The Jewel of the West!

Recently I have seen a wanted shift in my blog. I want to write about experiences more, sharing what I wore will always be an aspect of that, but I want to share experiences of the fun things that I’ve done, and the unique places I’ve been, such as museums, abandoned locations, etc. I hope to inspire others to go on and have their own unique adventures and maybe travel to one of the places I mention here. Today’s post is an example of that. Albeit a more exaggerated example. Today’s post is much more of an exception than the rule. The number of photos in this post is more than any other post I’ve shared. But it is because the experience of Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ghost Town Alive is unlike anything else. This is also the first time I have written an open letter on the blog, something I doubt will become the norm, but something I feel is well suited for today’s post.

At first glance, Knott’s Berry Farm looks like any other amusement park, and may not appear all that unique, but it has always been unique in its origins, and its Ghost Town, which helps separate it from other amusement parks, and this summer Knott’s Berry Farm stepped up their game with Ghost Town Alive, which was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and wanted to revisit over and over again. It should be noted that Ghost Town received a proper town name, Calico, during Ghost Town Alive. I say this as to not confuse readers with the real town of Calico. The following is both an open letter to Knott’s Berry Farm, as well as a thank you to those who helped create it and bring Ghost Town to life.

Dear Knott’s Berry Farm and Ghost Town Alive Cast,

It is hard to put into words the pure joy that myself, my husband, and my friends had over the summer during Ghost Town Alive, but I’ll try. I hope that the pictures included will aid in showcasing the fun and outstanding experiences we had, as well as showoff what a marvelous act you put together. First, let me say that I used to be a Disneyland Cast Member, and while I know many Disneyland Cast Members and Knott’s Team Members “double dip” in their work, Knott’s was known as “that other park down the street”. Often people said harsh things about your park, and while I may not love the massive roller coasters, Knott’s has held a special place in my heart for its unique and humble origins and my western loving heart adores Ghost Town. But this summer, Knott’s, you stepped up your game. With Ghost Town Alive you created an experience that cannot be beat or had at any other theme park. I made choices to go to Knott’s over Disneyland many days. And in fact I was able to convince eight friends (all of whom I met at Disneyland) to get annual passes to your park because I would not shut up about Ghost Town Alive.

I believe that Ghost Town Alive can best be described as an eight hour interactive, structured improv. Upon walking into Calico, Guests entered into a story that would unfold and that they could be a part of. They could aid Sheriff Wheeler and his deputies in keeping an eye on the Mayfield Gang, hellbent on taking over the town, or they could become bandits and take part in making plans and even assist in a jailbreak! And in between each scene many more citizens were there to intact with and Guests created their own wonderful and unique relationships with them. Every citizen made every Guest feel welcome, and all remembered myself, my husband, and my friends during our return visits.

As a theatre kid, I am able to appreciate the hard work the citizens of Calico put into their elaborate backstories, and dedication to the story that played out over the day. As a person with a degree in History, I am able to appreciate the living history elements that were incorporated, as well as the nods to Knott’s Berry Farm’s founder, Walter Knott. And as a fan of westerns, I loved that I got to feel like I was in a western, one filled with comedy, romance, and six shooters. And I praise you for not shying away from gun play. You created an environment that was realistic enough for adults to enjoy, but rounded the corners just enough to make it family friendly. This is a difficult balance, but you struck it just perfectly.

While I could go on and on, there is one thing that stands out above all else. My husband and I were slated to leave September 2nd for a road trip to Portland. During a visit leading up to Ghost Town Alive’s final days, I told Mayor Parnell my husband and I were unable to be present on the last day and I expressed my sadness over this. Mayor Parnell looked taken aback by the idea that I wasn’t going to be there. “You must be here for the last day! Is there any way you can postpone your trip? It is going to be amazing,” he told me. I felt extremely special that the Mayor was so concerned over the notion I wasn’t going to be there for the last day. He made me want to postpone my trip! When I got home, my husband and I looked at the calendar and realized if we was willing to leave right after the Hoedown, drive straight up I-5, and make no stops for historical locations or roadside attractions (as we originally planned), we could stay for the last day. And we did. It was the best decision ever. Not only did I get to stay for the last day, I was able to squeeze in a few more visits before then too! When I told several citizens that I would be present on the last day, they were ecstatic.

Over the visits my friend, Kaitlyn, and I spent much time with Doctor Carter, and we assisted him with courting the school teacher, Miss McBride, and after their engagement at the Hoedown she asked if we would be bridesmaids and that the wedding would be September 5th. Come September 5th she remembered us, and that she asked us to be her bridesmaids, and told us when and where to be. I love that the engagement plot of previous days was carried out on the final day, and that both Miss McBride and Dr. Carter were invested with the Guests to ask them to participate.

But nothing tops the amazing cliff-hanger of an ending that you put together for the final day. The added Ox Mayfield details leading up to the last day made the last day all the more impressive and ominous when Ox arrived on the train, and a massive shoot out occurred resulting in the entire Mayfield Gang (and One Shot!) making a swift getaway aboard the train. I hope that the success of Ghost Town Alive and this cliff-hanger ending means that Ghost Town Alive will return next summer with a bigger cast, and wilder adventures. And know that if you do, my friends and I will be there to enjoy every second of it many times over. (Update: I have good news! Knott’s has formally announced Ghost Town Alive will be returning summer 2017!)

I would like to acknowledge a handful of the cast for their exceptional dedication and interactions with us during our visits.

To Mr. Bixby Knolls, the newspaper editor, who always made sure we got the latest edition, or asked for our insight, as well as being warm and welcoming.

To Mayor Parnell and his family, who made sure we became citizens and who helped us get deeds to properties in town. Special thanks to Mayor Parnell for convincing me to stay through until the last day, and to Mrs. Pearl Parnell for entrusting me with the Top Secret Pumpkin Mission.

To Sheriff Wheeler and his deputies One Shot and Kid Friday, who saw that we became fully deputized by completing the necessary tasks and thank you for the many wonderful card games. Sheriff Wheeler, I greatly look forward to meeting your twin, Deadwood.

To Doctor Carter, who made us feel so special by making us Love Doctors, and gave us the push to create a petition for Calico’s first hospital.

To Ms. Abbie McBride-Carter, who was a true sweetheart, and made us feel even more special by asking us to be a part of her and Dr. Carter’s wedding.

To Kenny Storm, who was kind enough to tell us everything we wanted to know.

To Doctor Marsh, who was always wonderful to talk with, and made me feel special for asking for a dance.

To Cody, who was always good for a laugh, and had vibrant and wonderful stories to tell.

To Mr. Campbell, who always made sure we had partners at the Hoedown if we didn’t have ones already.

To Cannonball, who taught us how to play spoons and was a joy to talk with.

To Miss Gerdie, who was beyond sweet, and made us adorable bows.

To Miss Goldie who always made us feel welcome at her place, chatting with us regularly, and allowing us to become business partners!

Sincerely and with fond memories,

Janey

P.S. For more photos, feel free to browse my public album for Ghost Town Alive.

8 thoughts on “The Jewel of the West!

  1. Seriously, Janey – you’ve outdone yourself today. My family and I only got to experience Ghost Town Alive for a short while, but it was the best experience we’ve ever had at a theme park (and we’re Disney junkies as well). We didn’t get to go on the last day and it’s something I’ll always be sad about, but when we went last weekend, it was still magical. My daughter celebrated her 6th birthday there and everyone went out of their way to make it a special day for her.

    One of my favorite memories is the time when one of the kids (you have him in a picture of the post office, with the “closed” sign hanging off of his head) sat next to me in the school house and pretended to fall asleep on my shoulder. Unfortunately, the teacher caught us before he could wake up.

    I never thought I’d cry over a theme park, but your letter made me a little teary-eyed. Ghost Town Alive may be over, but I look forward to many more visits to Knott’s Berry Farm. Maybe we’ll see you there!

  2. This is wonderful! Also I didn’t realize until just now how multi-faceted this production was. I fell in right away with the Mayfields. Their frantic energy and the fact that they were street inhabitants fell right in with how I am at faire.

    My experience was a lot different than yours. But, from the sounds of it, both produced an amazing summer

  3. Countless yeses to this superb, moving and very touching post and open letter (as well as to your desire to post more about experiences – I’m behind that move 110%!). Thank you much for speaking straight from your heart and sharing such with us here.

    xoxo ♥ Jessica

  4. That sounds amazing. When you posted on Instagram about this, I assumed it was just a show. It is clearly a million times better. Wow. Thanks for writing about it!

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