Tucsonan Kenneth Bain, 51, will never forget his many visits to Valley of the Moon.
Especially the one in the early 1970s when he and other Catalina High School students found George Phar Legler, the man who built the park in the 1920s, living in one of the stone huts subsisting only on vitamins and canned milk.
“I remember a mountain of evaporative milk cans,” Bain said. “That, and working to fix up the place. It was overgrown with weeds. We’d spend hours digging out those darn caves. We’d be covered in dirt, coughing dirt.”
None of the about 500 folks who showed for Saturday’s “Save the Moon” event were coughing dirt, but they were there for the same purpose as Bain and his fellow students in 1973: to ensure Valley of the Moon won’t shut its doors forever. The 500 were there to share memories and ideas and volunteer on how to save the unique park.
Legler was definitely there in spirit, folks said, while his great-great-grandson, 2-year-old Zachary Boyan, was there in person.
Throngs of past and current witches, gnomes, fairy princesses, folks dressed in bloody zombie gowns or flowing hippie garb also packed the park at 2544 E. Allen Road, northeast of Prince and Country Club roads, where they took a final tour of the Enchanted Garden, next to the room where Legler had been found. With the help of the teens, Legler had been moved into an apartment, Bain said, and eventually a nursing home.
Valley of the Moon, known familiarly as “the Moon,” will be closing for renovations but hopefully not forever, said spokesman Charlie Spillar. The length of the closing depends on how many volunteers and how much in funds come forward. He estimated the George Phar Legler Society needed about $500,000 to restore the Moon’s rabbit hole, troll bridge, wizard tower and dozens of other 85-year-old crumbling structures.
Development chairman Don Kolowski, who got “sucked in” to the magic of the Moon two years ago, said the fate of the fairlyland has been meandering back and forth for some time. “We’re hoping tonight’s going to be a right angle for us,” he said on Saturday.
When Leann Olson, 16, heard the Moon was in jeopardy, she wanted to cry. On Saturday she still wanted to cry, because she could not imagine life without the sanctuary.
“I love, love the Moon,” said the teen, who used to count the fairies in the trees and still spots a few. She may also have the distinction of being the youngest person to visit the Moon.
She went there before she was born.
Her mom was playing the part of the fairy princess in one of the shows while seven months pregnant.
“We have three generations who have enjoyed this place,” said Olson’s grandmother Becky Dodson, 57.
The family of James Michael Brin III is another with deep ties to the Moon. His dad was a troll. His mother was a witch. He was in the kids’ acting troupe. His uncle, who recently died, was on the Legler Society board for many years.
“Coming here today is a tribute to him,” said Brin, 26. He also wanted to introduce his 15-month-old son, James Michael Brin IV, to the Moon”s magic.
Black Man Clay, a local musician whose band is a regular performer on the ancient stage, said the Moon has helped his creativity.
“I’d walk through the pathways and see all different instruments,” he said of the dangling metal that can serve as chimes when hit with a stick. “What a mind,” he said of Legler. “It’s inspired me.”
Athena Sosa-Quintana, 17, said the Moon may have saved her life. She said she first went to the Moon about two years ago to escape from a home filled with drugs. She said she fell into the drug trap herself, but has clawed her way out and has been sober for three months. She credits the Moon for aiding her recovery.
“It’s a second home,” she said, “a safe haven from everything.”
IF YOU GO
• What: The professional planning team is holding a “visioning workshop” to gather ideas for the Valley of the Moon’s future
• When: 9 a.m. to noon on Feb. 16
• Where: La Paloma Family Services Community Center, 240 W. Navajo Road
• Cost: Free