San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

San Marcos swine had plenty of job opportunities in the days of the Aquarena Springs amusement park. Ralph the Swimming Pig — actually, many Ralph the Swimming Pigs over the years — was a top attraction at the roadside attraction. COURTESY PHOTO


by SHELLEY HENRY

With the dismantling of the Sky Spiral just a few days ago and the removal of the submarine theater structures from Spring Lake in late May, little remains of Aquarena Springs Amusement Park, one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations during the last half of the 20th century.

If you go…

What: Screening of “Aquarena Springs and Ralph the Swimming Pig: The Documentary of a Texas Treasure”

When: 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11

Where: Texas Music Theater, 120 E. Hopkins Street

Who: Sponsored by Heritage Association of San Marcos

Notes: $10 adults, $5 teens. Free for children under 12.

What remain are memories of the park, where generations of local residents were entertained and visitors to San Marcos came from across the country and around the world.

The public is invited to relive those memories—or experience the magic of Aquarena for the first time—at an Aug. 11 presentation of Bob Phillips’ film, “Aquarena Springs and Ralph the Swimming Pig: The Documentary of a Texas Treasure.”

The screening, sponsored by the Heritage Association of San Marcos, will begin at 2 p.m. at the Texas Music Theatre, 120 E. San Antonio St. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for teenagers, with no charge for children under 12.

Phillips wrote, edited and produced the documentary a year ago using archival photos, home movies and videos, and interviews he conducted with key figures in Aquarena’s history. Phillips is the son of the late Gene Phillips, who managed Aquarena Springs in the 1970s and ’80s.

Those who remember or have heard tales about Ralph the swimming pig, Glurpo the clown, the “Top Gun” mechanical cowboy, the dancing chicken and piano-playing duck, the Swiss sky ride, Pirates’ Cove, and the alligators that escaped during a flood will be transported back in time via the documentary to hear the stories and see the images of the famous vintage roadside attraction that was Aquarena Springs.

The documentary was an official selection of the Thin Line Film Festival, the only international film festival in Texas. Copies of the film will be available for sale at the Aug. 11 event.

CORRECTION: The info box with this story originally said the screening was sponsored by the Hays County Historical Commission. It is sponsored by the Heritage Association of San Marcos.

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4 thoughts on “With Aquarena fading quickly into history, documentary remembers the magic

  1. I have a ton of childhood memories of Aquarena Springs – it was a regular family destination for us. The underwater theater was a mind blowing experience for a six-year old. As late as the early 90s, the restaurant was a popular date night destination for area teens.

    It may not be politically correct to say it, but I would much prefer to see it the way it was in the early 80s than what it is now. It just feels so empty over there nowadays…..

  2. I’m with you Dano. Just another part of the river we can look at but not touch. I’ll miss the old restaurant, cheesy gift shop etc. Mostly I miss the pool.

  3. I miss it too! We had an annual membership there and went frequently. We also had a membership at the pool until my Dad built our own. Every guest that came to town was taken to Aquarena. We used to sneak through the hotel to go to the candy store up on the hill. Too bad it is gone.

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