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Knott's Berry Farm uses paint, food and flowers to freshen up for 2012

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Knott's Berry Farm uses paint, food and flowers to freshen up for 2012

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When you go to a theme park, it kind of goes with the territory that the food you're going to encounter over the course of your day is going to be ... meh.

Well, that's not really an option at Knott's Berry Farm. After all, this is a theme park that actually grew up and around Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant. So serving quality food to its Guests has always been a top priority for the team at Knott's.

Image courtesy of Orange County Historical Society

But when Russ Knibbs, the new vice president of Food & Beverage arrived in Buena Park in March of this year, he thought that there was room for improvement. That -- by expanding this theme park's menu, bringing some variety to the types of food that are typically found at a theme park -- Knott's Berry Farm could then be known for more than its killer coasters and tasty chicken.

Photo by Shelly Valladolid

Which is why I found myself at the Fireman's Brigade BBQ last month. I had been told by friends who were longtime Knott's Berry Farm fans that I HAD TO try out the flank steak sandwich that Knibbs had just put on the menu at this Ghost Town eatery.

Photo by Shelly Valladolid

Given that this sandwich was slathered with Knott's homemade barbeque sauce, it was (I'll admit) a bit messy to eat. But that said, this flank steak sandwich was piled high with meat which had been marinated for more than 24 hours then served up with fresh onion & peppers atop a  jalapeño & cheddar roll, it was also incredibly tasty.

Photo by Shelly Valladolid

And while I was at Fireman's Brigade BBQ, I also thought that I might try one of the other slow-cooked specialties that Knibbs recently added to this restaurant's menu. Which was a rib that had been cooked for 11 hours with meat so tender, it fell right off the bone.

Mind you, Russ haa added some exciting new items to the menus of other Knott's Berry Farm eateries. Take -- for example -- the chicken kabob sandwich that they're now serving at the Bigfoot Broiler (which is located next to this theme park's Pony Express coaster). Or -- better yet -- those cheeseburgers with crunchy jalapeno chips inside that Coasters (i.e. that restaurant which is located right next to Xcelerator on the Boardwalk) just began offering to park visitors.

But those would have to wait for another visit to Knott's. During this visit to the theme park, I wanted to spend some time exploring Ghost Town. Which is looking livelier that it has in years.

Whether you're getting ready to run a marathon and/or take part in a gunfight, the most
important thing is to stretch first. Photo by Jim Hill

This is due -- in large part -- to Knott's new general manager Raffi Kaprelyan. Who actually started his career in themed entertainment back in 1979 as a member of Knott's custodial crew. Which is how Raffi knows how handsome Ghost Town used to look back in the day, and is why Kaprelyan authorized Knott's horticultural team to begin placing wildflowers in  planters all over this part of the theme park ...

Photo by Shelly Valladolid

... which really did bring a splash of color to Knott's formerly-grey-and-worn-looking Ghost Town area.

Photo by Shelly Valladolid

And to add some additional life to this formerly sedate side of the theme park, Raffi had Knott's Entertainment Department create some new walk-around characters for Ghost Town. These professionally trained actors (who actually had to go through "Boot Hill Camp" before they were allowed to interact with Guests) ...

Photo by Shelly Valladolid

... have been a huge hit with the public ever since they first came into the park on June 16th. Though that said, some of these new Ghost Town residents are a lot friendlier than others.

Photo by Shelly Valladolid

Kaprelyan also insisted that Calico Square receive some TLC. The exterior of this theme park's train station has been gussied up with a fresh coat of paint as well as some decorative planters ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... while this train station's peek-in scene (which dates back to Knott's early, early days of operation as a theme park) has been lovingly restored.

Photo by Shelly Valladolid

This -- coupled with that brand-new marquee which was recently erected in front of Knott's Calico Mine Ride ...

Photo by Shelly Valladolid

... as well as the facelift that this theme park's Charleston Square received back in February ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... which means (thanks to Knott's horticultural crew, who removed those overgrown trees that used to stand in the very center of this park's Roaring 20's area) that you can actually see & enjoy the "Hello, Dolly! " fountain for the first time in ages.

Now -- of course -- there are those that might grumble because these are mostly cosmetic changes. That Cedar Fair Parks hasn't actually added a new ride to Knott's since the 301 foot-tall Windseeker tower swing ride opened back in August of last year.

Photo by Jim Hill

But if rumors which have been making the rounds lately prove to be true, there may be a new dark ride popping up at Knott's in the not-so-distant future. More to the point, given that 2012 is the 60th anniversary of this theme park's scenic line railroad ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... as well as the 40th anniversary of Halloween Haunt (not to mention all of the new food items and entertainment offerings that came online at this theme park over the past six weeks), people already have plenty of great reasons to head on over Buena Park this summer.

And speaking of Halloween Haunt ... If you're a Southern California local and are hoping to get hired to work as a scareactor at this year's event, please be advised that the 2012 Halloween Haunt Open Hire is being held on Monday, August 6th. However, in order to be considered for a Haunt Talent, Blackout or Line Control position, you must first schedule an interview online using Knott's reservation system.

Copyright Cedar Fair Park. All rights reserved

For further information on how Knott's has changed its hiring / interview policies for the 2012 Halloween Haunt, please click on this link.

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  • Back a few months ago I purchased a Senior Platinum Pass for only $97.  Such a deal!  Includes parking, 20% off most food and merchandise and no black out days.  If I wanted to, I could also get into any Cedar Fair Park in the USA.  I have been very pleased with the changes they are making lately.  A few years ago I vowed I would never set foot in the place again.  In my mind Cedar Fair had ruined the place.  But now changes are afoot and for the better too.  Another thing they did besides those items mentioned in the article is to change the music in Ghost Town to be theme appropriate to the area.  So now the music has a Western feel to it.  The entertainers walking around are great as are some of the little shows that go on such as Shot Gun Wedding, etc.  Also the can can girls are back in the Saloon.  At the patio of Spurs (near Ghost Rider) they serve appetizer type items along with wine and beer.  I had the Pulled Pork Sliders which were very good and I plan to return.

    But the biggest reason for my return to Knotts is an addition to the entertainment.  Back earlier in 2012 Disney let the Miner 49ers go.  They had appeared five days a week over in DCA by the rapids ride.  Excellent group of Blue Grass musicians.    Many of their fans (myself included) were devastated by this development.  But the good news is Knotts hired them to play for the Summer.  They are located across from Spurs on the path that leads to Ghost Rider.  Knotts even built them their own stage.  Their name at Knotts is Ghost Town Miners and they play three sets Friday through Monday, 6:30 PM, 7:30 PM and 8:30 PM.  When Knotts saw that we needed someplace to sit when watching them, they put benches there.  They also seem to have much more freedom at Knotts then at Disneyland.  For instance, they just put out a CD and Knotts is letting them sell this CD right there after each show.  Only $10 - what a deal!

    Overall I am very pleased with the changes I see at Knotts and the entertainment offered there.  I think Knotts is playing it very smart because the Disneyland Resort is quickly getting to be too expensive for a lot of people and Knotts Berry Farm provides a nice alternative, especially for those of us on a fixed income!

  • The changes at Knott's are completely welcome and seem to be going a long way in restoring old time fans' faith in the place.  I got a season pass for the first time in almost 20 years because I felt it was worth it.  The Charleston Circle area looks great, but I do lament the loss of the former shade.  Also, there's still work to be done - the Boardwalk area looks horrible (too much concrete) and the Roaring 20's Sign, above the former dark ride, should still be illuminated out of posterity even if it's not the name of the area anymore.

    That said, I'm really enjoying the park more these days.  Am still hoping for a return of the Mission dioramas to public display.

  • Good news about the dark ride, but they need several.

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