Hurtado In Wonderland

It’s been something of an arc in this blog (if blogs can be said to have arcs) that I really haven’t seen as much of San Antonio as I should have by my age.  That’s pretty much all on me – in my younger years I wasn’t as interested in getting out and meeting people and experiencing the world.  It took a little time, and some much-valued inspiration from friends, but I did ultimately choose the path of engagement.  And I’d like to think I’m better off for it.

All of which should tag this post as #MakingUpForLostTime.

Morgan’s Wonderland opened up here in San Antonio just over two years ago, and is still quite unique among amusement parks.   The brainchild of Gordon Hartman, and named for his daughter (whose inspiration is felt throughout the park), it’s the first theme park specifically designed for special-needs children and families.  Rides are built to accomodate everyone who might want to ride them.  Swings are designed so kids in wheelchairs can sit in them (the carousel is similarly designed – more on that soon).  And the whole atmosphere works toward inclusion.  It’s right there in the park’s mission statement:

To provide a safe, clean and beautiful environment free of economic barriers that all individuals, regardless of age, special need or disability, can come to and enjoy.

It not having occurred to me that I qualified as one of those individuals, I hadn’t visited Morgan’s Wonderland since it opened (though I was, of course, aware of its presence and mission).  In fact, I hadn’t been inside a theme park in quite a few years.  But when an opportunity to support my friends and colleagues dovetailed with an opportunity to support the park, I was there.

The necessary digression and backstory: For the last couple of years Nikki and Chadd have produced the Vacation Bible School plays at Chadd’s church.  Since this year’s play (called Incrediworld) is set at a theme park, the idea was hatched to present it in a special performance at Morgan’s Wonderland, and to donate funds raised during VBS to the park .  This ultimately came together last weekend, and so, with map in hand, I made my way to the park.

As you can see, the tone of the place is pretty much set the moment you buy your ticket.  The park is meant to be open, welcoming, free.  And it is.  That whole cliché about “something for everyone” kind of holds true here.  One attraction I never expected to find, and therefore enjoyed immensely, was the Music Garden, a collection of bells and chimes that left me feeling like a pre-Shawshank Thomas Newman.

The play itself was silly fun (as VBS plays should be), and given Nikki’s and Chadd’s involvement, was well produced, well cast, and well acted (by a cast including friends Pat Turner, Teri Poindexter, and Laurie Green).  It raised a good deal of money to support the park’s operations, and brought in quite a few parkgoers from outside the church community; I hope they enjoyed it too.

Once the play was finished and the set struck, a few of us stayed behind to enjoy the park and discover it for ourselves.  We relaxed by the water, Nikki got to practice her weathercasting skills, and we enjoyed a train ride that evoked my younger years on the Brackenridge Eagle.

And then there was the carousel…

This would be me hanging on for dear life after realizing I’d chosen an animal that was a little too close to the ceiling.  Next time, I think I’ll take one of the benches.

Of course, it was all in good fun.  And that was pretty much the entire day.  Thanks to everyone for having me – cast, crew, and especially the park itself.

If you haven’t been to Morgan’s Wonderland, I hope you’ll visit.  If you have and would like to support the park, I hope you’ll consider donating, and spreading the word (via the links I’ve posted herein) to friends and family and colleagues.  It’s a good cause, and a good place.

Thanks once again to all of you for following along.  Until the next time, “be seeing you…”

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