Key Lime Cove Water Park

Key Lime Cove is a water park in Gurnee, Illinois, north of Chicago.

Can you say “monster job?” Walls 60 feet high, 31,000 square feet of wall surface in the water park’s main room, with another 6,500 added later, requiring some high-speed design and painting as the opening day loomed.

The theme was simple but fun: a Caribbean vacation available to frozen Midwesterners in winter. It was the brain child of Dave Anderson, the creator of a local restaurant chain, Famous Dave’s Barbecue, and a genuinely nice man. Dave is Native American and he showed me a picture of his grandmother, who taught him to cook, wearing buckskins.

Dave was the central figure in a conglomerate of restaurateurs and hotel builders who financed the project. Shortly after the water park opened, the first national housing bubble burst, having the trickle-down effect that Dave was left managing a property that would soon belong to a bank. Life is sometimes perversely unfair.