When it comes to Southern California, the big theme parks that people all over the country have heard of are Disneyland Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Six Flags Magic Mountain. Knott’s Berry Farm (owned by Cedar Fair) is a park that I hadn’t personally known about until after moving to California.
As soon as you start talking to fellow California residents about Knott’s Berry Farm, it’s clear that there is a lot of love for this “locals” park, and with good reason. With the pandemic affecting Knott’s Berry Farm the same as it did the aforementioned parks (as well as theme parks around the world), they weren’t willing to just sit back and take it. Knott’s Berry Farm became the little park that could and began a trend that some of the bigger parks are now following.
The Knott’s Berry Farm gates closed to guests in March 2020 due to the pandemic, but it would take approximately four months for them to welcome guests back inside the park. Of course, none of the rides were running, but guests could enjoy a food festival inside with Knott’s Taste of Calico in July 2020. This may not sound like a big deal, but during that time, things were tightly locked-down in Southern California, and the idea of a theme park being available to enjoy in any capacity felt like an impossibility.
What the folks at Knott’s Berry Farm accomplished was huge. They put a number of their employees back to work and gave a glimmer of hope to theme park fans. They brought some much-needed joy to a lot of people in a safe way. Knott’s Taste of Calico was so successful that they’ve followed it up with Taste of Knott’s, Taste of Fall-O-Ween, Taste of Merry Farm and currently the Taste of Boysenberry Festival – all selling so well that they’ve been able to increase the prices each time around. To say that these “Taste of” events have been successful seems to be an understatement.
Having been lucky enough to experience several of these events, I was tremendously impressed at how the menus have been inspired and changed-up from one event to the next. Knott’s also dressed up and decorated their park to suit the different occasions. It may have been different from what we were used to, but it still gave us those same seasonal and holiday feelings while the park continuously reinvented itself. Like so much that Knott’s Berry Farm has done through the years, these events have and continue to feel like there is a lot of passion coming from the folks who create them.
Food festivals certainly aren’t anything new when it comes to theme parks. In fact, when I think of theme park food festivals, the first park I think of is Epcot. Which begs the question, what took Disneyland so long to hop on the pandemic food festival wagon? This month, both Disney California Adventure and Universal Studios Hollywood are both welcoming guests to in-park food festivals. One full year feels like a surprisingly long amount of time, especially for Disneyland, which is in the same county as Knott’s, whereas Universal is in Los Angeles County, which has different rules and may have been legally unable to throw a food festival sooner.
Overall, I’m happy to see that the Southern California theme parks are getting ready to safely reopen. There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for all of them, but let’s not forget the constant sparkle of light that has been Knott’s Berry Farm for the past seven-plus months in what has mostly been a very dark space.
Have you been able to enjoy any of the food festivals? Do you consider them to be a responsible way to gradually reopen the parks? Leave a comment and share your thoughts on the topic.
Here’s a look at the latest Knott’s event, Taste of Boysenberry:
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.