Unexplained allure to Rainbow Valley in Cavendish

Mix of unique attractions, friendly atmosphere led to Islanders’ adoration of Rainbow Valley

Mitch MacDonald comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on August 22, 2015

It’s hard for owner Earl Davison to pinpoint exactly what made Rainbow Valley take such a special place in its former visitors’ hearts.

Throughout its 36 years of operation, the park was a staple of Cavendish that brought thousands of tourists and Islanders together every summer and still has the ability to draw both tears and laughter.

And whether it was cruising down the waterslides, being amazed by the life-like animatronics or simply relaxing in a swan boat, it seemed like everyone who visited had their own unique experience.

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“Each person that talks to you seems to have a different thing that was their favourite,” said Earl, who is still approached almost daily about the park. “I could tell you stories for hours about the experiences we’ve had and people we’ve met both on the Island and anywhere in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.”

It was the nostalgia and a reason of wanting to explain the allure of Rainbow Valley that even led to a crowd-funded documentary being produced in 2014.

However, the thousands of memories created at the park all began with a very humble beginning.

Earl had started the park with Ivan Harrington and Archie Johnstone under the Provincial Construction Company Ltd. in 1969.

After buying out his two partners in 1979, Rainbow Valley continued and eventually grew to 16 hectares.

Popularity also spiked in the early 1980s among summer tourists when waterslides were first installed.

Other staples included the fiberglass flying saucer gift shop, as well as The Dark Ride, a simulated boat adventure through rum-running times.

Part of the attraction was also that many of the park’s attractions had been designed and built by Earl and his staff.

“You wouldn't find it anywhere else,” he said.

The welcoming nature of the park, which never charged admission for children five and under, had also made it a hit with families.

Earl’s son, John Davidson, also recalled the warm and friendly tone being extended to the staff, which he described as a large family.

“There’s always been that sort of family camaraderie amongst the people I worked with,” said John, noting that the tight-knit nature of the staff made the closure in 2005 that much harder.

While the site now consists of Parks Canada walking trails, there are still thousands of memories of Rainbow Valley still vivid in the minds of Islanders and tourists.

For John, some of the best ones are simply watching families leave with smiles on their faces.

“The most important thing you could do for somebody was to have them all together as a family and help make those memories,” he said. “Some of the memories you hear are from people whose parents aren’t with them anymore. But they remember those visits to Rainbow Valley with their parents and those positive experiences last a lifetime.”

 

Just the facts:

-Named after author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1919 book Rainbow Valley

- Originally started under the Provincial Construction Company Limited by Earl Davison, Ivan Harrington and Archie Johnstone

-Davison bought out the other two partners in 1979 and gradually expanded the amusement park

-During its final years, the park employed about 115 individuals, mainly students and seniors

-Many of the park’s unique animatronics and attractions were designed and built by owner Earl Davison

-The site is now conserved land with walking trails after being purchased by Parks Canada in 2005 and renamed Cavendish Grove