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How Knott’s Berry Farm set the stage for California theme parks to reopen – DePaoli on DeParks

by Jeff DePaoli

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.

knott's berry farm

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.

knott's berry farm

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.

knott's berry farm

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:

Knott's Taste of Boysenberry Festival at Knott's Berry Farm

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.

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9 comments

Nrthwnd March 12, 2021 - 8:49 pm

I think what these Knott’s Food Festivals bring to both the park and the attendees is a Nostalgia (Capital N), that may have already been practiced when Knott’s was “just a Ghost Town attraction.” Back when it first opened, beyond the Berry Stand and the Chicken Restaurant. They probably had Holiday Season things happening, with food of course, during those early times. I remember that back in 1963, my first visit at age ten, that there was Easter celebrations going on, with decorations and ‘special things’ in both food and souvenirs. I may be wrong on that, but hey – I was a kid back then, LOL!

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Jeff DePaoli March 18, 2021 - 1:23 pm

That’s a really good point I hadn’t thought of. It sort of does take it back to the origins of Knott’s. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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Karen March 24, 2021 - 3:39 am

These events were also nostalgic for my own family. I have a signed book from Virginia Knott’, one of Walter Knott’s daughters, who was still working in her gift shop when we bought the story of how Knott’s Berry farm came to be. She is now deceased. It was literally just a berry farm when Walter Knott’s got the idea of having his wife make her famous fried chicken recipe to guests, which she sacrificially served on her wedding china with berry pie made from the marionberry which was created by Walter Knott. The lines of people for Cordelia’s famous chicken dinners were so long that Walter decided to create Ghost Town ambiance and other types of visual entertainment . He eventually added the Coal Miner’s ride which broke our hearts when they retired that ride some years back. One of our most special memories however, is when we took our little daughter, who is now in her 30s, to Knott’s Berry farm and while we were riding the train it was robbed by a couple of desperados. (We had given her a quarter before she got on the train but we didn’t tell her why). When the robbers held up the train they walked down the middle of the aisles asking people for their money. She gave the robbers her quarter while holding up her hands in the air with the BIGGEST smile on her face. She’s never forgotten that wonderful memory. She was only about 8 years old at the time and it was one of the high points of her vacation there. What memories were made at Knott’s Berry farm for our family and so many others.

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T Cox March 13, 2021 - 12:51 am

We have been to all but the Taste of Calico event, and they have been fantastic. The food is good (I won’t say spectacular, but very good), big portions, and a good variety. They have brought out the characters to enhance the experience — the mayor is on the saloon balcony welcoming guests, a ghost woman telling stories from an upstairs window, stilt walkers dressed for Dias de las Muertos, Charlie Brown and Lucy waiving from an upstairs balcony. The cleaning staff is constantly sanitizing the tables, line attendants make sure there is social distancing. There are plenty of tables to allow people to eat without being bunched up. Knott’s has done an outstanding job with these events, and my family had enjoyed having a little light to look forward to in an otherwise dreary year.

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Jeff DePaoli March 18, 2021 - 1:24 pm

I’m happy to hear that you were able to experience so many of them and that you’ve enjoyed them. I love how they’ve changed it up so much from one event to the next.

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Joy Gerber March 13, 2021 - 3:53 am

Thank you for the nice review. Being a lover of theme parks I have worked at Disneyland and Knott’s. I put many years in at both parks since 86 rehiring back and forth. I am amazed of how Knott’s hasn’t treated any of us like a number in a lottery to come back to work. No one was laid off and everyone was called back at some point because of these festivals. I also have attended each event for the experience and enjoyed the food, entertainment and atmosphere. It’s been so affordable too! I am so proud to be part of Knott’s who has proven to care about their employees and guests doing what they can when others didn’t. Truly making the most out of uncertain times and proving there are ways to make it work safely.

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Jeff DePaoli March 18, 2021 - 1:25 pm

It’s always nice to hear great experiences from direct employees of the company. Thanks for sharing.

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Barbara arnold March 13, 2021 - 4:51 pm

All of the above comments are spot on! Knotts has and hopefully always will be a family park and they have done a great job taking care of their family. Both employees and attendees have been treated to the very best of care. We feel like coming home every time we enter the park. Atmosphere is one of the main attractions and Knotts has all that and more. It’s a small piece of sanity in this crazy new world. Love our Knotts time folks. Thank you.

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Jeff DePaoli March 18, 2021 - 1:25 pm

Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

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