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Playground for kids & their imagination

209 INFO

• WHERE: Pixie Woods: 3121 Monte Diablo Avenue, Stockton.
• HOURS: Summer season: June 1-July 31. Open noon to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. Closed Monday through Wednesday.
• ADMISSION: Children under 2, $2; Adults and children over 2, $4. Ride packages available.
• EVENTS: Wine Tasting, June 22, at the park. Tickets can be purchased at the park or call (209) 969-6048.

STOCKTON – John, Michael and Wendy happened upon their fantasy land after a chance encounter with a flying boy dressed all in green.

With a bit of pixie dust, the three followed Peter Pan through the night with the most obscure coordinates: Second star on the right, and straight on till morning.

For the Central Valley’s young and young at heart, finding fantasy isn’t nearly as complicated. Pixie Woods is located just off Interstate 5 in Stockton, and offers a glimpse into Never Neverland without the dangers of flight and sword fight.

Captain Hook and the Jolly Roger patrol the lagoon, but they are merely characters and attractions in this mini-amusement park nestled in Louis Park along the waterfront.

You’ll also find Wendy, John and Michael – the original wide-eyed visitors in this tale – as well as Peter Pan’s Lost Boys.

Good luck finding Pan, though. Peter Pan was one of the park’s original characters when it opened in 1955, but in recent years the boy who refused to grow up has become a bit of a legend.

He’s hidden, even to employees and city staff. “Keep on the lookout,” said Pixie Woods program coordinator Joseph Amen. “Nobody can find him.”

Like Pan, Pixie Woods refuses to grow old. Though Amen says the park had been “forgotten” in recent years, it has witnessed a resurgence under his watch. He believes Pixie Woods, which is operated by the Stockton Parks and Recreation Department, is a much smaller, more affordable version of Great America or Six Flags, major theme parks located in the Bay Area. “It’s not quite at that level,” Amen said, “but we try to create that (same atmosphere).”

Pixie Woods features more than 21 attractions, including: the Pixie Queen II, a paddle boat that tours the green lagoon; the Pixie Express, a locomotive that tracks through Frontier Town and a mining tunnel populated by celebrity pixies; and a vintage carousel. The rides have brought enjoyment to over a million guests in nearly 58 years of service.

“Over the years, we’ve created a lot of memories for the people. That’s what we offer -- making memories for young kids and rekindling old memories for the big kids,” Amen said.

“You lose yourself. When you walk in the park, you forget where you are,” he later added. “Especially during this time when Stockton is going through bankruptcy, you walk into the park and see these things and you can lose yourself. It’s a positive experience.”

And a source of pride for the community.

The park was created and has been sustained by fund-raising and private donations. The Stockton Lions Club was the original booster, gifting $3,500 to start the fund-raising effort in the mid-1950s. By June 12, 1955, approximately $45,000 was raised and Pixie Woods was opened to the public with 21 attractions.

Back then, according to city records, admission was 10 cents for children and 15 cents for adults.

Amen was put in charge of the park’s programming last year. His sole objective then and now is to keep Pixie Woods as breath-taking and wondrous for today’s youth.

He has received tremendous support from private and public donors. The park’s major fundraiser is on June 22 – Pixie Woods Wine Tasting. Tickets are available at the park or call (209) 969-6048.

“It had been forgotten in the last few years, but more people have been reminded of it,” Amen said. “The wine tasting has people and businesses coming together to help the park.”

Pixie Woods will begin its summer season on June 1. It is open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. It will keep those hours through July 31.

“One of my goals is to bring that mystique back,” Amen said. “We grow up, but we never get old.”

209 staff reporter