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two young men that frequented Big Chief Hot Dogs, Kart Appeal
and they convinced him to let them operate a three- “We needed more room, so we left that leased
wheeler recreational vehicle track around the property in 1980 and went back to the original
property. With Dimitrius' healthy percentage of the property where the hot dog joint was. With those 20
successful three-wheeler business, he leased a piece acres we could build a much larger track. We built a

Here was
my dad, a
foreigner who
of property, less than acre, on the Wisconsin Dells cloverleaf for the visual appeal. But Pop made another
Parkway, in 1975. Now, the Laskaris family was mistake: the go-karts weren't powerful enough to make
had come
actually on “The Strip,” a 2+ mile stretch of motels, it up the hill, so we had to shut the cloverleaf section
into a
souvenir shops, hamburger stands, kiddie lands, pony of the track. Still, the visual brought people in. Our
rides, swimming pools, miniature golf and unabashed go-kart riders asked why they couldn't go up the hill of
community
tourist rip-off attractions. the cloverleaf, so we just lied that we couldn't use the
controlled by
What to enter the Wisconsin Dells Big League with? hill for insurance reasons. They rode the karts anyway.”
Dimitrius asked his landlord if More Coney Island wisdom.
three or four
he could install a go-kart track, “While Pop stumbled into the
families,
and he asked the two young amusement industry, I think it
men who were running the was already in his blood. He
competing
three-wheeler track, Ken and was a simple man in many
with them.
Dennis, to be partners. Two ways, but he knew
weeks before the 1971 July 4th entertainment, he knew
The hot dog
weekend, Ken and Dennis customers, he knew people. He
stand was
purchased eight go-karts and knew what would work, or if it
Dimitrius built the track. Big didn't work, he knew how to fix it
acceptable,
Chief Go-Karts was born. so it would. So we operated for
but Big Chief
“Pop knew that a go-kart was two years with the cloverleaf that
a go-kart,” Nick says, “but if nobody could ride, until we
Go-Karts was
you made a track attractive, it lowered the hill so they could.
something
would bring in the customers. But we were doing turnaway
It's just like miniature golf; you're business on that track, whether
else
still putting a ball into a hole, or not they could ride the hill,
but if you can wow the customer and we added two more tracks
with visuals, they'll come in.” on that property, in 1983 and
Nick Laskaris

This was amusement park 1984.”
wisdom from New York's Coney
Eva, Fotina, Maria and Nick Laskaris in the park
Advertising for Big Chief Go-
Island back in the 1860s. It Karts was another gift to the
always worked, it always will, and in razzle-dazzle Laskaris family. The amphibious tanks from World War
style, Dimitrius built a figure-eight go-kart track, with II, named “ducks,” were a very popular attraction at
a bridge. Wisconsin Dells, taking riders in and out of the various
“But Pop made a crucial mistake. He made the waters and swamps around the Dells.
bridge one lane wide both over and under, and since “The duck rides surrounded our property,” Nick
it was a two-lane track, the go-karts collided on the says, “and so every three minutes there were 20
merge, and after the first day all eight go-karts were people riding a duck, and they would see this very
demolished. We had to close the track, reconstruct unique go-kart track, so they would ask the duck driver
the bridge into a two lane bridge and repair all the 'How do we get to that go-kart track?' They'd ride the
cars.” ducks and then come over to us.”
With young Nick as the mechanic and operator and Though Big Chief Go-Karts prospered, Nick himself
his sister Penny as the ticket seller, they re-opened two wasn't particularly crazy about the business. “I was
weeks later and, in typical Laskaris style, were turning working 10 to 12-hour days, and I hated go-karts. It's a
away business. By 1977 they bought out Ken and very rowdy business, go-karts are always breaking
Dennis, and from that point on the Laskaris family down. This was during the Johnson Kart Manufacturing
conquered Wisconsin Dells. era. The bumpers on those karts would bend so bad
FAR LEFT: Big Chief’s Drive-In
...it began here! LEFT: The park
in Wisconsin Dells in its days as
Big Chief’s
FEBRUARY 2010 37
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