Kansas Cosmosphere Hires Consultant to Revitalize Operations

3W1Ho_SlMa_80December 30, 2013–One of Kansas’ top tourism draws may be getting a new look and feel.

The board at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center has hired one of the nation’s premier museum-consulting firms to help revitalize programs and operations at the Hutchinson museum.

“We are combating what has been a gradual decrease in attendance, an apparent lack of interest in current space exploration,” said Comosphere president Jim Remar.

“We are undergoing a process that will allow us to look at programming, business modifications and what we present to the public. We are looking at a new vision and direction …(to) allow the Cosmosphere to continue to be a relevant and exciting place.”

The Cosmosphere is one of the world’s premier space museums, with more than 15,000 artifacts displayed over 105,000 square feet of museum space. Only the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., has a larger collection of U.S. space artifacts.

But, in recent years, the number of people visiting the museum, which also boasts an IMAX theater, has decreased. The Cosmosphere according to its website, draws about 150,000 visitors a year.

The Cosmosphere, which is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is going through what many other museums throughout the world are experiencing. Many were founded when museums were seen as civic institutions, and wealthy patrons helped fund them.

“The expectations of today’s society is completely different than five or 10 years ago,” Remar said. “The fact that we no longer have a robust manned space program has hurt, to some extent. I also feel that our exhibits haven’t changed in the last 10 years. There hasn’t been a lot of new attractions or exhibits that would bring repeat visitors.

“And, the economy has definitely played a part. Ten years ago, there wasn’t the competition we have now for disposable income. The IMAX theater in Wichita has hurt us.”

The Cosmosphere has hired Verner Johnson Inc., a Boston-based consulting firm that has helped design projects at 200 museums throughout the world, including the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, the St. Louis Science Center, the Museum of Science in Boston and the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan.

The firm is known for designing museums that immerse visitors into the experience. For instance, at the Flint Hills Discovery Center, an educational film about the prairie is accompanied by smoke rising from the floor and snow falling from the ceiling. An exhibit that shows the root structure of prairie grass allows visitors to walk underneath the roots.

Dream from the past
The Cosmosphere began as a dream of a wealthy patron in 1962.
That year, the planetarium in Oklahoma City was planning to remodel and upgrade its equipment. Officials there, friends of Hutchinson resident Patty Carey – a member of Hutchinson’s prominent Carey Salt family – wanted to know whether she would like to buy their old star projector.

It was a Friday. She had until Monday to raise $7,200 – or the projector would be sold to someone else.

Carey not only came up with the money but opened the Hutchinson Planetarium on Dec. 2, 1962, in the poultry building on the Kansas State Fairgrounds. The building, which had no heat, was quickly named “the chicken coop.”

The planetarium soon moved to the new arts and sciences building at Hutchinson Community College.

For the next four decades, the museum collected artifacts for a space museum – including the Apollo 13 command module Odyssey – and formed friendships and partnerships with NASA, the Smithsonian and various corporate partners such as Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com.

Dream for the future
“Right now, we don’t know what the consultant will recommend,” Remar said.
“I will tell you, there are no sacred cows. We will be discussing everything, looking at every aspect of the operations and, at the end of the day, we are hoping that we will have an organization that allows visitors to participate and immerse themselves into new technologies.”

A report from Verner Johnson is expected by the end of March. After the report, the board may launch a capital campaign to help fund any changes.

“We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2012,” Remar said. “While there have been a lot of success during the first 50 years, we are excited about what lies ahead.

“This re-imaging process has us all very excited. It is an opportunity and has the potential to set the future of the Comosphere and insure our relevancy for generations to come.”

By Deborah Fitts


Zoo Years Eve and More Louisiana Festivals This Week

-f1bebeaf2a90994aDecember 30, 2013–
Little Louisianans celebrate the New Year at noon, and the inaugural Hands On Literary Festival offers panels, readings, and a masquerade ball. Find more things to do in New Orleans.
Nov. 23-Jan. 6

2013 Festival of Lights Several weeks of festivities offer live entertainment, children’s activities, open houses, arts and crafts, fireworks, food vendors, parades, a 5K, holiday home tours and more. The annual Christmas festival is Dec. 7. A full schedule of events can be found at the website. Historic Landmark District, Natchitoches, 800.259.1714.
Nov. 29-Jan. 1

Celebration in the Oaks Light displays, live music, amusement rides and more. Admission: $7 (children 2 and younger free). City Park, 1 Palm Drive, 504.483.9415.
Nov. 30-Jan. 5

New Orleans Christmas in the District The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center presents a nightly holiday light show, including a digital Christmas tree with thousands of channels of lights that dance to the music and are accented by strobes, plus more than 70 trees decorated along the neutral ground and in the pedestrian plaza, and entertainment. Admission: Free. Convention Center Boulevard, from Poydras Street to Julia Street, New Orleans, 504.582.3000 or toll-free 855.477.8756.
Dec. 1-31

Christmas New Orleans Style Tours of historic homes, concerts, candlelight caroling, madrigal dinners, cooking demonstrations, costumed characters in the French Quarter. French Quarter and other locations, 504.522.5730
Dec. 30-Jan. 1

Hands On Literary Festival and Masquerade Ball Literary readings, master classes, panels, presentations, and a masquerade ball with burlesque dancing, reading, a brass band and a second line. Dinty W. Moore will deliver the keynote address. Local authors Joseph Boyden, Amanda Boyden, Moira Crone and Roger Kamenetz, plus others, will participate. Admission: Conference registration is $300 (discounts available); individual events $35-$40. Maison St. Charles and The Prytania Bar, New Orleans.
Dec. 31

Zoo Year’s Eve Children ring in 2014 twelve hours early with a countdown to noon, a non-alcoholic drink for toasting, party hats and noisemakers, with musical entertainment and games. Admission: By zoo admission ($17.50 adults, $12 children age 2 to 12, $13 seniors age 65 and older). Audubon Zoo, 6500 Magazine St.

By Deborah Fitts

Turtle Back Zoo Hits 600,000 Attendance Mark!!

best_1dc32fffaecb70a6ac76_tbz_record_attendanceDecember 30, 2013–
West Orange, NJ. 2013 has been another record-breaking year at Turtle Back Zoo as Westfield residents Mark, Miriam, Emma, Ava and Lila Aranowitz were congratulated as the 600,000th visitors.

Zoo Director Brint Spencer presented the family with a gift basket filled with zoo merchandise and a one year membership to the Essex County Zoological Society, guaranteeing a year of free visits to the zoo in 2014.

One of the gems of DiVincenzo’s renaissance plan to revitalize Essex County and create a destination attraction at the South Mountain Recreation Complex, the Zoo has seen expansive renovation and building over the past year, with several promotional visits of support by Gov. Chris Christie.

“This has been such a wonderful year at Turtle Back Zoo. We celebrated the Zoo’s 50th anniversary, opened our Sea Lion Sound Exhibit and now reached 600,000 in annual attendance for the first time,” said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.

DiVincenzo continued, “We have invested a lot to make Turtle Back Zoo a first class facility and the record-setting attendance validates our initiative. I want to thank the families, school and recreation groups, and individuals for making Turtle Back Zoo such a popular destination and for coming back again and again to spend their time with us. We look forward to welcoming everyone back for new adventures and family fun next year,” he added.

The Aranowitz family stopped by the Zoo to see the Holiday Lights Spectacular at approximately 5:25 p.m. on Dec. 26. The family visits the zoo regularly and have been members of the Zoological Society for the past 8 years.

“We enjoy coming to Turtle Back Zoo in every season” said Miriam Aranowitz. “With all the animals and attractions, there’s something for everyone.”

Emma, 9, and Ava, 7, said their favorite animals were the penguins while Lila, 3, couldn’t decide between penguins, carousel and train ride.

Attendance at Turtle Back Zoo has set a new record for the past nine years. In 2010, Essex County Turtle Back Zoo welcomed 511,655 visitors; In 2011, 525,507 visitors, and in 2012, attendance was 560,402.

For information on hours, membership, and entrance fees:
Turtle Back Zoo
560 Northfield Avenue
West Orange, NJ 07052
(973) 731-5801
Website-Facebook: Turtle Back Zoo

Turtle Back Zoo, voted the best zoo in New Jersey, is AZA-accredited and features over 800 animals from around the world. Turtle Back Zoo is part of South Mountain Recreation Complex, located in West Orange, NJ. Opened in 1963, Turtle Back Zoo is committed to providing an enriching recreation experience that fosters excellence in wildlife education and wildlife conservation for present and future generations.

By Deborah Fitts

Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom Holds The Key To Many Exciting Adventures

14005133-mmmainDecember 30, 2013–

Maybe it’s because we only make our way west every five years or so and absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
Maybe it’s because the Magic Kingdom in Disneyland is the only one of the 11 Disney theme parks worldwide where Walt Disney actually set foot in and the place is absolutely dripping with Disney history.
Maybe it’s because the park — more than 58 years old and still going strong — remains a place where cleanliness prevails and the castmembers continue to go out of their way to make you feel welcome in — as Walt famously put it on opening day in 1955 — “this happy place.”
A very, very special place

Whatever the reason, Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., is very, very special.
We were reminded of this fact in November as we passed through the turnstiles, walked under the train station and made our way into the pristine Town Square.
A brightly decorated Christmas tree first caught our eye, as did the tall flag pole with the Stars and Stripes gently flapping in the breeze.

To our left was City Hall, where windows dedicated to Disney Legends Marty Sklar, Jack Lindquist and Harrison (Buzz) Price stand out. Next to City Hall is the firehouse, with Walt Disney’s apartment on the second floor. The eternal candle which burns in Walt’s honor year-round was moved during the holiday season to a side window, replaced by a small Christmas decoration. Disneyland
Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle as sunset approaches.

Disneyland Resort
On the opposite side of Town Square is the Opera House, home to the Disney Gallery and the iconic Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln show.
The Gallery features a jaw-dropping collection of Disneyland memorabilia that’s worth more than just a cursory look. There’s giant map of Disneyland as it looked in 1955, the park bench where he is said to have first dreamed of a park where children and their parents could have fun together, as well as an enlarged copy of the first edition of the Marty Sklar-created Disneyland News.

The Lincoln show is an updated version of what guests first were in awe of in the Illinois pavilion at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. The latest incarnation features several elements from the American Adventure attraction in Epcot, including the always emotional “Two Brothers” song and film clip and “Golden Dreams” at the end of the presentation.
Just beyond Town Square, of course, is Main Street USA, the quintessential Midwestern town modeled after Walt Disney’s boyhood home in Marceline, Mo.
Although most of the shops along the street have changed hands and theming several times since 1955 — yes, there’s a Starbucks, now located in the Market House — its charm and endearing quality remain unchanged.

Here I am chatting with Oscar, Disneyland’s longest-tenured castmember, in front of the Carnation Cafe.

At the Carnation Cafe halfway up the street, we were lucky enough to meet Oscar, a chef at the restaurant and the longest-tenured castmember in Disneyland.
“I started working here in 1956,” he told me as we posed for a photograph. “I was living in Arkansas at the time when my girlfriend — now my wife — came out here looking for work. I decided to tag along. My first job was busing tables.”
After nearly 58 years on the job, is he considering retirement? “Never,” he said with conviction. “This is too much fun.”
As we ate our lunch in the cafe’s outdoor seating area, I couldn’t help notice the name Christopher D. Miller inscribed on one of the windows above.
Christopher was Walt Disney’s first grandchild, the first-born child of Walt’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller. That window sighting became all the more poignant when we learned the next morning that Diane — one of the inspirations behind the creation of Disneyland — had passed away.
Since our visits to Disneyland are infrequent, we made it a point to ride as many of the attractions that are Disneyland-exclusive as we could, even though most of the similarly named Disneyland-Walt Disney World attractions are, in most cases, very different.
[For example, Space Mountain in Disneyland sits two riders across, features pulsating music and is completely in the dark; Pirates of the Caribbean is much longer and decidedly more elaborate; the Haunted Mansion is occupied by Jack Skellington and friends during the Halloween-Christmas seasons, and It’s a Small World begins its international aquatic journey outdoors.]

Made a bee-line to the Matterhorn Bobsleds
On the morning of our second day at Disneyland, we made a bee-line to the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which is located in Fantasyland and is perhaps the most popular attraction in the park, judging by the long lines each day.
The Matterhorn was the world’s first tubular steel roller coaster. It was designed by Disney Legend Bob Gurr inside an exact replica of Matterhorn Mountain, which sits on the border of Switzerland and Italy [Expedition Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom followed a similar game plan — a coaster inside a famed mountain — although, unlike Gurr, today’s creative staff had the luxury of computer technology].

Three of Disneyland’s iconic attractions: The Matterhorn Bobsleds, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and the monorail.
Disneyland Resort
The Matterhorn, which opened in 1959, remains a thrilling trip, although it’s a “harder” ride when compared to today’s smoother coasters.
In the shadow of the Matterhorn in Tomorrowland is the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, which also opened in 1959 under a different name, having been inspired by the first nuclear-powered submarine voyage under the North Pole. At one time, Walt Disney proudly proclaimed his submersibles to be “the eighth-largest submarine fleet in the world.”
Despite protests from Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Tony Baxter, the submarines were dry-docked in 1998. The attraction was reopened in 2007 with a “Finding Nemo” theme and was quite an enjoyable experience, particularly since we hadn’t ridden a Disney submarine for more than two decades.
[Just last week, though, it was announced that the Finding Nemo submarine attraction will close on Jan. 6 for refurbishment and won’t reopen until late 2014. ]

Indiana Jones stands tall in Adventureland
The Indiana Jones Adventure is the most popular attraction in Adventureland. It uses a ride system similar to the Dinosaur attraction in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but the vehicles encounter Indy’s main nemesis — snakes — as well as a giant ball and a rickety bridge instead of all those nasty prehistoric creatures.
Fantasyland is home to a slew of Disneyland’s most beloved attractions; the majority of them are fabled “dark rides.” Many have been in operation since opening day, while others were “re-themed” in Walt Disney World years ago, which makes them particularly intriguing.
Disneyland-exclusive attractions include Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, the Casey Jr. Circus Train, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Pixie Hollow, Alice in Wonderland [a particular favorite, with its indoor-outdoor track] and the Storybook Land Canal Boats.
Fantasyland attractions that are featured in both Disneyland and WDW include the carrousel, Dumbo, Peter Pan’s Flight and It’s a Small World.
New to Fantasyland is Fantasy Faire, an area near Sleeping Beauty Castle devoted to young princes and princesses with the look and feel of new Fantasyland in WDW.

Disneyland Monorail Mark VII
It’s good vs. evil and Fantasmic! plays out along the Rivers of America in Disneyland.

Disneyland Resort
Also featured in Fantasyland is the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough, which opened in 1959, was closed in 2001 and reopened in 2008. The walkthrough tells the story of “Sleeping Beauty” through a series of dioramas. The originals were designed in the style of Eyvind Earle, production designer “Sleeping Beauty.”
After the walkthrough closed in 2001, Imagineer Tony Baxter was one of the driving forces behind bringing it back, but with an upgraded show.
The castle itself is noticeably shorter in stature than Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World, but remains an endearing park icon. And as the story goes, the front of the castle actually faces Fantasyland; the back is what you see from Main Street.
The Disneyland Monorail winds its way through Tomorrowland, although there’s only one stop in the Magic Kingdom — near the entrance to the Nemo submarine. Still, the monorail offers an excellent overview of many of the attractions in the area.
In addition to Space Mountain and the Nemo subs, Tomorrowland also is home to Disney staples Captain EO, Star Tours, the Astro Orbitor, Innoventions (which first housed the Carousel of Progress), Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters and Autopia, still an enjoyable motor tour through the countryside.
Inexplicably, the long, winding track for the failed Rocket Rods attraction remains intact and is a bit of an eyesore in Tomorrowland.
Disneyland Railroad’s “grand circle tour”

For a more complete overview of the park, the Disneyland Railroad makes its fabled “grand circle tour” around the perimeter. The train stops in New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown, Tomorrowland and Main Street.
We found the food in Disneyland to be both reasonably priced and quite tasty. On our first night in the park, we ate dinner with our friends Nancy and Phil in the Plaza Inn, which proved to be an enjoyable experience.
At night, Disneyland features both a Wishes fireworks display (Believe … In Holiday Magic during Christmas) and Fantasmic!, which is staged on the Rivers of America, allowing for a much more up-close and personal experience (we were joined by our friends Mike and Dorene for this show).
Both the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia are used during the performance, as is Tom Sawyer Island, where Mickey and Maleficent duke it out. The intimacy of the Disneyland version is far more appealing to me than the Hollywood Studios production, held as it is in that massive arena.
As Walt Disney famously said after Disneyland opened in 1955, the park “will never be finished as long as there’s imagination left in the world.”
Which is a good thing, because the next time we visit, there’s sure to be new adventures to see and experience.
I can’t wait to return.

By Deborah Fitts

Liberty Square Mystery at Magic Kingdom

fw-003-600x2254December 30, 2013–
We know that the Magic Kingdom wasn’t anywhere near completion before the October, 1971 opening. Many attractions opened over the course of the first few months and some of the major E-ticket attractions wouldn’t show up for a few years. Liberty Square, one of Walt’s visions for a new land at Disneyland (Liberty Street and Edison Square) would be a major area and the centerpiece during the 1976 Bicentennial.
This early rendering by Herb Ryman shows a fairly busy Liberty Square. We can see the Liberty Tree near the shops and the Hall of Presidents in the very back.The building in the middle with the cupola was discovered to be the Market House by Foxxfur from Passport2Dreams. The point-of-view for this piece is from the bridge. Franklin’s shop on the right is the current Sleepy Hollow refreshments. The green and blue building on the left is the Liberty Square Christmas Shop. One of the images from her post made me question another set of buildings.
This concept art from Herb Ryman shows a view of the main thoroughfare heading to the riverboat. The building on the left is the Market House. What about the buildings on the right? The sign with George Washington leads to the Hall of Presidents, therefore the buildings on the right are where we see the current Liberty Square Market and part of the early queue for the Hall of Presidents.
The reason I bring all of this up is because of a rumor from a friend that I’d never heard before while touring the Magic Kingdom. We ate at the Columbia Harbour House, which is a Magic Kingdom tradition for me, and my friend, Scott, pointed out a detail I’d never noticed before. If you head to the second floor (really, there’s no better place to eat at the Columbia Harbour House) and make your way to the windows near the Hall of Presidents, you’ll see the seating area for the Liberty Square Market.
The yellow outline was added to delineate the series of bricks that are the ultimate subject of this article. During the first years of the park, this area was a commons, of sorts. It was a large, grassy area that was eventually flattened and turned into the seating/planter area we see today.
The area in contention is the grassy spot that the soldiers are facing.
You can see the grassy area in this image and the waste-water trail for cooking, cleaning and restroom runoff, since there was no indoor plumbing in the 1700′s.
So, my friend Scott mentioned that he had been talking to an Imagineer from the early days (Scott’s been around Walt Disney World since the 1970s) and the Imagineer told Scott about an abandoned building project in Liberty Square. The building (one building that looked like several smaller buildings) would have fit inside the yellow area demarcated in the photo above. Here are some renderings.
Scott super-imposed a building over top the image to offer a tantalizing view of what could have been.
It’s really a unique idea that would have made the area very similar to New Orleans Square at Disneyland (which is arguably one of the best designed theme park lands anywhere).
The image above really shows off the area well. At this stage in the construction, you can see how the area for the commons, if it had been a building, would have fit the overall design of the land. Similar to New Orleans Square at Disneyland, the pathway between the mystery building and the Hall of Presidents/Columbia Harbour House would have offered a meandering path with a feel of and older city.
I scanned a larger image of the Herb Ryman concept artwork featured in A Brush with Disney : An Artist’s Journey, Told through the words and works of Herbert Dickens Ryman. It would have been one building with several different facades like the Liberty Square Christmas Shop (formerly Olde World Antiques, the Silversmith and Mlle. Lafayette’s Parfumerie). From the scale of the building, it would have been a bit smaller than the Christmas Shop, so that standing at the riverfront you’d still catch a glimpse of the spires of Cinderella Castle over the Hall of Presidents.liberty-square-0010
Another rendering that shows the spaces for the mystery building and Foxxfur’s Market House (on the right). It really would have made the area a lot more intimate (and congested) which would have gone against the designs of the Magic Kingdom, which called for wide walkways and plenty of room for queues. Liberty Square would have been an area that called out for investigating and discovering instead of just quickly walking through to get to the Haunted Mansion or to Big Thunder Mountain.
I posted the second Herb Ryman concept artwork in this article to Twitter to see if a few of the Imagineers I knew could offer any insight (follow me, I’m @Imaginerding). Foxxfur (@MKPony) responded fairly quickly with some information that shed new light. She stated, “It was scheduled to be a colonial arts and crafts exhibit…appears on some models and 69/70 site plans*. It was cut really early, it’s not even on the Hartley maps which still include the Market*.” She also mentioned that the WDI Research Library has elevations of the buildings. Foxxfur reminded me that the Story of Walt Disney World: Commemorative Edition has an image of a fairly late Magic Kingdom model that shows Liberty Square and Frontierland fairly well (although blurry).
Besides the Western River Expedition on the right, it’s neat to see the large Contemporary Resort model and Magic Kingdom monorail station behind the executives.
Sadly, because of the original printing, it’s too difficult to see the mystery buildings. The Market House is easily identifiable due to the darker brick work. The section to the immediate left of the smaller mystery building looks like a two-story facade with a balcony similar to New Orleans Square.
There was also the rumor that Scott mentioned about Disney putting in a Club 33-type restaurant on the second floor that would be serviced by the Columbia Harbour House kitchens. Now that’s another theme park mystery!
Do you have any thoughts or information on the mystery building in Liberty Square? What about a Club 33 restaurant for the Magic Kingdom?
By Deborah Fitts

Web Episode Series Highlights Scotts Valley’s “Santa’s Village Theme Park”

20131227__sscs1225kgsanta~1_GALLERYDecember 30, 2013–

Scotts Valley, Those with fond memories of Santa’s Village, the now-defunct Scotts Valley amusement park, can reminisce with a history.20131227__sscs1225kgsanta~2_GALLERY

“The Lost Parks of Northern California,” a free YouTube video series about closed and abandoned amusement parks, released an episode about the Christmas-themed park Monday.

The 25-acre park, nestled in the redwoods off Highway 17, once had a candy kitchen, live reindeer, a place to mail letters to Santa who would respond and a frozen North Pole that was refrigerated so children could stick their tongue to it.

“You could never do that today. You’d have to coat it in Purell,” said Kris Rowland, creator of the series. “But back then it was part of the charm.”

The park closed in 1979 after two years of lagging admissions and an especially rainy winter, said Rowland. Yet more than 30 years later, Rowland said he was overwhelmed with the response of people wanting to share their memories about the park for his project.

Not one person had bad memories about the park, he said.

“We’re trying to save these memories literally before they’re wiped out,” said videographer Nicholas Laschkewitsch.

Santa Cruz resident Nick Botelho worked as a Santa’s Village puppeteer in 1970 as a 16-year-old. He said he operated 22 marionettes in a show about toys coming to life at night in Santa’s workshop.

The park, which opened in 1957, lost popularity after a culture change, said Botehlo, who was interviewed in the episode.

“It was definitely a product of a simpler time,” he said.

Sandy Lawton, who worked as an elf in the park’s ornament shop in the early 1960s, said she remembers the park’s innocence.

“It was just magic to be there, from the minute you parked,” said Lawton.

Dressed in her green hat and curved slippers with bells, Lawton would walk through the redwoods to the gingerbread house, where she’d order a thick slice of gingerbread with whipped cream, she said.

Marie Barry, who grew up in Santa Clara, said she remembers piling in the car with her sister and parents.

“When we’d drive over the hill when we were little and we knew every curve,” said Barry. “We’d always yell, ‘Santa’s Village’.”

Barry, who was also interviewed in the episode, started a Facebook group called “Santa’s Village Memories – Scotts Valley” a few years ago, which now has nearly 1,800 members.

“It’s a part of our local history that’s gone now,” said Barry. “It’d be really nice to bring it back.”

Rekindling memories and preserving history is the goal of the project, said Rowland.

If the project can make people stop and remember a time when they had family fun, it’d be a success, he said.

“Our society is all about what’s new, what’s next, and we don’t have an opportunity to stop and smell the roses,” Rowland said.

By Deborah Fitts

WinterFest Warms Spirits at Adventure Landing

12948860December 30, 2013–
Jacksonville Beach,
Families came from near and far to partake in the festivities offered at the third annual WinterFest, which continues through Jan. 12.

It may have been a soggy 71 degrees outside, but it was cold enough for skaters to glide or, in some cases, shuffle, across the real ice composing the indoor rink.

First-time ice skater Riley Lang wobbled a little bit initially. The 5-year-old St. Marys, Ga., girl kept within arm’s reach of the rink’s side walls as she moved cautiously then gradually with more confidence and stability on the ice as her parents, Tripp and Deanna Lang, encouraged her with their smiles and praise.

Earlier, Riley was among the first to ride an inner tube down the Alpine Racer, a 130-foot ice slide.

“I liked the slide, it was fun. … Yeah, I got to go fast,” Riley said, nodding her head with satisfaction.

It was the Langs’ first visit to WinterFest.

“We had nothing much to do today and we’d heard about it and just decided to come check it out,” her father said.

The Jacksonville Beach park is the only one of the company’s 13 Adventure Landings and seven other amusement parks offering WinterFest, which began Nov. 22, said Natalie Dunlap,, marketing director for the company.

“We’re expecting between 35,000 and 40,000 people this year,” said Dunlap, noting that more than 30,000 people attended the popular event each of the previous two years.

The event also includes s’mores roasting, ornament making and holiday-themed “Reindeer Games” and other winter festivities.

But the ice skating rink was the highlight Sunday for experienced skaters and newcomers alike.

Annabelle Paige of Jacksonville glided gracefully across the ice with practiced ease. A traveling physical therapist, Paige is an ice dancer who has been ice skating “on and off” for about 20 years.

“This is my source of exercise. … I’m just home for one day actually, and this is a great way to get rid of the cobwebs from driving such a long distance,” said Paige, who has been coming to WinterFest since it began. A former runner, Paige took up ice dancing after learning ballroom dancing as part of her workouts.

Paige offered encouragement and tips to several beginning skaters on the ice Sunday.

Pamela Lamb of Jacksonville took photographs of her 10-year-old granddaughter, Destiny Lamb, out on the ice. Also a first-time ice skater, Destiny quickly got the hang of it. As she perfected her balance, she moved out toward the center of the ice as man-made snow filtered down from the ceiling.

“I was kind of scared about her falling and getting hurt, but she looks like she’s got it. … She was hugging that wall at first, but she’s loosening up now,” Lamb said of her granddaughter.

By Deborah Fitts