourden-Mark.
Just like their mother, Jourden-Mark’s three children are growing up at Michigan’s Adventure. She had a nursery off the side of her office and remembers often pushing a stroller through the park while working.
The acquisition by Cedar Fair in 2001 brought more money for growth and
expansion. Today, there are other water parks in Michigan, but Michigan’s Adventure is unique-with more than fifty rides and attractions. It offers the only three wooden roller coasters, and new
for 2008 is the Thunderhawk, Michigan’s only suspended roller coaster.
Jourden-Mark, now the vice president/general manager, oversees the park’s entire operation. She regularly tours the park, often taking her children, Zach, Alex and Katelyn with her. â€œYou do a much better job when you experience the park as our guests do,â€ says Jourden-Mark.
Even though her parents no longer own the park, Michigan’s Adventure is still a family business to Jourden-Mark. Her husband, Steve Mark, is vice president of maintenance, construction and landscaping. Zach, now fifteen, will be working some of the games this summer. Her entire family also enjoys spending free time riding the rides. Jourden-Mark’s favorite? â€œShivering Timbers.â€
For more great stories like this one check out Michigan History magazine. For information call (800) 366-3703 or visit www.michiganhistorymagazine.com.
Photos courtesy of Michigan’s Adventure