This Place Near Lake Placid Was Once the King of Amusement Parks
The Land of Makebelieve (yes, it was spelled as one word) was a staple of summertime fun in the Adirondacks from 1954-1979. Families flocked to Upper Jay, New York (a 3-hour ride from Utica) to enjoy the fun. Sadly, devastating floods in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in 2011 washed away pretty much any remnant of what was left.
But, people still remember the magical experiences of days gone by at the children's amusement park built by artist Arto Monaco (1913-2003). It would pale in comparison to the razzle-dazzle of modern amusement parks, but in its time was considered to be a top-notch destination.
Imagination was a key factor at the Land of Makebelieve. Kids were encouraged to wander from place to place in the park rather than follow any sort of structured program. Castles, riverboats, trains, fairy tale houses, stagecoaches, airplanes and old western buildings were built to half-scale, perfect for little folks.
The Land of Makebelieve
There was a PBS special dedicated to the memory of the park:
There was even a folk song by Monsterbuck about the park and its creator:
Many of the toys and artifacts built by Arto Monaco are still on display at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester and at the Adirondack Experience Musem.
As for Monaco himself, he spent some time in Hollwood as an interior decorator on set designs. He also also worked for Hasbro, Mattel, and other toy companies, designing prototype models for games, toys, and educational activities.