A Horse is a Horse, Of course, Of course.

Ok, I want to preface this post by saying that I have been vegetarian for over 30 years. I love animals. I never want to see one harmed, but I have to share this fact with you. The year is 2014…and you can still see a Diving Horse show in the United States! WHOA.

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Surprised? I was too. Our friends at the Magic Forest continue to keep things bizarre with this throwback attraction that I sincerely thought died in the 1920s.  Apparently not. File this under  “Things you just don’t see anymore”. These are the kinds of attractions we imagine only existed when our great grandmother was alive. We remember seeing them in black and white news reel footage, or photographs in an old book about Steel Pier. In fact, plans to bring a diving horse back to the Jersey Shore were unsurprisingly scrapped in 2012!

Still, I assure you, I’ve seen a diving horse with my own eyes.
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For 37 years, The Magic Forest has had a diving horse show to entertain guests. First there was Rex, who dove for 18 years before going into retirement in the 1990s and living out the rest of his life at the park. Rex was followed by Thunder who has retired but still lives in the park, and now her companion Lightning takes the jump.

Twice a day for 2 months out of the year Lightning is lead up a 60 foot ramp, where he dives 9 feet into a 117,000 gallon pool before his crowd of stunned fans. Lightning then swims to the other side of the pool and gets a well deserved bucket of oats. The show only lasts 2 minutes, but I promise, it is 2 minutes you will never forget.

The park assures visitors that Lightning always jumps on his own, and is never forced to dive. Instead, he’s given positive reinforcement and is treated humanely. From my observation, I believe this to be completely true. Watch this video if you don’t believe me!He almost seems to enjoy the attention. Lightning is something of a celebrity at the park, and aside from the oats, he gets a heaping helping of fanfare from stunned kids and parents alike. He is a real showman and seems to pause and look at his audience before each jump building anticipation, and letting them know “yep, you’re really about to see this go down.”

The first diving horse took flight sometime in the late 1800s and to find one today almost unchanged is a remarkable throwback to a much simpler time in American amusements. Although I was conflicted about the show at first, I am thrilled to have had an opportunity to experience it first hand. So kids, now you know- the last diving horse show is alive in 2014 and if I were you, I’d get yourself to the Adirondack Mountains- and quick- to see it as soon as you can!

 

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Hoppin’ Down the Bunny Trail!

Although many kiddie parks focus solely on Santa and his elves, there is another holiday friend from our childhood lurking in the magical forests out there, he’s usually found in springtime hop hop hopping down the bunny trail and hiding eggs. That’s right! Today we’re covering the Easter Bunny!  Here are some of the Bunnies I’ve met in my travels. Those pictured below hail from The Enchanted Forest (NY), Storybook Forest (PA) and Santa’s Village (NH)

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The Magic Forest, weird as ever, has a few bunnies on property, the most intriguing of the lot is undoubtedly “Allison”. Who is Allison the bunny and why does she even exist? If you happen to know, please tell me in the comments so I can finally go to sleep at night!

Magic Forest Easter

Probably the most incredible Bunny hole of them all is tucked away in -appropriately enough- EGG Harbor, NJ (you see what I did there?) at Storybook Land .

Year round, you can peer into the windows of this asymmetrical kid sized (or is it bunny-sized?) house where a whole family of flop-ears resides. The best bunny, by far, is one very sassy lady bunny who just looks like she got off from her job as a switchboard operator circa 1965.  She’s wearing her thick frame cat eye glasses with a pink bow and a dress pushing around a cart of full of eggs. Other bunnies dressed in their Easter Sunday Best hop about inside getting ready for the big day by painting eggs and decorating their Easter tree! GAH! Since this house can’t be entered, everything inside is pristine, and there is clearly some vintage stuff well preserved in here. I’ve visited a few times and the bunnies get new outfits every year or 2 so be sure to peek inside the windows for an overwhelming dose of cuteness if you make it here! This is most certainly one of the more charming Easter Bunny houses I’ve encountered.

Storybook Land Easter

Speaking of Storybook Land, If you want a truly special Egg-sperience for Easter this park has you covered with their annual “Easter Egg Hunt with Mr. and Mrs. Bunny” This year the egg hunt will be held on April 19th & 20th from noon to 4 pm (Note, this event is designed for small children!)

Don’t fret, For us bigger kids, you can still meet the bunny and his missus on April 12, 13, 18, 19, and 20!

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Hope you enjoyed these funny bunnies and a Hoppy Easter to everyone! No I’d better hop out of here before I make any more bad bunny puns!

Mascot Mania! Holidog

If you think mascots only exist in pro sports, you’re doggone wrong! Many kiddie parks have mascots too and today I’d like to introduce you to Holiday World’s most famous dog, appropriately  named “Holidog”

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From the moment you get into the park, you can’t miss Holidog’s presence. This superhero cape clad canine helps you remember where you parked, reminds you of the rules, and also explains the park’s fundraising efforts. Holidog’s influence is most strongly represented in the 4th of July area of the park which houses a kiddieland called “Holidog’s Funtown”. Here you’ll find attractions like Holidog’s Treehouse and the Holidog Express which takes you into a mini fairy tale park full of the park’s vintage statues called Mother Gooseland. (sure to be a feature on this blog at a later date!) You can also pose with a larger than life fiberglass Holidog statue, and ride on his custom kiddie coaster, The Howler!

Holidog puts on regular shows with his mascot pals at the Holidog All Star Theater. Aside from hanging out in the park, he’s also a regular jokester on the park’s social media sites and their “Holiblog” where he poses for photos and even texts with park staff!

Holidog

Naturally,  Holidog loves holidays, so he joins us every Christmas in the form of this classy blown glass ornament. Nice Santa Hat, Holidog! 

Holidog Ornament

There’s no doubt about it, Holidog is one hard working pup, so  he deserves a little downtime after his shift is over. We caught him here resting his dogs and trying his luck  on some of the park games. Hope you win some cool Holidog Merch, pal!

Holidog on break

The Many Faces of Mother Goose-Alice in Wonderland Edition

When Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland in 1865, he couldn’t have possibly predicted that in 1951 his characters would be repopularized by the Animated Disney film and in turn given a new lease on life in the golden age of Kiddie Parks for children of the world to enjoy! The further you go down the rabbit hole, the more Alice you’ll find. Below are some of my favorite representations of Alice in parks from the famous to the…not so famous.

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Disneyland-Alice in Wonderland

Everyone that has visited Disneyland has hopefully ridden the tea cups or the Alice in Wonderland dark ride in Fantasyland, but did you know that Alice has chased that little nervous white rabbit down rabbit holes all over the country?

One of my favorites is this trippy day-glo version in a cave at Storybook Land (Egg Harbor NJ).  In it, you enter a damp cave with neon black light cave wall paintings of Alice’s adventure in Wonderland! Once inside you’ll find dioramas of Alice and her friends represented by low budget (albeit incredibly charming) dolls and Papier Mâché  likenesses. In the Spring, the park holds an Alice In Wonderland Tea Party at the park. I’ve yet to attend, but when I do, expect a full report!

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Storybook Land-Egg Harbor, NJ

Next up, is the somewhat sinister Magic Forest in Lake George, NY.  I could probably write novels about this bizarre and fantastic Wonderland, but for now I’ll try and just focus on Alice’s adventures there. In keeping with their creepy factor, there are no good guys! Only villains are represented here. This Mad Hatter and Queen of Hearts are enough nightmare fuel for any young child (or adult?)

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Magic Forest-Lake George, NY

Alice and company are surprisingly much more heavily represented nearby,  at Great Escape. In this Six Flags operated park are the remnants of a once great Kiddie Park known as Storytown USA. Charles Wood opened Storytown in 1954 but the name was changed in 1983 and the Kiddie Rides have slowly been replaced by modern thrill rides. Not much of the original park has remained, but those in the know can find a fantastic Alice themed walk-through attractions, preserved from its original opening in 1967. Most impressive is the overgrown Alice with her limbs spilling out of the house! You can read more about this park on the awesome: Storytown USA, A Retrospective blog.

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Storytown USA (now Great Escape)-Lake George NY

And as if Lake George didn’t have enough great Alice stuff to see, I found this bonus Mad Hatter hiding out at Sir Goony Golf (the best mini golf course I’ve ever played !)

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Mad Hatter-Sir Goony Golf-Lake George, NY

In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Alice has another home, albeit a very tiny  one. Storyland houses a a small Alice  attraction, mostly comprised of photo spots.  There are also Alice in Wonderland Tea Cups (no doubt inspired by another famous park’s tea cup ride!)

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Storyland-Glen, NH

 

Perhaps one of the most extensive Alice in Wonderland walk throughs belongs to the Enchanted Forest in the Adirondack Mountains of  New York. Here, you will find a mannequin-like Alice with a frozen expression surrounded by some familiar faces. The highlight, I think is the bizarre Tweedledee and Tweedledum that look like they have just hopped out of a lesser known 1970s children’s TV show with their brightly colored flared pants and dotted bow ties. (I’m guessing these were not their original paint jobs.) Sadly, this park really downplays their Fairy Tale origins. Although it started as a family operated kiddie park in 1956, water thrill rides are now the big draw. Go see these guys before they are torn out and replaced by a stupid water slide!

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Enchanted Forest-Old Forge, NY

And Finally, as a reward for those that have stuck with this post for til the very end, here is a really awful Alice themed mini Golf Course where I once was chased out by an employee for being halfway through the course at closing time! We were there at night, so for some daytime shots, check out this blog.

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Over the Rainbow Mini Golf-Old Forge NY

Curioser, and Curioser.

Where else have you found Alice in your travels? Let me know in the comments!

It’s not such a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I had not anticipated such an early post to bring sad news with it, but I feel obligated to share this.

A friend alerted me to this article tonight and my heart sank. Idlewild Park in Ligonier, PA will always hold a special place in my heart, as it is home to the very first storybook park I ever visited as a child. In fact, the immaculately maintained Storybook Forest is still intact since its opening in 1956! (Go visit it this summer!)

Land Of Make Believe

However, another attraction opened in the park in 1989 that took kids inside their favorite PBS show and paid tribute to the locally born Fred Rogers. Mister Rogers Neighborhood of Make Believe took kids and adults on a full size trolley ride into the Land of Make Believe. Once inside you encountered Daniel Tiger, Lady Elaine Fairchild, X the Owl, Henrietta Pussycat, King FridayXIII, and all of your other friends from the show! As anyone who rode it can tell you, the end goal was to  join King Friday as he repeatedly invited guests to “Come along, Come Along. To our Castle Hug-n-Song” What’s a Hug-n-Song? you ask -Well, that’s anyone’s guess, but you definitely don’t want to miss it!

The most impressive aspect to me was the actual audio recording of Fred Rogers’ voice for the characters, in newly recorded audio made especially for the park. The accuracy of the animatronic figures ensured that all your warm memories from childhood would be untarnished. Here you were with these familiar tv show characters, except they were as tall as you and were living in a shaded forest in Pennsylvania!

Sadly, it looks like this trolley has taken its last ride as the park has decided to update the ride to appeal to a younger audience. This area of the park will now feature the new animated Mister Rogers spinoff characters from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I hope you had a chance to ride it in its classic form, but if not, you can see my other photos on Flickr, or watch a video of a ride through on Youtube.

We’ll miss you, Mister Rogers. I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you. I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

Welcome to Enchanted Kiddieland!

Missy and the Easter Bunny

My name is Missy Mazzaferro, and I’ve never grown up. For the past several years I’ve been travelling to Kiddie parks built in the 1950s and 1960s and documenting them as quickly as I can before they all disappear. In doing so, I now find myself with tens of thousands of images of these quaint, enchanted parks of yesteryear. More vanish each year,  so I hope to share some of these images with you here and inspire you to visit your own local park.

So, boys and girls- buy yourself a reasonably priced ticket and grab a $2 grilled cheese sandwich (served on a frisbee) from the snack bar.  Join me in a trip back through time to visit magical lands where dinosaurs still walk the earth, Mother Goose and her fairy tale friends tell you stories,  and if you’re lucky, maybe you can catch a glimpse of the Easter Bunny or Santa and his elves hard at work in the north pole!

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This is Enchanted Kiddieland!