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Flashback: It's costume mania at Canada's Wonderland!

Grace Peacock

Director of Communications,

Canada's Wonderland

Twitter: @GracePeacock

150 costumes at Wonderland

Visitors will be greeted by 2,400 young people dressed to the hilt

by Ellen Bot

(Text as it appeared in the Toronto Star on Saturday, May 8, 1981)

A medieval princess, Fred and Wilma Flintstone and a swashbuckling pirate are a few of the colourfully costumed characters waiting to greet the public when Canada’s Wonderland opens to the public, May 23. 

Each of the 2,400 young hosts and hostesses - whose jobs range from ride attendants to restaurant managers - will be clad in special costumes designed to coincide with one of the five park themes. 

Stroll down the rustic stone boulevard of International Street and you’ll meet a Latin American maiden wearing a vividly striped peasant dress, white apron, her hair swept back by a babushka head scarf. In The Grande World Exposition of 1890 area, young men and women in royal blue knickers, striped vests, and matching bow ties are sweeping up the streets. 

Over 150 different costumes were created by Katie Leahy, costume director for the Cincinnati-based King’s Productions, in charge of the creative side of Canada’s Wonderland. Leahy worked with a $500,000 budget and spent over two years designing the costumes. 

Functionality was as important as the fantasy effect. 

“When designing an outfit for the rides, I had to make sure that nothing would get caught. In the Grand World Expo area I created Victorian bicycle shorts, for the girls worn at the turn of the century. In Food Service areas, I designed hats to cover the hair and aprons that blend with the design of the costume.”

Leahy, 30, who has designed costumes for amusement parks in Cincinnati, North Carolina and Virginia, found it challenging to create costumes to adapt to the Ontario climate. “I made the costumes roomy enough to wear a turtle-neck sweater underneath and designed nylon-lined hooded jackets to wear with most of the outfits.”

The climate factor wasn’t always easy to accommodate. 

In the animation-bright Happyland of Hanna-Barbera, the cartoon characters of Scooby Doo, Yogi Bear and the Flintstones are created from acrylic fur and cloth fabrics, designed by Hanna-Barbera. “The costumes are very hot and none of the characters can walk around for more than 15 minutes,” Leahy says. 

All other costumes are made from a blend of polyester and cotton for easy employee maintenance and durability. “We are gauging for a three-year lifespan for each costume,” Leahy says. Each employee is loaned two complete copies of the costume and accessories for the summer. 

Canada’s Wonderland operates weekends starting May 23, opens daily from June 1 to September 7. Admission ranges in price from $9.95 for Grounds admission to $23.50 for a two-day unlimited use passport. 

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Grace Peacock

Director of Communications,

Canada's Wonderland

Twitter: @GracePeacock

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