In a world where it’s hard to feel entirely safe in most places, there’s something especially concerning when a location that’s sole purpose is to bring joy begins to feel unsafe as well. The 100+ year old theme park Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California has been a location creating joyful memories for so many years. Unfortunately, due to a recent incident involving a large number of teenagers in the park, some guest’s memories who were visiting that day will be full of fear instead of the expected joy. The team at Knott’s took swift action by closing the park early and putting a chaperone policy into place to ensure an incident like this doesn’t happen again. But will a chaperone policy really fix the problem, and how long can it be held in place?
I would like to make it clear that I fully support Knott’s decisions and believe they made the right move. The chaperone policy requires that all guests aged 17 and younger must be accompanied by a chaperone who is at least 21 years old. One chaperone may accompany no more than four guests. This policy is currently in place for Fridays through Sundays, but is it sustainable?
The reality is that teenagers like to hang out in large groups. When I was growing up, it was in the mall. These days, local and affordable theme parks seem to be a location of choice. Although what happened at Knott’s seems to be something bigger than a group of random teenagers causing problems, it’s also not uncommon for there to be rowdiness at any location where large groups of teenagers hang out.
The big question is, how much of Knott’s income comes from teenagers who enjoy spending time away from their families? It’s no secret that teenagers enjoy their independence. For some, requiring an adult chaperone may make the location immediately unappealing, which ultimately means a loss in revenue. But my guess is that Knott’s makes more money off of families than they do teenagers. If that is true, hopefully this chaperone policy can be kept in place while not affecting the bottom line.
Having said that, I do feel bad for the majority of teenagers who know how to have a good time alone with friends while remaining responsible and respectful. I certainly enjoyed my teenage years without a chaperone, and it’s too bad that a small percentage of troublemakers caused problems for all.
The big question I have is whether or not the chaperone policy will be kept in place for the annual Halloween event, Knott’s Scary Farm. I personally hope that it is strictly enforced then, but I assume that groups of teenagers make up for a large portion of Knott’s Scary Farm revenue. Over and over again we hear the phrase “safety first” in the world of theme parks. I hope that phrase is kept in mind when it comes to the Halloween event, and that the chaperone policy is fully in place for every night of the event, even if it means lesser revenue.
This isn’t a situation that’s unique to Knott’s. Keeping theme parks as a safe space is an important part of the business. We are all going to these places to escape our everyday fears, concerns, and stresses. The last thing we need is that dose of reality in what is supposed to be a fun-filled atmosphere.
What do you think? Do you find the chaperone policy to be a good addition to park rules, or do you feel it’s too much? If you’re a teenager, does the chaperone rule make you less interested in visiting a park with a similar policy in place? Leave a comment and let me know.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit,” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.