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Great State: Water Zoo

CLINTON, Okla. – Gabe South wasn’t due to turn 8 years old officially until Tuesday but a Saturday was close enough for him to invite family and friends to get wet in January.

“What’s your favorite thing in here so far?” asks a new friend.

Gabe replies, “The slides and the lazy river. The Tornado Dome too.”

Fifteen years ago Walt Shumacher bought himself 70 acres on either side of Interstate 40 in Clinton.

Then he started building.

There are two hotels on the property now, restaurants, and the newest installation, something he calls the Water Zoo.

There are 28,000 square feet of space under one roof; wave pool, lazy river, slides, and a 600 gallon bucket that spills its contents every couple of minutes.

“Until about three years ago I hadn’t seen an indoor water park,” he says. “I visited one in Billings, Montana and I thought, now this would work in Clinton. This will bring out of town people in. The hotel will help with cash flow.”

Shumacher spent between $10 million and $12 million on his wet playground.

He wanted to make sure the roof opened in warm weather and that kids like Gabe South and another birthday girl on the premises Saturday, Abby Gilmer, could schedule parties without having to drive to Dallas or Kansas City.

Walt painted a picture of a car full of kids on the interstate bothering Dad to stop when they see the park. “Hanging on his neck screaming, choking Dad as he’s going down the highway. ‘Gotta stop here Dad’.”

As for Gabe and friends, they never dreamed of a pool party like this in their town, not in the dead of winter.

But every once in a while a birthday wish comes true. Now he just has to think about his wish for next year.

The Clinton Water Zoo is located along I-40 between exits 65 and 65A.

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