So how did yesterday's media event at Knott's Berry Farm go? Well, that kind of depends on whether you're an optimist or a pessimist. Are you the type of person who sees the glass half-empty or half-full? Or -- in this particular case -- the Timber Mountain Log Ride flume as half-empty or half-full?Tell you what: Let's start off by talking about the portion of Thursday's event that went off without a hitch. And that was the official opening of the newly expanded version of this theme park's Boardwalk area.
Photo by Teresa Whitmore
Pop culture guru & author Charles Phoenix served as that morning's master of ceremonies. Resplendent in his Boysenberry-print suit, Charles welcomed the public & members of the press to this 9 a.m. ceremony. Which was celebrating the addition of three new rides to the property that (quoting Mr. Phoenix now) started out as " ... a break-through boysenberry farm which blossomed into America's greatest roadside attraction and then blossomed again into the world-class family theme park destination extravaganza extraordinaire that it is today."
Then Charles welcomed to the stage Raffi Kaprelyan, General Manager of the Knott's Berry Farm. Who talked about the latest additions to this theme park: the Coast Rider, the Surfside Gliders and the Pacific Scrambler. Saying that " ... I think you'll all agree that -- thanks to our creative team at Knott's -- this area makes you feel like you've been walking along a seaside boardwalk."
And what do you find along a seaside boardwalk? Saltwater taffy. Which is why -- when it came time for Buena Park City Manager Jim Vanderpool to cut the ceremonial ribbon -- instead of a ribbon, Knott's provided Vanderpool with an immense piece of Boysenberry-colored taffy to cut through instead.
After the cutting of the candy, it was then time to head over to the Timber Mountain Log Ride ...
... where -- in spite of all the live entertainment that was going on in & around Calico Square (including one really kick-ass bluegrass band) ...
... one couldn't help but notice that there wasn't actually any water flowing through Knott's famed flume ride. Which originally opened to the public back in July of 1969 ...
Copyright CFEC / Cedar Fair Parks. All rights reserved
... with the then-22 year-old Tony Baxter (center right in the photograph below), theme park enthusiast and future Imagineer, in attendance.
Copyright CFEC / Cedar Fair Parks.All rights reserved
Anyway ... Getting back to the re-opening of Timber Mountain Log Ride now: As Charles took to the stage again, Mr. Phoenix had to acknowledge the obvious. "As you guys may have noticed, the water isn't quite in there yet. The Log Ride's not going to be ready 'til a little while later. But -- as we know -- all great things are worth waiting for."
With that, Charles welcomed Beth Swift, the Mayor of Buena Park, to the stage. Who then reminisced about how " ... way back in 1969 when this Log Ride first opened, I was working here (at Knott's). I was a college kid working over in the Indian Village, which is no more. But selling souvenirs to the tourists coming in, it was a great place to work. But the day of the Log Ride opening, (the theme park) was amazingly packed. I had never seen so many people. And the big event (was) not only the Log Ride but having John Wayne, the famous actor, here."
And speaking of the Duke ... John Wayne's son, Ethan (who was there with his Dad back in July of 1969 to take part in the original dedication ceremony for Timber Mountain Log Ride) also took part in Thursday's re-opening ceremony for this Knott's Berry Farm favorite. And as Charles held up a photograph of John Wayne & son at the attraction's original opening ceremony, Ethan -- after commenting on how hot it was -- said "I want to get on this ride today as bad as I did back then."
But alas it was not to be. Continual technical problems kept the Timber Mountain Log Ride from actually running on this attraction's official re-opening date, May 30th. It wouldn't be 'til the following morning -- Friday, May 31st -- that visitors to Knott's Berry Farm would then finally get the chance to experience this radically reimagined flume ride with its new animatronics that the wizards at Garner Holt provided.
Now I know that it's not professional for reporters to pout ...
... So I took some solace in being able to tour that temporary Timber Mountain Log Ride historic exhibit which Knott's has set up inside of this theme park. Which is where I got to see the original model of this flume ride that Bud Hurlbut built to help sell Walter Knott on this project.
And looking at all of the great detail that Bud squeezed into this model made me all the more determined to return to Knott's Berry Farm very, very soon so that I can then ride the newly enhanced version of Timber Mountain Log Ride.
UPDATE: Which is why I decided to go back to Buena Park on Friday, May 31st. Which -- as it turns out -- was a very smart move. Because the revamped version of Timber Mountain Log Ride is an absolute delight. A perfect balance between the new & the old. Which makes this Knott's Berry favorite a must-see the very next time you're in this theme park.
Which brings me to my next question: Given that Cedar Fair freshened up this theme park's Ghost Town section back in 2012 and just gave Timber Mountain a makeover, what's the next part of Knott's Berry Farm slated to receive some TLC?
Well, if what Matt Ouimet (i.e. Cedar Fair's CEO) told the guys at Season Pass Podcast back in March is true, there are a couple of ideas on the table right now. One is to built a new dark ride in the old Roaring '20's area show building that used to house "Knott's Bear-y Tales" & "Kingdom of the Dinosaurs" ...
... while the other possibility calls for this theme park's Calico Mine Train ride to receive the same sort of enhanced theming & animatronic upgrades that Timber Mountain Log just got.
So if you had your druthers, which proposed theme park enhancement project would you prefer to see Knott's go forward with in 2013 & beyond?Your thoughts?
I went both Thursday and Friday (when the log ride opened.) The TMLR was great. I think there might be a few tweaks they are still making, but it really kept the theme and spirit of the original, while adding some much needed updates. I was most pleased that the cave area has been restored after the first drop in the dark. If you recall, following the closure a couple of years ago, when a water pipe burst, all you saw were water pipes and scaffolding in that section. The Boardwalk area looks better and turned out better than I thought. The area has a more closed in, pedestrian feel now, with all the landscaping and curved walkway, and just "feels better" than when Plunge was there...I found you just sort of hurried past that concrete expanse in the back of the park. And the rides were fun too!
I was there for the dedication ceremonies on Thursday (one of the perks of now being retired!). I had a blast even if the Log Ride wasn't able to open. I am a glass half full kind of person :) It was so fun to listen to the band over on the board walk and interact with the atmosphere characters (especially loved the "family from Ohio") and meet up with Charles Phoenix again. Gotta love that guy. Then over to the Log Ride. By the way, that kick-ass blue grass group? Those are the former Miner 49ers from DCA. When Disney let them go because they no longer fit the "theme" that Disney was going for over there, Knotts snatched them right up. They played there on weekends last Summer and then again during this past Christmas season. And they will be returning again this Summer beginning June 15 playing Thursday through Monday late afternoon into evening. Knotts even built them their own stage! They play along the trail the leads to the big wooden roller coaster across from Spurs patio restaurant. At Knotts they are the Ghost Town Miners. A lot of their fans, myself included, have followed them over to Knotts and purchased Passes. Knotts is treating them very well. Well played Knotts!
I also had a nice long chat with Raffi and he did confirm to me that the Mine attraction will get a makeover like the Log Ride and that there will be a dark ride coming back to that show building. This is not going to happen quickly though as there has to be the money for it. But it will happen. He also showed me where they are currently working on restoring the old Mission buildings that use to be on display. One Mission is complete. When they get enough completed they will be going back on display possibly in their former location. We also chatted about a few other things such as the much missed Haunted Shack. Due to certain restrictions for rides and attractions from the State of California, that is one ride they may not be able to recreate. The Indian figures that used to sit on the rocks in the scene behind the theater building (and across from Boot Hill) has been missing for some time. I reminded him of it and he thought about it and said he thinks it was placed in storage and he would look into it to see how much work was needed to restore them and bring them back. I also told him what a great job he and his team are doing to bring Knotts back to its former glory. As you can tell, I had a really great time. Made new friends and reconnected with some old ones. Also very much enjoyed the display in the dance hall.
The Calico Mine Train. And Garner Holt doing it again, please, because they brought some great scenes to the log ride while still staying true to the spirit of the original attraction.
I know they'll going to come up with a new dark ride for the building, but I'd love to see a new version of Knott's Bear-y Tales. Even after all these years I can't get that theme song out of my head.
I thought it was a great morning despite the Log Ride not opening. There was still a sense of excitement in the air, both from guests and from employees, who were numerous and everywhere. I still haven't been on the ride but I can tell from the feedback that it's going to be exceptional.
Calico getting the same treatment will be awesome - I just hope they make it different enough from Timber Mountain to really represent a completely separate attraction. And the dark ride building - we've all wanted that back for years now. Whether it be Dinosaurs, Bear-Y Tales or a new concept (please, no shoot-em-up Sally creations), we're all ready and waiting.
Oh, and please don't take down the Roaring 20's sign in the process - it's an icon, even if the area's name HAS changed!
That's great to hear that Raffi is willing to even look in storage to find old figures and determine their worthiness to rehab. Love hearing that.
Adding a dark ride is my first choice. Plussing Calico Mine Train is a good idea because there isn't much to see inside. A third choice is having a milder Halloween Haunt experience as a year round attraction. Knott's seems to lack enough variety in its attractions. It is heavy on roller coasters and spinners.
If I had to pick between a complete refurb/upgrade of the Calico Mine Ride or a new dark ride, I'd pick....BOTH!!! What a wonderful addition to a wonderful park, and it would be such a refreshing change of pace for Knott's/Cedar Fair. I know there are many who think Knott's has too many coasters, but I've got my fingers crossed hoping for the rumored Giga coaster project that's been floating around for the past 2 years. If there's one project to drive major attendance boosts to that park, a GIGA coaster would be it.
At the same time, I'm hoping Knott's keeps diversifying its attraction offerings and continuing to attract families. As we all know, the family segment is the one that REALLY brings in the bucks.