Knott’s Berry Farm has had a rich history in Southern California. Walter and Cordelia Knott started a farm and grew it into the first themed amusement park. How it really got to that point was through Ghost Town. This western themed area has been a mainstay since the 1940’s. Now, for the 75th anniversary of Ghost Town, the place has been spruced up and it has come alive to welcome guests back to a very nostalgic time.
We got to go for a special day to the reawakening of Ghost Town…
Ghost Town Alive
As part of the anniversary, a special summer event has been made in the form of having Ghost Town be a “real” town. Calico is home to many residents, and they are all ready for people to visit. A few infamous residents are now able to greet guests, like Goldie, who owns the saloon. A few new characters have taken up residence in Calico.
A sheriff, his deputy, Goldie, a school teacher, mayor, doctor, and many others are those people can meet in Ghost Town. Besides these residents, the Mayfield Gang is stirring up trouble, trying to lay claim to the town. Guests can take sides either helping Calico’s residents or the Mayfield Gang.
Many of the buildings that guests enter and the residents call home have been home to “peek-ins” which were constructed static scenes that gave glimpses of the western life. These have opened up for the first time for visitors to interact with the environment. Some of them have been restored for the anniversary, like the Bank and Assay Office. Others have been there before, but now come to life with the characters, such as the schoolhouse.
Calico residents interact with guests, many times asking them to perform tasks that will shape the day. Information can be gathered to help each character’s journey, and it culminates in a Hoedown at the end of the day. Besides these tasks, guests can make patterns for dresses, wanted posters, test their aim at a shooting gallery, be sworn in as a citizen at the town hall, or get hair put on them by the barber…instead of having it cut off.
The Hoedown celebrates the 75th anniversary of Calico, and is something the citizens of Ghost Town encourage guests to attend. Live music highlights the show in front of Bird Cage Theater. Square dancing is taught and done with crowd participation. And a few surprises make this to be an end of the day must see.
In all, Ghost Town is truly alive with this summer festival! It is like nothing seen here before, and makes this something like time traveling to a legendary past. There is so much to see and enjoy, especially interacting with the characters, that one could spend a whole day just in Ghost Town!
The Return of GhostRider and Panning For Gold
In addition to the restoration of Ghost Town, GhostRider has been refurbished and made even better than before! GhostRider has been a highly acclaimed wooden roller coaster that has made it onto many top coaster lists. Refurbished and faster than ever has made this coaster an amazing one again! I remember riding it when it first opened, and found it to be one of my all time favorites. Being in need of repair had it go down the list for me a bit, but now with absolutely no mid ride brakes this is one of the smoothest and fastest feeling coasters I’ve ever been on! It’s a wild ride through hills, and it made me feel like I was riding an out of control horse. It’s worth the price of admission alone.
Right beside the coaster is Pan For Gold. Though a longtime attraction at Knott’s, the location had changed, but now is back in its original location. This pay for attraction gives out real gold to miners of all ages. It gives a nice historical lesson as well since it simulates what it took for miners to find gold in river beds.
Both of these redone long time attractions are helping shape the Ghost Town area into a glorious place again. It makes it come alive right when you walk in.
Celebrate Good Times
Attending all of this also gave way to celebrate more openings and the 75th anniversary of Ghost Town. First was a ceremony to acknowledge the newly refurbished Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. This was the place that started it all. Walter Knott created Ghost Town to entertain people who were waiting to eat in the restaurant. If it weren’t for the restaurant, there would be no Ghost Town. Without Ghost Town, no theme park. Executives, representatives of congressmen, and members of the Knott family were in attendance to help cut the ribbon to the eatery.
After a lunch in the great dining establishment, Charles Phoenix hosted a presentation on the history of the farm and Ghost Town. Wearing a boysenberry painted suit, Phoenix was hilarious, but shared the enthusiasm for history that many in attendance had. He has visited the park many times and enjoys it as much as any guest on their first visit. As he went through photos, history was shared, like how the Knott’s started the restaurant just to make ends meet during the Great Depression.
Following Charles Phoenix was a panel of those associated with Ghost Town history. Daryl Anderson and Steve Knott, grandchildren of Walter and Cordelia, were part of the panel and joined by others who got their start at Knott’s. Tim O’Day hosted the panel and brought in several photos to show off the history of the town. Some great stories got told, especially from the Knotts family. It was a memorable panel seeing some figures that have helped shape the park into what it is now.
Towards the end of the day, we were all treated to a performance of Blockbuster Beagle, the summertime ice skating show. When it premiered last summer I was wowed by the skaters’ skills. I was in awe again. It’s a great show for the whole family. I love how they use the Peanuts characters and terrific choreography. It’s not to be missed.
The First And Still Amazing
Knott’s Berry Farm could be called the first theme park since Ghost Town predated Disneyland by over a decade. The detail used in the construction makes this a true frontier town. From Ghost Town rose all of what is there today. It may be from the 1940’s, but it’s still a destination. Having Ghost Town Alive makes this place have…well…life it’s never had before. It creates an entertaining experience, but even educational in some aspects. It may be just for the summer, but I hope it would happen year round! Having something that changes day after day makes it the thing to return to. The roller coasters are great in Knott’s, but the heart and soul is in Ghost Town. And, I count GhostRider as part of that. Having the coaster return to its former glory again warmed my heart and made me want to ride it over and over again within the first few minutes I was at the park! Knott’s is one of the places to be this summer. Do not miss Ghost Town Alive!! Being someone that has enjoyed this park for over 30 years almost brought a tear to my eyes seeing how remarkable it is again. I’ll be going back this summer and hope to see you around there!
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