The Enchanted Forest in Salem, Oregon is a family-run, family-friendly theme park, envisioned by Roger Tofte, complete with trails and rides.
The Story of the Enchanted Forest and Roger Tofte
ABOUT THE CREATOR
Roger Tofte, born in 1930 in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, moved to Astoria, Oregon when he was 5 years old. In his junior year in high school, he moved to Silverton, Oregon where he graduated from Silverton High School. Roger then spent time in the Navy during the Korean War. After the war, he married Mavis Bjorke in 1954 and had a little jewelry store for about a year in Camas, Washington. Making no money in the jewelry business and with the birth of his first child, Roger took a steady job with the Oregon State Highway Department as a draftsman and artist.
IN THE BEGINNINNG
Ten years later, in the ’60s, Roger, now the father of four young children, realized there was very little for a family to see and do together in Salem. He formulated the idea for a theme park where he could use his creative talents and though he had very little time or money to make his dream a reality, he persisted anyway. He purchased the original 20 acres of land off Interstate 5 for four thousand dollars, in monthly payments of fifty dollars, and began construction in 1964, one bag of cement at a time. He repaired watches in his spare time to help finance his project and worked on building the park after work and on weekends. The Tofte’s own backyard became filled with storybook figures and small buildings as Roger also used every spare second at home to work on his dream.
Roger originally thought it would take only two years to build the Storybook Trail, which was the first section that he needed to complete before the park could open. Finally, after seven years, at 2:00 on Sunday, August 8, 1971, Roger and his wife Mavis hung up a piece of butcher paper saying “OPEN” on the fence and the first visitors entered the park. Admission was one dollar for adults and fifty cents for children and the starting wage was $1.65 per hour, five cents above minimum wage. There were 75 people on the first day and 1,000 people the next Sunday. Roger’s dream was finally a reality with Roger as the creative force and Mavis as the business head.
A SUCCESS BUT THE WORK CONTINUES
Roger quit his job with the State Highway Department after Enchanted Forest’s second season, in 1973, when he was sure it would be able to support himself and his family. Mavis ran the business until diagnosed with cancer and passed the day to day operations of running the business to daughters Susan and Mary when they were young adults. Mavis, though not active in the business anymore, has written several books about the Enchanted Forest and is still a busy writer.
Through the years, Roger and his family have been adding to his dream with new additions to the park. The Tofteville western town was built the second year, and the Haunted House opened in 1974. The Comedy Theatre was built for daughter Susan, who writes and directs the outrageous musical comedies based on fairy-tales. The Ice Mountain Bobsled roller coaster was originally designed in 1983 as a roller coaster that floated along a 24″ wide fiberglass track but was redesigned 2 years later by Ascott Design when the original design proved too difficult to get visitors through fast enough.
Following Ice Mountain, construction began on the Old Europe Village with the Jolly Roger Water-Light show in 1988. The original plan was to create a restaurant with a stage for daughter Susan to hold musical performances, but as the hillside was being excavated, the hillside that the building was being dug into looked like the perfect place for waterfalls. Two years later, the dazzling water-light show opened with music composed by, and lights and water choreographed by daughter Susan. It was so successful, that no live performances were ever held on the stage. The second phase of the Old Europe Village took several years to create and opened in 1993. Roger’s son, Ken, brought the world of animatronics to Enchanted Forest by designing and building all of the animatronics figures in this area. Roger’s beautiful hand cement work can be seen in all of the sculpted Old English buildings.
After the completion of the more artistic projects in the Old Europe Village, it was decided that another big ride was needed. Phase III of the Old Europe Village was delayed in favor of going up the hill to build the Big Timber Log Ride. Several years later, and over budget, the Log Ride was finally opened to the public in 1996. Now with several attractions for adults, it was time for the children again and several kiddy rides were added, the Kiddy Bumper Boats, the Kiddy Ferris Wheel, and the Frog Hopper. In 2002, attention was put on adult rides again by adding the Crazy Bumper Cars, where riders can spin in all directions and bump into other riders in their inner tube type cars.
Now, Roger Tofte, though still the ringleader of Enchanted Forest, has successfully incorporated three of his children into the business: Susan, Mary, and Ken. According to Susan, this arrangement has worked out quite well, “We’re very lucky…We get along because we’re each in charge of different projects and our areas don’t overlap much…We work very well together.”
Roger’s dream was finally a reality with Roger as the creative force and Mavis as the business head. Learn more on their website.
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