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April 2, 2001

New Theme Park Takes Shape in Gilroy, California

Bonfante Gardens Theme Park

Gilroy, CA — Silicon Valley's newest innovation is a theme park under construction in Gilroy, California which celebrates a low-tech resource that people could not live without: trees. Bonfante Gardens, which is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2001, is the brainchild of Michael Bonfante, former president and majority owner of Nob Hill Foods.

The vision of a theme park centered around trees and horticulture started more than 20 years ago when Bonfante began to recognize the beauty and brilliance of trees, and the importance of sharing them with children. To start with the obvious, trees provide habitat, wood, erosion control, and even food. What truly piqued Bonfante's curiosity, however, were the more contemporary reasons to respect trees. For one, they gobble up carbon monoxide in this increasingly polluted world.

Additionally, trees provide natural warmth and cooling to ease the demand on other natural resources; are an important part of the nitrogen regeneration cycle in composting; and provide a beautiful, graceful and powerful counterpoint to the hardscape in today's life.

Mushroom at Bonfante Gardens
A 39-foot tall brown mushroom has sprouted at Bonfante Gardens. The "Mushroom Swing," a wave swing ride, will accommodate 'big kids' and older children seated in 48 individual seats.

The first phase of Bonfante Gardens is 75 acres and includes 28 acres of rides, attractions, theme gardens, food concessions, an event plaza, and some very unusual trees. Twenty five one-of-a-kind Circus Trees, most more than 50 years old, were rescued from the Tree Circus in Scotts Valley to become a main attraction at Bonfante Gardens.

A total of 40 rides and attractions will open in the first phase, including:

  • Monarch Palace, a greenhouse so large that a train, a monorail, and a river will run through it;
  • The "Quicksilver Express" mine coaster;
  • A rock maze that will change every day;
  • A boat ride through gardens of annual color;
  • An antique car ride that you can enter in the 1920's or in the 1950's; and
  • A 1927 Illions Supreme Carousel that has been painstakingly restored to its original beauty.

Bonfante has established a not-for-profit community charity, to keep the altruistic nature of the project in perspective, allowing proceeds to be reinvested in the park and in the community.

"Being a non-profit community charity allows us to share the park with our neighbors, and to reinvest profits into the park and into the community," Bonfante explained. "It also enables Bonfante Gardens to go on after my wife and I are no longer around," he added.

If you're interested in learning more about Bonfante Gardens, vist the park's web site