Does it feel like it’s still a bit early for Halloween, considering we’re not even into October yet? Well, for me the official start of the season comes each year with the launch of Knott’s Berry Farm Halloween Haunt event. Friday, September 24, 2010 kicked off the 38th year that this extravaganza has been going on. When it began in 1973, the Haunt only lasted a couple of days prior to Halloween. But now it features more than a month of festivities.
Knott’s is often credited with starting the phenomenon of transforming theme parks for Halloween. Over the years, Disney and Universal studios, along with countless regional parks have followed suit. But Knott’s is still widely regarded as the gold standard. Back in 1973, the fall season wasn’t very kind to amusement parks. The summer rush was over and kids were back in school. Warm weather parks would encounter a lull between the end of summer and the end of the year when visitors would return for the holidays. But, Knott’s changed all that by introducing the Halloween event.
In 1973, Knott’s put up some decorations and added some costumed characters for Halloween. Today, the park features 13 mazes, hundreds of cast members in professional makeup, and rides that have been redecorated in scary themes. Many of the cast members have worked at the Haunt for decades – each year returning to reprise a beloved (if terrifying) role. Amazingly, Knott’s is said to receive fully one half of its annual revenue thanks to the Haunt.
I went to the opening night festivities, and have a few words of advice if you’re planning on visiting The Haunt this year. Consider signing up for the VIP buffet dinner. The food’s not bad and it grants you early access to the park. Wearing costumes isn’t allowed so that everyone can tell the guests from the cast members. And, the Haunt is not recommended for guests under 13 as the place can get pretty scary. Especially the evil clowns. Brrrrr…. clowns…….