Going back to Rainbow Valley

Colin MacLean
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CAVENDISH - It's hard to imagine, but there is a whole generation of Islanders that have no idea about Rainbow Valley.

Those kids will never go down the flume ride, never talk to Mrs. Owl in her tree, never cross the rickety bridge, will have no recollection of the space ship and will never take a ride on the paddle boats.

But for those of a certain age, anyone about 15-years-old and up, all those things are enshrined in memory.

For many people all over the world those mental images of summer days spent beyond the great rainbow archway are among their most closely guarded treasures.

They are little pieces of a childhood that was all too fleeting.

Now, two budding young filmmakers from Charlottetown are organizing a documentary project to explore why people still care about an amusement park that closed nearly a decade ago.

"When you look back now, really look at the photographs, it was all Fiberglass bunnies - Fiberglass everything - it probably was nothing special," said Alexis Bulman, who is originally from Summerside.

"But I think it's because it closed when we were all kids and we didn't get a chance to view it as adults that its stayed in our minds as this glorious place of just wonderment," laughed the recent graduate from NASCAD University in Halifax.

"Whoever we talk to, everyone brings up the same thing," added Patrick Callbeck.

"No one is quite sure why Rainbow Valley was as awesome as it was. No one can put their finger on it, but everyone knows it was awesome and something special."

Bulman and Callbeck have launched a crowdsourcing campaign on the website IndieGoGo.com to help fund their project.

They've put also put out a call for anyone with interesting stories about Rainbow Valley to contact them. They are looking for old photos and video of the park over the years.

They launched their campaign online last week - and have been overwhelmed by the response.

"It's kind of taken over Facebook," said Callbeck.

The project had already garnered more than 2,000 supporters on its Facebook page and $1,215 of its $3,000 goal on IndieGoGo.com as of Friday afternoon

They've also received dozens of emails from people either asking to be interviewed, offering an interesting story, or making suggestions.

The response was immediate and overwhelming, said Bulman.

"I think it kind of proves our point that there was something about Rainbow Valley that everybody adored," she said.

Their original goal was to produce a 15-minute mini-documentary, but given the level of enthusiasm surrounding the project they have decided to shoot for a 45-minute feature.

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They got the idea after walking through the old property one day.

"We were talking about Rainbow Valley and why it was so awesome - and we couldn't quite pinpoint why," said Bulman.

The night of that conversation, she and Callbeck dug out his family's old VHS home movies that were shot at the park.

There was something about seeing the place again like it was, said Bulman, and it was a wonderful feeling

Callbeck, who recently finished a degree in photojournalism at Loyalist College in Ontario, said he'd wanted to do a documentary project anyway, so the pair decided to explore people's connection to Rainbow Valley.

But to do that they need material.

Anyone with interesting personal stories about the park, pictures and especially video is asked to contact them by calling 902-620-1769 or by email at leckybulman@gmail.com.

They hope to have the documentary completed later this year and intend to post it online for free once it's finished. They may also enter it into some film festivals.

"We're not really making (this movie) for ourselves," said Callbeck.

"It's for Islanders . . . and we know there's a group of people out there that want this made," he said.

Rainbow Valley was founded in 1969 in the heart of Island's Cavendish Resort Area. It closed in 2005, after its owner, Earl Davison, sold the land to Parks Canada so the property could be absorbed into P.E.I. National Park.

Many Islanders, and visitors, were horrified at the idea of the iconic amusement park closing. There was a vigorous grassroots movement to block the sale and people took to the media to express their outrage.

But to no avail.

Today, visitors can still drive past the stone pedestals that used to flank the rainbow arch and they can still wander through the shrub maze, but that's pretty much all that remains of Rainbow Valley.

Though some of its more recognizable rides and buildings can still be found at other businesses across the province.

The property itself is now full of walking trails, picnic areas and other natural attractions.

It's beautiful - but just not the same without that rainbow archway and hordes of ecstatic kids, said Bulman.

Organizations: Loyalist College, NASCAD University, Parks Canada

Geographic location: Rainbow Valley, Charlottetown, Summerside Halifax Ontario Iceland Cavendish Resort Area P.E.I. National Park

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Recent comments

  • Darryl
    July 11, 2013 - 08:05

    https://www.facebook.com/rainbowvalleydocumentary

  • johnny
    July 11, 2013 - 07:42

    What's the name of their facebook page? I'd like to share a story. I searched Rainbow Valley but didn't see it.