As a child, Martha Clark visited the Enchanted Forest in Ellicott City, Md., at least once a year — but she would have gone more often if she had her childhood wish. “I always wanted to have a birthday party there, but my birthday was in December [and the park wasn’t open],” said Clark.
The Enchanted Forest began entertaining the public in 1955, with an admission price of $1 for adults and $.50 for children. When it first opened, the park featured fairy tale buildings and characters, but no mechanical rides. Track rides were added later, including an “Alice in Wonderland” ride with teacup-shaped cars, and a Cinderella’s castle ride with mice for the cars.
As the years went by and the park became a little rundown and eventually closed — partially in the 1980s and for the final time in 1995 (and even though scenes from the iconic John Waters film, “Cry-Baby,” featuring a young Johnny Depp, were filmed there in 1990) — Clark realized that, for many people, visiting the Enchanted Forest was an important childhood memory.
And So It Began
In the summer of 2004, Clark obtained a Cinderella pumpkin coach from Kimco Realty Group, owner of the park, and displayed it at her petting farm. Seeing the delighted reaction from both parents and children, Clark decided to rescue the other items, which were sitting undisturbed but neglected behind a fence. Kimco agreed to give Clark the items as long as she made every effort to remove all of them from the park, so she began the process of moving the items to her property and restoring them to their former glory.
Now, as the fairy tale-themed structures continue to be moved to Clark’s Elioak Farm, Clark is gratified by the response she hears from visitors. “I get the biggest kick out of talking to people and hearing their stories about visiting the Enchanted Forest [when they were young].”
In August, Clark’s Elioak Farm hosted an Enchanted Forest 60th birthday party. Along with family-friendly activities, the event featured a book signing for The Enchanted Forest: Memories of Maryland’s Storybook Park, by Clark, who is one of the authors, along with Janet Kusterer, a local author and editor of “The Legacy,” the newsletter of the Howard County Historical Society.
That same weekend, the farm also hosted the Eighth Annual Enchanted Forest Employees Reunion. “This whole weekend is a wonderful opportunity to get to know a wonderful group of people and bring them all together in a happy place where they can see all the Enchanted Forest again,” said Clark.
An Enchanted Social Media Network
Keith Kridenoff went to the Enchanted Forest every summer when he was young. On hot days, he said, he couldn’t wait to go through the Seven Dwarves mine because the air there was cool. “I remember spending at least an hour riding down Mt. Vesuvius over and over,” he said, “and hated finally going through the one-way gate, knowing we were locked out.”
Kridenoff noticed that there were a few Facebook groups for fans of the Enchanted Forest, but none were dedicated to collecting stories from people who worked there. So he started one — “Enchanted Forest Behind the Scenes” — in February 2015, and it took off quickly. “We are now at almost 1,800 members and [with] many former employees,” he said.
Clark invited Kridenoff to be on the 60th birthday planning committee. He created a 16-page handout for this year’s reunion, with stories from people who worked at the park in the 1950s all the way to those who experienced its last year of operation.
“People have uploaded more than 1,000 pictures of the park from over the years,” he said. “People in the group are constantly thanking Martha for all the work she put into preserving our memories, and I am honored to be a part of it.”
‘A Personal Thing’
Norman Cavey was an employee at the Enchanted Forest from 1961 through 1977 — serving in the army part of that time — and still has his toes in the theme park environment, working at Magic Kingdom in Florida a few days a week.
Before the park closed, he created a video in 1987, filming each building and ride. He transferred the video to a DVD and now sells copies, drawing interest from many former employees.
But he first shot the video because he wanted to preserve his memories of a family that worked together at a park that would become a huge part of their collective history. “It was a personal thing. It sat on a shelf for eight or nine years before anybody else saw it.”
Cavey was looking forward to the employee reunion this year. “My mother was the first person to work at the [Enchanted Forest] lighthouse when they built it, and she worked there for 25 years,” he said. “My mother, my uncle, my cousins — maybe 10 of my cousins worked there at one time.”
Now, as he attends the annual employee reunion, he said he’s happy to see the original items from the Enchanted Forest brought back to life at Clark’s Elioak Farm. “They did an excellent job of it,” he said. “They put them back to the state that they were intended to be.”