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Knott's canned food drive helps make the post-holiday period brighter for Orange County families

Jim Hill

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Knott's canned food drive helps make the post-holiday period brighter for Orange County families

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Tomorrow's Epiphany AKA Little Christmas. Which means - for you procrastinators out there - that it's finally time to take down your Xmas decorations and then pack them away for yet another holiday season.

That's what Disneyland staffers are doing inside of The Haunted Mansion right now. Carefully pulling down all of those fiendish yet festive decorations that are used to transform this New Orleans Square favorite into "Haunted Mansion Holiday" each Fall. So that they can then return this theme park favorite to its usual ghoulish grandeur.

Photo by Paul Hiffmeyer. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which brings to mind a huge holiday decoration that used to grace the Happiest Place on Earth. One that hasn't been seen at that theme park in almost 30 years now. And that's that 24-foot-tall light-up star that Walt had placed on top of the Matterhorn back in December of 1961. Which - in effect - turned this towering attraction into an enormous concrete Christmas tree.

And for 10+ years, this light-up star on top of the Matterhorn used to signify - both for Disneyland visitors as well as all those folks zooming by the 5 - that Christmas was on its way in Southern California. But then, in the early 1970s, the park suddenly abandoned this much-loved holiday tradition.

And why did Disney discontinue placing a star on top of the Matterhorn? It depends on who you talk to. Now some park veterans will tell you that this practice was abandoned because of the Oil Embargo of 1973. That - during a time when many Americans were spending hours waiting in gas lines - it seemed a trifle insensitive for the Happiest Place on Earth to place this huge energy-sucking Christmas Star on top of the Matterhorn.

Copyright Walt Disney Productions. All rights reserved

But the guys who worked in Disneyland's maintenance department about this same time? They tell a  very story when it comes to why the Matterhorn's star ultimately disappeared. You see, this multi-ton tree topper had a mechanism that made it spin which began experiencing serious mechanical problems in the late 1960s. And each time the Matterhorn's star broke down and stopped spinning ... Well, that meant that some poor mechanic had to climb to the very top of this 147-foot-tall faux mountain and then make a very difficult repair in some pretty tight quarters.

Then came the 1970s. And as the construction budget of Walt Disney World ballooned from $100 million to $400 million, the word came down from Burbank that Disneyland really had to tighten its belt. No unnecessary expenditures. At least for a while.

 And given that this theme park's mechanics had grown tired of climbing the Matterhorn almost on a daily basis each December in an effort to keep that tree topper spinning ... Well, that's when the tradition of placing a Christmas star on top of this attraction got deep-sixed. Because there wasn't enough money in Disneyland's operating budget during that time in the Company's history to either build a proper replacement and/or make a lasting repair to this multi-ton tree topper.

Copyright Walt Disney Productions. All rights reserved

And speaking of working in very tight quarters inside of a theme park mountain ... The folks at Knott's Berry  Farm are (as we speak ... type ... whatever ...) clearing all of Santa's Helpers out of that theme park's Elf Mountain Christmas. Which - for those of you who don't - is the seasonally rethemed version of this theme park's popular Timber Mountain Log Ride.

Now - me personally - what really impresses me about the team at Knott's Berry Farm is that this is the second time inside of three months that they've rethemed this flume ride. Back in mid-September , Timber Mountain Log Ride was redressed as Sleepy Hollow Mountain. Which meant that this thrill ride - during Halloween Haunt 2010, anyway - was home to the Headless Horsemen as well as a handful of undead Hessian troops.

But once October 31st had come and gone, the KBF crew climbed back up into Timber Mountain and - after clearing out all of those ghosts & ghouls - quickly transformed the world's first theme park log flume attraction into Elf Mountain Christmas. Which gave Knott's Merry Farm visitors a close-up look as to how Santa and his helpers get ready for December 25th.

Copyright 2011 Cedar Fair Entertainment Company
All rights reserved

Give the size of the crew that handled this transformation (I'm told that only 10 - 15 Knott's employees worked on the Sleepy-Hollow-Mountain-to-Elf-Christmas-Mountain change-out) and given that this retheming was done in that tiny span of days between Halloween and Thanksgiving ... Well, it's hard not to admire Knott's Berry Farm's can-do spirit.

And speaking of can-do ... If you're looking for ways to stretch your post-Christmas entertainment dollars, then you may want to consider taking advantage of the special promotion that Knott's Berry Farm is running now through January 30th.

In an effort to help those less fortunate, this Buena Park institution has partnered with the Orange County Food Bank to create a special limited-time-only pricing program. Which means that - if you come by Knott's Berry Farm with two or more cans of food to donate - you'll then be able to purchase a Regular adult admission to this theme park for the price of a Junior ($24.99).

Copyright 2011 Cedar Fair Entertainment Company / Peanuts Worldwide LLC.
All rights reserved

Given that this represents a $32 savings off of Knott's Regular adult admission price, I'm hoping that a number of JHM readers will head on over to Buena Park in the coming weeks and take advantage of this offer. Not to mention helping out a very worthy cause.

Speaking of which ... If you'd like more information about how you can assist Southern California's most destitute families (especially during this post-holiday time of year when need is great and  the food supply is traditionally very low), please contact the Orange County Food Bank directly at (714) 897-6670

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