Developer Jon Delli Priscoli purchased Edaville USA, a railroad-themed amusement park in the heart of Carver in 2002.
There have been many exciting changes under his ownership; most notably the opening of Thomas Land in 2015, a series of rides and attractions based on the popular children’s book and television character Thomas the Tank Engine. Edaville USA currently features over 90 rides and attractions, including Dino Land (seasonal), Edaville Proper and a popular Christmas Festival of Lights celebration. New areas of the park are under construction and are slated to open later this year and next summer.
What is your career background?
I am a commercial real estate developer and have been for 35 years. I specialize in commercial and industrial real estate. I’m also involved in the commercial railroad business. I’m the owner of the Grafton & Upton Railroad, which runs between North Grafton and Milford, Massachusetts and I’m also an operator of a railroad in Rhode Island.
Do you remember your first visit/impression of Edaville?
Yes, I was a young boy and visited the park at Christmastime with my family.
I know at one point you were thinking of selling the property. What changed your mind?
We had offers but we felt that they were not the right fit. We wanted Edaville to continue as a wholesome family park.
Why was it important to you to continue the Edaville legacy?
Edaville has a very rich history and I love to see all of the smiling faces.
How did the idea of Thomas Land come about? Did you approach Mattel with the idea or did they come to you?
Edaville had been hosting Day Out With Thomas events for many years so we already had a strong working relationship with the Mattel team. We always had a vision of bringing Thomas to Edaville in a more permanent way and after many years everything aligned and Edaville and Mattel were able to work together to bring Thomas Land to life. Edaville was a perfect fit because we already had a train that attracted visitors, the natural landscape was similar to the fictional “Island of Sodor” and I had the financial horsepower and construction resources. The designing of Thomas Land was a joint effort between me, the Mattel team and D J Pope Creative from the United Kingdom.
How many rides/attractions have been added to the park as part of the expansion?
We have added 11 rides in Thomas Land and five in Edaville proper. We’ve also opened a Knapford retail store, grist mill, sweet shoppe, and a post office, which is also used for Photos, Tidmouth Sheds, Dockside Diner, the Sodor Shipping Company party room and new restrooms.
What kind of train do guests ride on?
What we have is an actual railroad, not a model. It’s a narrow gauge railroad, which was a size that was common in the 19th century and was used quite a bit in the northeast. The Thomas train and the Edaville train ride the same rails but the engines are different.
Are the cranberry bogs that the train passes still active?
Yes, they are run by A.D. Makepeace Company.
Will there be anything new added to the park in 2016?
Edaville is in a constant state of evolvement and we have several new exciting projects in the works. Dickens Village is currently under construction, which will house little retail shops that sell really nice ice cream, homemade candy, vintage Christmas items and toys. The exteriors of the buildings are about 95 percent there and we’re hoping for a Christmas rollout. And along Main Street, where guests first arrive, will be several retail shops including a 1890s mercantile with authentic period furnishings from a 1927 country store and apothecary.
What types of items will the shops sell?
The shop will sell many locally sourced products like local syrups and soaps as well as unique and vintage Christmas items. Any new Christmas pieces will either be sourced in Switzerland or Austria. They won’t be items you’ll find anywhere else in the area.
I hear that dining options are also expanding?
Yes, we’re remodeling the brick building into a brick oven pizza place that will serve fine Italian dishes. Recipes are being developed that will feature locally sourced cranberries in items like scones, breads salad dressings and barbecue sauces.
How much time do you spend at the park?
I’m running this particular job and I’m very involved in the creative process so I spend about 80 percent of my time at the park.
You’re obviously making a big investment in the property. Do you feel like you’re taking a risk?
It’s a labor of love but it’s also a business that’s recession-proof. No matter what, people are going to bring their kids to see Thomas. Edaville has become a national attraction, which is great for Carver and great for Massachusetts. And it’s something I’m very proud of.
Do you have children?
I have three—an 8-year-old, 16-year-old and 19-year-old—all boys. They all work here. The youngest helps out in the gift shop and my other two run concessions. It was always a dream of mine to have my kids work with me.
How does it make you feel to help create the Thomas Land experience here on the South Shore?
No matter what happens in the world, we’ve made a little oasis for families. It makes me feel truly amazing, knowing that families have a place to go and enjoy themselves together.