recess radio program

8/13/04
Tivoli Gardens
    by Rita Smith

Tivoli Gardens -- the famous amusement park in Denmark, which took its name from a much older Tivoli Gardens in Italy -- opened its gates in the late summer of 1843. It was the brainchild of an entertainment enterpreneur named Georg ("Gay-org") Carstensen, who wanted to create a park, on a vacant piece of ground near the city's old walls, where he could hold spectacular fireworks displays, like those he had seen at Vauxhall in England. He used the pyrotechnics as promotional events for the magazines that he had also launched in Copenhagen, and he added games of skill and tests of strength, along with one of the first roller coasters, which lasted all of seven seconds, and was publicly criticized by the pundits at the time as a waste of time and energy.

But Carstensen's idea was an immediate success with everyone else, and the next year, 1844, he added a Tivoli Boys Guard, dressed in military uniforms to watch the gates of the grounds in exchange for all the snacks they could eat. He also introduced a pantomime performance on the last night that the park was open (it closed in mid-October for the winter). By the third year of operation, Carsetensen hit upon the idea of a special season ticket to the park, and that too went over well with the thrifty citizens of the city, who were happy to find an affordable way to go as often as they could during the five months of the Tivoli season.

Through the 1800s, Tivoli became a popular meeting place not only for Danes but also for vacationers from all over Europe. More and more pavillions, restaurants, and attractions were added, including glass-enclosed and outdoor concert areas, lakes, gondola and dozens of other rides, including one of the earliest versions of the bumper cars. Everywhere there were and still are gardens, whose half a million flowers and plants are immaculately tended. The whole is illuminated by over a hundred and fifteen thousand incandescent lights -- not a single flouresescent tube in the whole park.

Guess who visited Tivoli and was so inspired by what he saw that he was determined to create a dream park like it in America? That would be Walt Disney.

Copyright 2004 Rita Smith

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"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."