How Knott’s history has more in common with SeaWorld than a proposed acquisition – DePaoli on DeParks

by Jeff DePaoli

News was recently made as it was revealed that SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. made a $3.4 billion offer to buy Cedar Fair amusement parks. If the deal were to go through, this would include the iconic park Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California.

knotts and seaworld

SeaWorld has had to start thinking of different ways to expand and remain in business, considering the controversial animal shows that have been the heartbeat of their parks for so many years. Ironically, Knott’s Berry Farm had a similar problem decades ago.

When you walk into Knott’s Berry Farm it feels like a place that has existed forever, despite it being consistently updated. I mean this in the best way possible. Knott’s knows how to feel nostalgic while remaining current.

I didn’t grow up in southern California and wasn’t too familiar with the park until I moved here. Therefore, I’m consistently learning something new about this beloved park’s 100+ year history. I was amazed to discover that Knott’s Berry Farm once had live sea animal shows in the park.

Knott’s Pacific Pavilion opened inside the park in 1986. The show that opened the venue was called “Splashdance ’86” and featured two trained dolphins and a sea lion. Just about 100 miles south you could find similar sorts of shows at the original SeaWorld park in San Diego. Of course, SeaWorld had a lot more sea animals in their park, but the similar entertainment offering was surprising to me when I learned this fact.

knotts and seaworld
SeaWorld San Diego

In 1997, Cedar Fair bought Knott’s Berry Farm from the Knott family. One big change that came with the acquisition was the removal of Knott’s Pacific Pavilion. The pavilion closed in 1998, soon after the acquisition, presumably for similar issues that SeaWorld has had with animal rights activists.

Whether or not this current offer from SeaWorld to purchase all Cedar Fair parks goes through will be very interesting. I haven’t experienced Cedar Fair’s other parks, but I know from personal experience that Knott’s is a very special place. Cedar Fair has been running the park in a way that is respectful and celebratory of the park’s history. I would hope that SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. would do the same, but nobody really knows.

I’m sure SeaWorld would have little interest in bringing sea animals into the park, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have some concerns if the acquisition went through. With a history of over 100 years, including the first theme park haunt, Knott’s Scary Farm, I hope that whatever happens Knott’s doesn’t lose its special identity.

Did you get to personally experience the dolphin shows at Knott’s Berry Farm? How do you feel about the possible acquisition? 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.


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Fred February 11, 2022 - 8:41 pm

The dolphin shows we’re actually A relatively latecomer to Knotts, opening, as you mentioned, in the 1980s . But animals at Knotts are nothing new. Decades before that, there used to be a seal pool located where fiesta Village is now, where guests could feed fish to the barking seal lions. And right next to that seal pool was Old MacDonald’s Farm, a collection of farm animals ranging from goats to bulls, chickens and sheep, including some aspects of a petting zoo. They also used to have burro rides for kids, as well as the horses that still pull stagecoaches at the park. And that’s not to mention a small number of flamingos that used to stand guard near Reflection Lake, the wandering peacocks, or the wide assortment of water fowl that regularly landed on the lake (a lake which was essentially paved over when Cedar Fair added yet another giant roller coaster).

Jeff DePaoli February 12, 2022 - 2:56 pm

Wow! I knew that animals were (and continue to be to a point) part of Knott’s history, but there was a lot more than I realized. Thanks for sharing.


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