Among theme-park historians Arto Monaco is a legend. The work of Monaco in designing the area’s theme parks has become a central part of the history of tourism in the Adirondacks. His creations have been found in the defunct Old McDonald’s Farm (Lake Placid), The Land of Makebelieve (Upper Jay), Gaslight Village (Pottersville and then Lake George), and Frontier Town (North Hudson), at Storytown (now the corporate Great Escape) and Santa’s Workshop in Wilmington (the last of a breed and a spot that made our Seven Human-Made Wonders of the Adirondacks).
Monaco was a local artist who designed sets for MGM and Warner Brothers, a fake German village in the Arizona desert to train World War II soldiers, and later his own Land of Makebelieve. Monaco died in 2005, but not before the Arto Monaco Historical Society (AMHS) was organized (in 2004) in order to preserve and perpetuate Monaco’s legacy, assemble a collection of his work, and stabilize and restore the Land of Makebelieve which was closed in 1979 after the Ausable River flooded the park for the eleventh time.
Since they first went into the woods with tools in 2006, volunteers of the AMHS have hacked the now overgrown Land of Makebelieve out of the encroaching forests in hopes of saving what’s left of Monaco’s legacy there from the ravages of nature.
On Saturday, September 26, the AMHS will hold its 2009 Annual Meeting followed by a another work session at the former Land of Makebelieve site from 1 to 4 pm. The morning meeting will be held at Paul Johnson’s Bakery, on Route 9N one mile south of the Upper Jay bridge. Lunch is available for those who stay for the afternoon work session. To RSVP, or for information on the upcoming work day or volunteering for the AMHS in general, contact them through their website at http://www.artomonaco.org/.
Photo: The Land of Makebelieve in 2006 before volunteers began work on the abandoned theme park.