Season's Bleatings

Satan's Enchanted Forest wreaks all the horrors of the holiday on unsuspecting innocents, tormenting young and old alike with vicious wild animals poised to attack and more neon than downtown Vegas. What? Not Halloween? Christmas, you say? Oh, sorry.

You might understand our confusion. We are naive to the point of being stupid. We're still hung up on that old Christ-and-the-manger junk. We sometimes forget that Christmas is a holiday of rampant greed, blind consumerism, wild animals, drugs, and neon. Please, let's try this again.

First of all, it's Santa's Enchanted Forest. From mid-November to January 10, it lights up the east end of Tropical Park and draws some half-million visitors. It bills itself as the world's largest Christmas theme park.

Yes, wild animals are involved. There's Kachunga, an eight-foot-long alligator that wrestles and educates. And (new this year) there's the "Great Little Bear Show," featuring five-foot-tall uncaged American black bears that apparently opted for the carny life to avoid getting run down by speeding cars or gunned down by brave outdoorsmen.

And yes, a healthy dose of psychedelics could only enhance the "Santas in Space Scene," the legerdemain of "The Dynamic Darkstone, a Magic Illusionist," and of course, the millions of lights enchanting the forest.

Also dubbed South Florida's "most spectacular holiday theme park," the spectacle offers the ultimate deal for the adrenaline-driven. Pay your admission, which includes parking and the various shows, and you get to ride all the rides you want all night. Sprawled across the pine-needle floor are some two dozen spinning, whirling, mechanical devices, including the Big Wheel and the Tilt-a-Wheel, Tornado, Lolly Swing, Himalaya, and the messianic Dragon Wagon.

Before indulging in centrifugal delights, we suggest you first load up on arepas, chicken wings, roasted corn, ice cream, frozen yogurt, corn dogs, curly fries, cotton candy, and a few platefuls of seafood, Greek delicacies, and Chinese treats. Remember, gluttony is what this holiday season is all about.

And if, for a second, you find yourself pondering how this giant, fifteen-year-old tradition is able to position itself on public land, note the explanation of Tropical Park manager Donald Lutton: "They pull the proper permits." Further, Lutton explains, only a Scrooge would hesitate to embrace Santa's Enchanted Forest. In the loving and giving spirit of Christmas, he sums up the relationship between the park and the event: "It brings in revenues. A couple hundred thousand dollars."

-- Greg Baker

Santa's Enchanted Forest is open daily from 5:00 p.m. to midnight at Tropical Park, Bird Road and the Palmetto Expressway. Admission is $13, $7 for kids up to ten years old, and free for kids up to two years old. Call 305-893-0090.

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Greg Baker