It’s stated every year, like clockwork, but seeing how the Boysenberry Festival has grown is still an amazing sight to behold. For many years, the Fun Bun was heralded as the most amazing part of it, going unexpectedly viral for the genius combination of boysenberry glaze and a deep-friend cinnamon roll. We have now gone far beyond that single point of interest during this event, to the point where I can’t begin to cover everything that will be offered.Some opinions and facts will be stated in the coverage of the Boysenberry Festival Tasting Preview we were recently invited to, but there is so much to take in, I can’t cover it all. Just as a starting point, this year’s tasting card is $40 ($38 with discount) but will let you pick 8 things from 26 choices. Twenty-six! And that’s only what the card covers. There’s still food options at every location inside and outside of the park that isn’t counted in that list.That isn’t a one-day affair to finish it off. They’re really making this into a multi-day event. While the actual event hasn’t begun yet, we were able to get a head start on the food and a look at some of the merchandise as well. So the entertainment (which includes a new melodrama in the Bird Cage this year!) will be covered when the event actually begins on March 20th.Regarding the merchandise, there’s a lot of surprises this year, and I apologize if something isn’t new, because there’s so much to miss. But the biggest thing is probably the smallest thing, by which I mean the pin.In case you’ve somehow avoided Knott’s social media presence since the start of this year, they undertook the challenge of releasing at least one new pin every week all year to celebrate their 100th anniversary. Yes, there are just 52 weeks in the year, so there’s a bunch more to come beyond weekly. What started out as a simple deal, where they were half-off with any other merchandise purchase, quickly became a craze the likes of which I haven’t seen in years anywhere.The pins themselves have been stellar designs, recapturing some of the most beloved current and former attractions in the park’s history. And not just attractions, but restaurants and events around the park, like this Boysenberry Festival. Because of the high demand, there is now a 2-per-person limit on these pins, and controlled days and locations when they go on sale. We’re far beyond the days of just releasing pins silently.To make matters even more interesting, the card backs themselves aren’t generic throwaway material, either. They’re each individually themed to the pin itself with the numbering, dates and historical facts on it. Back in 2019 for Scary Farm, we mentioned how there were gravestone pins to commemorate the entire runs during the final year of each maze, and this is taking it to the next level.
I realize now that I’ve spent a good amount of paragraphs explaining the pin situation, but it’s warranted. The Boysenberry Festival design is pretty meta this year, being a phone taking a photo of food. That’s really just the kind of humor we love. Beyond that, Knott’s is in on the Spirit Jersey game, with a Boysenberry Festival one, in case you need that oversized sweater look, but want to change it up from the other place. The other clothing has a nice tie-dye look to it in a variety of shirts and pullovers, so you can have a different look for all 31 days the event runs.
Some of these food items may be harder to find than the others, due to the difficulty in sourcing and creating them. I found out this year that there are 3 places in the world that produce a majority of the world’s boysenberries; Washington, Oregon, and New Zealand, and the west coast had some bad weather this year that hurt the batches. That meant this year it was a bit harder to source the core of this event, but Knott’s pulled through. On top of that, it’s not just one place or all in-house to create all these delights. There’s a Churro Boysenberry Toffee I was able to try that will only be sold at the bakery at the marketplace outside. It was glorious. Plus, they also have Boysenberry Churros, if the Boysenberry Churro Toffee wasn’t enough.The company that produces the park’s sarsaparilla unveiled their newest work, which I’m thinking you could safely guess at this point, of Boysenberry Sarsaparilla. While this is on the top of the list of items we will be trying first hand when the event starts in just a few short days, we have been told this specific item will continue to be sold year round. That bodes well for the confidence they have in it. Combining the “wacky” taste of boysenberries with the “strong” taste of sarsaparilla took a long time to get right, which is why we were told it took 11 months for the company to finish their latest creation.If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s going to be some more spirited offerings of the preserved jam kind, with Tequila, Whiskey and Mulled Wine variations on the jams for sale. This is on top of the usual boysenberry tea, boysenberry soap, lotion and whatever else that have become staples at the park.There are two monstrosities that got the most attention at the event, but we’ll get to them last. They deserve your full attention.Working backwards, because dessert is the best meal, there were three offered. The cannolis were great. Crunchy with a soft creamy middle. There were also macarons, a favorite of the French that seems to really be making a toehold here in the states. The bread pudding was my favorite of the three, and the official name is a bit of a mouthful, which is Boysenberry bread pudding topped with boysenberry coulis and anglaise sauce.
In terms of more savory affairs, we also had a pastrami sandwich on a pretzel bun with boysenberry mustard, boysenberry steak chili with a boysenberry cornbread muffin, and also boysenberry beer cheese soup with a boysenberry drizzle and brown butter croutons. I really liked the chili, but the beer cheese was the hit of the night.To wash down the cheesey goodness, don’t worry, boysenberry punch isn’t going anywhere. But if you keep your eyes out around the park, you can find locations with the sugar-free kind! Beyond that there was also boysenberry sangria and boysenberry basil lemonade. The basil lemonade was surprisingly strong, but that probably helps it counter the traditional sweet taste of the classic punch.I could get into the two-foot hotdog that’s inside an entire loaf of french bread, or the mac-n-cheese bites with boysenberry ketchup, or the beef tips with boysenberry mashed potatoes. The list continues, running the full gamut of cuisines. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world being able to find so many options available. Really, the only downside of this event is how most of the options don’t stick around after the event. But you can definitely get your fill in the entire month this event runs.
But there were two offerings getting the lion’s share of attention at the event. The first was The WOW Pasty. We’re personally not that familiar with pasties, but it’s a giant pastry with a cheeseburger filling inside with boysenberry ketchup and topped with two fried eggs. It had a notice that it feeds four. As the picture shows, it’s gigantic, about the size of a tortoise. You can pick that up at the Ghost Town Grill, and please, document the entire process, because that’s an event-worthy food if I’ve ever seen one.But that wasn’t the winner of the night. The winner of the night was a full meal. All the courses. All of them.
It was actually hard to see it on the table from a distance because so many people were crowded around it. The Mega Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner-burger in one is some kind of fever dream. It’s a giant burger, with four patties, topped with a King’s Hawaiian Roll for a bun, and then an upside down boysenberry pie on top of that, finally with 4 entire chicken legs stuck on the top, with a mini boysenberry pie off to the side for good measure.
Talking to the chef behind it, everything is there for a reason, though. The repeated use of “four” is because Mrs. Knott’s had 4 children. And the pie and chicken are there because those are the foods that founded the entire park. And the King’s Hawaiian used for the bun is because it was the first item King’s Hawaiian ever made themselves. Appropriately, it will only be available in the Chicken Dinner Restaurant, and be around $100, we were told. It’s so gigantic, it makes the Fun Bun look like a donut hole.
Outside of the event, we also took a quick stroll around the park during the quiet time of the year. It was a great day for Surfside Gliders, the weather wasn’t too hot or too cold.The blacksmith was working hard on some personalized horseshoes.The mine ride was just as amazing as it has looked since the major refurbishment.And we can see a lot of work is being done on Knott’s Bear-Y Tales: Return to the Fair, opening in a few short months. There’s a lot of hopes pinned on this, as tying together futuristic technology with a fan-favorite attraction of yesteryear. And while it may not look like it from the outside, the arcade is still open, you just have to take the side entrance in through the Nautilus gift shop. However long that remains tied to the Iron Reef theme is to be seen, but that will happen soon enough, too.
We’re really looking forward to the event this year, with the new merchandise, food options and refreshed entertainment. It will run every day from March 20th through April 19th, 2020 and is included with park admission. Tickets available now at Knotts.com.