This story was updated at 2:47 to correct that Kimberly Hutchinson is Candace Galbreath’s sister

SACO – With parents who own the largest combination water- and-amusement park in northern New England, Candace Galbreath said her childhood friends thought her life was interesting.

To her, it was normal.

“We are a family, but this is our family business,” she said, learning that the business was their life at a young age.

“I can’t tell you how many different jobs I’ve had here.”

Today, Galbreath is points-of-sales director for the park. She oversees the entrance booths and staff that serve as the first point of contact for visitors to the park.

Funtown/Splashtown USA isn’t just a place for great American families to come and play. It’s a family owned and operated business that the family loves as much as they love each other.

Ken and Violet Cormier met during the summer of 1948. Violet was on Old Orchard Beach when Ken spotted her. It was love at first sight.

They married in 1952, and a year later Ken joined the Army. He served until 1955, including a year and a half tour in Korea. When he returned home, Violet encouraged him to go to college.

By 1959, Ken had graduated from St. Francis College, now the University of New England, with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. A year later, the couple started Marvel Drive-In.

It was the foundation of the amusement park empire they have since created.

As the business grew, so did their family. Violet quickly realized she would not be the average stay-at-home mother. The bigger and busier the amusement park got, the more she had to work.

“I wouldn’t leave them home. When they were old enough, the children came here with me,” Violet said.

Wherever Violet was working in the park, she kept her children nearby and busy. They would help her sweep the grounds or slice pickles for lunch items.

As each child got older, they assumed different duties around the park and learned about the business from the bottom up.

Ken said raising a family and running a seasonal business was not always easy. They dedicated themselves to the park from May to September.

“We made a lot of sacrifices in life,” Ken said.

They never had time during the summer to go on a family picnic or take a vacation.

“That may have been hard for the kids,” he said.

Galbreath said she didn’t mind.

“We give up our summers, but that’s OK,” because they love what they do, she said. “We’re down-to-earth people who work hard.”

Galbreath said all her siblings had the choice to pursue something else.

Her sister, Karen Ann Cormier, chose a nursing career. The others, like Galbreath, stayed in the family business.

Most of the company’s board of directors are family members. When they surround the long table in the conference room, Violet and Galbreath admit discussion can get heated at times. Galbreath said for the most part, the family works well together because they know how each other works.

They have also found their own niches based on what they enjoy and are good at, Violet said.

Their son Bill is the maintenance director, his wife Karen is the personnel director and their son Cory works in maintenance; son Kevin is director of landscaping and theming and his son Chaz works in maintenance; daughter Gail is retail sales director; Galbreath’s sister Kimberly Hutchinson is group sales director and her husband Cory is general manager.

In a workplace that is all about customers having fun, Violet said she wants her employees to have fun. The business has been her family’s summer home almost all her life, she hopes it is the same for the employees.

Which is why the Cormiers treat everyone like family, even if they’re not related.

Ben Santos-Rogers, operations manager, started working at Funtown/Splashtown U.S.A. as a game attendant 13 years ago.

He returned year after year because Ken and Violet, who employees call Mr. C and Mrs. C, made the job unique and fun for everyone.

“Returning year after year, you see the same people. At this point, it’s really like a family,” he said.

Ed Hodgdon, marketing manager, agreed.

“They treat you like family. You’re not a number. Everyone is an important part of the family,” he said.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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