Youth sentiment: the Land of Once, a disappeared amusement park

,See you soon!, was the greeting you were greeted with at the Land van Ooit amusement park in Drunen, the Netherlands. Hundreds of thousands of visitors were once welcomed to the Ooitland with the Ooit greeting and could enjoy the many theater performances and the daily knight’s performance. You could also laugh at the antics of the Lazy Lakei and Kloontje and have fun on numerous attractions. A second Land of Ever was established in Tongeren, Belgium. But in 2007 the curtain finally fell on both amusement parks. Bankrupt. Much to the regret of many young and not so young (annual) visitors. The Taminiau family, the founders of both amusement parks, was even convicted of fraud.

A day in the Land of Once

A day in the Land of Once was an experience, especially for young children. After all, you ended up in a completely different world, in a different country, with a different era. In the Land of Once, the inhabitants were Everters and the visitors or foreigners were Non-Everlanders. You had to pay with Ooitsents and everyone spoke Ooits. The years were indicated as AD, Anno Domino. The first AD was 1989, the year of the park’s founding.

The magic started when you entered the park. Every visitor was personally greeted by footmen in beautiful costumes and ladies with high hats and beautiful ball gowns. The greeting was not banal but was a real medieval greeting with lots of ornament and tralala. Everyone had to learn the greeting before being allowed into the park. If you met someone in the park, you had to greet him with the Ever Greetings. No hands were shaken.

A second point that the children appreciated was the park’s motto: ,Children in charge,. Once inside the park, the children were in charge. Parents had to listen for one day.

The park was completely themed with knights, damsels and castles. The center was the pink castle, the castle of the Count and Countess of Ooit. These were once changed into swans by Stor de Bostor. He wanted a white and a black swan, but due to the immense love of the Count and Countess, both swans became black and white. No flashy, fast attractions in the park. Attractions tailored to children, fun characters, theater performances and a real knight’s tournament.

Every day the red, the blue, the black and the yellow knight competed against each other in a real knight’s tournament. The stands also wore the four colors, so that you could sit in the stands of your favorite and cheer him on. The tournament had not been rehearsed or agreed in advance. No, the knights really fought every day, in such a way that one never knew in advance who was going to win.

The children were also very fond of the little train that chugged through the park. The train was driven by the Lazy Footman. At first he didn’t want to leave because he was too tired. After a long time, the train finally departed, slowly, puffing. Along the way the Lazy Footman fell asleep several times, after which he had to be woken up by the children’s cries and songs. Great cheer everywhere of course!

Various performances could be attended in the theater. Kloontje, the giant child, was the favorite of many girls. Kloontje was played by a woman of average stature, who said that Kloontje was so small because she was only five years old. Later she would grow and become the same size as her brothers. Kloontje regularly put her thumb in her mouth. Kloontje’s nose was painted with a strawberry. The story of the Count and Countess of Ooit was also enjoyed by the children. Sap, the Earth Root, was very popular with younger children. The boys were especially crazy about the cheeky Rak the Heron. The characters also regularly walked around the park itself and had a chat with the children present. Rak the Heron rode around on his horse and used brutal language.

Every year a Baron or Baroness of the Park was elected. The Baron or Baroness was a person who had done a lot for children. The first Baron was Herman van Veen, the last Marco Borsato. Each Baron was given a special chair. The chairs were made in such a way that you could not sit on them. After all, the Baron or Baroness did not have to sit down, but had to constantly work for the park. The chairs were lined up in a row in the park lane.

Origin and fall of the park

The park was founded in 1989 by Marc Taminiau, the former director of Efteling, and ceremonially opened by Prince Bernhard. Mr Taminiau wanted a park without flashy attractions. Theater and funny characters were intended to keep the children occupied and entertained. Initially the park was very successful, but gradually everyone saw it. The rise of other amusement parks, especially Disneyland Paris, would destroy many small and authentic amusement parks. This also applies to the Belgian Melipark in Adinkerke. Mr. Taminiau was required to modernize and add a number of high-speed attractions to the park. The Ruige Route was added in 2006. This part of the park contained some attractions with more action: the Thundering Thunderball, the Durfslurf, the Laser Castle and the Lock. Despite the modernization, the park was no longer successful. In June 2007, an attempt was made to save the park by opening a second park in Tongeren, Belgium. The theme of this park, which was named Ooit Tongeren, was the Romans and Roman history in Tongeren. Mr Taminiau really believed in the Belgian brother of the Land of Once. The family even moved to Belgium. The Land of Ooit in Drunen was managed by the Taminiau children. However, the Belgian park turned out to be a fiasco and closed its doors again in August 2007, barely two months after its opening. Few visitors and the bad weather that summer were cited as the cause. Worse was that the bankruptcy of the Belgian park also dragged the park in Drunen along with it, meaning that the Land of Ooit also had to close its doors permanently, less than twenty years after its founding. There were rumors that Studio 100 would buy one or both parks, but in the end this did not happen. Both amusement parks were completely demolished. In the Netherlands, everything that was not attached was publicly sold, including the costumes of all the characters. Both areas have now become walking parks. In early 2013, the Taminiau family was convicted of fraud and forgery.

TV program

A TV program was made around Kloontje, the Giant Child, namely Children Are the Boss on Kindernet 5. The theater performances were also regularly performed outside the Land of Ooit, in regular theaters.

Merchandising from the Land of Once

In the park’s heyday, merchandising was very important. There were books and comics about the park’s characters. Clone the giant child had her own comic series and cute books for toddlers were made from Sap the Earth Root.

The CD Children are the Boss with songs from and about the park was also a great success. Tracklist of this CD:

  1. Children are the Boss!
  2. Waking!
  3. Hello, I’m Kloontje
  4. Eversong
  5. Hello
  6. Footman song
  7. Zieza Sunflower Song
  8. Jobs Jobs
  9. I’m Sap
  10. Knight Granite Song
  11. Polishing
  12. Sad Song
  13. Ice song
  14. I’m a Star!
  15. Song of Stor de Bostor
  16. Knight Granite’s Victory Song
  17. The Wozzele Dance
  18. National Anthem of the Land of Once

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