Knott’s Ghost Town celebrates 75 years

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Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ghost Town is celebrating its 75th year and as such, held a grand re-opening Thursday, June, 9, of Mrs. Knott’s Famous Chicken Dinner restaurant, which has totally been refurbished interiorly, but with the same delicious chicken, biscuits, boysenberries and rhubarb; the Log Ride, Calico Mine Train Ride and stage area, which has been moved across the Steam-train tracks, all having been updated.

Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ghost Town is celebrating its 75th year and as such, held a grand re-opening Thursday, June, 9, of Mrs. Knott’s Famous Chicken Dinner restaurant, which has totally been refurbished interiorly, but with the same delicious chicken, biscuits, boysenberries and rhubarb; the Log Ride, Calico Mine Train Ride and stage area, which has been moved across the Steam-train tracks, all having been updated.

In 2017, Soak City across from Knott’s will also be refurbished and expanded. Now, those who attend Knott’s are able to visit “inside” many of the here-to-for facade buildings representing the Old West from an era gone by – it’s all interactive now.

Panning for gold – real 14-carat gold – has been moved back to its original location, near the Ghost Rider roller coaster, where with a few words from the gold miners, the common man, woman and child, can become rather proficient and take home some pieces of that gold. It’s reported that Knott’s Founder Walter Knott, himself, used to place that 14-carat gold in the panning area each morning before the day got started.

The Sheriff’s office is but one of the newly “opened” buildings where the Sheriff plays cards with those who stroll inside; that is, until there’s commotion in the street outside, then he walks stealthily to the door and into the street out front for a short gun battle, firing his revolver and of course winning.

On hand for Thursday’s activities were a host of Knott’s staff members and creative artists including current General Manager Raffi Kaprelyan who is being transferred to Cedar Fair (Knott’s is owned by Cedar Fair) where he’ll oversee several theme parks; new Vice President and General Manager Jon Storbeck, who said, “I’m excited to be here.”

“I recently left Disneyland after nearly 33 years and there are a lot of great things going on here at Knott’s Berry Farm – with Ghost Town being different – it’s come alive now,” he said. “Ghost Rider is new; it’s smooth and exciting and there’s great entertainment, with new summer shows – so it’s a perfect time to come to Knott’s,” Storbeck enthused.

Along with the dignitaries, the ever-present lovers of coasters, the ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts) organization was on hand and had one of the first rides on the newly-refurbished Ghost Rider. The ACE group is the world’s largest ride enthusiast organization, and its members are dedicated, and passionate amusement park guests, going wherever in the whole world, a new coaster graces the ground – and they work toward preservation efforts as well.

Their mission? “To promote and enjoy roller coasters everywhere, regardless of type or size.” And not to be outdone, performer and presenter Charles Phoenix was on hand in his incredible white suit with Boysenberries (the name-sake of Knott’s famous pies), largely hand-painted all over it.

Phoenix gave and amazingly detailed and hilarious account of Knott’s history from the beginning to the current, along with a slide show of past memories; he’s a great historian and comedian in a non-stop patter of humor woven through the Knott family history. The story of Knott’s Berry Farm as we know it today began a humble beginning with Walter and Cordelia Knott as dirt-farmers.

Walter reportedly met another farmer, such as himself, Rudolf Boysen of Anaheim, who had three dying plants of berries, that he willingly gave to Walter, which Walter nurtured, bringing them back to life and naming them after Mr. Boysen – as the boysenberry. The berry was a combination of a raspberry, loganberry and blackberry; thus, came the boysenberry.

Phoenix told how Cordelia began serving – 10 chicken dinners – on her wedding China of white with actual gold hand-trimmed edges. Then, as that cottage-industry blossomed, Walter looked for ways to keep the guests, who lined-up for as much as 3-hours waiting to be served dinner, busy and occupied.

That’s how Virginia’s Gift Shop began (on a card table) of hand-made jewelry and other items made by the young Virginia Knott – and then came Ghost Town – building-by-building of actual Old West buildings Walter Knott lovingly brought to the farm from other locations in the country, keeping alive and celebrating the Old West, early Spanish California and the 1920s Flapper Era.

History reports Walter Knott regarded as his greatest achievement, the exact replica of the Philadelphia Independence Hall (across from Knott’s Berry Farm on Beach Boulevard), constructed from the blueprints of the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, exact to the one-half bricks in the walls, along with the 2,000-pound Liberty Bell. It’s a time to visit or re-visit Knott’s – and experience all of the Old West history.

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