Marking its return to post-pandemic operations June 5th and 6th, Enchanted Forest continues on an “enchanted” path to a comeback after nearly having to shutter for good amid numerous 2020 challenges.
The family-owned amusement park, located in Salem, Ore., was able to reopen for the first time in 8 months, initially accommodating around 400 guests due to 15% capacity restrictions on opening day. Park owners initially greatly limited food options and closed water fountains, as well as keeping some attractions closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Despite these challenges, tickets sold out fast, leading the park to expand its schedule.
While park operators had hoped to open a full seven days a week, the park is not yet fully staffed, so full hours have not yet occurred. The park is actively hiring, but in the meantime, park spokesmen suggest visitors check the calendar before visiting and purchase online tickets to guarantee park entry. “There may be days when we will only be able to allow guests with pre-purchased tickets [to enter] because we do not have enough employees at this time to use our overflow shuttle parking lot.”
General admission is $15.75, with seniors and kid's tickets priced at $13.75. Ride tickets are $1 each, with most requiring 2-4 tickets.
Despite the park's current popularity, the financial problems of 2020, during which the park was forced to open a GoFundMe to survive, were only one of the struggles the operators have endured. Along with the financial strain, a wildfire damaged the park and tragically took the lives of two of the members of the Tofte family who own the park. And, in February of this year, an ice storm damaged several of the rides, some of which have still yet to re-open. The damaged Kiddy Bumper Boats and Kiddie Tiny Tune Train are not yet operational.
The park also had to delay their planned Memorial Weekend reopening due to community backlash over planned mask requirements and social distancing protocols. It began over a Facebook post from the park noting that masks would be required in the park at all times unless guests were fully vaccinated – which they would be required to prove with a vaccination card and photo ID. While some park-goers applauded the policy, others were infuriated, even making threats that made staff members feel too unsafe to open the park.
Vaslav said that as much as the park “desperately” wanted to open, staff did not feel they could ensure guests' safety and their own and waited over a week to reopen. A park spokesperson explained to a local news outlet that “We have been hard at work preparing the park to reopen. We had hoped to do so this weekend with safety protocols consistent with the most up-to-date guidance from the Center for Disease Control, the Governor, and the state epidemiologist. Unfortunately, recent comments and threats have made clear that our community is not in agreement…Our commitment to being a place where families can spend time together free of unnecessary hate and conflict simply outweighs our strong desire to reopen our business.”
Fortunately, the controversy faded, as the park, in concordance with state requirements, came up with more simplified rules that has seemed to please all guests. Guests are required to wear masks indoors, but none are required outdoors at the park. Admission tickets were initially timed-entry, and had to be purchased in advance, online. When arriving at Enchanted Forest, guests were asked to wait in their cars until their assigned ticket entry time.
And so, finally, the park, which originally opened in 1960, has actually reopened. Co-manager and family member Susan Vaslev terms the park's reopening as “a special moment that we'll never forget.” Relieved and grateful, Vaslav added that “There were so many setbacks along the way that it just felt like it was never going to happen.”
And the return is still going strong. Some attractions, which were initially closed in order to follow state safety protocols, have now opened again, including the Western Caves and Shoe Slide, which both opened to guests on June 30th.
Recently, with business capacity limitations lifted in the state, the Tofte family decided to close their GoFundMe, noting, “we feel over time we can survive and pay off the remaining debt over the years to come… We could not have done this without you and are so grateful for your generosity and support! We plan to be here for generations to come and want you to know how humbled and grateful we are.”
Unfortunately, it still hasn't been completely smooth sailing: more recent challenges have included the record-breaking heat wave in the Pacific Northwest region. That heat wave caused park owners to open early at 9:30 a.m., and close shortly before noon on the hottest weekend. Park hours normally are 10:30 to 5. And now there's the search for new staff members so that eager attendees can visit the park on more days of the week.
In the meantime, on the weekends, and the weekdays in which the park can stay open, guests are enjoying Enchanted Forest's old-fashioned charm, and rides such as the Log Flume, Ice Mountain Roller Coaster, Haunted House, and the interactive ride Challenge of Mondor, along with the iconic fairy tale figures on Storybook Lane, and the Old European Village. The park also recently announced that the Pan for Treasure gold-sifting attraction will be reopening soon.
Dining options are now open, with Jolly Roger and Gretel's Grill offering limited menus; Ma and Pa's BBQ is serving up snacks but no ‘cue as yet.
But, finally, Enchanted Forest is once again proving its name, bringing pleasure to guests of all ages, and new hope for its operators.