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Knott's Berry Farm History
The year was 1920 when Walter and Cordelia Knott moved to the then-sleepy community of Buena Park, Calif. to farm 20 acres of rented land. Today, that land is part of 160-acre Knott's Berry Farm, America's first theme park and the 12th most-visited amusement park in the country. And, while the Knott Family no longer owns the venerable attraction, the Knott spirit of hard work and down-home hospitality lives on in new owner Cedar Fair, L.P., who acquired Knott's Berry Farm in December 1997.
The Knotts' first winter on the Farm was unseasonably cold and much of their first crop was ruined by frost. But relying on his ability to make the most of what he had, Walter initiated his practice of selling directly to grocers, thus eliminating costly middlemen, and was able to realize a small profit. Walter's keen eye for sound enterprise and his dogged determination to succeed were attributes which became evident early in his boyhood years and remained solid through his life and career. His father died when he was six and by the time he was nine, Walter was raising vegetables on vacant lots, selling the produce in the morning before school and delivering newspapers in the evenings to help supplement the family income. In 1927, Knott bought ten acres of land. The Depression hit a year later and land prices dropped. While maintaining the original payments, Walter bought an additional ten acres at the lower price and spent the last of the family's savings to build an adobe structure that became the Farm's first permanent building. Ready for occupancy in 1928, the building was 80 feet long and housed a tea-room, berry market and nursery where berry plants were sold.
By now, the Knotts had four children - son Russell and daughters Virginia, Toni and Marion - and, working together, they formed a family bond that prevailed throughout the years. It was not until the 1930s that Walter became associated with the "boysenberry" which would became the family trademark. Nearby, Anaheim Parks Superintendent Rudolph Boysen had experimented with a new strain of berry but the plants kept dying on the vine. Walter took the scraggly plants, nurtured them to health and named the new berry - a cross between a loganberry, red raspberry and blackberry - after its originator. Today, all boysenberries in the world can trace their roots to Knott's Berry Farm. As another means of staving off Depression hardships, Cordelia began selling jams and jellies made from Walter's berries. These were soon followed by home-baked pies, hot biscuits and sandwiches. Then, on a night in June 1934, Cordelia served eight fried chicken dinners on her wedding china - for the all-inclusive price of 65 cents each - and the world's largest chicken dinner restaurant was born. Today, the Chicken Dinner Restaurant seats more than 900 guests at a time, serves more than 1. 5 million guests each year, and is the largest full-service restaurant that serves chicken as its main course.
The success of the chicken dinners was immediate and by 1940 the restaurant was serving as many as 4,000 dinners on Sunday evenings. To give waiting customers something to do and to pay homage to the pioneering spirit of his grandparents and his love of the Old West, Walter developed Ghost Town, eventually the first of Knott's Berry Farm's six themed areas. The first structure was the Gold Trails Hotel, which had originally been constructed in Prescott, Ariz. in 1868. Adhering to authenticity, Walter brought in other buildings from deserted ghost towns and Knott's Ghost Town as it exists today emerged. Additions were made as the years passed. In the 1960s, the Calico Mine Ride and Timber Mountain Log Ride were added and Knott's built its second themed area: Fiesta Village, a tribute to California's early Spanish heritage. The third themed area opened in 1975 - Roaring 20s (re-themed in 1996 into The Boardwalk) - featuring the Corkscrew, the world's first looping coaster. In 1983, Knott's debuted a first in the amusement park industry with its six-acre Camp Snoopy, the world's first theme park "land" designed specifically for kids. Wild Water Wilderness, a four-acre outdoor river wilderness area featuring the whitewater rafting ride Bigfoot Rapids, was added in 1988, followed by Indian Trails in 1993. It was also the Knotts' decision to build the country's only brick-by-brick replica of Independence Hall, complete with an exact replica of the Liberty Bell, as a free-admission educational resources for Farm guests and Orange County residents.
Cordelia Knott died in 1974 at the age of 84 and Walter Knott continued to live on the Farm he loved until his death in 1981 - a week before his 92nd birthday. The Knott Family maintained operation of Knott's Berry Farm until its friendly acquisition by Cedar Fair, L.P. in December 1997. In keeping with Walter and Cordelia's original goals, Knott's Berry Farm continues to combine quality, wholesome family entertainment with nostalgia and history. Cedar Fair is currently expanding Knott's Berry Farm with the most new rides, shows and attractions in the park's history, while maintaining those simpler features that continue to make it "The Theme Park Californians Call Home®."
The Knott family arrives in the sleepy community of Buena Park and begins farming 20 acres of land on Highway 39 (now Beach Blvd).
The first permanent building is erected to house Cordelia Knott’s tea room and berry market. The farm is christened Knott’s Berry Place.
Walter Knott begins propagating the new boysenberry plant, a curious cross between the red raspberry, blackberry and loganberry.
To make ends meet during the Great Depression, Cordelia serves her first chicken dinners on her wedding china for 65 cents each.
Walter and Cordelia expand their tea room into a genuine restaurant
complete with separate kitchen, dining rooms and parking lots. Despite serving 1,774 dinners on Thanksgiving Day, Cordelia insists she’s still not in the restaurant business.
Daughter Virginia sets up a souvenir table in the Chicken Dinner Restaurant, founding the country’s first theme park souvenir shop.
In an attempt to entertain the thousands of restaurant customers lining up each day, Walter relocates the Gold Trails Hotel to the Farm from Prescott, Ariz. To the hotel’s lobby Walter adds the Farm’s first attraction: “The Covered Wagon Show,” a cyclorama depicting the Knott family’s journey West. The hotel and cyclorama form the basis for Ghost Town, the first themed area of Knott’s Berry Farm.
Knott’s Berry Place is officially renamed Knott’s Berry Farm.
The Calico Saloon, incorporating many of the most popular elements of old saloons throughout the West, opens serving sarsaparilla and boysenberry punch on Calico Square.
Walter buys America’s last operating narrow-gauge railroad, the Denver and Rio Grande, and moves it in its entirety to Knott’s Berry Farm. The steam-powered train is christened the Ghost Town & Calico Railroad, proving a perfect addition to growing Ghost Town.
The Bird Cage Theatre opens in Ghost Town as the home of the country’s only daily acting melodrama troupe. A replica of the Bird Cage in Tombstone, Ariz., the Theatre goes on to serve as the training ground for Steve Martin and countless other actors and
Walter and Cordelia attend the July 18 opening ceremonies of Disneyland, and return to find the Farm parking lot filled to capacity. Despite rumors to the contrary, Knott’s Berry Farm continues to thrive, enjoying its best year ever.
The Calico Mine Ride, an ingenious trip into the depths of an Old West mine, opens to rave reviews. Its creative use of themed and special effects sets a new standard for future Knott’s attractions.
Walter completes construction on a brick-by-brick replica of Independence Hall, complete with cracked, 2,075-pound Liberty Bell.
The amusement park is enclosed and a general admission fee is charged for the first time ($1.00).
The Calico Logging Co. (later the Timber Mountain Log Ride) opens as one of the first log flume rides in the U.S. Fiesta Village also debuts.
The 2,100-seat John Wayne Theatre (now the Charles M. Schulz Theatre) opens on June 19. California Governor Ronald Reagan and John Wayne himself preside over the celebrity-filled opening ceremonies, which The Knotty Post employee newsletter describes as “the biggest event ever held on the Farm.”
Knott’s transforms itself into Knott’s Scary Farm for its first-ever Halloween Haunt® the world’s first amusement park Halloween promotion. The event remains the industry standard, breaking attendance records every year.
Cordelia Knott dies on April 23 at the age of 84.
The Corkscrew, the world’s first 360-degree roller coaster, opens as the centerpiece of the Roaring 20’s themed area. Another highlight of Roaring 20’s is Knott’s Bear-y Tales, a fantasy dark ride featuring the Bear-y family.
The 20-story Sky Jump and Sky Cabin – patterned after an attraction at New York’s Coney Island – provide a breathtaking new addition to Roaring 20’s. The new attraction helps make July 4, 1976 the biggest attendance day in Knott’s history to that point.
Knott’s opens its second roller coaster, Montezooma’s Revenge, in Fiesta Village. The ride takes riders from 0 to 55 mph in five seconds.
Walter Knott dies on Dec. 3 – one week before his 92nd birthday. Amusement park veteran Terry E. Van Gorder takes the helm as Knott’s first non-family president and CEO.
Camp Snoopy, the park’s six-acre wonderland for kids, opens July 1 as the official home of Snoopy and the Peanuts gang. It is the first area of any amusement park designed solely for kids under 12.
Knott’s Berry Farm is magically transformed into Knott’s Merry Farm as the park hosts its first Ghost Town Christmas Crafts Festival.
Another dimension to Roaring 20’s is added with the opening of Pacific Pavilion, home of education-oriented marine mammal shows.
Knott’s foreshadows the dinosaur craze by replacing Knott’s Bear-y Tales with Kingdom of the Dinosaurs, a trek into prehistory complete
with 21 fully animated creatures and environmental special effects. The expertly timed new attraction helps make the year one of the best on record.
Knott’s Berry Farm becomes only the fourth park in the world to receive the coveted Amusement Business/Liseberg Applause Award, awarded biannually to the amusement park whose management, operations and creative accomplishments have inspired the industry with its foresight, originality and sound business development.
Bigfoot Rapids, an untamed journey down the longest man-made river in the West, opens in the new Wild Water Wilderness themed area.
Knott’s introduces its “Adventures in Education” program, making learning “come alive” for Southern California students of all ages through in-park educational tours and school assemblies.
The Corkscrew is replaced by Boomerang, a European-designed roller coaster that takes guests upside down six times in less than a minute. Ghost Town celebrates its 50th Anniversary.
Knott’s opens its first off-site restaurant, Mrs. Knott’s Restaurant and Bakery, in the Southern California communities of Irvine and Moreno Valley. A third restaurant in Mission Viejo opens a year later.
Indian Trails, Knott’s two-acre Native American interpretive center, debuts on the outskirts of Ghost Town.
Knott’s Camp Snoopy is unveiled as the six-acre centerpiece of Minneapolis’ Mall of America, the country’s largest shopping center. Boasting rides, live shows, family attractions, shops and restaurants, it remains the world’s largest indoor themed amusement park.
Knott’s serves as the host park for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) convention in Los
Knott’s dazzles audiences with Mystery Lodge™, a magical journey into the Native North American West and the park’s most technically advanced project ever.
Knott’s Berry Farm celebrates its 75th Anniversary with a year of festivities and special events highlighted by the summer debut of Jaguar!™, The Streaking Big Cat of Roller Coasters!
Knott’s re-energizes the Roaring 20’s, incorporating a score of rousing new entertainment concepts. The Boardwalk salutes the vigor, vitality and variety of Southern California’s legendary seaside culture.
Windjammer Surf Racers blows onto The Boardwalk. The nation’s first major outdoor dual-track steel racing roller coaster pits jammer against jammer through side-by-side vertical loops, six story drops,dives and a spiraling finale.
Cedar Fair Entertainment Company of Sandusky, Ohio acquires Knott’s Berry Farm. The acquisition puts Knott’s on the New York Stock Exchange for the first time.
GhostRider, the longest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the west opens.
Supreme Scream, the world’s tallest descending thrill ride debuts as Orange County’s tallest structure. Knott’s acquires the adjacent Buena Park Hotel.
Upon completion of a $24 million renovation the former Buena Park Hotel is unveiled as the Radisson Resort Knott’s Berry Farm featuring 320 elegant rooms including a PEANUTS themed wing. Knott’s Southern California Resort evolves as Soak City, a separately gated water adventure park opens on a former parking lot. The 2,100 seat Good Time Theatre is renamed the Charles M. Schulz Theatre dedicated to the legacy of Charles Schulz, the creator of Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang.
Replacing Windjammer, Xcelerator, a high-octane thrill ride launching riders 0-82 mph in just 2.3 seconds straight up 205 feet at a 90-degree ascent and an immediate 90-degree descent, opens in The Boardwalk Area.
Russell Knott, the second eldest child of Walter and Cordelia Knott, dies at the age of 86.
Knott's Berry Farm’s alter ego, Knott’s Scary Farm, celebrates the 30th anniversary of Halloween Haunt®, the amusement industry’s first ever and longest running Halloween themed event.
Camp Snoopy, home of Charles Schulz’s lovable beagle, Snoopy, and the rest of the PEANUTS gang, celebrates it’s 20th Anniversary at Knott’s Berry Farm. In honor of this anniversary, the all-new Camp Snoopy Theatre opens as the new home of the Peanuts gang’s musical variety shows. Snoopy’s alter ego, Joe Cool, gets his own new ride, Joe Cool’s GR8 SK8, the fifteenth attraction in the six-acre children’s area.
Rachel (Toni) Knott Oliphant, the third child of Walter and Cordelia Knott, dies at the age of 86.
Virginia Knott-Bender, the oldest child of Walter and Cordelia Knott, dies at the age of 90.
Four new attractions make their debut at Knott’s in 2004. RipTide - a soaring, spinning thrill ride with 720? of attitude makes waves in The Boardwalk; Lucy’s Tugboat sets sail in Camp Snoopy; and Screamin’ Swing pushes riders higher than mom or dad ever could. And on December 7, Silver Bullet® streaks into Knott’s. The $16 million suspended coaster sends its riders upside down six times through a cobra roll, outside vertical loop, corkscrews, and flat spins all while travelling under 3,125 feet of steel track!
America’s oldest themed amusement park proves once again its commitment to enhancing the guest experience by announcing plans to add a new water attraction and restaurant.
Recently ranked as one of the top family-friendly restaurants in markets across the United States by Citysearch, Johnny Rockets® takes up residence at America’s most family-friendly theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm. Known for it’s all-American diner look and feel, Johnny Rockets® offers delicious food, swinging servers and great jukebox music.
Knott’s debuts its first spinning coaster, Sierra Sidewinder which take guests through banks, turns and dips all while rotating on its axis! Located at the entrance of Camp Snoopy, this coaster put a whole new spin on fun.
Knott's Berry Farm sets out on a mission to deliver “First Class” thrills with the opening of their coaster, Pony Express, which arrives in Ghost Town on Memorial Day Weekend. Named after the famous Pony Express which promised a faster mail service on the North American continent, Knott’s Pony Express sends guests on a horseback relay at speeds never imagined in the Old West!
Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, a Southern California dining institution celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2009. This world-famous restaurant offers the same legendary multi-course meals and warm neighborly atmosphere that have kept tourists, locals and celebrities coming back since 1934. Today, Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant serves an average of 1,000 chickens daily, making it the world’s largest, full service, single location chicken restaurant in the world with seating for 1,000 in eight separate dining rooms.
Continuing the tradition of offering fantastic food at affordable prices, Knott’s welcomes the world famous Pink’s Hot Dogs to the Marketplace shopping and dining area. A part of LA culture for over 70 years, Pink’s has long been a destination for hot dog lovers everywhere.
To celebrate the Peanuts 60th Anniversary, Knott’s Berry Farm debuts a new nighttime light show that showcases the Peanuts Gang and reminds us why our heart still belongs to good ol’ Charlie Brown. Camp Snoopy comes alive with a continuous light show filled with Peanuts’ three dimensional figures, themed music, sound effects, voice-overs and colorful projections of the Peanuts’ characters. In “Snoopy’s Starlight Spectacular” guests will see their favorite characters in scenes that personify them – Lucy’s dream of being a Hollywood starlet, Schroeder’s musical genius, even Woodstock gets into the act as he and Snoopy go on a camping adventure.
Knott's celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the Ghost Town and Calico Railroad with a Golden Spike Ceremony and the re-naming of engine 41 to the "Walter K." after Knott's founder Walter Knott. Walter and Cordelia's only living offspring, Marion Knott, is in attendance and christens the engine with boysenberry juice.
Knott’s introduces Knott’s Berry Bloom, a new season of fun that celebrates the spring with a variety of new offerings. The Search for the Easter Beagle scavenger hunt invites kids to scurry across the park to find Snoopy, and Peanuts’ Party in the Park gets everyone dancing in the streets in a new interactive live musical revue.
Perilous Plunge closes permanently so construction can begin on exciting new attractions in the re-imagined Boardwalk area. This multi-million dollar undertaking includes a family coaster named Coast Rider, Surfside Gliders, on which riders pilot their own two-person aircraft for a scenic view of Boardwalk Bay, and the return of the classic Pacific Scrambler.
The Timber Mountain Log Ride, a beloved Knott’s attraction and one of the oldest log flume rides in the country undergoes a massive refurbishment. The restoration upgrades all of the ride figurines and sets and brings new scenes and characters to the enhanced ride experience, while still maintaining the original theme and storyline of the attraction.
In celebration of 30 years of Camp Snoopy, Knott’s Berry Farm revitalizes the entire land of the High Sierra fun and adds three new attractions: Charlie Brown’s Kite Flyer, Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies, and Linus Launcher.
The Calico Mine Ride – Knott’s Berry Farm’s first major ride was restored with over 50 new animatronics figurines, new audio, themed lighting system, plus a few startling new special effects. The enhancements breathed new life into the park’s landmark attraction.
Marrion Knott, the youngest child of Walter and Cordelia Knott, dies at the age of 92.
Voyage to the Iron Reef™, a spectacular new interactive 4-D ride opens on May 15, 2015. Guests who have what it takes to become brave deep sea navigators climb aboard submarine-inspired ride vehicles and embark on an adventure into the Iron Reef that combines the fun of a theme park ride with the interactivity of high tech video games. Riders aim their freeze rays at the Kraken Queen’s army of menacing sea creatures and compete against each other to blast the highest score and save Knott’s from a watery doom.
In honor of Ghost Town’s 75th, Knott’s Berry Farm debuts Ghost Town Alive!, the new, interactive, limited-time celebration that allows guest to live the Old West and become a main character in this unique experience. Guests play an active role in shaping the events of the day were different adventures will unfold through the familiar town of Calico.
GhostRider, the longest, fastest and tallest wooden rollercoaster on the West Coast, returns from a major restoration project with all-new trains that gallop along over 4,500 feet of new track.
Several Ghost Town venues underwent extensive renovations. The historic Wagon Camp now features an all-new, exciting stunt show on a renovated stage. Calico Stage, has been relocated and themed after an old abandoned mine.
Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant re-opens after a a complete refurbishment. The project brought has brought cosmetic and thematic upgrades throughout the restaurant’s dining areas.