'80 years of animal love and care': Marineland Dolphin Adventure marks milestone anniversary
Eighty years ago, a vision to create the world's first oceanarium became a reality when Marineland Dolphin Adventure — then called Marine Studios — held its grand opening on June 23, 1938, as a crowd of about 30,000 people gathered to learn about marine life.
Bill Rolleston was the first general manager, who served there for 30 years. At the 80th anniversary celebration on Saturday, June 23, his daughter, Penny Rolleston, was recognized in the crowd by current Vice President and General Manager Gary Inks.
Marineland’s Terran McGinnis, manager of community outreach and education, shared a condensed version of the oceanarium’s expansive history to a crowd gathered for the official 80th anniversary celebration after a month of festivities. Three of Marineland’s 15 bottlenose dolphins swam inquisitively back and forth along the glass of the largest of the seven pools.
“We are who we are now because of the way people like you, and you yourselves, have guided us to this point,” McGinnis said. “Marineland was very influential in the local community’s feelings about the ocean and about marine life, and you were very influential in helping Marineland know what to focus on, and that brings us to who we are now, which is a facility really dedicated to education, emotion, getting people to fall in love with these guys behind me, and then to funnel that emotion and that care into wanting to do something — to take action to protect those dolphins that are out there behind you, as well as sharks and sea turtles and all of marine life.”
In the 1950s, the general belief was that marine animals could not be trained because they were too different from humans to allow communication and interaction. To determine the answer, Marine Studios hired fourth-generation circus animal trainer Adolph Frohn to see if he could train a young male bottlenose dolphin named Flippy. In one year, Frohn was able to train Flippy to do six behaviors — results that surprised the public and even himself.
“Eighty years of animal love and care here at Marineland — that’s the story we have for you tonight.”
- GARY INKS, Marineland vice president and general manager
Once the possibility of training was established, a 1000-seat stadium opened to the public in 1954, where Flippy starred as the world’s first trained dolphin. That built the foundation that later carved a way for the public to be enthralled with marine-human connections.
The Dolphin Conservation Center was dedicated in 2006 to bond dolphins and people through personal interaction. Marineland Dolphin Adventure was founded in 2011 to focus the facility’s efforts on preservation, protection and research to benefit marine life, as well as education and relationship building with the public.
“Now, we’re in the world of dolphin interactive programs, and that is one of the most powerful places we can be if our mission is in fact to get people to take care of that,” McGinnis said as she gestured toward the ocean behind the crowd.
Flagler County Commissioner Greg Hansen and Marineland Commissioner Brandon Mellin each read a proclamation on June 23 honoring the eighty years of growth Marineland Dolphin Adventure has had.
Guests were able to go on behind-the-scene tours of the facility, getting up close and personal with some of the dolphins and learning more about its history in the museum room, which opened this year.
“To those of you have long histories with this facility, or your families do, you got us to where we are,” McGinnis said. “And you are giving us the chance now, 80 years later, to try and really take care of our ocean, so cheers to all of you.”
Click here for a behind-the-scenes photo essay on what it’s like to be a dolphin trainer at Marineland.