Shireland was a theme park created by inventor Thomas Smrt, the
man who invented the upside down aerosol can that is used to
paint stripes on parking lots. Smrt took a fancy to shire
horses (a kind of plow horse, similar to the Clydesdale horses
that pull the Budweiser wagon). When there were less than
50 shire horses in the world, Smrt shipped some to the United
States and began breeding them. Smrt has a farm where he
raises and sells shire horses. He is also known for
donating over 40 Shire horses to the Caisson Unit of the United
theme park, opened on May 28, 1988. Sitting on 111 acres
of land on Dietrich Road and Lake Street in Hampshire, the theme
park mission seemed to be to turn these plow horses into super-heroes.
When Shireland was in its prime, it included a circus tent
larger than 4 football fields (68,000 square feet) as well as
four smaller (10,000 square foot) exhibit tents.
maintained that Shireland was a "completely original family
adventure that (will) include a zoo, a circus and a county fair
all wrapped into one". He went on to say that
Shireland never attempted to compete with Great America, with
its "high speed, gravity-defying rides". Instead, it
was supposed to deliver a message of good conquering evil. He is
quoted as saying "Some children today aren't allowed to
enjoy their childhood without violence, drugs and other
'dragons' infringing on their dreams". With its musical
show "Of Dragons and Dreams", Shireland attempted to
deliver a positive message to kids.
His desire to make the world a more
"child-user-friendly" place was not enough to keep the
doors open. Shireland closed at the end of the 1988 season and
stayed closed for two years. In 1991, the park opened again.
Whether the park stayed open during the entire season 1991 is at
question, but it has been closed ever since.