27/04/04 - Laughter turns to tears as sun sets on Wonderland

Author: Brigid Delaney
Date: 27/04/2004
Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Page: 3

In a metal cage swinging high above Wonderland Sydney, Neil Smith contemplates what he will do now that the park is closing.
The 25-year-old has visited the park 30 times since its closure was announced in February. He has also taken 5000 photos and six hours of video footage. Watching it would not make yesterday's closure seem so final, he said.
``I can relive it every day."
For Mr Smith, of Seven Hills, the revamped Luna Park will not replace Wonderland in his affections.
``I grew up here," he said. ``I came every weekend with my brother and cousins. Every time I've come here I've had a really good time. Staff know my face, particularly those who work on the dodgems . . . This is my home park."
Wonderland clocked up about 20,000 visitors on its final weekend, with hour-long queues for popular rides such as Space Probe and Demon. Children flocked to the Incredible Hulk, Spiderman and Blinky Bill, perhaps unaware that the hot, sweaty people inside the costumes would have to find new jobs today.
``I'll go on saving lives and being a superhero," said a man in the Dare Devil costume, asked what he would do once the park closed.
Wonderland Sydney's chief executive officer, Stephen Galbraith , said the company had put in ``an enormous effort" to find staff other jobs.
Of the 323 employees, only one third are permanent; the rest are causal workers. Fifty will be kept on to help clean up and dismantle the park.
Last night staff held a barbecue on the site to say goodbye.
Mr Smith said his own goodbye yesterday afternoon. His last ride was on Demon. His mother, Maria, accompanied him on the gentler rides but was sitting this one out to take some last photos.
``I'm sure he's going to shed some tears tonight," she said.

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