While the technical beginning of summer hasn’t started yet, we are definitely past Memorial Day – the traditional start of theme park summer events. For Knott’s, this means a whole host of shows and traditions, with the headliner being Ghost Town Alive.
To be as concise as possible, Ghost Town Alive is western-themed role-playing in the theme park. In a Groundhog-day-style situation, whatever day you visit Knott’s, happens to be Founder’s Day – celebrating the founding of the town of Calico. With Calico being a town in the wild west, the place is packed with sheriffs, saloons, and gunslingers.
You can visit the barber for a mustache, deliver packages, help provide commentary for the frequently published newspaper, or play poker at the jail. Ghost Town Alive is as interactive and involved as you want it to be; withevery day playing out differently than the day before.
That’s the real secret to Ghost Town Alive.
In its third year, it’s the same cast of characters, and it’s been flexible enough for them to keep it dynamic to really encourage multiple visits. There’s even puzzles and riddles to solve.
There are a few fixed story beats during the day that have to happen to keep the story moving forward. A few bank robberies, a few arrests, along with an election and a hoedown. There’s something heartwarming about seeing Sheriff Wheeler leading a huge crowd of kids over to the saloon to help capture some criminals. The characters do their best to include you as part of the story, whether it’s gathering intel, delivering packages, providing quotes for the newspaper or giving a proxy vote in the election. You really stay involved throughout the whole process.
And, just like the last two years, the story culminates in a hoedown at 5:30 PM (sharp!), where the election results are read, storylines are wrapped up and everyone, guests and citizens alike, dance together.
Hangtime, the new dive coaster, is open, too. Replacing what was previously occupied by Boomerang and Riptide, it’s a seriously large and fun coaster. Having that huge area to work with meant it’s a nice long ride time with a lot of air. Couple that with the Boardwalk across the way, and Knott’s has completely transformed that land in the last few years into a really distinct part of the park. Now that the walls are all down, we’ll have to wait a few months to see how the clowns take it over for Knott’s Scary Farm, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Over in the Charles M. Schulz Theater is the new show, Beach Blanket Beagle, a musical about kids trying to scrounge up enough funds to save their favorite hangout. The show is a fantastic blend of countless beach music. The opening number is a real marathon of the biggest hits. The stage is actually a pier on a real body of water. You are instructed that the first few rows of the theater are splash zones, and it’s no joke, so you have been warned. The lighting is also a huge improvement from previous shows in the park. It really feels upgraded. Plus there’s an act towards the end of the performance that’s quite literally lit, pun intended. The only downside is that there’s no indication about the length of the show, which is a solid 40 minutes long. Personally, for us, it went by quite quickly, and we would love to watch it again, unlike the magic show from last year, but there were quite a number of families walking out halfway through, as kids began getting restless, expecting something closer to half the length. As long as you know the length before sitting down, you’ll have a great time.
Towards the end of the night, there’s another new show called “Calico’s Mountain Jamboree” which is best summarized as a stunt show between the Calico loggers and miners. Upbeat country music is played alongside people bouncing around on trampolines and doing flips with only a hint of a plot about a girl wanting to play the guys. It’s a good way to end the evening, especially considering there’s only a single showing of it per night.
On a tangential note, unless our memory serves us wrong, this may be the first time in Knott’s modern history that the loggers have ever been live actors inside the park. While this show is choreographed and done by outside performers, it definitely plays on the themes of Knott’s Berry Farm. We’ve seen the miners in some capacity around Ghost Town and in other forms in the park’s history, but the smarmy plaid-wearing Canadian toque-donning loggers are a first. There’s a lot of possibilities there for welcoming these new ‘folks’ to Calico for things like Ghost Town Alive. This is all pure wishing, but we’d love to see them make a return just to expand Knott’s a bit out of their cowboy comfort zone.
Beyond that, Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies are still around, back to their Wagon Camp location with their seasonal drummer. I can’t give them enough praise and praise to Knott’s for making them a part of the farm. And of course, there’s a new show in Camp Snoopy, along with more musical entertainment in every corner of the park. So there’s really no excuse not to head out to Knott’s this summer. None.