I have always had a special place in my heart for Knott's Berry Farm. I spent a lot of time there as a kid and teenager and I always disliked the "also ran" indifference that it got from a lot of tourists who were flocking to Disneyland and overlooking several other local treasures. Knott's has a wonderful history, which sadly is being placed at the wayside as they (under new management) expand to compete for their share of the tourist market by adding more and more roller coasters and "off the shelf" amusements.
Last year we got annual passes for Knott's (because they were bargain priced) and spent a lot of time strolling through Ghost Town and reminiscing about what used to be. Turns out that we were not alone! During this period of increased Knott's affection, I found several blogs and websites that featured the Knott's Berry Farm of my childhood memories (and the decades before it), including Knott's Preserved which is an astonishing record of amazing moments through Knott's history. And to my delight, the curators of Knott's Preserved have a book that has just been published! And to add the cherry on top of my sundae, they arranged a special event at the park on Sunday, April 18th that included not only a book signing, but walking tours, panel discussions, and a chicken dinner!!
The panels were absolutely wonderful! The first session of the day was with the book's authors, Chris Merritt and Eric Lynxwiler, and Chris took everyone through a slide presentation of hundreds of delightful photos from the park, beginning with the story of Walter Knott which is sadly hilarious (poor man had a dream of farming, so he took the only land he could afford - in the Mojave Desert!) and actually a wonderful tale that really highlights what it meant to have "American Spirit" in the turn of the century and pioneer days.
The evening panel featured several of the creative minds behind your favorite Knott's attractions -- the man who built Halloween Haunt with no budget and only a name to work with. The man who took a cue for consumer safety and turned the Motorcycle Chase into the Wacky Soap Box Racers (which was a fan favorite). The original Public Relations man who told about how Walter Knott was an agreeable man, but even moreso when the idea was his own, so the PR team would use reverse psychology to suggest things to him.
The highlight for me (and this is in no way a slight to anyone else present) was Rolly and Chris Crump. They came to discuss their work on the Knott's Bear-y Tales dark ride and the unique challenges of working for Marian Knott who made several changes to the ride while the build was in progress (it was a gypsy theme that turned to a bear theme, back to gypsies, then to animals, etc). Rolly Crump is one of my idols and after hearing him speak, I have an even deeper respect for his work. I know (and love him) mainly for his work for Disney - including most of my favorite aspects of the Haunted Mansion. He designed the Mansion wallpaper, for example, and several of the intricate "Museum of the Weird" aspects that I simply cannot get enough of. He worked side by side with Marc Davis who is one of the people that I would want to meet if I had a time machine. I got too shy to stand up and ask any questions... I was afraid that I would just have fan-girl geek vomiting out of my face. And I'd probably faint. So I stayed seated, much to everyone's appreciation, I'm sure.
The rest of the day was fun too! Kate and I got some Knott's cowboy hats with our names embroidered on them! (this picture was taken by the Knott's social media man & posted via Twitter on Monday!)
And while we were at the hat stand, the man working there encouraged us to try on all the hats and have a fashion show! As a result, I am in desperate need of that spinner beanie!
Of course, I wore my funnel cake earrings! Unfortunately, we didn't have time for funnel cake but we DID eat delicious fried chicken and boysenberry pie!!
A hearty THANK YOU is in order to everyone who had a part of arranging this incredible event and to everyone who contributed to the fabulous book! It was a great time for everyone!