Rex (now Lightning) the Diving Horse
Lake George, New York
Lake George's performing animal industry was hit hard in the 1980s by the loss of Animaland and its master showman, Paul Lukaris. Lukaris used to dress as Tarzan and swing on a vine down into his alligator pit -- at least until part of his foot was bitten off.
Magic Forest (home of the World's Tallest Uncle Sam) carries on with the sole animal attraction still worth seeing in New York State. The original Rex the Diving Horse, stunt film star and regional celebrity, had been tucking and diving here since 1977. He has been replaced by his son, Lightning.
"They are trained to dive," said Magic Forest manager Shelley Cummins. "There is no rider, no prods, no electrical jolts, and no trap doors."
Magic Forest contains many fairyland diversions for the kids, but families carefully time their activities to take in one of the twice daily performances by the horse. The pine-shaded knoll next to the diving pool rapidly fills with antsy youngsters and handycamming dads.
Lightning clomps up the long wooden ramp, and pauses at the top. Sometimes this moment seems to go on forever. Then he looks out at the crowd -- and jumps.