Man, it’s been a heck of a journey the last two years, hasn’t it? At least for Knott’s, they had planned for their biggest Boysenberry Festival in 2020, leading into their 100th anniversary and the world had other plans.
But always one to take boysenberries and turn them into boysenberry juice, we got a series of tasting events, including the most unique one, Taste of Fall-o-ween, a hybrid of a food & wine festival mixed with trick-or-treating and lots of Halloween-style performances and characters, except for one core part. Scary Farm.
If you would’ve asked me what the odds of getting Scary Farm in 2021 was going to be, my response would’ve changed every month, including up to August of this year. But, as you’re reading this now, you know the fates determined it should rise from its grave, unable to rest for any longer.
At this point, after running like a well-oiled machine for decades, Scary Farm articles basically boil down “What’s new? What’s changed?” and we’ll get to that, but I just want to say I’m simply happy to have anything, literally anything related to Scary Farm this year and I’ll take whatever I can get. Talk about a new appreciation of every aspect of things we lost access to for so long, right?
While two mazes took their final bow in 2019, we were only blessed with one new maze this year, Mesmer: Sideshow of the Mind, but it’s a doozy and we got a lot of other entertainment going on. Especially with the retirement of the polarizing Hanging show.
In its stead, is Carnaval du Grotesque, which is a mixture of sideshow acts and musical acts. From what we saw on opening night, there were fire acts, a man puncturing his skin, and a musical performance by Knott’s Summer Night. I have to imagine there’ll be even more variety throughout the season. The fact that Hiatus made an appearance makes me think bands will be a permanent fixture in that spot for seasons to come.
Beyond that, Chipper Lowell is back in the Birdcage Theater with Conjurers and supposedly other guest magicians will be appearing, too. Around the corner, inside Mystery Lodge, home of the final location of the former Special Ops: Infected maze, is an entirely new show called Invitation to Terror, making use of the Mystery Lodge theater’s pepper’s ghost effect in ways that haven’t been seen for literal years. It’s a spooky short show that takes place in the yuppie world of the 80s. The show is definitely a love letter to the decade of excess, with so many details to find. And the performers do a great job of drawing you in. I’m curious what the future of this area holds, especially after being vacant for so long.
And of course, we can’t ignore Puppet Up which was the surprise hit of 2019. The improv performers from the Jim Henson Company fill up the theater for every performance and it’s always a great time, provided you’re mature enough for the topic.
In a familiar place, a new drum show called Wicked Drums is over in Camp Snoopy, which should make some old-time folks remember a very similar act from years back.
Oh, and there’s the art show, too! Into the Fog is accessible during daytime and night. I feel like every year I gush about all the great art in here, and this year is no different. It’s getting really close to just becoming a year-round art exhibit area, which we’d have no problem with.
In addition to all these shows, there’s also surprise pop up shows in all the scare zones, which aren’t on any publicized schedule but can pretty much be determined to be at either the top or bottom of the hour, like a funeral march at Forbidden Lake, or the Witch Burning at midnight in The Hollow. New this year is a scare zone in the Roaring 20s area of the park, appropriately titled Gore-ing 20s.
This is a scare zone unlike any other, though. While the other zones rely on shadows and heavy fog, this one is more interactive than before. The land is peppered with a wide range of folks, both arguing for and against prohibition, by any means necessary. This means you’ll find club bouncers, newspaper boys, proselytizers, flapper girls, guys in zoot suits, and grease monkeys. All of which have an angle and an agenda to push. No one in this area has masks. They’re all ready for you to bend an ear and hear their tale. It’s not too much of a stretch to say this is the closest thing to Ghost Town Alive we’ve had in a long while. Lots of story elements and freedom.
There’s still sliding, scares, and fog in this area, but it’s more story-laden than anything that’s been done before in Scary Farm’s history, and I personally love it. A lot of the veteran talent that has worked other scare zones are in the Gore-ing 20s this year, so it’s definitely something the park is taking seriously. I’m not sure what the feel of the maze will be by the end of the season, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s always changing. You get out of it as much as you put in.
On that same note, the new maze, Mesmer, is less about being ultra-scary and more about immersing guests in the dark world of the circus. Each room focuses on a depraved and unique sideshow act or character. I was told early on it was like a combination of Doll Factory and Black Magic, two classic mazes, and I have to agree. Because of the circus aspect, it means the performers in the maze are doing dual-duty as both scaring guests AND performing in a sideshow. More than any other maze this year, it lends itself to repeat walk-throughs, should time provide it. There are also some other gimmicks in the maze, like a tight-rope scene, that are really fun, building on some similar design elements in Shadowlands, which occupied this space for years prior. For only getting one new maze this year, it definitely holds it own and I hope to see it for years to come.
The other returning mazes are still in top form. Although it feels like some changes have been made to reduce interactivity and some flow problems, like Dark Ride’s security room was disabled and the giant gears were moved out of the way. Nothing that ruins or affects the maze in any major way, though.
Honestly, I would have been more than pleased with a scaled-back affair for 2021. But instead, Knott’s graced us with a Scary Farm filled with shows, a fantastic new maze, an intriguing new scare zone, and the resurrection of Mystery Lodge. It’s hard to argue with all of that. And on top of that, the daytime Knott’s Spooky Farm starts later this week, too. And that will bring even more life back into the park.
Unfortunately, season passes sold out for this year quite early this year, so if you want a chance to enter the fog, you’ll need to pick up a 1-day ticket. I’d recommend Fright Lane if you only have one day to spare, to help get the most out of it. Unlike other events, it allows unlimited admission to each maze instead of a one-off usage.
Tickets are on sale now at Knotts.com and the event runs through October 31st.