Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Prelude to the Fair

Witch Head at Enchanted Forest
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
On our way down to the Oregon State Fair, we made a slight detour to visit the Enchanted Forest, an emphatically noncorporate theme park and the location of this terrifying walk-in witch’s head. You enter via her mouth—her tongue serves as the welcome mat—and then climb a spiral staircase inside her cranium that leads to her eyeballs, where you can peer out at people if that's the kind of thing you enjoy doing. You might possibly be able to spy on people from her ample nostrils, but I can't personally vouch for that. To exit, you have the option of sliding out her ear. And that’s about the most exciting thing the Enchanted Forest has to offer.

The cheese/cornball factor at the Enchanted Forest is simply off the charts. The conceit is that the moment after you pay your $8.50 at the entry gate, you enter an enchanted forest populated with just about every nursery rhyme and fairy tale character you can think of. For example, here’s a villanous-looking Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty

And here’s a scene from Alice in Wonderland and one of the Three Bears .

As you can tell from the photos, the talents of the artists who rendered these works of art were modest. The bear is just a garden-variety plush toy, a bit worse for the wear. She’s also permanently yoked to her wooden spoon by a cobweb.

There’s plenty of stuff at the Enchanted Forest for a pair of cynical, childless adults like B and I to mock and ridicule. The puns in the fakey Wild West town were painful: Dr. U.R. Hurtin was the town dentist, for example. And what was Abe Lincoln doing dressing up children in Confederate Army uniforms and handing them rifles? Not historically accurate. And not a lot of other things, too.

Abe Arms the Children

But as you can see, the kids were digging it. Big time. Granted, I didn’t see a single kid over the age of 10, but these little kids were having a great time—even though there was not a computerized special effect to be found. The most sophisticated thing was a Pinocchio doll (located inexplicably in the Olde England part of the park) that twisted jerkily to the right and left (was he supposed to be squirming?) as Geppetto sermonized.

By the time we left, though, I had developed a mushy soft spot for the Enchanted Forest. No theme park like it would ever be built today. It is actually in a forest (of sorts) with trees of respectable girth and sword ferns and other native plants. What modern theme park isn’t completely flat, paved over, and vegetation free? It's hilly, too. Some of the adults were really wheezing as they made their way from Rip Van Winkle to the bumper cars.

There were only about three exceedingly tame rides. No self-respecting theme park today would be so heavy on the static exhibits. The statues are amateurishly hand painted (and chipped) and the costumes are hand-sewn. Everything in the little cottages and castles is coated with a thick veneer of dust and/or cobwebs. It’s more museum than theme park really. They don’t even put much effort into the food. I didn’t make a full survey (we were on our way to the fair, after all), but as far as I could tell, there were gas-station nachos (I saw Abe Lincoln buying some), candy bars, sno-cones, and popcorn. That's it! No ice cream, even.

I don’t know how this place stays in business, honestly, but I found its lack of sophistication and techno-dazzle encouraging and refreshing. Little kids, at least, still were able to have a great time without all that. They probably even got a bit of exercise, what with the dearth of sit-on-your-ass rides and with having to run up and down hills to get from the Wild West to Olde England.

OK. This post is long enough. Tomorrow, I promise, we will get to the fair.


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