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A photo from an original souvenir guide to Ghost Town in the Sky.
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Smoky Mtn. amusement park, Ghost Town in the Sky, for sale for $4.5 million

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To buy it

To learn more about purchasing Ghost Town in the Sky, aka Ghost Town Village, go to www.facebook.com/GTMAGGIE or email real estate agent Chris Soco at chris@socomountain.com. Serious inquiries only.

Memories

Regardless of what happens to Ghost Town in the Sky, it evokes happy memories from Times Free Press readers who were asked about it on the newspaper’s Facebook page. Roughly 100 readers commented.

› “Went there two or three times when I was little,” wrote Chuck Johnson, a Tennessee Valley Authority retiree. “Probably late ’60s. Gunfight in the streets scared me. Then watching the stunt cowboys fall off buildings when they got shot was amazing to me.”

› “I still have my Indian feather headdress that came from Ghost Town in the Sky,” wrote Randall Eugene Oliver, of Varnell, Ga. “I remember going and have always wanted to take my son.”

› “We went many years ago. Still have the Western photo we got taken. It really was fun,” wrote Andrea Mercer of Rock Spring, Ga.

› “I think the best memories are me being able to take my grandson multiple times before they announced they were closing again. He was able to make friends with many of the gunfighters and staff. He has a harmonica that was given to him on the last day they were open,” Rocelia Kay Patterson, of Trenton, Ga., wrote.

› “I loved this place I wish they would reopen it so I could take my grand babies,” wrote Susan Worley, Rock Spring, Ga.

› “Was there when I was little. Really liked it. Gunfight in street was scary,” wrote Freida Swearengin Hill, who graduated in 1969 from Rossville High School and lives in Manchester, Tenn.

If you're a fan of Western-themed amusement parks, have $4.5 million to spend and don't mind driving three hours from Chattanooga, opportunity awaits in Maggie Valley, N.C.

Ghost Town in the Sky, a Wild West attraction between Cherokee and Asheville that featured stuntmen squaring off for shootouts in dusty streets and girls dancing the cancan in a saloon, is for sale.

Said to be Western North Carolina's No. 1 tourist attraction after it opened in 1961, Ghost Town in the Sky advertised that it sat a "mile high" atop a mountain (actually 4,600 feet). Tourists took a chair lift, incline railway or tour bus to get to the park, which also featured such rides as a tilt-a-whirl, bumper cars and a steel-loop roller coaster called the Cliffhanger.

But the venue had problems over the years. The decline began in the 1990s, according to the Smoky Mountain News, a Waynesville, N.C.-based newspaper, and the park closed in 2002, reopened four years later and closed again in 2009 after the owners filed for bankruptcy.

The park was purchased at auction in 2012 for $2.5 million by the then 88-year-old Alaska Presley, a Maggie Valley businesswoman who hoped to revive it — and boost Maggie Valley's tourism.

The renamed Ghost Town Village reopened in 2014 and 2015, said Chris Soco, the real estate agent who's selling the property. The chair lift took visitors to the mountaintop — though many of the park's rides were too expensive to restore, he said. The plan was to rebrand the park as an Appalachian village with artisan and craft shops, and no shoot-outs, since that's not as big a draw as it once was.

"There're not any Western TV shows; you don't see 'Gunsmoke' or 'Bonanza,'" Soco said.

The shops were all leased, he said, but the 2016 season fell through because public water wasn't hooked up in time. Water is now available, he said, but Presley wants to sell. She'll part with the entire 260-acre property, which includes some houses, or sell just the 90-acre park, which includes the chair lift, the Old West town and all the rides.

"We've actually had a lot of offers on it," Soco said.

One potential buyer, he said, "wants to do an alpine slide underneath the chairlift like Ober Gatlinburg."

Presley would like to sell to "somebody that's going to take it to the next level" Soco said, and keep it going as an amusement park, though that's not a requirement for sale.

"We'd like to get it sold," he said. "I expect it will probably sell by the summer."

Bill Chapin, chairman and CEO at See Rock City, Inc., who runs another, closely held long-time tourist attraction on Lookout Mountain, sees pluses and minuses for Ghost Town in the Sky as an amusement park.

Anyone who buys it would have "to continue to make investments to improve the quality of the attraction and the general experience," he said.

"I think the toughest thing for them is you gotta take the chair lift up to get there," Chapin said. "Western North Carolina is just an incredibly beautiful part of the world to have a summer vacation."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.

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