Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?

 

Although I grew up in Pennsylvania, the now legendary Fairyland of Gettysburg eludedFantasyland Brochure me.  The park opened in 1959 and operated through its closure in 1980. Being born in 1978 a 4 hour’s drive away, it just slipped right through my little toddler fingers. I only learned of its existence years later online. In all the pictures and promotional materials, I continued to see a towering figure; 23 feet tall and somewhat sinister. Mother Goose welcomed all guests with a big bowl of salad and a pained expression of discomfort. Her face looked more like a real mother’s than it did a fairy tale. She appears tired, irritated, and has somewhat masculine features. Her knobby cane emphasizes her agony further. Next to her, a curious goose, looking up at her (maybe interested in what is in the bowl) The more I dug, the more she started showing up. I found her scowl on brochures, souvenirs, and postcards.
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The statue’s face is strange and memorable. I recognized it immediately.

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I had seen this face before at Storybook Land in Egg Harbor.  I thought to myself “Huh-They actually made two of those!-Wonder what happened to the one that was in Gettysburg.”

The deeper I dug the more I found; and my initial assumption was wrong.

There were not two of these figures manufactured, there was just one, and she was made to be the focal point at the entrance of Fantasyland for Ken and Thelma Dick, who opened the park in 1959.

When it closed, most of the statues and figures were sold to other park owners. Many of them went to Indiana, but surely the largest, Mother Goose, presented a unique set of challenges. As it turns out, she made the  nearly 200 mile trip east from Gettysburg to the Jersey Shore, where she has continued to greet visitors at the entrance of a new park.

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Gettysburg lost a piece of its collective childhood when Fantasyland closed its castle doors, but thankfully, Mother Goose was not left to the bulldozers or the elements. She still greets the young visitors (and the young at heart). She is the first thing guests see when they walk through the gates of Story Book Land. She’s even got a spot for excited kids (like me) to pose with her…and her mysterious bowl of salad. The park has repainted her beautifully, even softening her face into a near Mona-Lisa smile. She’s blushing and has gotten her nails done. Her witchy-pointed hat has been shortened and flowers have been added. She seems happy to spend her old age here near the Atlantic Ocean.  Her goose friend is here too, still trying desperately to get her attention.

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Next time you are visiting Story Book Land take a  look at a piece of history from a park that didn’t make it. Fantasyland was less fortunate than Story Book Land which still operates today, but even through uncertain times, mothers always seem to find their way back to their children.

The Sprats, a real fairy tale couple we can aspire to on Valentine’s Day

 

JackSpratt Valentine

Love is in the air, but in fairy tales, there are not frequently couples we can aspire to.

When you think about fairy tales and romance, you might first think of innumerable princess stories. However, in them, you will find dark themes hiding beneath the surface. Many of these stories were cleaned up by Disney in order to make them more palatable to a 20th century audience, but these original stories are riddled with jealousy, attempted murder, poisoning, and abusive families. Perhaps the most blatant example of “what not to do” in a relationship is the tale of the imprisoned  and abused wife of Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater!

In these romance stories, physical beauty is revered, while those possessing inner strength are often locked away and forgotten to toil on backbreaking chores. If one theme holds constant, it is that in the end, only the most beautiful, and pure princesses find mates.

Spratt

Thinking about this, I found myself searching for a realistic couple I could respect in the fairy tale world. I wanted a pair that exhibited unconditional love for one another, and whose traits make them complete partners by virtue of their opposite strengths. I came to the unexpected realization that maybe this ideal couple is not the most obvious husband and wife. They weren’t beautiful, or wealthy. They weren’t refined. In fact, in all of my travels, I’ve only encountered one (somewhat terrifying) interpretation of them at the Magic Forest.  (Though while researching this post, I did locate a second example at Rock City’s Fairyland Caverns in Chatanooga-Which is going on the list of future visits!)

I digress, the couple in question is Jack Sprat and his wife, Joan. For you scholars, there are additional lyrics to the rhyme, (though most of us only know the first stanza pictured above). I’ve included the song in its entirety at the end of this post. There are several interpretations of this tale, with some believing it is a reference to King Charles I and Henrietta Maria. Others believe it is actually referencing Richard I.

Ignoring British history, let’s read this purely as a children’s rhyme. We get to know Jack and Joan only through one short verse, but it is clear that they work in tandem to accomplish their goals (as most successful marriages do!)  Jack and Joan make due with what they have, always ensuring that the other is cared for.  Throughout the rhyme they both have enough to eat and consistently demonstrate their love one another (just as they are).

In a comedic, but romantic gesture, after they are married, Joan is too fat for the carriage, so without judgement or hesitation, Jack wheels her home in a wheelbarrow. The plump wife, and skinny husband seem perfectly paired. When trouble befalls Joan upon falling out of the wheelbarrow, Jack is first concerned for her safety. Once settled into their roles, Joan brews beer and cooks dinner; while time and time again we see Jack portrayed as a doting husband who makes sure Joan’s clothes are mended, and her belly is full. We see him hunt ducks and buy her anything she needs. Despite the mundane life they seem to lead, we even see two embark on international travel together, while their little cat has adventures of his own.

You’ll find no beautiful princesses here, and no dashing princes. Just two simple people sharing a life together, and there’ something quite admirable about that.

For the full picture of the Jack and Joan Sprat’s life, I encourage you to read their entire story in these lesser known verses below. The thing I love about this is that even though we see both of them fail and make foolish mistakes, their love for one another stays constant. Despite the odds, the love and respect for one another never falters.

THE LIFE OF JACK SPRAT, HIS WIFE, AND HIS CAT.

This one ear’d Cat,
Belongs to Jack Sprat.

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean,
And so between them both,
They lick’d the platter clean ;

Jack eat all the lean,
Joan eat all the fat,
The bone they pick’d it clean,
Then gave it to the cat

When Jack Sprat was young,
He dressed very smart,
He courted Joan Cole,
And he gained her heart ;

In his fine leather doublet,
And old greasy hat,
O what a smart fellow-
Was little Jack Sprat.

Joan Cole had a hole.
In her petticoat,
Jack Sprat, to get a patch
Gave her a groat ;
The groat bought a patch,
Which stopp’d Joan’s hole,

I thank you, Jack Sprat,
Says little Joan Cole.

Jack Sprat was the bridegroom,
Joan Cole was the bride,
Jack said, from the church
His Joan home should ride ;
But no coach could take her,
The lane was so narrow,
Said Jack, then I’ll take her
Home in a wheel-barrow.

Jack Sprat was wheeling
His wife by a ditch,
The barrow turn’d over,
And in she did pitch ;
Says Jack, she’ll be drown’d,
But Joan did reply,
I don’t think 1 shall,
For the ditch is quite dry.

Jack brought home his Joan,
And she sat on a chair,
When in came his cat,
That had got but one ear,
Says Joan, I’m come home puss,
Pray how do you do,
The cat wagg’d her tail,
And said nothing but mew.

Jack Sprat took his gun,
And went to the brook,
He shot at the drake,
But he kill’d a duck,
He brought it to Joan,
Who a fire did make,
To roast the fat duck,
While Jack went for the drake.

The drake was a swimming,
With his curley tail,
Jack Sprat came to shoot him,
But happen’d to fail ;
He let off his gun,
But missing his mark

The drake flew away,
Crying, quack, quack quack.

Jack Sprat, to live pretty,
Now bought him a pig,
It was not very little,
It was not very big,
It was not very lean,
It was not very fat,
It will serve for a grunter,
For little Jack Sprat.

Then Joan went to market,
To buy her some fowls,
She bought a jackdaw
And a couple of owls;
The owls they were white,
The jackdaw was black,
They’ll make a rare breed,
Says little Joan Sprat.

Jack Sprat bought a cow,
His Joan for to please,
For Joan she could make
Both butter and cheese,
Or pancakes, or puddings,
Without any fat,
A notable housewife
Was little Joan Sprat.

Joan Sprat went to brewing
A barrel of ale,
She put in some hops
That it might not turn stale
But as for the malt,
She forgot to put that,
This is sober liquor,
Says little Jack Sprat,

Jack Sprat went to market,
And bought him a mare,
She was lame of three legs,
And as blind as a bat,
Her ribs they were bare,
For the mare had no fat,
She looks like a racer,
Says little Jack Sprat.

Jack and Joan went abroad,
Puss took care of the house,
She caught a large rat
And a very small mouse,
She caught a small mouse
And a very large rat,
You are an excellent hunter,
Says little Jack Sprat.

Now I have told you the story
Of little Jack Sprat,
Of little Joan Cole,
And the one ear’d cat.
Now Jack has got rich.
And has plenty of pelf,
If you’d know any more,
You may tell it yourself.

Here’s to all the really real couples out there that are taking care of each other and making sure their loved ones stay fed and happy!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

When Dinosaurs Fought In The Civil War

Between 1861 and 1865 the bloodiest battles in US history were fought on American soil during the American Civil War. For more than four violent years, armies fought and died after 11 Southern Confederate states seceded from the United States of America over the right to own slaves. After 750,000 American citizens died, combat finally ended with the abolition of slavery and surrender by the Confederate army. But what if something else had happened?

Try then, to imagine that 200 million years earlier (on land that would come to be known by us as a historic Civil War battlefield) massive dinosaurs walked on the same ground fighting their own bloody battles for survival.

Leave it to the imagination of Mark Cline to show us what things might look like had these two events taken place concurrently.  In his now defunct attraction Escape from Dinosaur Kingdom (2005-2012), visitors could see what might have transpired had the Union army captured and used carnivorous dinosaurs as weapons against the Confederate troops!

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Located in Natural Bridge, VA’s tourist complex, Cline had created four unique and separate attractions. Visitors could stop to his free sculptural attraction “Foamhenge” (a true to scale Styrofoam replica of Stonehenge), the could “Hunt Bigfoot with a Redneck” (I’ll give you one guess who the Redneck was!) and they could walk through his beloved Haunted Monster Museum (which turned out to be one of our most popular Enchanted Kiddieland posts!). Included with your value price 2 for 1 admission to the Monster Museum, you also got to travel back to 1863 and visit his imaginative”Dinosaur Kingdom.”

Already an expert after building more than 400 dinosaurs for roadside attractions and theme parks, Cline knew that his Dino park would need to be different if it was going to stand out. valley-of-gwangi-pic-3Lucky for us, he possesses an incredible imagination and an even more powerful sense of humor! The park’s concept is loosely based on the 1969 Ray Harryhausen film, Valley of the Gwangi, (Which pits cowboys against dinosaurs in a special effects Dynamation spectacular!)

Cline imagined a similar scene substituting cowboys with Union Soldiers as villains who use the Dinosaurs as weapons against the South (after all, this attraction is in the former Confederate state of Virginia!) Before you get too upset about the political ramifications of the south winning the Civil War, Cline has stated that he had hoped to build a second Civil War dinosaur park in Gettysburg wherein the Confederate soldiers are the bad guys. Regrettably, that dream never came to fruition.

Dinosaur Kingdom begins its storytelling through journals violently strewn about a campsite with pots and pans, and overturned wagons. By reading the notebooks, visitors can surmise that a family of paleontologists entered a cave in search of fossils only to find living dinosaurs that had escaped (and were now being used by the North to win the war!)! You can see the civilian mother and father Garrison danging precariously in the trees above the sharp teeth of a hungry carnivore.  Dinosaur Kingdom

As guests entered the self guided wooded park, they’d hear the sounds of nature; sticks cracking under shoes and birds- but beyond this, was the omnipresent laughter of children (and adults!) as they were welcomed into wacky the mind of Mark Cline for a short while. A button with a hand painted sign reading “Feeding Time” begs to be pushed, only to discover that you are standing directly beneath the motorized jaws of a hungry T Rex and a dangling deer carcass! A sign tacked to a tree warned “Don’t Look Up!”, but of course you did, only to see an angry reptile climbing straight toward you. In one scene, a herd of curious raptors surrounds farm animals who had all stacked themselves on top of one another until there was a trembling rabbit sitting on the back of a deer who was sitting on the back of a cow resulting in classic cartoon imagery. One of my favorite gags was a full sized port-a-potty that looked no different from any other, but if you were brave enough to open the door you were met with a shocked looking Yankee soldier being attacked by dinosaurs that had busted through the back walls while he was taking care of business.

Dinosaur Kingdom 3

Part Wild West park, part Dinosaur Park, part Roadside tourist trap, this place was a dream come true for some road weary travelers who didn’t even know it was here. The park opened in 2005, and our visit was in 2008, meaning it was in a mostly complete state. However, as an ongoing project, Mark Cline continued to add characters and beasts as the years went on. I’m told that later iterations included Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address, and even a gorilla wearing a cowboy hat. (Hey, don’t tell me you’re getting upset about historical accuracy now!)

Unfortunately, along with the heartbreaking loss of the Monster Museum, much of the attraction was destroyed in a devastating fire in 2012. The park sat vacant for years with an online notice to “check back in 2013.” Folks like me started to lose hope, checking back not only in 2013, but in 2014, and 2015  as well finding no status change.

However, you can’t keep a good dinosaur park down, and like a Phoenix  no, like a Pterodactyl rising from the ashes, the park has some exciting news on the horizon. Last fall, the dinosaurs made a limited engagement appearance at Clark’s Eliok Farm  to terrorize some fairy tale characters (YES, PLEASE!) in the temporary “Enchanted Dinosaur Forest“.  Clark’s Farm, which regular Kiddieland readers will recognize as a sanctuary for rescued Enchanted Forest, MD figures housed the salvaged dinosaurs from September to November 2015 in a hysterical mash up of Dinosaurs and storybook characters that could only come from the off-kilter mind of Professor Cline!

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Photo Courtesy of Enchanted Castle Studios

We were so thrilled to see that many of the dinosaurs had survived, but this story has an even happier ending. According to his Facebook page, Mark Cline is planning to bring Dinosaurs back to Natural Bridge, Virginia with the opening of Dinosaur Kingdom II in June 2016! Based on this concept art, my guess is that guests may be riding through this one on by train? Oh, I am so there!

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Photo Courtesy of Enchanted Castle Studios

So don’t fret, though you may have never gotten to experience the weirdness of the original Dinosaur Kingdom and Haunted Monster Museum, it looks like this summer you may be able to marvel at these Jurrassic giants once again in Natural Bridge!

Thanks for all the memories, Mark!

The Bizarre World of Christmas Kiddie Matinees

This post originally appeared as part of the “12 Days of Shitmas” on Shit Movie Fest. I was happy to be included as a contributor! 

In prosperous post-war America, the once-humble European Christmas holiday became a commercially profitable empire. Social norms valued Christianity within a nuclear family structure, meaning that more Americans were now celebrating Christmas while living more comfortable lives in larger homes.  With the accessibility of the automobile, families that once occupied small apartments in the city began spreading out to larger suburban

homes to settle down with a few kids and a rumpus room! Dad might now commute further for better opportunity and the resulting financial boom (along with husbands returning home from the war) led to the American baby boom. Children’s entertainment grew to meet the needs of this new generation of bored kids stuck home all day with mom.

The television became the focal point of the room, with the Christmas tree setup nearby all December. Regional TV hosts became a kid’s best friend and created daily or weekly original content for young viewers.

Many of these regional shows and films were sadly lost to time.

It was around this same time that some of the most beloved and timeless family specials began their annual runs on television; Rankin Bass produced Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in 1964, Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special first aired in 1965, and we met Dr. Seuss’s most famous villain-turned-good-guy in 1966. By 1970 Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town and Frosty the Snowman were already poised to become new holiday favorites.

However, before we had the classics, we had the little guys; those schlocky producers trying to capture a little bit of that Christmas magic on film (and hopefully earn a quick buck in the process!). Regional filmmakers turned to wholesome subject material to capitalize on the “Kiddie Matinee” trend of the 1950’s and 60’s. On weekend mornings it was not uncommon to drop unsupervised children off at the theater for a few hours to watch a series of cartoons, fairy tale pictures, and Santa Claus movies.  This style of quick & dirty entertainment rarely stood the test of time, typically eliciting laughs from most modern audiences. Cheap puppets, amateur acting, and homemade sets were easily overlooked by kids as long as they were presented by a clown, cowboy, or princess. Many of the surviving films are all but forgotten by even the most discerning cult film fans, but their undeniable charm keeps them in my heart (and on my TV) year after year!

Santa in Animal Land (1949)


In 1949, documentary filmmaker (and friend of Alfred Hitchcock) Stefan Sharff decided to try his hand at producing a children’s short and the resulting product can only be described as…well, creepy! This 9 minute puppet film has become something of a rite of passage in my home at Christmas. If you visit me in December, prepare to be subjected to this one!  A group of surly animal roommates bemoan the fact they never get any presents from Santa, so they send Annie the Bird and Kitty Cat (obviously chosen because she’s “so smart and sooo beautiful”) out to ask him why. Meanwhile, Felix the Frog and Horace the Dog stay home staring out the window worrying while the women search for the jolly old elf.  Cranky puppets snap lines like “Outta My Way, Bird!” and “Don’t rush me, don’t push me!” at one other with raspy voice acting reminiscent of a John Waters movie. Once Kitty Cat finds the big guy (who incidentally wears more eyeliner than Jack Sparrow and Billie Joe Armstrong combined) he gives her a Santa coat and dubs her “Official Santa Claus For Animals Always!” -Further proof that Santa still doesn’t give a crap about about Animal Land Puppets.

Suzy Snowflake (1953)
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What is George Clooney’s connection to Christmas Kitch? Easy! Suzy Snowflake! His aunt, hammy recording artist Rosemary Clooney, recorded “Suzy Snowflake” in 1951. Two years later, Centaur Productions filmed a stop-motion animated short based on the popular song. The short uses sculptures by famous designer Wah Ming Chang, best known for his work on Star Trek, including famous monsters like the Gorn and even the design of the iconic communicator. Chang also worked on sculpture and character design for  Walt Disney, Land of the Lost, The Outer Limits, and Planet of the Apes, so it’s no surprise that his early creations have been firmly embedded in the memories of generations of kids from Chicago and Western PA.  According to the Chicago Museum of Television, the Suzy Snowflake short originally aired in December 1953 on “Garfield Goose and Friends” (then on WBBM, before it moved to WGN). This version doesn’t include Rosemary Clooney’s over-the-top rendition, but instead is scored by an unknown group of female singers. Growing up in Western PA, I knew Christmas had arrived because this spot would run constantly on WJAC Johnstown between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day every time the news ran a few minutes short. Suzy is personified as a graceful ballerina wearing an ice-white taffeta dress with a wand she uses to create snowflakes. She glides and drifts through town tapping on window panes and stopping to play with snowmen. As a small girl living in a snowy Pennsylvania winterscape, nothing was more magical.


The Three Little Dwarfs (Hardrock, Coco, and Joe)  (1956)


In 1956, likely capitalizing on the popularity of Suzy Snowflake, Centaur pictures released a second stop motion animated film for “Garfield Goose and Friends” out of Chicago, utilizing the same formula and animating a holiday children’s song (wisely calling upon Wah Ming Chang for his character design and animation again). The song was composed and sung by Stuart Hamblen, the first “singing cowboy” of early American Radio. A radio man turned musician, Hamblin had several charting hits, but is probably best remembered by pop culture fans for his song “Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In) which was famously covered in 1965 (10 years after its initial release) by Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm on the Flintstones.  Where Suzy was a delicate, gliding, feminine figure; Hardrock, Coco, and Joe are silly, clumsy dwarfs with deep tenor voices played up for comedy; “I’m JOOOOOE!” bellows the smallest of the three. Something new viewers tend to notice about this film is that Santa Claus appears to be Asian. I’ve read that this is because Chang modeled the sculpt of Old Saint Nick after himself, truly giving it an artist’s personal touch! I should warn you, after watching this one you might be singing it for the rest of your life.

K Gordon Murray’s Christmas Shorts (1964-1966)

Santa Claus and His Helpers(1964)
Santa’s Enchanted Village (1964)
Santa’s Magic Kingdom (1966)

Well known to seasoned fans of weirdo cinema, the 1959 Mexploitation film Santa Claus is an unforgettable experience. Originally directed by Rene Cordona, the US version of the film was re-dubbed by producer K. Gordon Murray.  In it, Santa is portrayed as more of a creepy voyeur than benevolent giver of gifts. Among his high-tech tools are a giant telescope, huge ear lobe, and a massive set of creepy pulsating lips referred to as the “TeleTalker”, all of them for watching your every move!  The plot is beyond bizarre with Santa (who lives in Heaven with groups of children, represented as cultural stereotypes from around the world) facing off against Pitch, (the Devil’s henchman clad in red greasepaint and red short shorts) in a battle for one little girl’s soul. Santa is assisted in this fight by none other than Merlin the Magician (sure, why not?). This weird example of kiddie matinee trash is not soon scrubbed from the viewer’s mind.

Watch Trailer:

It comes as no surprise then that a few years later Murray saw a second opportunity to cash in on this film by editing its scenes into three new short films and interspersing them alongside footage of his own original characters at a chain of Santa Claus themed amusement parks (why build a set when you can borrow a park’s backdrop and its employees for the day?). Stinky the Skunk, Duke the Dog, Puss in Boots, and The Big Bad Wolf all show up (since he already had the costumes for them from his earlier films!)  Many of these plots center on the repetitive arguments between the characters, some holding enormous threatening hunting rifles in their scenes and complaining of their ulcer pain! Add a healthy dose of jokes about how much poor, abused Stinky the Skunk REALLY, REALLY STINKS, throw in a singing princess for good measure, and you’ve got yourself a truly painful viewing experience. Starring alongside the usual cast of K. Gordon Murray favorites are actual employees of Santa’s Village amusement parks, whose acting chops are not good enough to prevent them from smiling directly into the camera wearing”what exactly am I supposed to be doing” expressions. In one seemingly endless scene from Santa Claus and His Helpers, a park employee attempts to put a head on a doll, but it keeps popping off. Rather than spare the audience by doing another take or editing this scene out, Murray uses every excruciating second of it-TWICE (Hey, film stock is expensive, and we are only shooting for one day!).  This agonizing scene is unbelievably re-used later in Santa’s Enchanted Village. These short films are truly among the weirdest of the weird and are a must-see if you are already a fan of Santa Claus and this infamous schlockmeister!

Watch Online:
Santa Claus and his Helpers:

Santa’s Magic Kingdom (in 2 Parts)

Santa’s Enchanted Village (in 2 Parts)

Every year I force friends and family to squirm through these films with me, and I hope some of these become holiday classics in your home. Here’s hoping that you’ll share the joy and discomfort of these wonderful forgotten kiddie classics with your loved ones this year!

Happy Holidays from Enchanted Kiddieland!

Wilkum Kinder, to Dutch Wonderland, A Kingdom for Kids!

I grew up German in Pennsylvania, a state where the Department of Transportation still issues licenses to horse & buggy drivers, and it is not uncommon to see street signs like this on the side of the road:

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In high school, I was taught polkas in my gym class, and well into the 1990s, PA Dutch was spoken in my home, especially by my older relatives. My grandmother would instruct us to “redd up the room” when company was coming. My family still practices some of the old German traditions today. Every December 6th Belsnickle put candy in my shoes, and he continues to visit my nephews.  Everyone I knew made sure to eat at least a small spoonful of sauerkraut on New Year’s Day even if they hated the taste (for it will bring wealth and good luck for the rest of the year!)

Due to the large number of German settlers in the state, many people living in the northwestern part of Central and Northern PA would identify as “PA Dutch.”  Contrary to popular belief, in this case “Dutch” does not refer to Dutch people (from the Netherlands), but from the German word”Deutch.” Coming from a deeply Christian culture; many of the farmers were practicing Amish and Mennonites. Though both traditionalist Christian religions rooted in Anabaptism; they hold distinctly different sets of beliefs with the Amish being the more strict of the two sects.

Pennsylvania, with its mountainous rolling pastures, is also home to a countless number of dairy farms. (I didn’t realize ice cream-and I mean REAL ICE CREAM was regional until I moved to New Jersey years later!) As we’ve already seen, Pennsylvania is blessed with an abundance of land, and other than farms, it is also home to dozens of amusement parks. With the collision of the PA Dutch farming culture and the growing amusement industry in the state something truly unique magical took place 53 years ago. In 1963, Dutch Wonderland was erected outside of Lancaster, PA, and although it features many typical attractions for kids including a train, roller coasters, princesses, dragons, and a massive castle (Surrounded by a monorail!); we’re going to take a look at the very distinct PA Dutch touches that make it a one of a kind family attraction.

Upon entering the park you’ll immediately begin noticing their solemn hard working faces. A lifesize Amish couple sits on a bench on the porch of their home. Inside the windows the children are working on chores. Their faces are somber and appear tired from a long day of hard work.

Nearby, a giant pretzel greets visitors entering the park. To the uninitiated, this may look like a simple oversized snack food, but pretzels are an apropos representation of the hard working Christian people of PA, with their roots in both Bavarian culinary history and their ties to the church. It is said that the twist of the pretzel is a reminder to children to say their prayers, and was once considered a small reward or “pretiola” for those who do! Whatever you do, just remember…Please Do NOT Crawl on the Pretzel.

DutchWonderland1

We have already told you about the strange phenomenon of kiddie park chapels, so its no surprise that a park so closely tied to Christianity houses a simple un-ornamental chapel on its land. Visitors are reminded to treat it respectfully, as it is a house of the Lord.

DutchWonderland

One of the most interesting exhibits I encountered are these two dioramas of animated miniatures. In the elaborate animatronic displays, groups of women and men toil over the daily chores while discussing their daily activities. At the push of a button, the women work on a quilt and gossip with one another.

DutchWonderlandQuilt

The men work on crafting furniture, sanding  a bench and planing a table. They discuss their work. If you stay long enough to listen, you will hear PA Dutch dialect and language spoken by both the women and men. They are a true slice of life, and are often overlooked  by the park’s visitors (who are predominantly small children.)
DutchWonderlandFurnitureBuilding

In keeping with the PA Dutch theme, you can climb aboard a horse and buggy for a family photo op. It’s no surprise that farming made its way into the park’s attractions, but I have to say that this is probably the one and only time that I’ve seen a fiberglass cow with SIMULATED RUBBER UDDER for guests to milk! Next to a tin pail, a small sign reminds children to be gentle: “Bossie says Please Squeeze Do Not Pull”

True to its roots as a Dairy farming state, this attraction is absolutely a Pennsylvania one-of-a-kind! If you’ve seen another one, we’d love to hear about it!

DutchWonderlandHorseCow

We hope you enjoyed this look at the PA Dutch touches of the Dutch Wonderland. If you visit, there’s plenty more to see including the Kingdom Coaster, some great shows, and the newly opened Dinosaurs Alive area with moving, roaring  dinosaurs that will surely amaze younger kids and parents alike!

Dutch Wonderland is open seasonally and has some dates in the fall and winter months for Halloween and Christmas celebrations. Check schedules online at their website.

A Story Book Forest Memory

SBForest
Throwback Thursday! I remember being a child in the 1980s and standing at the entrance to this gigantic story book in a forest in Pennsylvania. Two children were welcoming me to enter and the pages read:

“Here is the Land of Once upon a Time …Step through the pages of this big Story Book…and visit the people and places every child knows…and Loves. Here Dreams are real And so are your Story Book Friends.”

My family didn’t go on many trips, and my excitement was tangible. I loved to read, and I knew that once I walked through this door, wonderful things awaited me. Story Book Forest was my first Fairytale Park, and this trip is the very reason Enchanted Kiddieland exists!

I visited the park again in 2009 and stepped through the book as an adult. (it is still a massive sight to behold!) I felt the same excitement I had felt 30 years prior. I’ve been back one time since and each time that childlike wonder returns to me. I am so grateful that its still around today and remains, for the most part, unchanged!

What memories do you have from these parks? Did you walk through the pages of the big book?  Tell us here or on our Facebook page!