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Storybook Land  (Aberdeen, South Dakota)

(Reprint from News: September 15, 2001)

September 1, 2001


I left the Vinegar Museum around 3 p.m., then drove into Webster where I got a cheeseburger and root beer at the A&W and said goodbye to this friendly town, my home base for the past two weeks.  I got on U.S. 12 and headed west to Aberdeen, the largest town in northeastern South Dakota and, according to a sign on the outskirts of town, the home of the Senate Majority Leader, Tom Daschle. 


After camping for the past two weeks, I splurged at a three-star motel that night, The AmericInn, and immediately decided that I liked three-star motels.  In fact, I've decided not to stay in any more cheap motels with smoky rooms and thin walls; from now on, I'm either staying in a nice motel or a campground.  I like camping and I like staying in nice motels, but I don't much like what's in between.


As I drove out of the motel parking lot the next morning, I decided to make a quick drive through Aberdeen.  If you know anything about my trips, you know that my "quick drives" can sometimes take several hours... and this would be no exception.  I discovered that Aberdeen has a charming downtown with lots of old, brick buildings on either side of Main Street.  I also stumbled across a theme park north of town called "Storybook Land" which seemed to be free, so I went in and soon found myself walking down the Yellow Brick Road.  


As I discovered, Aberdeen at one time was the home of L. Frank Baum, author of the book The Wizard of Oz, which of course was made years later into a famous movie.  L (or "Frank" as his friends probably called him) was a native of New York, but he lived in Aberdeen for a few years during which he started up a newspaper before moving back to New York.  He apparently based his book The Wizard of Oz on his experiences of living in Aberdeen in the 1880s, which, as you know, was a period of drought, tornadoes, and flying monkeys. 


To commemorate Baum's one-time residence here, the city of Aberdeen created a cute park a few years ago, called "Storybook Land," with lots of characters from The Wizard of Oz as well as other storybook characters.  After walking by countless Cats Playing the Fiddles and Cows Jumping over the Moon, I walked into the official Storybook Land Visitor Center and proudly told the nice woman there that I'd recently visited Mother Goose's actual grave in Boston (see News: July 22, 2001).  I'm not sure if she was impressed but, with typical Midwestern friendliness, she tried to appear so.


Admittedly, Storybook Land isn't DisneyWorld, but it was free and I figured that a park like this would charge at least $15 for admission if it were in California or Florida.  Quaint, homespun places like this are one reason I love the Midwest.



Above left:  The entrance to Storybook Land in Aberdeen, South Dakota.  Just follow the Yellow Brick Road.

Above center:  Here's the cast... with a rather benevolent-looking witch.

Above right:  Pensive looks on the faces of Uncle Henry and Aunt Em.  According to the sign in the background, Aunt Em is sponsored by Wal-Mart.



Above left:  Babe the Blue Ox with Paul Bunyan who, I thought, bore a striking resemblance to Tom Selleck.

Above center:  Is this a cute park or what?

Above right:  A knight in shining (well, sort of) armor with Rapunzel in the background.



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