Wednesday I took my two summer wards (boys, aged 6 and 8) to the Enchanted Forest. For those of you who grew up in Oregon, get ready to wax nostalgic. For those of you who are not, I shall attempt to explain.
The Enchanted Forest is a weird little amusement park, about 10 minutes south of Salem, OR. (And about 15 minutes south of the 45th Parallel. Have I ever blogged about the 45th Parallel? If I have not, I should at some point. I have a lot of thoughts about it.) Anyhoo. This means that it is about an hour by car from my childhood home. My parents probably took us once a year or so. In those days, there were really 3 main features to the park (unless you include snack bars, which in this case, you might. Then there were 4.). First, there is a path through the woods with little scenes from children's books and fairy tales. Some of them are somewhat interactive. For instance, there is a crooked house to walk through. And a rabbit hole to crawl through. Some of them are just scenes off the path--Jack and Jill falling down the hill, for instance. Some are made to walk through--like the mine of the seven dwarves. There are a couple of big slides along the path too. All of these attractions date back to the 1950s or 60s. Some of them are slightly animated, but not in a high tech kind of way.
After you make your way though this part of the park, you will find yourself in a fake western town. There are scenes and vingettes, a shooting games/galleries, super cheesy "gift shops", a fort and another slide (this one is the best in the park).
Right outside of the western time sits a small, outdoor theatre. When the park is open, the theatre features several daily showings of a short (25 minute) play. These plays belong to the genre of fractured fairy tales. This time, the play was Hansel and Gretel and it featured all of the expected conventions of an Enchanted Forest masterpiece: 1) outrageous costumes; 2) many gratutious cultural references (the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber); 3) one female character played by a male; 4) college-aged theatre major actors; 5) a couple of musical numbers; 6) lots of physical humor; 7) audience participation. I remember seeing several of these plays as a child. Definitely a Princess and the Pea, and also Rumplestiltskin.*
At some point between my childhood visits and my senior skip day (Yes, my girlfriends and I went to the Enchanted Forest for senior skip day.) the park started adding attractions. First a European village. Then some amusement park rides. Now the park contains a decent log ride, haunted house, some kiddie rides, a small, alpine-themed roller coaster, and a ride called "Challenge of Mondor" which is described as a slow-moving, magically-themed ride that allows visitors to interact by shooting dangerous magical creatures. (?!?!) Unfortunately, I couldn't convince the boys to go on this ride with me. I am tempted to drive back down there at some point this summer just to check it out.
The boys DID, however, convince me to take them on the roller coaster and the log ride. As I was standing in line for the roller coaster, I realized that this was the first time in about 8 years that I had been on any kind of ride. As a kid, I was fearless when it came to thrill rides. Not so anymore. They terrify me now. The log ride has a 40 foot drop into the water below. Once we got to that point in the ride, I had to close my eyes and turn my head to the side as we started the descent. At the top of the ride, I thought, very distinctly, "I don't actually want to do this anymore."
But it was actually super fun. And I was surprised how familiar the whole experience was. And it made me think very fondly of my childhood. Enchanted Forest is a throwback. Not only to my personal past, but to a kind of kitchy mid-century Americana that really predates my childhood, but that I still find myself nostalgic for. It is sort of inspiring me to take some road trips to see some of the other destinations of my childhood. Stay tuned . . . In the meantime, I can recommend a really fine piece of outdoor theatre . . .
*This particular play became a part of Dorsey lore, because my youngest brother--hardly more than a babe-in-arms, was freaked the freak out by the creepy Rumplestiltskin theatre nerd. For years and years, all one would have to do to make him scream was to bend over, hobble around, wiggle fingers and say "Rumplestiltskin, Rumplestiltskin" in a meanacing voice.