Atlantic County’s Storybook Land Is Timeless: Do You Remember?
There are very few true visionaries throughout history. By any standard of measure, John Fricano was a visionary.
He also should be a household name, but he's not. In my view, that was of his doing. John Fricano simply worked very hard and didn't worry about promotion or self-promotion. He promoted his vision and not himself. However, he has left an indelible legacy that has endured for more than 66 years.
Fricano dreamt big. In 1954, he put $5,000 together and turned his dream into a reality.
It all started with the purchase of 5 acres of land in Egg Harbor Township, right along the Black Horse Pike.
Fricano would add an additional 15 acres and he named his dream, which he made come true -
It was the perfect name.
Today, it is more beautiful than ever and perfectly lit with more than 1,000,000 lights.
Fricano's dream was simple, but, profound. He wanted to build an amusement park for children to be able to unconditionally enjoy.
Fricano swung for the "fences" and he hit the equivalent of a bottom of 9th, 3 balls and 2 strikes, 2 outs, grand slam home run to win his own "world series."
John Fricano died in 2009 and his wife Esther in May 2015.
Storybook Land has never been in better physical condition than it is today. The paint is always bright. The facilities are always clean and perfectly manicured and maintained. The parking has been strategically expanded because their operational success demanded it. The attention to detail that has been exhibited by the second and third generations of The Fricano Family has been exceptional in every way.
They have actually taken Storybook Land to the next level, ever upgrading and expanding Storybook Land, which is going stronger today than ever before.
Christmas with Santa Claus and Santa’s workshop at Storybook Land is so special and it’s such a beautiful time of the year.
Before we go, let’s take a quick walk down memory lane and go back 66 years. It's April 10, 1955. The cost to enter the park on opening day was $ .75 cents. The park was now a full 20 acres in size.
With the help of his wife, Esther, and other family members, Fricano painted his masterpiece. By the way, Fricano was a painter by trade.
In 1955, Storybook Land opened with wonderful fairy tales that had come to life for young children:
The Three Bears, Humpty Dumpty, The Little Red School House, Noah's Ark, The Old Woman in the Shoe, and much more.
Fricano succeeded in turning legendary children's books into a real-life, interactive amusement park experience.
People have come from all over America, Europe, and beyond to visit Storybook Land. Fricano couldn't possibly have imagined how big his dream had now become in reality. He wanted to provide an outlet on the major road of its day, (The Black Horse Pike) for parents and children to have a place to have a rest stop.
There was no Atlantic City Expressway, yet. Legendary State Senator Frank S. "Hap" Farley delivered this on July 31, 1964. Until then, the Black Horse Pike was the main thoroughfare.
We went to Storybook Land as children and continued to do so as adults, bringing our children. I never even knew the Fricano's by name, but, you couldn't miss John and Esther, right at the front entry and all throughout the park. They were everywhere.
It was also pure genius that they created an amusement park theme that both little boys and girls could equally enjoy.
John and Esther built something that had room to grow, with the changing times. A fun fact: Storybook Land predated the opening of Disneyland in California by 3 months. Yes, The Fricano's delivered Storybook Land before Walt Disney delivered his own dream.
My wife Margie and I have countless fond memories of time spent at Storybook Land ... both, when we were children ... then, taking our children ... and, now taking our Grandson Noah.
Storybook Land is both ageless and timeless. I vividly remember having our son, Harry Robert Hurley, Jr.'s 1st Birthday inside the repurposed train caboose.
Rob's two older sisters, (Kristin & Lauren) then ages 7 and 4, and many other children and adults who joined with us on this wonderful day at Storybook Land.
Incredibly, our children are now 38, 35, and 32 years old. And, Noah is almost 14 years old. Yet, this Storybook Land memory seems like it was just yesterday.
You never know what you’ll see next at Storybook Land. Pictured directly below, is “Phil” of Phil and Phylis fame. For many years, they stood proud and on duty at The Philadelphia Phillies Veteran’s Stadium. When a home run was hit, they would turn and ring the Liberty Bell.
Both have been preserved for 2 generations and for generations to come at Storybook Land.
By design, The Fricano's imagined Storybook Land for children 10 years old and younger. Purposely, there are no haunted houses, spooky attractions or thrill rides. It's specifically tailored for young children.
Yet, it still remains great fun for the big kids at heart, too. Storybook Land is one of those special places that stays deep within your heart, forever,
Storybook Land was worth the $ .75 cents entry charge in 1955.
It's worth every bit of the $ 26.95 (online price) in 2021.
NOTE: Immediately following here are two spectacular photo galleries, featuring many never before seen photos of the legendary Adventure Village and the original Steel Pier.