Salvation for Fairyland
“You can’t put a price on history.”
Seemingly simplistic storybook-themed amusement parks popped up in the mid to late 50s. They were travel destinations for families with children. Over the years, decreased attendance and changing interests drove parks to update exhibits. Modernization was costly; therefore, many parks closed facilities and removed the exhibits. Few remain today. Some of these historically significant relics have been destroyed, thrown out, or lost. Fairyland, located in Tampa, Florida, seemed destined to the same fate; however, an auction saved the exhibits for future preservation. Preservation of these old amusement parks is vital to our American history.
Built in 1957 with private funds, Tampa’s Fairyland Park and Zoo was situated on 15 acres and free. Advertising referred to the attraction as a “storybook park for children”; however, people of all ages enjoyed the various fable-themed life-size figures and props. The City of Tampa shuttered Fairyland in 1996. All of the items were placed in an outdoor storage lot and ultimately forgotten. Twenty years later, the deteriorated figures were discovered and scheduled to thrown out. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn referred to them a “junk pile,” yet refused to donate them to a preservation group. After public outcry, the city decided to auction them off. The heated auction grossed the city $28,300.
Save Fairyland! was created to solicit donations to purchase the lots and to raise awareness. They kept Facebook group members abreast of the auction. Although two mystery bidders attempted to thwart the bids and pushed winning bids to higher than expected prices, local businessman Gonzmart won 11 out of the 12 lots. The final price shocked members who were thrilled with a figurative Knight in Shining Armor defeating the outside bidders. The group continues to post restoration pictures along with Fairyland-related endeavors. To follow the restoration process, join the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/savefairyland/.
The auction serves as an important lesson and strategy for other groups hoping to preserve the past. Perseverance pays off.
For more information view https://www.tampapix.com/zoo_old.htm. It is an excellent resource providing historical information, as well as loads of pictures.