Women of Influence: Violet Cormier

A view from the top…
Violet Cormier and her husband, Ken Cormier, built Funtown Splashtown USA, Saco, Maine, from the ground up. What started as a drive-in food stand called Marvel Drive-In in 1960, now is home to the park with almost 30 amusement rides, multiple waterslides, a children’s water play area, a swimming pool and a variety of games and food. Ken Cormier passed away in 2013, but Violet Cormier continues to be a very active part of Funtown Splashtown USA.


Accomplishments and affiliations…

  • Member, New England Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (NEAAPA)
  • Member, International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA)
  • Ken Cormier was named Small Business Person of the Year for Maine in 2001

Loving the ride of her life

SACO, Maine — Violet Cormier speaks from the heart. So when she said, “Seeing people, children, families with their own challenges come into this park and have smiles on their faces, maybe just for a little while, fills me with real joy,” it is very easy to recognize her sincerity.
   She was 24 years old when she and her husband, Ken Cormier, opened Marvel Drive-In. She will be 84 years old this September. 

 “That is 60 years,” she said. “That is a lifetime.” 

Make no mistake. Those 60 years had challenges and ample enough blood, sweat and tears to go around. But, Cormier looks at her life now and has no regrets. 

 “I have had my ups and downs, my goods and bads,” she said. “I have felt it all. It is all called life. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.”

In 1960 when the food stand opened, Cormier had been married for six years. She had three children. Bill was born in 1953. Gail was born in 1955 and Kevin was born in 1959. 

Her husband had served three years in the Korean War and had come home, attended and graduated from college and was working in an accounting firm. 

The couple had worked summers at the Palmer House in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. 

Growing up quickly was something Violet Cormier knew all too well. It had been a way of life for her for many years. 

Her dad died young, leaving her young mother, Estelle Gilbert Richard, alone to raise five daughters. 

“My mother had to go to work,” she said. “We lived on a farm. We were workers. We raised chickens and grew our own vegetables.”

Cormier watched as her mother sold those farm fresh products, turning that into a successful and profitable grocery business.

 “I watched her start to buy property,” Cormier said. “I watched her divide property. I watched her buy and build apartments and town homes.

“I can remember my mother coming home in the evenings and being so tired,” she said. “She would come in and just flop back on the bed. 

Cormier graduated from high school early. She met her husband-to-be when she was only 12 years old. By the time she was 18 years old, she was married and pregnant with her first child. 

It had been Cormier’s desire to be a stay-at-home mom. She felt all the early hard work would lead her there.

“I thought I knew everything back then,” she said.

But life has those ways of twisting its own path. 

“One day my mother came to me and said, ‘If I loan you and Ken $100,000, do you think the two of you could start up your own business?’ ” 

Yes was the quick answer.

So, she and her husband purchased a parcel of land on Route 1 in Saco. At that time, the area was not very developed. They put their food stand there. Her husband continued with his day job and worked the food stand around those hours. She took her children to the restaurant. 

“They always were around me,” she said. “I was the boss and could do that. As they got older, I gave them chores to do there.”

One of her sisters and her husband, Muriel and Andre (Ted) Dallaire, purchased land next door to the restaurant. They opened a miniature golf course and go-cart track.

“We put in a bat-away behind the restaurant,” Cormier said. “We didn’t have a ball picker. We would wait until someone came in and told us we were out of balls. Then, while we were serving food out of the front of the restaurant, we would all run out of the back door and pick up balls.”

Cormier said her husband finally gave up his accounting job. They formed a partnership with the Dallaires, added several amusement rides and, all of the sudden, they had an amusement park. 

That was in 1967. The park continued to expand over the succeeding years. The Cormiers eventually bought out the Dallaires in the late 1970s.

In the meantime, the Cormiers also were adding three more children to their own line-up. Karen was born in 1964. Candace in 1968 and Kimberly in 1970.

Cormier had wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. In a way, she achieved that and a whole lot more. The park was their home and still is today. All her children have a role in the park’s operations. 

Cormier lives in a residence at the park. She now picks and chooses what she wants to do. She makes sure her employees feel appreciated, cooking for them often. She teaches them to be kind, courteous and outgoing to the park guests.

She also goes to the park gates and welcomes her guests. She loves to greet the children groups.

“I love watching the children come off their buses with those smiles on their faces,” she said. 

Losing her husband was and still is very hard. But the park and family they built together continues.

“They give my life purpose every single day. I think we become what we do. I am right where I am supposed to be.”

The fast lane has treated her very well. 

—Pam Sherborne

This article appears in the MAY 2019 issue of Amusement Today.
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