Floridaland Tried To Be All Things To All Tourists

by Mike Miller
(Mount Dora, Florida)

Floridaland Osprey Florida

Floridaland Osprey Florida

My grandparents moved from Indiana to Osprey, near Venice, in 1960. A few years later - in 1964 - Floridaland opened as one of the unusual tourist attractions in those pre-Disney days.

It tried to be all things to all tourists. Although the main entrance featured colorful tropical birds, the major attraction inside the gates was a western town similar to Six Gun Territory up in Silver Springs but more cheaply made.

Bad guys and good guys shot it out in the street, and can-can dancers strutted their stuff in the western saloon. Tourists could ride around the whole park on a tram dressed up as a western train.

In the park's attempt to be all things to all people, they featured a porpoise show. The marine creatures performed in a small pool with a platform where they were fed fishes.

Floridaland also had a petting zoo with typical farmyard animals.

Floridaland began to falter when they got some bad publicity about the death of several of their porpoises.

When Walt Disney World opened near Orlando in 1971, Floridaland was doomed to disappear. They folded their tent shortly after and became one of our lost Florida tourist attractions.

Comments for Floridaland Tried To Be All Things To All Tourists

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May 14, 2018
Sure we met!
by: Dave Emerson

I’m sure we met Chuck with my Grandparents (Waldo and Mabel Emerson) both working at the park. I would gave been 7 in 1967 and saw you fall off the roof many times! Thanks for the memories and wish you well.


May 14, 2018
I was Slim (as was my brother)
by: Chuck

I was 17 in 1967 (68 today), and working at Floridaland was an incredible experience. I started out as an announcer playing guitar and doing the play by play during the gun fights. That was fine but my sights were set on being a cowboy.

My chance came when the guy who played Digger Long left and I "auditioned" for the job ad got it. Soon I was falling off roofs as the bad guy and even playing sheriff sometime. One story that was memorable and funny to us concerned the Sheriff. The Sheriff always had this dbl barrel shotgun that would split your eardrums when it went off. We made our own blanks for that gun. It involved putting a 357 blank in the end of a steel sleeve the size of the shotgun shell. Then you pour gunpowder into the other end of the sleeve and insert toilet paper and tamp it down with this steel rod. It was soon learned that the more gunpowder you tamped in there the bigger the boom.

We had this hombre by the name of Ed who loved being Sherriff. One day he is in the jail packing shells for the next show. The jail was a very small room but anyway, Ed was out to get the mother of all booms and he kept packing the powder. All of a sudden their was this horrendous boom and smoke pouring out of the jail like Bad Barts gang had just sprung him. Out stumbles Sherrif Ed like the town drunk on a Saturday night. It was the funniest sight you could ever see, (once we determined Ed was ok) We had warned him not to pack it so hard so he finally learned,we all had a good laugh.

My brother was the guy that broke his hip. I managed a compression fracture, the job was not without it's risks,we both have our battle scars from those days. I gotta tell you it was so much fun, had they stayed opened I just may have worked there until the day old Digger Long put me to rest out on Boot Hill.


Thanks for the great story, Chuck. I'm sure many others will remember Slim. You make it sound like a lot of fun!

Jul 20, 2017
Gun slingers broken leg
by: Dave Carlson

We visited the park back in 1967 or 68 I believe. When watching the western show, I was standing in the wrong place (I was 4 or 5 years old) and the good guy gun slinger, who wore a beige coat, ran into me and fell and really twisted his leg. He might have broken it but he continued on with the show. I still have a home movie that shows him when the show starts walking just fine, then right after it happened and he is limping, leaning on fences but still going on with the show. To this day I still feel awful that he was hurt because of me.

Jun 15, 2017
I Stumbled Across It's Remains in the Seventies
by: Bill

I went to FloridaLand when I was probably 7 or so; my family had a house in Venice and we used to drive right past it every year.

About 1976-77 I dated a girl in high school who lived in the development Sorrento Shores built where FloridaLand used to be. Just inside the main entrance to Sorrento off highway 41 there was a faded road, and one day I drove down it just for grins. It went South for a ways, then turned West and was getting very overgrown.

I'll never forget to my huge surprise it dead ended in the remains of the entrance to FloridaLand. The gate was still there and I had a flashback of walking through it about 10 years earlier. It was a remnant of the entire park, and I think there were some large fake cement/plaster animals just inside. It was very eerie remembering all the bustle the place held in my memories compared to the isolated, forgotten quiet it was then.

If I had the inclination I could have gone on a major souvenir collecting spree because there was things everywhere, but I just left it. It was within 100 yards of the nearest houses. Later the development expanded and mowed those remains down.

Mar 23, 2017
Dolphin Show
by: Michael Georg

In '68/'69, I can't remember the exact year, my aunt took my brother and I to Floridaland a couple of times. One trip in particular stands out. I was able to go on stage at the dolphin show, "shake hands" with the dolphin, then, get in a small rowboat and have the dolphin tow me around the lagoon. I have a photo of it. It's surreal to remember it now; no floatation device, tiny little skiff. But exciting as hell.

Oct 15, 2016
Who met Dolly the Dolphin?
by: Laura

Did anyone who went to Floridaland ever get a chance to meet Dolly the dolphin? Any stories you can share?

Oct 15, 2016
Did anyone know Malcom J. Brenner
by: Laura

Did anyone who went to Floridaland while it was still open know or meet Malcolm or his brother, Hugh? Anything you can share?

Apr 04, 2016
by: Ed Hamill

I now live in Nokomis and was too young to ever go to Floridaland, but am still fascinated with all things Floridaland.

I am looking for items for sale... memorabilia, props, costumes, ANYTHING that may still exist. Even family photos at the park... anything to help keep the history in our area alive!.

please feel free to reach out to me at edward.hamill (at)

Jan 25, 2016
Fun at Floridaland
by: Ellen

My parents as well as our school took us to Florida Land - a magical place. I remember after a storm one or two of the dolphins were in the Holiday Inn swimming pool for a time & we went to see them. I have to say at this point I am anti-SeaWorld type places but back then we didn't know any better.

Nov 10, 2015
Old Token
by: Anonymous

I recently found an old coin from Floridaland inside an old car. The weird part is I'm in canada.

The coin says good luck and and has a jumping dolphin. Would anyone be able to tell me what year it might have been from?

Jun 23, 2015
Waldo and Mabel Emerson
by: Dave Emerson

My Grandfather, Waldo Emerson, played piano in the Saloon and my Grandmother Mabel worked in the gift shop. I have very fond memories of visiting the park during our annual trips to Florida from Rhode Island where we lived at the time. My brother and I got a unique chance to meet the people that worked at the park which was quite a big deal for us as I was between 4-11 yrs old while the park was open. Sitting on the bench with Gramps while he played piano during the Can-Can girl shows was a special treat!


Thanks for the interesting memory. Your grandpa sounds like an interesting and fun man with a famous name. No doubt he was named after the famous writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. One of my favorites.

Jul 08, 2014
Facebook Atlanta
by: Scott Manzel (Corbin)

My mom, Joyce Simpson, was also a dolphin trainer at Floridaland. Her dolphin, Moby, performed there. He was the one in the GTE phone call, and I have it on CD. He swam away when I was about 18 months old. Walter Farley helped look for him, but he was never found.

My mom heard about Beggar the dolphin in the ICW in 2002. We went several times looking for Moby, but Beggar was not him. Robbie Arbuckle was kind to take us on his boat one search. My mom briefly moved to Florida searching on her jetski the whole ICW looking for Moby. She wrote a story, that became a book about Moby. It's truly cool but had limited success financially.

I remember riding in the little boat too. And I remember the shootout. The guns hurt my ears. Even fireworks did til I got older. I remember going to a seafood restaurant as a child, that we found again, just before it closed near Osprey.

My real dad was Robert Corbin. I don't remember him exactly. I remember getting dressed up for something important, but that is who I met.

Jun 27, 2014
Birthday at Floridaland
by: Bob Pinardi

I went there for my Birthday. I am guessing I was about 5 or 6. I got pulled around the Dolphin pool in a boat. It's something I remember to this day just like it was yesterday. There was a little girl sitting next to me in the boat just crying her eyes out with fear..I tried to calm her. It was a great place. Can you imagine this today? A Public Hanging as entertainment for kids? The Dolphin activist, Guns and shoot outs. (You have to go to Chicago to see that these days)

Jan 29, 2014
What a place
by: Ivey Overstreet

I and my Brother Larry Overstreet along with Butch Stewart and Benny Corbin (Robert Corbin's younger Brother)spent some time there one summer in the early 1960s. Benny worked with Robert handling the Dolphins and the rest of of did "Well,I can't remember? 'After all it was the 60s" But, I do remember having a great time in the Old West Town. As a matter of fact after it closed I ended up with a few things from there: an old cash register and a few things from the blacksmith shop.

Butch gave them to my Mom who collected things like that. Those were the real good old days, well as far as I can remember any way!!!

Oct 29, 2013
by: Anonymous

Agreed. I would love to see the pictures too :)

Oct 29, 2013
Robert Corbin
by: Anonymous

Hi Lynette! Sure would love to see some of those photos! I am surprised to hear Robbie is living in Miss... I always figured he would have headed to the Keys after Floridaland closed... Is it true Robbie had a permit to catch wild dolphin to train them? Perhaps you can "friend" me on face book...or send me an email....

Kelley Ann Ayers


Oct 29, 2013
Robert Corbin
by: lynette allen

My cousin Robert Corbin, was the dolphin trainer and he is visiting his family here in Steinhatchee, Florida. He lives in Mississippi and I had some old pictures my mother took while we were at Floridaland in the early sixties.

Sep 24, 2013
I remember you Anonymous Digger Long
by: Carl

I met you when I started there. You were still limping from your broken hip. I ended up doing the digger long roof fall in your place. What a great time that was. Learned so many things (and probably some I shouldn't have learned). Would love to catch up with some of the old people and some I would like to apologize to. I remember my going away party before leaving for the Army. Don't think you were there but not sure. That was so very long ago.

Sep 24, 2013
I remember
by: Anonymous

I was Digger Long before being elevated to Gunslinger.

Some time later during a gun show, I rolled off the roof and broke my hip. I should not have done the next show because that time I had to be admitted to Venice Hospital.

The park was fun and holds many good memories (some hysterical).

My brother worked there too. Sometimes, he played the guitar and sang before the gun shows.

I remember the Taylor's who owned the General Store, Marilee the Can-Can Girl, the Bigmountains from the Indian Village, and Robert Corbin (Flipper's trainer),who was involved with the Porpoise Show.

When there were problems with Red Tide, they would move the porpoise to the hotel pool next door. The Sky Ride was a neat addition.

The attraction was good, but the value of the property was worth much more to a developer.

Aug 08, 2013
Left behind
by: AnonymousDonna

When I was about 5 I went to Floridaland with my church. It was a bus load full of girls! We stayed all day and had a blast! When it was time to go I had to go to the bathroom. When I came out the park was deserted. The bus left me. I was so scared! Then one of the cowboys saw me and tried to get me to go with him. My mom told me not to talk to strangers, so I ran! He cornered me against a fence and I started to cry. He took me to get an ice cream then to the saloon for a drink. Over an hour later the bus showed up to get me. I didn't want to go home! I later found out that they took a head count. And counted one of the girls twice. What an adventure I had! I wish it was still open. Places like that just don't exist any more.

Apr 14, 2013
What happened to the dolphins?
by: Curious

After the park closed, where were the dolphins taken? Does anyone remember a dolphin called Ruby, who was apparently military trained? There's a guy who claims he did a photographic assignment about the place & that as it was being closed down, he got in one might when (Rob?) the trainer was taking some other dolphins to another park & that he had, ahem, 'relations' with Ruby. I'm finding it difficult to believe she wouldn't have drowned him at the bottom of the lagoon! Anyone able to shed light on this unlikely tale?

Mar 01, 2013
Worked there before being drafted
by: Carl

One of the most memorable times in my life doing the digger long roof fall just before being snatched up for the war effort. So many memories.
Captain skyride, train rides, and falling off of that darned roof and playing dead - and of course the wonderful Rocky the dolphin pulling up a tennis shoe from the bottom of the pond as the trainer said that Rocky was going to be on the Globe Trotters but chould not find shoes to fit. This was not part of Rocky's training. Summer of 1969.

Oct 04, 2012
Beggar from Floridaland
by: Kelley Ayers

I grew up in Tampa and on my 6th Birthday my parents took us to Floridaland...what a magical place! Because it was my birthday I got to ride in the little boat being pulled around the lagoon by a porpoise! A thrill I never forgot! I like to think that Beggar was at my birthday party in 1967 and that was actually the first time I met him...Years later in 1983 my parents moved to the north end of Casey Key and Beggar was at that time living at the Albee bridge and continued to do so until his death. Even then in 1983 he had perfected his "troll behavior" of collecting a toll as you passed his bridge. I ended up moving to Venice and got to see him all the time. A few years was during the week...not a sole was around and I was traveling south on the ICW...I was about a quarter mile north of Albee bridge and suddenly it was like Beggar was so happy to see someone...he leaped out three times to get to me....three huge the time from my waverunner he looked as high as the bridge...that was the only time I ever saw him leap.I was always enamored by him and one of my greatest pleasures has been introducing other to Beggar....He was truly a legend in his own time!
PS: I sure would love to meet someone from Floridaland like Robbie the trainer!

Sep 23, 2012
by: KSM

Are any of you aware of Beggar the Dolphin that died this weekend? Some of the readings around say he was one of the original ones from this theme park released when the park closed. Makes sense that he was as he was in the area thus his name. Thank you for all your readings. Very interesting. K

Jul 23, 2012
the "we" with Jim
by: Craig

been out of touch with my brother, but I'm the "we" in his story. Really had fun at Floridaland, and remember the flying saucer (house of the future) as well as the dolphins.If anyone wants to reach me

May 14, 2012
Pat the Porpoise
by: pete

Pat was the porpoise that went out with the paddle boat and I know that for sure as I worked with Robert Corbin the trainer and I went out with the boat several times with Pat to put on the show. I also worked there for 2 seasons as a cowboy. That was a blast.

Apr 01, 2012
by: Dede

My husband, Peter, had many fond memories as a cowboy in some of those shoot outs. He lived in Osprey, and hated to see it go, as well.

Aug 21, 2011
Floridaland Memories
by: Mike Miller

Jim: you make those daring trips to Floridaland in the old days sound like real adventures. You certainly had an inside look at operations. Too bad some of these old attractions are not still around. Thanks for sharing your story.

Aug 19, 2011
Floridaland Memories
by: Jim

I lived on South Creek in Osprey. Floridaland was right next to the Holiday Inn of Venice ( it was in Osprey near Oscar Scherer park), There was a gulf station north of the Holiday Inn, A round fiberglass Saucer home stood out front, then Floridaland. A guy named Robbie was the dolphin trainer. He also had a license to catch wild dolphins for training. We would sneak into the park ( I was about 14 at the time). Robbie would let us feed the dolphins in the morning. ( he lived on his boat moored near where the dolphins were). He did let a dolphin out, it would put on a show in the bay and return to the pen. We hated it when the park closed. After the park closed but before they bulldozed the wild west town, we had a shoot out. We used our Whamo wrist rocket sling shots to shoot out every window in the western town with marbles. After the park closed they had a caretaker on the property for a while. His daughter was my first real go to the movies date. ( My dad had to drive us to Sarasota to see the movie).Great times, and great people

May 12, 2011
by: Mike Miller

Rick: that's an amazing memory. What a pioneer your father must have been!

May 12, 2011
Porpoise to Porpoise Call
by: Rick Hamilton

My father was the GTE consultant who coordinated the porpoise to porpoise call at Floridaland back in 1965. I was 6 but I will never forget the pictures of my father with a speakerphone down at the dock with a porpoise "speaking" into it!

Apr 04, 2011
Floridaland: Dolphins
by: Mike Miller

James: yes, I did visit Floridaland way back when. I don't know exactly how they kept the dolphins by the boat, but as you probably know, they are smart animals and can be trained to do many things.

Apr 02, 2011
Questions about park
by: James

To the guy who will likely never answer. Did you ever go to Floridaland? I wonder how they kept a dolphin alongside the boat. Do you remember it's name?

Jan 17, 2011
FloridaLand . . . A Blast From The Past!
by: Greg May

Yes, indeed! FloridaLand was a little bit of everything all rolled into one. One of the more unusual features of FloridaLand was a boat ride on a double-decker paddlewheel riverboat where one of their trained porpoises leaped alongside!

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