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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Local park brings fantasy alive

    Sisters Nadali Greenwood, 2, and Kadee Greenwood, 3, stop with their mother Kristi Greenwood during the Valley of the Moon tour to take a look at the mystical creations that decorate much of the park. During their tour of the Tucson fantasy park, visitors can expect to see fairies, live music and costumed oddities.
    Sisters Nadali Greenwood, 2, and Kadee Greenwood, 3, stop with their mother Kristi Greenwood during the Valley of the Moon tour to take a look at the mystical creations that decorate much of the park. During their tour of the Tucson fantasy park, visitors can expect to see fairies, live music and costumed oddities.

    Near the northernmost end of East Tucson Boulevard, as the lanes get narrower and narrower and the traffic lights hang from what resembles antique decayed strings, there is a foreboding Dead End sign that may have you wondering whether or not you took the right road.

    Here lies the hidden expanse of the Valley of the Moon, one of Tucson’s most strange and magical secrets.

    Based on the principles of pacifist George Phar Legler (1884-1966), who believed that children are the future and should be raised to believe in peace and happiness, this historic fantasy park is a must-see for anyone who wishes to visit one of Tucson’s hidden treasures.

    Legler, a postal worker by day, was a fan of such classics as “”Alice in Wonderland,”” “”The Raven”” and “”Treasure Island,”” which is why so many of the areas around the park are inspired by these works.

    The park has its own legends, one of which is that if children ring the gong that hangs from a tree in the center of the park, the fairies that live in the area will appear. It is said that only children 7 and under can see the fairies, especially when they visit the fairy hangout, the Enchanted Garden, where tiny houses and a Town Hall are built from rocks and seashells next to a the waterfall fountain.

    Along with the Enchanted Garden, signs with pictures and words spelled out in seashells explain the different areas of the Moon, such as the Bottomless Pit, the Storytelling Tree and the Wizard’s Tower. The tower is a performance stage that is used by artists like the Black Man Clay Show, a local reggae and funk jazz band that will be performing at the Moon March 3 at 6 p.m.

    “”How come there’s pennies stuck?”” Cedar Young, 3, asked of the bench with pennies cemented in it. She was one of many Moon patrons who followed the dirt paths and observed jeweled walls, cactuses, bells hanging from trees and gnomes peeking out from behind bushes. These are among the many simple and unusual gestures that the Moon uses to incite questions of the imagination.

    As the tour ends, leaving children mystified, visitors leave Valley of the Moon by saying “”A-ZE-O”” which is a word Legler made up that means “”health to all.””

    Valley of the Moon has only been open for seasonal shows, such as those performed on Halloween, but starting this year, the park is offering free weekly tours (approximately a half-hour) every Saturday from 4 to 5 p.m. Because these tours are free, donations are the only means of income and are greatly appreciated to “”keep the Moon alive.””

    In the tour waiting area, brick benches are intricately painted with hopeful words like “”kindness.”” A.J. Moyes, 12, a volunteer who is a student at Utterback Middle School, entertains people by playing his violin as they wait for the next tour to begin.

    Valley of the Moon is run completely by volunteers and has been since 1983, when Legler died and the Moon became a historic site.

    Anyone who wishes to volunteer can do so, and volunteer opportunities are available in a wide variety of mediums including drama, singing, costume design, set design, gardening, carpentry, cement work, construction, concessions, photography and any other special talent.

    The board of directors meets on the first Saturday of every month. The time and locations vary, but they are listed on the Valley of the Moon Web site, www.tucsonvalleyofthemoon.org.

    Volunteers must abide by the rules of Valley of the Moon, which include showing kindness to all and respecting others, keeping your costume clean and not climbing on any of the structures.

    “”We’re going to make a MySpace for Valley of the Moon,”” said volunteer Jamie Wellman, 16, who is a student at Rincon High School. She volunteers with her friend Markleigh Swanson, 17, who also attends Rincon. The girls attend the board meetings and assist with Valley of the Moon activities that include the tours and helping keep the park clean.

    “”I’ve been volunteering here since I was 5,”” Swanson said. “”My dad got involved before I was born, and he got my mom involved. My mom sort of forced me to come here, but I loved it so I came back.””

    “”We all have very mundane jobs in the real world, and this is where we come for a touch of fantasy,”” said Randy Van Nostrand, the president of the board of directors for Valley of the Moon. By day he is the operations supervisor at La Frontera, a center for behavioral health, but when he is off duty he is recruiting volunteers for the Moon and coordinating projects to keep the Moon an enchanting place to be.

    “”This is the only place in Tucson where anybody can volunteer,”” he said. “”All ages and capabilities can volunteer. We’ve had fraternities and sororities from the U of A volunteer.””

    Valley of the Moon is a delightful ethereal realm that could inspire any man, woman or child to see things in an imaginative light and to always be kind to others, which leads to happiness. And isn’t that what everyone is searching for? A-ZE-O.

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