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Sacramento's Land Park to celebrates 100th birthday

Sacramento's Land Park to celebrates 100th birthday Friday night.

William Land Park, from which the Land Park Neighborhood gets its name, has a long history of delighting Sacramento residents and visitors alike with its broad, shaded lawns, gardens and ponds and its crown jewels, Fairytale Town and the Sacramento Zoo.

The city is celebrating the park’s centennial anniversary Friday, with a party starting at 5 p.m. The celebration features a classic car show, live music by the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera, a birthday cake from Freeport Bakery, a special ice cream flavor from Vic’s Ice Cream and more.

But it wasn’t always popular.

In fact, after the city bought the property in 1918, a protest resulted in the passage of a referendum to nullify the contract.

It isn’t clear what the public objection to the park stemmed from, as benefactor William Land left the money to “purchase a public park within a suitable distance of Sacramento,” according to the book, “Sacramento Park Neighborhoods.”

Possibly the roughly three miles from downtown wasn’t considered “a suitable distance”? Or maybe it was that the land they chose had been used by the city partially for the disposal of raw sewage – and, to boot, was the site of a notorious roadhouse at Sutterville and Riverside Roads that earned the area the dismal labels “foul plague-spot” and “sink of iniquity,” according to “Sacramento’s Land Park, but Jocelyn Munroe Isidro.

Land bequeathed $250,000, and the city paid $147,000 for the original 238-acre tract. After a judge overturned the public referendum, the city immediately commenced development of the track.

Whatever its ugly duckling origins, Land Park and the neighborhood that sprang up around it emerged a graceful swan.

By 1924, the park boasted a nine-hole golf course and clubhouse, two duck ponds, a model boat pond, five baseball fields and bridle paths circling the park. The Sacramento Zoo opened in 1927, absorbing small zoos in McKinley Park, Southside Park and McClatchy Park.

Fairytale Town opened in 1956 as a gift to the city from the Friends of Fairytale Town, Inc., which raised the funds to create the innovative “storybook” park, according to the Fairytale Town website.

“A magic wand is waving over a small section of our beautiful William Land Park, changing children’s dreams to reality,” said the Friends of Fairytale Town in their first fundraising brochure.

Funderland, a children’s amusement park and birthday party setting, evolved out of a venue called Kiddie Land that opened in the early 1940s and ran into the 1980s. In the early 1990s, the park was redeveloped and christened with its current name.

The park has changed and developed over the past century, adding an amphitheater, picnic areas, jogging paths, basketball courts, soccer fields and other amenities.

But don’t take our word for it; Trip Advisor and Yelp both give it a solid 4.5-star rating.

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