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Shoe Tree

Rumor has it that the first pair of shoes were tossed up in the branches during the celebration of a hole in one, which decided a particularly close match of Frisbee golf. Little by little, other shoes started “blossoming” upon the lifeless limbs.

In the mid-eighties the city of San Diego decided to chop down the dead tree, but the recreation parks’ course pro had taken a special liking to it because he considered it crucial to the design of hole number two.

Convincing a number of friends to decorate it with their old tennies and cleats, he then phoned the local newspaper telling the reporter that the city was going to do away with the “world famous Shoe Tree.”  The story (along with photographs) ran the following day and the city was deluged with pleading phone calls and letters to let the tree stand.

Regardless of how the sneakers first found their way up there, the Shoe Tree on Morley Field Disc Golf Course in Balboa Park, San Diego is now legitimately famous, and the home of hundreds of pairs of active footwear from all over the world. –Joe O.


The Circus Trees of Bonfante Gardens

Bonfante Gardens Family Theme Park, was founded, as it’s mission statement reads, “To help inspire people with an appreciation of horticulture and to help our guests, especially children, learn about the important role trees play in our daily lives.”

California is a tough theme park market to break in to. Anaheim’s Disneyland has Mickey, Buzz Lightyear, and Cinderella to delight children of all ages. San Diego’s Seaworld has Shamu The Killer Whale, a lovable gigantic, aquatic killing entertainer. Valencia, Ca. has Six Flag’s Magic Mountain, which boasts 16 world class Xtreme roller coasters. You know these rides must be the height of intensity, because they spell the word extreme with a capital X!

And so, faced with the dilemma of bringing people to their park, but knowing that the lovable cartoon character market, the trained murderous marine mammal market, and the Xtreme Megacoaster market had already been tapped, the Bonfante’s turned to the next logical craze for the all important family vacation dollar. Trees.

Michael Bonfante became aware of the unique roadside attraction called the “Tree Circus” and decided this was the perfect centerpiece to grow a theme park around.

The Tree Circus was a pet project created by Depression era farmer Axel Erlandson.

Erlandson, a self-taught land surveyor, started a hobby that consumed his life, planting, and growing trees in all sorts of ornamental patterns, shapes and sizes. By bending, and “training” the young trees, and then restricting and designing the natural upward growth with a construction of wires, wood and tender loving care, Erlandson was able to shape his trees into ladders, cages, chairs, all growing right out of the ground. Other designs are zig-zag trees, heart trees and diamond trees. Typically these trees are formed from sycamore, but other varieties included poplar, ash and the weeping willow.

Erlandson tried to make a go out of the “Tree Circus,” but while his trees always garnered attention from passersby, and even Life magazine, the draw was not enough of a money maker to pay the bills.

Erlandson died in 1964, and his trees went through long periods of neglect before Michael Bonfante entered the picture. Being a lover of horticulture his entire life, Bonfante decided to open his family-oriented nonprofit theme park in 2001, and one of the first decisions he made was to move the trees 50 miles from Scotts Valley to Gilroy and the park has flourished under his care since, adding rides and restaurants for the entire family.

The “Tree Circus” at Bonfante Gardens…It’s not Xtreme, but the park may grow on you.  –Joe O.

Weird California

 

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