Knott’s Berry Farm is a 57-acre (23 hectare) theme park owned and operated by Cedar Fair in Buena Park, California. It was the twelfth-most-visited theme park in North America in 2015, and it receives roughly 4 million people each year. There are 40 rides in the park, including roller coasters, family rides, dark rides, and water rides.
The theme park began in the 1920s as a roadside berry shop operated by Walter Knott along California’s State Route 39. By the 1940s, a restaurant, many stores, and other attractions, including a mock ghost town, had been built on the property to amuse an increasing number of visitors. Over the next two decades, the facility was transformed into a modern amusement park, with an admission price established in 1968. The park was sold to Cedar Fair for $300 million in 1997, barely two years after ConAgra, Inc. purchased the Knott’s food business.
Since 1973, the park’s annual Knott’s Scary Farm has drawn large audiences. Patricia Pawson proposed the concept for this event at one of the regularly scheduled round table meetings for managers. As chronicled on the DVD Season of Screams, the actual event was created by Bill Hollingshead, Gary Salisbury, Martha Boyd, and Gene Witham, along with other members of the Knott’s Berry Farm Entertainment Department. Initially, fake corpses and other static figures were rented from a Hollywood prop house, but Bud Hurlbut, creator/concessionaire of Knott’s Mine Ride, Log Ride, and other rides, determined that this wasn’t enough. He disguised up as a gorilla and began terrifying passengers on the Mine Ride. Halloween Haunt was an instant success, and by the following year, the event was selling out every night. During this unique ticketed event, the entire park (or major portions of it) transforms into a “haunted house” style attraction in the dark, complete with mazes and “scare zones.” At present time, there are over a thousand specially employed monsters distributed throughout the park, often concealed out of sight. Some of the roles have become well-known, such as Charlene Parker, who played the Green Witch from 1983 to 2017, the longest run of any performer. Several attractions, including the Timber Mountain Log Ride and the Calico Mine Train, are decorated for the event, and there are 13 themed mazes. Elvira (played by Cassandra Peterson) first appeared in a Halloween Haunt event in 1982 and continued to appear in many more until 2001. Cassandra was released from her contract by the park’s new owners due to their desire for a more family-friendly appeal, according to statements on her My Space website. She returned for one night in 2012 to commemorate the event’s 40th anniversary, and she later appeared in her own regular performance from 2014 to 2017. Knott’s Scary Farm earns half of Knott’s Berry Farm’s revenue during the month of October.
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