History of Zapp’s Park

ZAPPCON is named in honor of Zapp’s Theme Park of Fresno. If you have ever visited Fresno and driven through Blackstone at the cross street of Olive, near Abby, you’ll see Dry Creek canal which is all that remains of Zapp’s dream. A small bar (now closed) near Blackstone is named Zapp Park in tribute. Housing and an elementary school now cover the rest of the 17 acre complex. You’ve probably been there, but you would have never known the magic that once graced this land and the wonder of the late night lagoon rides that existed at the turn of the century. In 1904, John Zapp created the best amusement park between San Francisco and Los Angeles. While working for his wife’s family, Zapp discovered that while excavating sand pits, he was creating shallow lakes that drew locals to the cool waters in the Fresno heat. Taking it to the next step, Zapp expanded Dry Creek canal. “He dug a long circular channel along Dry Creek, creating an island connected to the “mainland” by arching bridges. Before long, Zapp and his wife, Leota Burnside Zapp, had transformed acres of alfalfa fields, with Balm of Gilead trees along the banks of the waterways” (Walker 2011). On the weekends you could enjoy picnics and pony rides, fishing and baseball. Zapp’s park was for everyone.

Zapp park was filled with a variety of attractions, including a zoo, skating rink, rollercoaster ride, bowling alley, billiard parlor, swimming pool, shooting gallery, lover’s lagoon and more. Admission to the park was free but Fresnans were happy to pay small fee to enjoy some of the attractions. “The zoo was one of the biggest draws. One of the best (Zoo’s) in the state, it was home to lions, monkeys, elk, a camel, a bear, alligators, kangaroos, peacocks and an aviary. Leota Zapp, an accomplished equestrienne [former circus performer] and local celebrity, drew crowds to performances with her trained horses” (Walker 2011). John Zapp had pet bears that he would even sometimes wrestle.

Zapp’s Theme Park was an escape from everyday life for its patrons. Standing as one of Fresno’s oldest claims to fame nearly 100 years ago, this park brought hope and fun to the greater Fresno area. In an attempt to resurrect the spirit of Zapp and his park, we bring you ZAPPCON a haven from common life. ZAPPCON swoops in to save the day from the ordinary to make your Zapp experience extraordinary. Visit celebrities, enjoy attractions in the form of epic gaming, creative cosplay, detailed workshops, and special releases. Join the Zappers, and fall in love with the magic of ZAPPCON (bear wrestling not [yet] included).

Zapp! Boom! Bam!

Walker, John. 7 July 2011. Zapp’s Park. The Fresno Bee: Historical Perspectives.