Once upon a time, in the Land where Oranges grow, came a simple farmer from the Land of Pomona, with a berry and a dream. His name was Walter Knott, first of his name and protector of the great berry. It was a quintessential California Dream. But as with all dreams, speedbumps do happen along the road to success. Originally, he took his dream out to Newberry Springs in the High Desert of Southern California (a fortuitous name if there ever was one). Out there with his wife Cordelia by his side, he made a home for himself, trying to use the successful farming skills he had attained while in Pomona. But the land in Newberry was hard. And it could not be the location of the great Boysenberry which was to come.
Life in those days grew difficult for the Knott family. Walter, in later years, would express how isolated they were from the world. It was 25 miles to just about anywhere as Mr. Knott would say. And while he worked the land hard to produce berries and made improvements to their adobe residence, he never did get running water into the house. They fell on hard times because the land never produced what he wanted.
Eventually, Mr. Knott found himself having to go to the abandoned mining town of Calico and find work from investors trying to take the last scraps of ore from the land. While he enjoyed his time there, he was too far from his family and his dream of the great berry to really be happy. And when he found out the people he worked for were less than honorable, he packed up his family and moved them out to San Luis Obispo. But the dream of the berry never left him.
So Walter began to work for sharecroppers there with the effort and determination he always had. With each day he could taste the dream which had followed him from Pomona to the high desert and back again. And Cordelia, the ever supportive wife was ever at his side. Every penny he earned he set aside to purchase land just some little ways north off of Hwy 39. His dream could not be denied.
And in 1920 the Knott’s moved the whole family up to this location off of Hwy 39, intent on growing these berries he had dreamed about for so long. But success does not come overnight. Anyone who truly knows about success realizes how much blood, sweat, and tears happen before things go right. Hence the first year was hard for the Knott clan. But thankfully things did not stay that way, and by the second year between the rhubarb and some magical berries, Walter and family were in business.
Of course, as amazing as his berries were, Walter would never be the success he was without the loving support of Cordelia and family. But Cordelia was more than just a support for Walter. She was a businesswoman in her own right. And she had ideas for marketing these berries which would send the family business soaring. At first, she focused on jams and jellies to be sold. But when the lines to get the berries and her amazing preserves grew to be too long, she started cooking meals for the people waiting along the dusty Hwy 39. People originally came for the berries, but they stayed for her marvelous food.
By 1932, as Walter was looking for ways to put his own stamp on the berry world, he began talking with his friend Rudolph Boysen about some crazy hybrid berries he couldn’t seem to get to work. They were a cross between the Blackberry, Raspberry, and Loganberry. Boysen had given up, but Walter knew he had something there which could send his business into the stratosphere. He took those berries from Mr. Boysen and nursed them back to health. And while Walter took pride in bringing those berries back to life, he didn’t realize how this one transformative act would revolutionize his berry business.
There would come the usual jams, jellies, and preserves. But then it became so much more. They made syrups, beverages, ice creams, candies, etc. You name it, and they used the boysenberry to give it a remarkable flavor. And the rest, as they say, is food history. It would become a staple of the food that they served at Knott’s Berry Farm. You couldn’t go there without someone staring longingly at the jams or jellies which they saw and speaking about how they needed to remember to bring some home with them. Knott’s Berry Farm was where all the best berries were, and the Boysenberry was king of the berries.
This is why it was so amazing when in 2015, Knott’s Berry Farm began to celebrate the Boysenberry which put them on top of the world when it came to berry production and recognition. Yes, they had become a theme park since then with rides, attractions, shows, and a ton of California history thrown in. But the great thing about Knott’s Berry Farm and Walter Knott, in particular, is they represent the culmination of the American dream in all its glory. From farm hand to failed farmer to mining worker to amazing success, Walter and his farm are the spirit of America in general and the West in particular. Anything can happen, and the Knott family is a prime example of this.
Of course, the boysenberry is the perfect representation of this success. Because it too came from humble beginnings as a failed experiment which Mr. Knott nurtured and grew until it exceeded even his wildest expectations. The boysenberry represents life from death in an almost literal sense. It shows you with a little nurture, and a little love, you can accomplish anything. Hence, the boysenberry absolutely needs to be celebrated. Which is why Knott’s Berry Farm celebrates it every year.
And for the 4th Annual Boysenberry Festival, along with all your traditional favorites, Knott’s Berry Farm presents to you some amazing new additions to tempt your palate. Bring your appetites, get a Food Tasting Card, and try out amazing boysenberry themed treats which will have you coming back again and again. (So get your Season Pass if you haven’t already because you will want one for this festival alone)
Check out David's Top 10 treats for this year's Boysenberry Festival here.
*Original art pieces featured will be on display in the new art show "Tied Up In Knott's". This art show celebrates the history of Knott's Berry Farm at the Wilderness Dance Hall during the Knott's Boysenberry Festival.
1. "Knott's Box - Carved History" by Chris Williams , Laser Etched & Cut Shadow Box
2. "Knott's Farm" by Kate Carleton , Digital Illustration on Canvas