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Storybook Gardens in London has a fairytale day

It hasn’t always been a fairytale.

Storybook Gardens, London’s long-established and much-loved family attraction, has had its share of tough times.

Once upon a time, it was a little rough around the edges, with some of its attractions needing updates. But on Thursday, its staff were grinning like the Cheshire Cat as they cut the ribbon for an expanded children’s village.

Thanks to free entry for kids sponsored by vehicle history reports company CarProof, there were large crowds to see the five new play buildings near the old woman’s shoe. That’s the old woman who had so many children… you know the story.

New this year are a bank, animal hospital, fire station, market and fairy’s house, each with its own occupant, played by park staff in costume to interact with the children.

“We want the community to recognize that we are moving forward and we are looking for opportunities to make improvements to our facility,” said Storybook Gardens supervisor Diana Rowe.

The five new houses cost $15,000 each, she said, with the animal hospital paid for by Sears, and the hope is to find more companies to support additions to the park. Future plans include a trick or treat trail for Halloween.

“We are definitely looking to try and connect with other places in the community to help us expand it quicker,” added Rowe, who said poor weather had hit attendances this summer but August has been very busy.

Around the park, the children were happy and that meant their parents were happy, too.

“We come here every year. The kids love it,” said Kathie Avola. “It’s a good investment for the kids and the future.”

Amtul Jamil added: “This is the only place in London for kids and we love to come here, but it’s expensive.”

“I think it’s pretty good,” said Dylan Stoneburgh. “You spend the kids’ energy a little bit.

“There are times I think there wasn’t much to do here. I’m not sure I like the rides too much but other than that, I like the interactive things for them."

Timeline

1915: Zoo established in Springbank Park with two raccoons and two owls.

1957: Council approves $150,000 budget for amusement park.

1958: Storybook Gardens officially opens on June 26, at 10 a.m.

1988: A fire destroys most of the new $389,000 “Playworld” development.

1990: Park is handed over to the city’s Parks and Recreation department.

2003: After a $7-million renovation, Storybook Gardens opens again.

2012: Three Storybook seals die while being transported to the U.S.

–Haley Ritchie/For Metro

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