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Western Playland Amusement Park Plays Another Day
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Western Playland is having a happy summer, with a purchase late last fall by Traders Village Marketplace, the company that runs three very popular flea markets located in Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston. The markets each provide amusement rides for guests when they visit.

Now the company has rides already in place for the location of their next market at Western Playland. The 60-acre park has 26 rides on site, and Traders Village is planning to expand on those with more rides, added food and beverage choices, musical events, and seasonal activities, including fireworks on Friday nights and July 4th  for the summer.

Last November, the park's previous owner Patrick Thomson sold to Traders Village, believing the time was right. Thomson had passed on other offers over the years, but Traders Village came along when he was finally ready to step away from the business. Thomson was the third generation to operate the family amusement park business, which was initially started by his grandfather Leo Hines and father Wally Thomson in 1960. Patrick took over the business in 1994. The park's original location was in El Paso County's Ascarte Park; it then moved to Sunland Park in 2006, when Thomson was given land by the owner of the Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino.

When the park was forced to close for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomson began to consider retirement for the first time, after what he termed a somewhat relaxing quiet year off. Business thrived when the park reopened in 2021, and he soon found himself quite busy again.

While he didn't know much about Traders Village when first approached, he was convinced the company was the right one to take on his amusement park business, especially after they agreed to keep his current 12 full-time employees on the job and retain the classic Western Playland name.

As for Traders Village, the company was looking to expand its Texas flea markets into El Paso and the amusement park fit their needs. Along with bringing in new rides and food choices plus family events to Western Playland, they will be expanding vendor space and opening their flea market in the future.

According to Traders Village president Tim Anderson, “Western Playland, with 60 acres and 26 rides, complements our brand nicely.”

For now, however, they are focusing on the theme park itself, with big plans afoot, from adding rides, to creating events for the whole family to enjoy. During March Spring Break, the park offered a DJ spinning tunes. April brought Easter Bunny photos and Golden Egg Surprises, followed later in the month by the Ghostbusters team: the Texas Regional Response Ghostbuster members walked around the park and photo ops were offered with their ride, the Ecto-1. A Ghostbusters trivia contest netted lucky winners some tickets to the El Paso Comic Con that month as well.

In May, for Cinco de Mayo, the Los Arrieros Mariachis and Ballet Folklorica Cuauhtli performed; Mother's Day provided free admission to the park for moms; and just before Memorial Weekend, the park presented the Superior Music Festival, including band, choir, and orchestra performances. Currently, every Friday in June, fireworks bloom in the sky. The park has also brought their popular DJ Johnny Kage back. and is offering a Father's Day promotion that allows dads to ride for free on Sunday, June 18th with the purchase of a "pay one price" ride wristband by another family member. In July, the park's big fireworks celebration will unfold on the 4th, an annual event.

Traders Village Marketplace is itself a family-owned business, headquartered in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, Texas. The sale of Western Playland was finalized in late November, making the time to reopen the park for its operating season tight. The park reopened in February.

Retaining the existing staff made the process easier, the company's senior marketing director Lee Ann Murray, related, saying that revamping the park with a short timeline and creating a fresh look went smoothly. She says working together with Western Playland's staff was “a total natural fit…We all got along really well... We kind of just seamlessly meshed together…”

Traders Village also commissioned local artist Tino Ortega to create a new mural at the park's front gate, vibrant with Western Playland's well-known reds, blues, and yellows, styled with a mosaic-like flair.

Murray terms the mural “absolutely gorgeous.” In addition, fresh paint was added throughout the park, with plans in place to add more rides, include pop ups for local vendors, and continue to expand food offerings. The park applied for a beer and wine license, too. While Traders Village definitely plans to open a flea market at the location as part of its long-range plan for Western Playland, “We want to focus on the amusement park for the next couple years,” Murray asserts.

The park has already added one new ride: the Fireball.

The ride joins already loved coasters and rides such as the Hurricane, Bandido, and the Tsunami located at the park. Food items offered have also already expanded, to include items such as sausage on a stick, loaded nachos, turkey legs, cotton candy, popcorn, and chicharrónes. Food trucks and pop-up tents offer aguas frescas and Boba tea.

Admission to the park and rides are available in two ways: a pay one price bracelet is $27.65 for guests 42 inches or taller and $18.49 for those 34 to 41 inches tall. Admission is free for kids under 33 inches and seniors over the age of 60. Tots under 33 inches receive a free pay one price bracelet so they can enjoy four size-appropriate kiddie rides at the park. Active military receive a $3 wristband discount.

Guests can also pay for admission only at $5, and then purchase, as desired, single individual ride tickets priced at $3. General Admission purchasers can still ride on the park's train and Sky Ride at no extra charge.
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