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Amusement park’s failure debunked; DVD celebrates Freedomland, USA

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A historic piece of the Bronx is now preserved digitally.

The DVD, entitled ‘Freedomland USA: America’s Theme Park,’ depicts an glorious period in the Bronx’s history, when visitors traveled far and wide to visit the 205-acre theme park.

Watching the fireworks each night during the park’s five year existence from his Bedford Park 4th floor apartment, Bob Mangles, narrator and creator, recalls how impressed he was by the state-of-the-art attractions and unique boundaries of the park, which mirrored the shape of the United States.

“Everyday the park had top-name entertainers and it was so large, it was bigger than Disneyland,” said Mangles. “In 1960 it had attractions that were way ahead of the times.”

Inspired by fond memories, the Freedomland USA DVD was a multi-year project devoted to dispelling misconceptions of the park and re-enforcing its glory.

“It took a long time to do, but it was something that needed to be done because it is sorely missed,” said Mangles. “In some instances the park has been presented incorrectly as a failure, but that was not that case. This is an effort to undo the wrong that is out there.”

From its first day on June 19, 1960, which attracted over 65,000 guests, the park astounded people with an entertaining depiction of history, taking people through Little Old New York, Chicago, the Great Plains, San Francisco, the Old Southwest, New Orleans and Satellite City.

The DVD features interviews with the key players of Freedomland, which was in the area now occupied by Bay Plaza Shopping Center and Co-Op City, including Van France, Cliff Walker, Ben Rossi, John Briden, and Charlie Wood.

“We lost something that was a treasure, and it is unfortunate that happened, but it’s something that should be remembered in a positive light,” said Mangels. “Freedomland USA was a part of Bronx history, New York City history, and New York State history. People should remember that we once had the largest entertainment center.”

The DVD is available at www.freedomlandusa.net. Questions or comments can be emailed to freedomlandpark@yahoo.com.

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