By Gretchen Ammerman
For the TODAY
The story of Pixie Kitchen and the Pixieland theme park offers all sorts of life lessons, from the inspirational “build it and they will come” to the pragmatic “don’t build your amusement park in a wetland.”
The pixie-packed attractions, developed by entrepreneur Jerry Parks, are an enduring memory for people who lived in or visited Lincoln City from the 1950’s through the ’80s.
“Whenever we put anything on our website about the pixies, it blows up,” said Lincoln City Visitor and Convention Bureau Director Ed Dreistadt. “It helped me to realize what a big part of the history of the area it was.”
That realization led to the idea that will come to fruition this June, when Kiwanis Club of Lincoln City presents the first ever Pixiefest. Held on the oceanfront lot adjacent to Chinook Winds Casino Resort, the June 24 and 25 event will feature food made with original Pixie Kitchen recipes, photos and recorded memories from both the restaurant and theme park, rides, games, theatrical entertainment provided by Theatre West, live music and a beer garden.
“It’s definitely been a community effort,” Dreistadt said. “We’ve had so much help from people, especially Chinook Winds, who are providing the venue.”
Pixie Kitchen started as a small, eclectic restaurant where you could pick up a potpie and a myrtlewood sculpture to go, until Parks bought and improved it in 1953.
“At one point, it was one of the highest grossing restaurants in the country,” Dreistadt said. “Parks was a natural salesman who knew how to get people’s attention, and very smarty focused on families.”
Parks made Pixie Kitchen fun to visit, and a place to fill up on food without emptying wallets. During the peak of the restaurant’s popularity, meals started with a free hors d’oeuvres tray that included clam dip, pate and a Pixie Kitchen favorite, cod balls. To ensure kids would nag their parents to come back often, Parks installed an outdoor mechanical garden with moving cutouts of pixie characters, and had two funhouse mirrors inside. One made people tall and thin and greeted visitors on the way in with the message, “You look hungry” and another, placed near the exit, made people short and wide and said, “Guess you had enuff.”
Wanting to capitalize on the popularity of the Pixie Kitchen brand, Parks decided to build an amusement park on a 57-acre property near the Salmon River.
With investors lining up to be a part of what they thought was a slam-dunk project, Pixieland officially opened in June of 1969, with predictable weather drenching the roughly 500 attendees. The weather was a metaphor for what was to come.
“It was basically the perfect storm,” Dreistadt said. “The long rainy season, the distance from any large city, not to mention the increased cost of building on a wetland — all were recipes for failure.”
Pixieland closed for good in 1974. Pixie Kitchen later fell victim to changing times and closed in 1988.
The “memories” tent at Pixiefest will display photos and stories from people who visited or worked at either pixie place, painstakingly collected by North Lincoln County Historical Museum Director Anne Hall. “There is so much history I never knew before even though we’ve had a Pixie Kitchen display since 2005,” Hall said. “This is how we keep history alive, especially with the family memories of those who have passed, which help give credit to all the people who helped shape our area.”
One person remembered a year when a severe storm struck the coast during the Columbus Day weekend.
“The power was out everywhere,” Hall said. “Surftides had about 500 people staying there, and all their stoves were electric, but Pixie Kitchen was on gas. So Jerry Parks fed everyone and gave them hot coffee, all free of charge, and said, ‘You don’t charge people who need help, you just help them.’ Isn’t that a great story?”
Hall is still hoping for more people to come forward with memories. “Some people are nervous to be recorded,” she said. “But we assure them this is for local use only. We are happy to have any stories. One woman said her memory of Pixie Kitchen was of driving past it, because her Dad would never stop there. It gave us a good laugh.”
To tell your pixie memory, call the museum during operating hours to make an appointment.
“I can’t wait for Pixiefest to see this all come together,” Hall said. “Now all this information can be passed on for the next 50 or 60 years, and even farther into the future.”
Pixiefest will be held Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25. Advance tickets are $20 for adults or $10 for kids aged 6 to 11. Day-of-event tickets are $25 for adults and $12 for kids. Children 5 and under get in free.
Family packages are available for $10 off for two adult and two child tickets.
For more information, go to pixiefest.com.