One of the most striking additions to the Safari
Exploration Station was a large wooden elephant. The elephant
first made its debut at the Expo 86 event held in Vancouver, Canada.
The elephant was assembled by artist Pete Ryan and carved out of British Columbia cedar.
At the Expo it stood, complete with oversized wooden wheels resembling a
child's pull toy as part of the fair's Land Plaza - a collection of land
based travel vehicles.
After the Vancouver World's Fair 1986 (Expo 86) it was purchased by Charles R. Wood who was an American amusement park developer from upstate New York. Charley Wood opened Storytown USA in Queensbury, New York in 1954. Storytown USA was renamed The Great Escape in 1983 and ultimately became part of the Six Flags family of theme parks. While at The Great Escape the cedar elephant stood undercover amongst that park's many children-related features and attractions.
When Great Adventure decided to add the Golden Kingdom to its theme park in 2005, it acquired the wooden elephant along with the flying Royal Elephants ride (later renamed Air Jumbo) from the Great Escape with the intention of adding both of these items to the new area of the park.
|While the flying elephants ride made it into the Golden Kingdom, plans for the elephant to be featured in the new highly themed area never materialize and it was left backstage in storage near the maintenance facilities for a couple seasons. In 2007, the elephant would finally make its first appearance in the new Safari Exploration Station, sans wooden wheels.
The cedar elephant was hand carved and made up of what appeared to be a
wooden block puzzle design. Each part of the animal interlocked
with the other parts with wooden notches and pegs holding the pieces in
This unusual means of construction had its advantages and disadvantages. The gaps in its exterior allowed for rain and the elements to seep into its inner core but at the same time individual pieces could be removed for repairs or replacement.
|The weight of the elephants free-hanging trunk was a particularly vulnerable part of the structure especially since this portion of the sculpture also included the two large tusks that extended away from the elephants head. Temporary bracing held this portion in place until this portion was removed for repairs in 2011.
|The lower portion of the head, including the trunk and tusks, was carefully reinstalled the following season. The professional repair work restored the cedar elephant to its former glory as it no longer needed any of the bracing that had previously been in place.
|Admiring the amount of details on the elephant was a pleasure for the eyes. From the ornate metal accents on its head gear to the red, blue, and gold tapestry on its back it was obvious that a lot of time and effort went into its design and construction.
The cedar elephant still resides in the former Safari Exploration
Station however with the area closed very few park patrons can
appreciate this lovely hand carved sculpture.
It is hoped that someday soon the elephant can be carefully and safely transported into either the theme park or Camp Aventura area where it can once again please guests by just standing tall and proud as the masterpiece that it is.