The Enchanted Forest, Howard County's beloved storybook theme park, will come back to life this weekend for a 50th anniversary celebration at Clark's Elioak Farm in Ellicott City.
The party will feature special musical and theater performances -- and appearances by fairytale princesses such as Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty -- from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. County Executive James N. Robey (D) will start the festivities off Saturday. At noon Sunday, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) is expected to present a citation to Clark's Elioak.
On both days of the party, stones that made up the wall near Cinderella's Castle will be auctioned to benefit restoration projects. In addition, original Enchanted Forest artifacts -- most in need of repair -- will be on display, including the Mother Goose slide, the Crooked House and the Crooked Man, and Little Boy Blue.
Meanwhile, Preservation Howard County, a nonprofit group, is seeking volunteers and donations to help restore the artifacts. This week, nearly 40 volunteers from Hampton Hotels were scheduled to help refurbish the Shoe, home to the old mother in a nursery rhyme who had so many children she didn't know what to do. The company paid for moving the Shoe from its original home off Route 40 to Elioak Farm and has contributed $30,000 overall toward the refurbishing of park artifacts, said Dawn Wells, a representative for the company.
The characters were moved to Elioak farm in February after years of neglect. The park enjoyed its heyday from the late 1950s to the early 1980s. It was sold to a shopping center developer in 1988, and it reopened just one summer, in 1994, before closing for good.
The farm, which features a petting zoo, will also have pony and hay rides available during the celebration. Food from CJ's Country Catering will be sold.
High Praise for Ellicott City
Columbia may have been founder James W. Rouse's idea of utopia, but Ellicott City is now among the top 25 places to live in the country, according to a report by CNNMoney.
The report rates towns in categories such as household income and tax rates, education, quality of life, and leisure and culture. Ellicott City ranks 20th -- just three spots behind Gaithersburg. No other towns in Maryland made the list.
Ellicott City, with a median household income of $87,665, topped the average median household income of $68,610 for the other best places to live. But housing prices are correspondingly higher, with a median home price of $376,239, compared with a median average of $316,082 overall. The report also finds there are 3,769 restaurants, 423 bars and 26 movie theaters within 15 miles of Ellicott City and 74 golf courses within 30 miles.
On the flip side, Ellicott City residents are more likely to be the victims of property crimes than residents of most other places on the list, the report finds.
The town that topped the list of best places to live: Moorestown, N.J., population 20,662.
Activists Win a Battle
Community activists who are fighting an expansion of Turf Valley scored a small but symbolic victory during last week's Planning Board hearing on the Mangione family's proposal to expand the mixed-use development west of Ellicott City.
The activists convinced the Planning Board that they should be granted time to review a thick traffic study that they said they had not seen. The board approved their request but not before Richard B. Talkin, the developer's attorney, vigorously objected, saying that the report had been available for a month and that residents had ample time to review it. He even suggested putting one of the residents, Marc Norman, under oath to determine whether he was telling the truth about being unable to obtain the study.
The hearing, which will resume at 7 p.m. Sept. 15, was the first at which the board had examined a new plan to phase in 267 housing units between 2008 and 2015, add about 30,000 more square feet in office space and increase the development's overall size by 119 acres to 809 acres.
Residents, including Norman and Frank Martin, questioned how the proposal could go forward when area schools are crowded and other infrastructure is strained.
"How are they going to support the city of about 5,000 people they are creating?" Norman asked after the hearing.
Neighbor Ride Wins Grant
A special transportation service for Howard County's senior citizens has received a $22,500 grant from the Maryland Senior Rides Demonstration Program. The nonprofit service, known as Neighbor Ride, uses volunteers to provide door-to-door trips for residents 65 and older. Round-trip fees are $6 to $30.
The service is funded primarily through local grants from the Columbia Association, the Columbia Foundation, the Horizon Foundation, the Rouse Co. Foundation and Howard County General Hospital. It is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.