With Arts & Entertainment Editor Kathy L. Collins
Fairy tale scenes from one of Tampa’s early tourist attractions, Fairyland, are on display at the Tampa Bay History Center. “Finding Fairyland: Rediscovering Tampa’s Lost Theme Park” is open now through May 21 at the History Center located at 801 Old Water St. in downtown Tampa.
Once upon a time, characters including Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Humpty Dumpty and Little Red Riding Hood, frolicked near the Hillsborough River at a place called Fairyland. After Fairyland closed in the late 1990’s, the fabled figurines disappeared, but they remained in the memories of many residents, including Richard Gonzmart.
Gonzmart is a fourth-generation Tampa restaurateur. He plans to restore the figurines and put them on public display. There are 11 scenes from classic fairy tales.
“I wanted to save these figures because I wanted to share them with my grandchildren and with the children of Tampa,” explained Gonzmart. “I remember going to Fairyland with my parents when I was a child and it was magical to me. If restoring and displaying these figures will encourage parents to slow down and share stories with their children, then it is all worth it. That is what I hope will happen,” added Gonzmart.
Fairyland, which opened in 1957, was attached to Lowry Park Zoo. It was a favorite for local families. They would enter via Rainbow Bridge and encounter a 20-foot high Old Woman in the Shoe and Mary’s Little Red Schoolhouse. You could then take a winding path past vignettes from 11 different nursery rhymes.
Of the temporary exhibit at the History Center, Rodney Kite-Powell, the History Center Curator said, “It is a throwback to a simpler time in Tampa. It is also a fun look at our more recent past.”
The exhibit will also include family photos taken at Fairyland over its 30 years in existence. If you have family photos from Fairyland and want to share them with the exhibit and the public, submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on this exhibit and others at the Tampa Bay History Center, visit tampabayhistorycenter.org or call 228-0097.