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A Family Affair at New Mexico's Largest Amusement Park

By Kelly Church

Cliff's Amusement Park is a family-centered, summer-season theme park for all ages in the heart of New Mexico's desert. As the state's largest amusement park, attractions range from thrill rides to family rides; water rides to Kiddieland.

Cliff Hammond founded the amusement park in 1959 as Kiddieland, which consisted of a single attraction: a go-kart track. With a growing popularity of the amusement park, Kiddieland was promoted to a 6.3-acre plot of land in 1963 and renamed Uncle Cliff's to make room for added rides and more ages.

"Hammond was always entrepreneurial at heart and was much happier working as his own boss," says Lance Smith, Director of Marketing for Cliff's Amusement Park. Smith cites Hammond's trips to a fairground attraction, Playland Park, as inspiration for Kiddieland.

The amusement park's growth didn't stop with Uncle Cliff's. The Hammond family has consistently been adding attractions for decades. Uncle Cliff's began appealing to thrill seekers with the addition of rides dubbed Cliff Hanger, SideWinder, Fire Ball and, a crowd favorite, the New Mexico Rattler. Today, the park is geared toward people of all ages- not just youngsters.

"The park grew to the point that it was offering more thrill rides and family rides, so it was re-branded to be Cliff's Amusement Park to better showcase its broad appeal across all ages," Smith says.

Throughout the evolution of Cliff's Amusement Park, a place for family has always been the focus. As Hammond and his wife grew older, they placed greater responsibility on their daughter and son-in-law, who now run the amusement park. Hammond died in early 2013, but the culture he started in Albuquerque and the surrounding areas hasn't dissipated.

"We may not offer all the flash and dash of Disney and Universal, but being a small family owned and operated business, we offer a much more personalized service at a much more reasonable rate," Smith says.

Although none of the original Kiddieland attractions exist at Cliff's Amusement Park anymore, kids that have grown and have children of their own now are still returning to the park to reminisce with their families.

"We are unique in the sense that we have reached a point where multiple generations within a family have been able to visit the park and enjoy what we have to offer," Smith says. "It's fun to hear the stories from guests who remember coming to Cliff's as a kid and are now bringing their own kids and grandkids to the park to share in the memories."

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