The Enchanted Forest was forced to curtail operations in 2020, because the last thing the fantastical re-imagining of the Middle Ages needed was for visitors to be infected with a very modern and very real plague. The worries over the Salem-area attraction doubled when snow and ice handed the park a level of destruction no one really plans for.
But the family which has owned and operated the Forest pulled together and managed to find a way to repair. With the modern magic of vaccines and the modern armor of masks and hand sanitizer, they thought they were readyto open for their 2021 season, but they hadn’t counted on one thing: very real, very modern and potentially very dangerous trolls.
Susan Vaslev, whose father, Roger Tofte, opened thepark in 1971, had been really looking forward to Opening Day. Her staff had all the supplies they needed and had all been trained to comply with state guidelines so the day would be as safe as they could make it.
But there’d been those phone calls…
The Enchanted Forest had announced that anyone who wanted to enter either had to show a photo ID and a card proving they were fully vaccinated, or else had to remain masked while in the park. That was what the State of Oregon had told them they needed to do in order to stay safe.
Interviewed by Willamette Week, Vaslev said, “Half of the people were thrilled.”
Half were, yes…
“A huge portion of the people were very angry,” she continued sadly. “Angry is very mild—they were outraged.”
In a time when scientific facts are regarded by many people as matters of opinion and points of political doctrine, too many Oregonians think they have a right to walk into a privately-owned business unvaccinated and unmasked, and are outraged that anyone would say they can’t.
Dozens of angry phone calls were screamed into the Enchanted Forest’s voice mail. Dozens of lurid text messages appeared in their Twitter feed and on their web site. So many were angry. Some sounded serious. A few made disturbingly detailed threats.
Vaslev put a post on the park’s web page and social media accounts:
“We have been hard at work preparing the park to reopen. We had hoped to do so Saturday May 22nd 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 as to how we will interact in public places with regard to mask requirements for those who are vaccinated versus those who are not vaccinated.
“We recognize this is an important issue and look forward to specific guidance from our State officials as to our responsibility as a business that invites the public to be our guests. However, until we are confident we can do so safely, we will not be able to reopen. 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.
“People who have already purchased tickets for this weekend will be refunded.”
A very sad turn of events for a place where people of all ages, but especially children, have for so many years gone to escape from the harsh realities of a hostile world.
Vaslev is understandably unwilling to go into detail about the nature of the threats made, but they must have been both severe and credible, since her strong desire to reopen is more than merely strong. As she put it, “We’re desperate to reopen because we’re just hanging by a thread.”
The Enchanted Forest has survivedseven recessions, the opening and closing of the neighboring attraction of Thrill–ville USA, the paranoia that came after 9/11, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the wildfires and ice storms of 2020. It would be a terrible shame if the Enchanted Forest were to finally be cut down by hateful trolls.