- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 3, 2006

A long time ago, in a land not too far away, was a theme park called the Enchanted Forest where parents and children could interact with their favorite fairy-tale characters and, in some cases, become part of the story themselves.

Home to many Disney and Mother Goose characters, the park on Route 40 in Ellicott City, Md., opened its castle doors in 1955 and became a childhood institution and local landmark. Cinderella would dash up to children and ask them if they had seen her slipper. There were rides, some with cars shaped like giant teacups. Families could walk inside many of the storybook buildings set in the woods and see dioramas of their favorite stories.

The Enchanted Forest went through a few owners, closing in the 1980s, reopening and finally closing for good in the early 1990s. Despite efforts from preservationists, the storybook dream had ended.

The castle facade and a large statue of Old King Cole are still there on Route 40, at the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, home to Safeway, Petco and other stores.

But wipe your eyes, dear children, because this story has a happy ending. Many of the figures and buildings were saved and reside at Clark’s Elioak Farm on Route 108 in Ellicott City.

“These pieces were so memorable to children because of the attention to detail,” says Martha Clark, owner of Clark’s Elioak Farm, which also houses a petting farm. “They’re done just like in the storybooks. It’s amazing.”

Ms. Clark says her family has been farming on Howard County land since 1797, on this particular site on Route 108 since 1928, and the family still raises sheep, cattle and crops there. In fact, if you come in July and August, you can stop at the vegetable stand farther down the road and buy some produce.

The petting farm was opened in 2002, but the first Enchanted Forest piece — a large Cinderella Pumpkin Coach — arrived in the fall of 2004 for the farm’s pumpkin patch, Ms. Clark says.

“Everyone was so pleased to see it again,” she says. “They were taking photographs next to it.”

Kimco Realty Co., the most recent owner of the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, told Ms. Clark she could have the rest of the Enchanted Forest structures — but only if she took all of them.

From the parking lot at Clark’s Elioak Farm, you can see a 23-foot-high periwinkle-colored shoe under repair, home to the Old Woman who Lived in the Shoe, and vast acres of farmland behind it. There are slides shaped like mice and cheese. A life-size Papa Bear statue welcomes visitors. Several trees, surprisingly, have faces with their tongues sticking out.

Beyond the entrance is a petting farm filled with goats, ducks, chickens, an emu, piglets, ponies, turkeys, donkeys and more. Handy coin-dispensed kibbles for the animals and hand-washing stations are available.

Jeff Salava of Catonsville, Md., watched his 2-year-old daughter, Tressa, move from one animal pen to the next during a recent visit.

“Her favorite is riding the horse, but she likes to pet the other animals first,” he said.

Sitting court in the middle of the petting farm is a huge Mother Goose and a very large chocolate-colored egg with a sign that states: “The Easter Bunny’s House.” Nearby are the Three Little Pigs’ houses. Although pony rides and hayrides are offered, this clearly isn’t your typical petting farm.

In the entrance is a gift shop/museum with Enchanted Forest memorabilia and photographs. If you went to the Enchanted Forest as a child, this farm is a real treasure of memories.

“I’m glad the Clark family brought it back to life,” said Curt Spanos, watching his 23-month-old granddaughter, Grace, pet a large rabbit. “It’s a historical thing for the county.” Mr. Spanos, of Ellicott City, has been a policeman for 35 years. He said he was dismayed when the defunct Enchanted Forest on Route 40 was left closed and unattended.

There still is plenty to see and behold even for children and adults who go to Clark’s Elioak Farm for the first time. On the other side of the entrance building is a large diorama of a life-size Snow White holding an apple in the home of the Seven Dwarves. Another diorama has a fair-haired Sleeping Beauty in her bed as fairies float above her, frozen in time.

When you witness the children’s faces light up as they see these storybook characters or pet the animals, you can tell the magic of the Enchanted Forest is there at Clark’s Elioak Farm — and the memories lived happily ever after.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN YOU GO:

LOCATION: Clark’s Elioak Farm is at 10500 Route 108 in Ellicott City, Md.

Directions: From Washington, take either Route 295 north or Interstate 95 north. Exit on Route 100 going west. At the end of Route 100, exit onto Route 29 south. Get in the right-hand lane. Exit onto Route 108 west. Go through three traffic lights (or about two miles). Signs for Clark’s Elioak Farm are on the right on Route 108.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, through Nov. 5.

Cost: $4 per person and free for children younger than 1 year old to enter the petting farm. Children 12 and younger must be accompanied by a paying adult. Hayrides and pony rides each cost $2 per person.

Information: Call 410/730-4049, send e-mail to clarkselioakfarm@hotmail. com, or visit www.clarklandfarm.com.

Notes:

• Birthday party packages are available through Nov. 5, and parties in late September and October can add a visit to the pumpkin patch. Call for costs.

• Strollers are not allowed in the barnyard.

• After you leave the farm, if you want to take the children to see the old entrance of the Enchanted Forest, make a left onto Route 108. Make another left onto Centennial Lane. Make a right onto Route 40, and you will see it on your left-hand side. Across the street are two diners: the Forest Diner, which houses a life-size statue of Betty Boop in a red dress, and the Double T Diner, which also carries typical diner fare.

 

 

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