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!)
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.