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Celebrating 40 Years of Fun
A collection of Historical Markers with factual information that celebrates the park’s rich 40 year history.
Before you read this, be aware that this blog post is a labor of love. The quest was extensive and time consuming, but I could hardly resist the lure of finding so many cool facts and photos!
In case you haven’t heard, the park has scattered little nuggets of historical images and information around the park like a nostalgic Easter Egg Hunt. Hopefully, I found them all.
If you visit the park this year, take note of the painted color scheme reflects The Old Country Logo. (That did not escape my notice Busch Gardens; nice touch!)
I for one, was pleasantly surprised by the sheer number and quality of the signs. Someone took great care in the construction, documentation, and appearance of the displays. So, to those who worked on this project: I salute you!
The following are my reasons for putting together this blog post:
- Some of you may not be able to visit the park this year. If so, I typed out each of the sign’s descriptions the park listed under each photo. I would have added the little trademark symbol as they do, but I honestly have no idea how to do that on the computer. Just imagine they are there.
- This may help provide a check list of how many there are. Spoiler alert: Some of them are really hard to find. It made for a fabulous form of exercise; so I have no complaints!
- I love anything about park history and honestly, I just want to share it with you all. Therefore, you will occasionally see that I added my own commentary after the descriptions. Such comments will be notated by an asterisk and in bold. *Like this….(fancy isn’t it?)
~ A journey through time via Busch Gardens 40th Anniversary Celebration’s mega-awesome park signage begins.
Tally Ho Adventurers! Your quest awaits!
Busch Gardens, The Old Country
What’s in a name? Busch Gardens has had many through the years. It opened as Busch Gardens, The Old Country; Busch Gardens Williamsburg in 1992; Busch Gardens Europe in 2006; and Busch Gardens in 2008. The original park design featured three villages celebrating the spirit of European villages from which early American settlers came. During the construction, a workman discovered a 200-year old brass and steel saber that was thought to be owned by a French engineer officer of the Revolutionary War period. The Williamsburg theme park was one of three Busch Gardens in the country, including Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. More than 6,000 park guests, led by Governor Mills E. Godwin, Jr. and television personality Ed McMahon, dedicated and officially opened the Old Country on May 16, 1975 after just one year of construction.
The Globe Theatre was the park’s largest structure when it opened in 1975, and it continues to host live shows in the double-sized replica of William Shakespeare’s performance space. Through the years, the theatre has featured a variety of extravaganzas from Mark Wilson’s Worlds Greatest Illusions, America on Ice, Hot Ice, Celebrate America to today’s London Rocks, with puppets, animation, and musical performances from classic British bands. The Bard was a writer for all seasons, and the Globe Theatre showcases many seasonal favorites such as Monster Stomp on Ripper Row, part of Howl-O-Scream and Scrooge No More for Christmas Town. For a time, 4D movies were also shown including Haunts of the Old Country, R.L. Stein’s Haunted Lighthouse and Pirates 4-D.
* I would like to mention two shows; Ghosts of the Globe and Haunts of the Old Country. BGW Memories’ Entertainment Photo Album on Facebook, you may find images of Ghosts of the Globe.
Double-Decker Bus Stop
From the moment guests arrived to Busch Gardens, they were immersed in the European Theme. Guests boarded red, double-decker buses using a special multi-level bus stop to carry them from the parking lots to the main entrance. At the time, Busch Gardens had parking for approximately 3,000 vehicles. Today the park has seven parking lots, including Scotland and Bavaria located across from the park.
* Additional Photos of these buses are found in BGW Memories Facebook Albums “Park Transportation” and “Postcards.”
The sky-high mode of transportation provides guests with a three-minute, 3,000 linear foot tour of the “World’s Most Beautiful Park.” Passengers enjoy views of six European countries while traveling nearly 80 feet in the air. It is the most popular ride in the park, and has given more than 75 million rides since the opening in 1975. All Aboard! Passengers travelling to the following destinations: England (Aeronaut Skyride), Aquitaine (Blimp Debarcadere Skyride) and Rhinefeld (Zeppelin landing Skyride). It is the only ride of its type with a triangular layout.
The Budweiser Clydesdales were first introduced to the public on April 7, 1933, to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition. The first Clydesdale hitch was given by August A. Busch, Jr. as a gift to his father, August Anheuser Busch, Sr. A Budweiser Clydesdale’s qualifications include having an even temperament, gelded, four years of age, eith hands (72 inches, 183 cm) at the withers when fully mature and weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds (820 and 1,040 kg). The Budweiser Clydesdale were and still are a symbol the Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC.
When the park opened in 1975, the bridge in Scotland was called Brittany Bridge leading to the medieval English Hamlet of Hastings on the other side. In the main court area there was a “Guess Your Age and Weight,” and the village featured a Battlements shooting gallery, a penny arcade and Turvey Manor Fun House. In 2001, Busch Gardens introduced Ireland, Replacing Hastings- the first new country to join the park in 20 years.
*Let’s also take a moment to remember the store Wizard Works that had magicians and magical items (Currently it is the store called “Pot O’ Gold.”) The bathrooms next to Wizard Works used to be Rooms of Illusionment and featured two rooms to walk through. One was a body heat reflection and a shadow wall. One could lean up against a wall and a bright light would flash. Moving away from the wall, your shadow was left until it faded and the light would flash again.
Michael Recycle was the featured character in Sid and Marty Krofft’s “Camelot Revue” in the Reynolds Aluminum Theater in 1976. Other shows have included Once Upon a Dragon with 50 puppets and directed by Bill Baird, a 73-year old marionette maestro who is considered the world’s foremost living puppeteer. The original puppet troughs are still located beneath today’s stage. The theater continued its transformation by staging live shows including Kaleidoscope, Hats off to Hollywood, Journey into Music, and Stage Struck. Times changed and Rockin’ the Boat was the last show in 2000 before it was renovated to become the Abbey Stone Theater. When Ireland debuted in 2001, Irish Thunder took the stage and the rest is history.
The Enchanted Laboratory
This unique and enchanting building was once home to Le Catapult for ten years. The art on the walls looked like a howling storm with crashing waves and dark lightening clouds themed after the Battle of Hastings. There were big changes in 1986 when this building housed a new show mixing animatronics, special effects, and live performers called the Enchanted Laboratory of Nostramos the Magnificent, which ran through 2000. Animatronic characters included a wise owl, a dog-like dragon, and a raven. With the introduction of Ireland, Secrets of Castle O’ Sullivan played from 2001 to 2008. Today you can Dine with Elmo and Friends at this theater, enjoy Halloween dining opportunities and Santa’s Fireside Feast during Christmas Town.
*Pelinore was the name of the Owl, Talon was the name of the Dragon-like dog, and the raven was named Elixir. There was also a creature that popped up named “It” at the end. That monster was reused as a prop in the old Haunted Train Ride (No longer running) during Howl-O-Scream. The lighted Gargoyles that were located on theater walls are part of the décor at Howl-O-Scream’s Blood Banquet. I wrote an entire blog about this show located here: https://bgwmemories.com/2013/01/20/the-enchanted-laboratory-a-magical-mystical-show-to-remember/
The simulator building was constructed and debuted in 1990. Riding with a gnome-like character, guests traveled as companions that encountered a variety of obstacles during their mission. Questor combined a fast-paced motion picture adventure, with studio animation, special effects, and flight simulations. In 1996, King Arthur’s Challenge replaced Questor and in 2001 Ireland launched and Corkscrew Hill was introduced.
**Thanks to Frank Forrester for finding this sign beside Grogan’s Pub. The ride was also intrduced at the Busch Gardens Tampa Park and a video was posted to Youtube by weatherguru76 of the entire ride. Located here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTNWeVaY050
A fun and game-filled Renaissance festival greeted visitors in 1975. Theatrical hosts tempted guests to test their skills at a variety of games, and there was even a traveling gypsy show. True to Arthur’s day, fellowship was not forgotten, and the townspeople were always eager to share their good cheer. Jack Hanna’s Wild Reserve opened in 2009, and brought a brand new look to the area. Park guests now have the opportunity to learn and get an up-close look at Grey wolves, eagles and other animals important to conservation and our environment.
*Make sure to notice the “Threadneedle Bridge” sign while in the area. It’s a little Ghost of the past.
Originally known as LaJolie Plume, a bird circus theater, today it is Shenanigans Theatre and hosts the side-splitting More…Pet Shenanigans. This unique and inviting space has always been a home to shows celebrating animals. The many productions featured Feathered Follies in the 1980’s, World of Birds and Wild Wings in the 1990s, Falcons and Fables in 2001 plus many others. Today, more than 40 of our furry friends were adopted from animal shelters and rescue facilities across the country. Now they reside at Busch Gardens where they receive veterinary care, plenty of exercise, and lots of love and affection.
Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center
Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center
When the park originally opened, the eagle-One Monorail transported guests on a 7,150 foot oval track from Busch Gardens to the Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center. Anheuser-Busch opened the Hospitality Center in 1974 to showcase their products. Guests could watch history videos about the company; receive complimentary samples of beer, and tour the brewery.
*The best AC in the park was on the Eagle-One Monorail! It was so refreshing on a hot summer day. Not to mention two free beers! Need I say more?
This 19th century gypsy wagon, known as the Durton reading wagon, once traveled through the picturesque English countryside. The nameplate reveals A. Hooke Lynn as the original owner while the axle bears the inscription of V.R. Mason, Patent, London 1842. Ash is the primary wood component; however the cabinets and bunks are made from pine. There are touches of spruce and lemonwood while the fancy scroll-work is in a bas-relief. The wagon’s meticulous restoration insured matching the original paint, authenticity of hand forged hardware along with cut glass complete with small bubble imperfections and faults.
Three Musketeers Theater
The original Three Musketeers Theater was a 1,000-seat open-air amphitheater where trained animals performed against a mammoths French castle backdrop on a huge stage, separated from the audience by an authentic moat, which remains under the current stage. A fabric-type net tent provided shade. Today it is known as Le Palais Royal or the Royal Palace Theater. There have been several animal shows over the years, along with Circus Europa, Chinese Acrobats of Taiwan, Imaginique, laser shows, ice spectaculars, and popular concert artists. For a brief time, there was even a children’s petting zoo located in the back area.
Over 25 million races were run on LeMans Raceway as one of the original attractions when Busch Gardens opened in 1975. There were 49 recreated antique racing cars that traveled nearly ten million miles in 31 years before the raceway closed in 2006 to make way for the Griffon coaster. The cars, modeled after the 1913 Stutz Bearcat, had molded fiberglass bodies and were built on steel frames in California. Racecars followed of o three 2,000-foot tracks, accumulating a total of nearly 200,000 miles per car. The mileage total for the entire fleet equates to nearly 400 trips around the Earth with a top speed of only 7 mph.
*Did you know that the original design had the cars going the opposite direction? The straightaway was supposed to replicate the race to the finish. Due to the nature of how cars had to stop at the loading area, it was safer to have the ride end on a large curve to aid in slowing the drivers down.
Totem poles and tepees made Eagle’s Nest Village a popular stop for children. Here, a friendly Indian helped organize games amid the kid-powered activities, such as the “Ball Crawl,” the “Cloud Bounce,” and the “Punching Bag Forest.” The children’s interactive play area was located under the LeScoot Log Flume. The supports of the log flume still show remaining remnants of the original Eagle’s Nest theming based on Native American drawings.
*I loved this place as a kid. The ball pit was amazing. Sometimes water would splash from the log flume and we loved to wait for the water to fall on those hot summer days.
LeScoot Log Flume
The LeScoot Log Flume has given nearly 35 million rides since 1975. It recreates the thrills and excitement of a French Canadian logging camp, dipping and turning at tree-top level, ending with a plunge through a sawmill, then a splash into the river below. It was an original attraction when Busch Gardens opened, and featured a totally dark sawmill except for floodlights that shine on what appears to be a seven-foot cycling buzz saw, complete with buzzing sounds. Traveling 60 feet in the air, this dashing ride takes guests through a wild 1,420 foot course, and moves at an average 5 feet per second.
*This ride used to have two hills. The first dip was removed due to debris pooling at the bottom. It was more efficient to keep the one final drop at the end. The water pump is located behind the Alpengeist, next to the maintenance bay. Water from the ride is drained and recycled each day of operation.
Le Catapult has given more than 14 million rides and operated in four different locations, making it the most repurposed ride in the park. The original location in 1975 was inside the building known as Castle O’ Sullivan located in Hastings. The ride was moved and reopened with Festa Italia for the 1987 season when the Enchanted Laboratory of Nostramos the Magnificent was added to Hastings in 1986. It was later moved to Oktoberfest and renamed Der Katapult where Mach Tower currently stands before moving to its present location in New France.
Canadian Folk Palladium
The Palladium has hosted many hit shows since opening with the park in 1975. It is commonly called the Canadian Palladium and has offered bluegrass, country, and dancing performances. At various intervals, the Palladium featured gospel and clogging shows. The Busch Street Boys were featured in 1994, and in 1988 American Jukebox performed at this theater in various forms. Monster Stomp was a new show that debuted for the 2002 Howl-O-Scream season. It was quickly a fan favorite, and provided groundwork for Monster Stomp on Ripper Row which debuted in the Globe Theatre in 2014.
The German heritage of the Busch family is reflected in Rhinefeld Village. It was the original performance space of the park’s first German-themed show played on a bandstand near the gazebo. The 19th century-style Wilkommenhaus is a true replica of a German town hall, and was a hub for good food, drink, and friendly people. The Busch Memorial Fountain was built in 1914 and originally stood in St. Louis for many years. It was commissioned by Lily Busch as a tribute to her late husband, Adolphus Busch 1839-1913, founder of Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC.
*Sadly, I could not locate a sign for the lovely glockenspiel. The clock was repaired and functioning opening day which was a very joyous surprise! If you wish to see a version of this lovely style clock located in Munich, here you go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rathaus-Glockenspiel
Originally a petting zoo, kids visited and fed baby animals in the nearby forest while adults enjoyed libations at Rhinefeld. It was transformed into Grimm’s Hollow, a fantasy world of children’s rides and experiences for the 1979 season. Rides such as the Lady Bug catered to Children’s whims, while a puppeteer played to their imagination with a Punch and Judy show. A Captain Kangaroo show took place on stage for a short time. In 1994, Land of the Dragons replaced Grimm’s Hollow. The original sign has been repurposed for Chug-a-Tug and Bug-a-Dug.
* Grimm’s Hollow also had a fun sand pit area with a play Gingerbread House and rocking horses. There was a boat ride (still in operation at Land of the Dragons) and a circular buggy and motorcycle ride as well.
Park visitors have enjoyed more than 16 million rides on this historic merry-go-round. Allen Herschell, a pioneer of the mobile carousel, built this unit in 1919 in Tonawanda, New York. For more than 50 years, it traveled throughout the United States before being abandoned. In 1973, Busch Gardens located the dismantled carousel in a Dallas, Texas auction barn. Under the direction of the builder’s grandson, fourteen craftsmen spent six months restoring it to its original condition. All side panels, ponies, castings, and brass rails are either original fittings or genuine Herschell replacement parts.
*Technically, this is the oldest ride in the park.
Das Katzchen is German for “The Kitten.” The roller coaster was introduced to Oktoberfest expansion in 1976 and operated through 1984. Built by the Allen Herschell Company, (the creator of the Busch Gardens Carousel), the coaster was a single train with three cars. Riders were arranged two across in two rows for a total of 12 riders. Some of Das Katzchen’s supports were extended to accommodate its hillside location. Nearby, there are still hints of the footings from the original Oktoberfest Bridge, but you have to look carefully since the bridge has since been removed.
The park soared above its expected attendance in the 1975 operating season, so Oktoberfest, a new section of the German village, was added in 1976. This grand hamlet included a 2,000-seat Munich-like festival hall (where food, drink, and oompah music still abound), several new rides and roller coasters, restaurants, and additional restrooms. Oktoberfest continues to capture the excitement of Munich’s famous street festival. It was the first expansion to the original park layout and originally included Oktoberfest Bridge, since removed.
The Glissade was a wild ride just like those found on the grounds of Munich’s Oktoberfest. This German-built bobsled-like coaster was referred to as the best thrill ride of its size and kind in the world. Cars raced over the 2,00-foot course in 30 seconds, reaching speeds of 60 mph. The Glissade stood where Curse of Darkastle operates today, and still gives rides in Guadalajara, Mexico. It was one of the park’s original attractions in 1975.
Wild Izzy, a steel wild mouse coaster was named after the 1996 Summer Olympic Games mascot. Busch Gardens was a proud sponsor of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games that were played in Atlanta, Ga. Renamed Wild Maus in 1997 and removed at the end of the 2003 season, it was then relocated to Busch Gardens Tampa and renamed Cheetah Chase. In 2005, Curse of Darkastle opened where Wild Maus once stood.
Das Festhaus, a Munich-like dining hall, opened in 1976 as part of the 1976 Oktoberfest Village expansion. At the time, it was thought to be the world’s largest dining hall seating more than 2,000 dinners. Today, it is Busch Gardens largest structure. Over the years, it has hosted a variety of live shows including This is Oktoberfest, Polkamania, and this year’s new show Roll Out the Barrel. Guests can still be overheard talking about a time they dined on a park favorite, the delicious Black Forest Cake. The Festhaus cookbook calls it a Bavarian Torte, Bayrische Torte in German. Look Closely- the stained glass windows on the front of Das Festhaus celebrate the park’s original countries, including Hastings.
*Shockingly, there is not a sign that discusses the famous stage that once stood inside the Festhaus which featured a unique rotating and lifting platform for the band. The dancers would then perform underneath the band. In addition, a 40th Anniversary sign in honor of Bob Bauman, the Burgermeister that hosted the shows in the Festhaus and served as a major icon for over 25 years should be considered. Bob retired in 2002 at the age of 87. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 93. An article with this information is found here: http://articles.dailypress.com/2009-11-10/news/0911090122_1_busch-gardens-lieutenant-colonel-mr-bauman
*A photo from the Virginia Gazette:
Drachen is the German spelling of Dragon and the looping roller coaster, located in Oktoberfest, opened in 1992. Special lighting illuminated the sides of the coaster car in red. When Drachen Fire was completed, it has six inversions; a wraparound corkscrew midway on the first hill, two Cobra Rolls (referred to by Arrow Dynamics as a “Batwing”) and a cutback between the corkscrews. Two counter-clockwise corkscrews completed the count. The ride’s loading station is currently being used for Howl-O-Scream.
Die Wildkatze, a Schwartzkopf Wildcat steel coaster, debuted in Oktoberfest as part of the 1976 expansion. The ride featured single-car trains with riders sitting two across and became a park favorite. Removed at the end of the 1983 season to make room for the Big Bad Wolf, it still operates at a park in Maryland.
The Big Bad Wolf
The Big Bad Wolf opened in 1984, and provided over 29 million riders the thrill of traveling at the speed of fright. The coaster’s debut, originally scheduled for April, was delayed until June so that trim brakes could be added on the after the second lift hill because the trains were travelling faster than expected. The “howl” heard on the first lift of the Big Bad Wolf was added in 1985, and in 1992 Bavarian buildings were added in the Wolf’s village. The ride closed in 2009, but some of the footers, queues, and part of the station were left standing and have been repurposed for Verbolten.
* My friend the Big Bad Wolf, how I miss you. I wrote two stories about the Wolf. Feel free to check them out should you wish to read my thoughts about my favorite ride of all time.
Loch Ness Monster
The Loch Ness Monster is a myth and a legend, but at Busch Gardens it is real, at least as a roller coaster. More than 53 million rides have been given since its 1978 debut. The Loch Ness Monster was the first double-looping coaster in the world when it opened and is the only one to this day. For the coaster’s 15th anniversary, 20 Elvis impersonators, from the popular movie, The Flying Elvi, parachuted into the park and rode the Loch Ness Monster. It was a day fit for a king. Stretching over six acres, the double-looping steel Arrow Dynamics roller coaster was designed by renowned International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Hall of Fame member Ronald Toomer. The Loch Ness Monster was added in 1978 and was the first roller coaster to feature interlocking loops. The American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) organization was founded at this coaster. History was made in 2003, when ACE designated the Loch Ness Monster as a historically significant ACE Coaster Landmark.
*For the 20th anniversary, the park added growling sounds, strobe lighting, and a face of the Loch Ness that flashed right before you as you exited the cave; conveniently timed to misters that went off right at that exact moment. Those special effects have since been removed.
Busch Gardens Railway
All aboard! More than 58 million park visitors have been boarding and enjoying the train ride at Busch Gardens since 1975. One of the park’s original attractions, the railway line was designed with two trestles, offering spectacular views. The first custom built trains were Balmoral Castle, and English-style locomotive, and Der Hochbeinige, a Prussian-style locomotive. The original locomotive loop was nearly 2 ½ miles with two stations and trains traveled an average of 10 mph. The Alpen Express was added in 1997, and the train was outfitted with a snowplow and alpine style paint on the caboose as it debuted in conjunction with the park’s Alpengeist roller coaster. Originally built in 1972 for Lakeside Park in Salem, VA it is an American style locomotive with a matching four-coach train and caboose.
Royal Preserve Petting Zoo
*Thanks to Frank Forrester for locating and sending the image of this sign. It is located near Sesame Street’s Forrest of Fun. I am unable to read the description and I will make sure to get a close-up the next time I visit the park to fill in the details. However, I will give you the information I know. The Petting Zoo was located where Forrest of Fun is located today. It was wooded and housed various animals like Black Bear cubs, llamas, goats, chickens, a pot belly pig, a Condor, Parrots, and various other critters. Children were able to touch and interact with some of the animals and even feed them. There were these little pellet dispensers and for a quarter you feed the chickens and goats. (Side note, those machines were also located on Grimm’s Landing Bridge, where you could feed the ducks and turtles that lived in the Rhine River at the time). Here is one of my memories at the petting zoo:
Since 1990, Busch Gardens has been consistently voted the “World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park” by the National Amusement Park Historical Association. When original built in 1975, care was taken to preserve the mature landscaping and natural terrain of the parl. Some of the trees on site are over 400 years old. To this day, the park carefully stays true to its European style theme and landscaping. Grooming, watering, and replacing plants takes place daily prior to opening. There are more than 250 flowerbeds, 150 hanging baskets, and 1,000 planters throughout the park.
Festa Italia was added in 1987, adjacent to the Italian village of San Marco. Themed around the fair celebrating Marco Polo’s return to Italy from his famous visit to China, it contains many of the park’s midway games, all with a fun and festive theme. The big attraction was the Gladiator’s Gauntlet, along with five additional rides all housed in open air-pavilions and each depicting a country visited by Marco Polo. The expansion also included Festa Station, the third stop on Busch Gardens Railways.
Gladiator’s Gauntlet, a non-inverting Vekoma Canyon Trip attraction, was a 46-foot-tall contemporary thrill ride with a two part boat shaped vessel, which hung on two massive rotating cranks. As the ride began, the boat separated into two parts and the passengers slid back and forth. When the rotation started the boat began to move up and down as the ride swung high in the air.
The Sea Dragon was a Mack Sea Storm ride, featuring a center water fountain. It was removed in 1998 to make way for Apollo’s Chariot. The original metallic Sea Dragon pavilion is still overhead, serving as the roller coasters queue house. The ride had boat-shaped cars with red sails. Based on the ride’s movement, guest could end up forward, backwards, and feel the sensation of an exciting swing.
* This ride was extremely fun for its small size. There was also a feature that allowed the boats to turn horizontally to face the fountain. Sometimes the boats would turn in a way that had you facing the other riders. It was always fun to wave to them before the boats turned again. From someone who worked the controls, I was told these turns were initiated by the ride operator at their command.
Introduced in 1980, Italy was the first new country added to Busch Gardens expanding the park’s footprint and offering guests another taste of the European experience. Known as San Marco, it is a recreation of a 17th century Italian hillside village and covers nine acres. It completed the outer circle walkway around Busch Gardens. Included in Italy is Leonardo’s Garden of Invention which pays tribute to the genius of the 15th century artist and inventor Leonardo de Vinci.
*The Battering Ram, Balloons, and the Flying Machine all opened together. The Gliders and Da Vinci’s Cradle were added later. The Balloons were originally located where Da Vinci’s Cradle is now.
Rhine River Cruise
An original attraction when the park first opened, the cruise line has given more than 15 million rides. As cruise boats wind through the 65-acre man-made river, riders enjoy a tranquil and relaxing experience. The original seven boats were modeled after the early Rhine passenger steamers and had large nonfunctional side wheels. Today, the park has three boats. The photo from 1974 shows the trestle before the river was filled.
*Nothing to add but just to say that this picture is amazing. It is hard to imagine a time where there was no “Rhine River.” Of course it is hard to imagine a time without Busch Gardens as well. Thank goodness I was born right after the park opened!
Forty years ago, this section of the park was a picnic area, a ticket center for concerts and a popular place to get mouth-watering barbeque at Three Rivers Smokehouse and a beef brisket sandwich at Mackinak Café. The barbeque baby back ribs, chicken, and brisket became so popular; the park opened a new 650-seat smokehouse restaurant in 2003. Trappers Smokehouse now features a mesquite-fired show grill, three rustic-themed dining areas and an unprecedented theme park menu selection. Signature items like grilled salmon, smoked turkey, grilled vegetables, mouth-watering deserts, and fried pickles are just a few fan favorites. Here is a tasty fun fact: Trappers served over 70,000 pounds of brisket last year!
Did you know there is a 40th sign located next to the administration building behind the scenes? The wording is the same as the first sign you encounter entering the park and features the original 1975 park map instead. I find this a beautiful way for park administrators and team members to reflect on the long standing history of Busch Gardens Williamsburg and how they are now part of park history. Thank you to all who have worked there in the past and those there today. Your hard work and efforts to provide Virginia with the World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park is greatly appreciated!
Well, I hope you enjoyed a look through memory lane. Please feel free to share your memories and photos here at BGW Memories. Together, we all put pieces of a very large theme park puzzle that is enjoyed by generations of enthusiasts just like you.
~Celebrating 40 Years of Fun~
Busch Gardens 40th Anniversary Approaches!
Spring is almost here and so is the opening of Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The park opened May 16, 1975 to a huge crowd. This year will be no different.
With a new coaster premier, more additions to the Food & Wine Festival, and a new show in the Festhaus, there will be plenty to draw people of all ages back for another year of fun.
In honor of providing us with 40 years of traditions and wonderful memories, I would like to post an amazing find that Gary Terrell has shared on the BGW Memories Facebook Page. It is a preview brochure that advertises Busch Gardens in 1974 and features some stunning conceptual art.
This year I look forward to seeing the park evolve and also seeing it reflect on the past history. 40 Years is certainly something to celebrate!
Without further ado~ The brochure.
Remembering Bill Wiley
“Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share the keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future.” ~Mattie Stepanek
It is pretty obvious I am a very sentimental person. I see life as a series of events that shape who we are and how we respond to the world around us. Someone once asked me in a job interview, “How do you see yourself?” It was a good question and one I had thought about before.
I told her that “I see myself as thousands of puzzle pieces glued together by people who have influenced my life in both a positive and negative way. My interests, my personality, hopes, dreams, morals; all of which stem from those moments in my life that someone said or did something that shaped my view of the world around me.”
I have always been very aware of connections that tie us all together. Sometimes they are recognized immediately, but most of them go unnoticed until much later. It is with great pleasure that I share this story with all of you.
When I started BGW Memories, people were frequently asking if I had any photos of the Brewery Tour. After searching for months, not one single picture surfaced. Then when I least expected it, I got a message from William “Bill” Wiley. He mentioned was that he once worked at the Anheuser Busch Hospitality Center. With that little note, he attached three photos. One was of the elusive Hospitality Center; another was the Eagle One monorail. My favorite was the picture of him proudly standing in front of a recruitment table.
I was electrified with joy! Not only did this serve to spark my own memories but I knew that it would be appreciated by hundreds of other BGW enthusiasts.
In January, I received an email for Bill’s daughter Nancy. She explained that her father had passed away and wanted me to know how much he loved BGW Memories. I started crying as soon as I read those words. I felt such a loss.
Chances are, I personally met Bill at some point. My mind began wrapping around the connection. I never knew that the man behind the smile at the Hospitality Center would later send me such a treasure trove of history. Even though I cannot recall the sound of Bill’s voice or conversations at the park we may have shared, knowing we both had the chance to reconnect is a miracle.
We go through our lives never knowing all the ways we affect others. Bill Wiley taught me that what we do, no matter how small, matters. In turn, I will never see the photos of the Brewery Tour again without thinking about Bill and his enthusiasm and kindness.
Thank you for sharing your memories with us Bill. Also to Nancy: Thank you for telling me how much your father enjoyed reading BGW Memories and how proud he was to be a part of Busch Gardens history. We will forever be connected and for that, I am sincerely grateful.
Please honor Bill by reading about his life. William “Bill” Wiley’s Obituary is found here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/DailyPress/obituary.aspx?n=William-Roy-Wiley&pid=168882269
“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
― John Steinbeck
For those wanting to know more about the Brewery Tour: a regular contributor to BGW Memories, Christopher Shwartz sent me links to the entire Brewery Tour captured on film. The You Tube videos were posted by “SCIONIZER.” Thanks to you both for this precious documentation of park history!
A Look back at 2013: The Year of Friends
Another year has come and gone and I find myself staring in to the abyss of two long months without Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The cold dark winter sky looms over me as a coaster-less depression rolls in. Yet amidst the gloom and leafless trees, I reflect upon 2013 with fondness. I will declare 2013 as another new chapter in my experiences at Busch Gardens. Through the broad reaches of the internet, I will call it: The Year of Friends.
Before social media came around, it was a lonely road roaming around the park. A good analogy of this isolation would be as if I only person who showed up to a sci-fi convention in costume. No matter how many times I went with friends in years past, no one shared my level of enthusiasm. That is, until now.
Starting a community fan page was something I had wanted to do for quite some time and thank goodness I took the plunge! This year I connected with a family of enthusiasts that made me feel at home. At last, I could be myself and no one would think odd of me. It was refreshing and glorious!
The first event in 2013 was Pass Member Preview Day. It was a cold wet March morning, yet I was honored that so many fans gathered into a huddle to start the day off right.
For those who have never been to Pass Member Preview, it is scheduled the day before the park opens to the general public and usually features presentations scattered in various locations. The presentations are designed to inform season pass members of what to expect for the new operating season; call it a teaser trailer.
This past year’s preview consisted of promoting the new Food & Wine Festival; something I could barely contain my excitement about. When the event arrived, I was not disappointed!
I instantly feel in love with the event, the food, and the atmosphere. The Food & Wine festival was almost like a special gift given to the loyal guests of the park. I would even say it was a very successful enticement for many locals to come out to enjoy the spring weather by tasting European themed dishes and to pair them with various wines and beers. Hello? Awesome!
As a local and an avid park goer, this event was my favorite all year. I felt a constant draw to the park just to enjoy the simple pleasures of food, wine, and the company of dear friends. It almost brings to mind the TV show cheers, where everybody knows your name; where the bar is Grogan’s Pub and the entertainment was Celtic Fyre and the Killarney Village Band.
My friends and I also acquired a new favorite place to congregate during the event; Aquitaine, France! Before the Food & Wine Festival, the hamlet of Aquitaine consisted of a brief stop for a ride on Griffon. Yet with the wonderful addition of the Aquitaine Village band, a lovely reinvention of Le Belle Maison shop with the best wine expert in the area, and the charming French Waiters, my friends and I found a new home! So many hours were spent enjoying wine, singing Oh la la with the band and taking in the scenery of twisting vines while the enticing smell of crepes and coffee lingered in the air. Oh la la indeed!
I felt that the Old Country had returned from these small touches of unique experiences. Our group felt full of anticipation for each day that we would all converge upon our favorite table to discuss life and Busch Gardens.
I would also like to mention my other favorite addition during the Food & Wine Festival: the Wine on the Rhine cruise. The price of the cruise was extremely affordable and included a sophisticated snack of cheeses, chocolates, and a wine of your choice. A charming band serenaded your journey. It is romantic and a relaxing way to your evening with friends or that special someone.
With the new event, let us not forget a coaster legend reached another milestone in 2013. The Loch Ness Monster, celebrated its official 35th anniversary. I planned a mini gathering of fans and even had a poster made for Nessie’s birthday to honor the old girl.
That anniversary morning, the “usual suspects” as I call us, ran into the gates to be the first to ride Nessie that morning. The park had also decided to celebrate this moment by offering the first 100 people an anniversary tee shirt as well as a chance to be recorded on the celebratory 1st ride of the day. I was so extremely honored that my best friend and I made it to the front seat! Trust me, we ran hard to earn that spot!
Looking at that photos taken that day, it is easy to see the love and appreciation for Nessie. May she live long and remain forever in our hearts!
I would like to randomly insert another favorite memory of 2013; one of my favorite performers took the time to come take a photo with me in his Big Bad Wolf costume. Anyone who has read my blogs knows my love the classic coaster that once traveled at the “speed of fright” but also for the singer that played the part in the show Entwined. It remains one of my favorite pictures of the season!
During the summer, I took several behind-the-scenes tours that I highly recommend. Attending the Bird of Prey Tour, The Ultimate Insider Tour, and the Coaster Tour with fellow park enthusiasts was well worth my time and money. Our tour guides were fantastic and the memories that were made will last forever. I have written reviews of all the tours on my Blog and please read them at your leisure!
The regular season still held more adventures! My friends and I were able to catch the last show of “This is Oktoberfest.” For me, the show is a true representation of the Old Country era of traditional German Festhaus music. My favorite memory was being selected to dance the Polka one last time with one of my favorite performers; again- another one for the memory books! It was a touching and fitting way to say goodbye to a show I loved so much for the 2013 season.
Not only did our band of park enthusiast brother’s and sisters enjoy the last of “This is Oktoberfest” and “Entwined”, but we also gathered to enjoy the final performance of Celtic Fyre. We had so much fun and the cast was so touch by the showing of love and support from their fans. Many of the 2013 cast has moved onto new ventures but their place in our hearts will never be forgotten.
Thanks for the memories to all who made the regular season shows full of joy and magic! Best of luck to all of you who are returning and those moving on. Our love and wishes go out to you all.
Before the end of the summer, another Pass Member special announcement was made in the Festhaus. The family of avid fans made their way to be the first to hear what we can look forward to for HOS and for 2014. We learned about the new format of Howl-O-Scream (HOS) and got to see special look at the new show set to be in the Globe Theater in 2014 called “London Rocks.”
After the presentation, the performers came out in a vintage double-decker bus to have a meet-and-greet with the fans. Obviously, this was my favorite part.
The last event I attended in the summer was Wild Days. A ticketed event of either a breakfast or lunch will include meeting Jack Hanna and a close encounter with exotic animals. I have never missed this event and plan to continue the tradition every year!
After the summer, Howl-O-Scream seemed to arrive overnight. Truth be told, I loved the new Terror-tory Concept and the more adult themed atmosphere. Entertainment was key in 2013 with classic shows, bars, and a new location worthy of a special note.
My absolute favorite was Blood Banquet! The concept of a “dinner theater” has been something I have wished for! Luckily, it far exceeded my expectations!
In fact, my friends and I became regular attendees. I adored the cast and their enthusiastic portrayal of an eccentric band of vampires, gypsies, and glamorous beauties. The food was the best in the park and I pray that next year the concept continues to expand with our lovely cast of characters.
Of course the shows Fiends and Night Beats were our other favorite haunts. Our group tended to enjoy the warmer indoor aspect of the shows and the quirky arrangement of tunes catered to fabulous vocal talents.
OK, I have to mention the highlight of my Howl-O-Scream entertainment experience. I was called up to have none other than Night Beats lead star, the vampire host with the most, Ulrich himself! I totally made me swoon with delight! For the record, he is an enchanting vocalist. Wow.
* I wrote two Blog Articles about Howl-O-Scream this year if you wish to see more of the event in greater detail!
After Howl-O-Scream ended, Christmas Town began. As always, friends gathered for the opening day without disappointment. The weather was perfect and the park looked lovely as always. Our first destination was to see the very first show of Gloria! Two words; BLOWN AWAY!
We all were in quiet awe before erupting in a standing ovation. The power of the vocals brought chills and even caused me to shed a few tears.
Aquitaine France had a new look for Christmas Town, and for the better. My favorite addition was the roaming performers, The “Royals of Aquitaine.” Her Majesty Queen Florette, His Majesty King Francois,, and the lovable Jester Harlequin with his sidekick Jester junior, brought smiles to everyone! This kind of entertainment sets Busch Gardens apart from the competition and never fails to create fond memories for guest. Bravo to the trio! They were certainly the crowd favorite this year!
Moving on from France, the show Deck the Halls in Oktoberfest has always been another fan favorite. So much so, the the park had to close the Festhaus frequently as it would continually reach capacity. The talent is always top notch!
Christmas Town is also more than entertainment, shopping, and lights. I would like to mention that an outside the Festhaus a delicious all-you-can-eat buffet was open on occasion. Tucked away; I found it a very affordable hidden gem. My only complaint was that I wished it had been open every night as I would have gone everyday. The food was so good and I even met a few new friends while waiting in line. Oh, and there was ham. Glorious Glazed Ham!
From Germany and continuing into the San Marco Theater of Italy, the show Miracles was performing with the usual flair of inspirational music and talent. My favorite is always the vocal solos, the ballet dancer, and the finale! One can never leave without feeling that Christmas is more than gifts; it is about love and togetherness.
Speaking of togetherness, a friend of mine decided to embrace the Christmas season of giving to a family who normally could not have enjoyed Christmas Town.
On behalf of the anonymous donor and representing BGWFans and BGW Memories, I was there to welcome them to the park and see them off with the blessing bestowed upon them off with a package of VIP parking, park admission, quick queue passes, photos with Santa, complete meal packages, a cashless wristband with pre-paid spending money for additional gift purchases as well!
They were a military family whose father was stationed overseas during the holidays. It was an honor to witness such an act of generosity. I was told they had a wonderful time and were very grateful. For me, that is the spirit of giving!
As for my holidays, I spent Christmas Eve with my dearest of friends at Christmas Town. The day was absolute perfection.
I was also at Christmas Town on New Years Eve. My college buddy, who came all the way from San Diego to spend the day with me and my close friends at Busch Gardens, was a delightful way to say goodbye to 2013.
Of course it was sad to see the season come to an end. I will miss my Busch Gardens family of friends but look forward to being reunited in 2014.
Perhaps I may run into you in the park as well. Please introduce yourself and feel free to share your favorite moments and memories with me! I would love the chance of making a new friend.
Best wishes for a Happy New Year and a fun filled adventure at Busch Gardens in 2014!
>>> A Special Thanks to all those who worked Christmas Town and spent their Holidays providing families with beautiful memories! It is hard work to keep up a smile during cold weather and provide great service and perfect performances every night! Thanks for the memories and being such wonderful, beautiful people. Happy New Year to you all!
Snow at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
When I was very little, I used to dream about what Busch Gardens Williamsburg looked like in the snow. Most kids would peer out their window and watch the falling fluffy flakes; thinking about snowball fights or building a snowman. Not me. I would try to imagine what the Loch Ness Monster Roller Coaster all covered with snow and ice; sparkling in the winter sky.
What happened in the park when it snowed? Did anyone get to walk around and experience the acoustic nothingness that only comes when snow falls? Did the Rhine River Freeze? All these questions plagued me back when there were no social networks updating fans with a constant stream of photos or Blog posts. Heck, you couldn’t even e-mail the park for a quick answer! You had to send in a handwritten letter; yeah, remember those folks? The paper and pen kind? Oh, how times have changed!
Still, a few decades later, my ultimate winter questions were answered. It only took two miraculous things to happen; Busch Gardens opened their doors throughout December with an event called Christmas Town and Virginia was hit with one of the largest snowstorms in decades. Of course the bad news was that in order to safely open the park, the employees had the arduous task of clearing over a foot of snow on all the pathways, bridges, steps, railroad trestles, and more.
Most of us get tired after cleaning off our cars and shoveling the driveway. Imagine doing that over 350 acres! The dedication of everyone involved in the clearing process allowed the park to reopen three days later. Knowing this, I had my camera charged up and ready to go with heartfelt appreciation. This was a real snowfall and the park had to be spectacular!
I got there as soon as the park opened; set out for the sole purpose of gathering the ultimate Busch Gardens winter photo showcase. I was not disappointed; icicles dangled from the roof tops like prisms, snow blanketed every inch of the landscape, the Rhine River was frozen solid, and the frosty air made Christmas Town at Busch Gardens reminiscent of a winter themed lithograph by Currier and Ives.
Being at the park after a snowfall was just as I imagined in my youth; it was magical. Perhaps Santa was finally answering some of my Christmas wishes on those old “handwritten” childhood letters after all. However, I am still waiting for my own personal roller coaster. Santa, I hope you are listening.
For more Winter Wonderland Christmas Town snow pictures, please visit BGW Memories on Facebook for the complete photo album.
Feel free to submit your own Busch Gardens in the snow photos to keep the album growing!
Don’t forget about the Tram
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome aboard. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Williamsburg Virginia home of Anheuser Busch, and Busch Gardens, The Old Country. Please remain seated, keeping head and arms inside the tram at all times. For your own safety and comfort, please, no smoking eating or drinking while on board. Please note you are parked in the Scotland Parking Lot. Our park will be open until 10 PM this evening. Your single priced passport covers all rides, shows and attractions for the entire day. Tickets are $12.50 per person, while children two years of age and under are admitted free. There will be a slight additional charge for games and for concert entertainment.
As you tour our park today, you may notice several height restrictions for many of our rides. For example, if your child is 46 inches tall or taller, he may be able to ride the Glissade, Wildcat, or Wave Swinger. He must be 48 inches tall to ride the Loch Ness Monster. Other such height restrictions will be posted at the rides. Your cooperation in helping us to enforce these safety regulations will be greatly appreciated. If you brought a picnic lunch, we have picnic areas available in most of our parking lots. Picnic lunches, along with radios and coolers, are not permitted inside the park. We also ask that you help us keep our park clean by using the trash receptacles located throughout the park and parking lots.
As we approach the Tram Stop, please remain seated until the tram comes to a complete stop. At that time, parents please take small children by the hand, and exit carefully on the right side of the tram. Trams will depart from this location throughout the day to return you to the Scotland Parking Lot. Please watch your head and your step, and have a great day at The Old Country.
Sound familiar? If the answer is yes, then you must have visited Busch Gardens when it was still called The Old Country. This particular spiel, or a voluble line of extravagant talk, was recited thousands of times during the summer of 1982. Reading this spiel today is like opening a time capsule.
Of course Anheuser Busch no longer owns or operates Busch Gardens Williamsburg, tickets are certainly NOT $12.50, and concerts no longer require an additional fee. But you know what? The core of the message has remained the same: Welcome, Safety, Conservation, and Fun!
Whether it is your first-time visit to the park or the 60th, the tram ride sets the tone for the entire day. The number of times I have been on a Busch Gardens tram in the course of three decades is mind-numbing. Amazing thing is; I cannot recall a single ride that wasn’t pleasant.
I know, I know. There are no big drops and I doubt the tram could even reach 50mph. In jest, I could probably beat it to the finish line on foot. (If I were in better shape and perhaps if my name was Usain Bolt.)
Still… who cares about thrills when you are looking for a dependable, relaxing, and peaceful transport to and from the park? Any weary traveler will tell you that the approaching tram is a welcome sight when heading back to their car; especially if the traveler is also toting children, cotton candy, ice cream cones; a camera, several water bottles, and a giant stuffed Gorilla that has been hoisted overhead for hours after winning it at the ring toss.
It is in moments like that that I really appreciate the tram. In addition, I also respect how the tram operators never fail to greet everyone warmly. It takes a special kind of person to maintain a hospitable presentation for each group of riders no matter how bad the weather is outside. I’m sure it isn’t easy to get people on board smiling when it is freezing or entice them to laugh on a sweltering day.
Speaking of weather and in the spirit of humor, I have provided some southern weather-based colloquialisms* to analyze how much the tram actually improves our experience at Busch Gardens.
On those scorching summer days when it is hotter than a hen laying up hill in a wool basket, does the tram feel like a camel ushering us to the oasis? Yes. If the rain done come a “gullywusher,” does the tram provide us safe passage back to our cars? Yes. And even if it is colder than moonlight on a tombstone in December, can it be said that the tram swiftly carries us all to our destinations; much like Santa’s Sleigh? Of course.
For all of those reasons, I believe that the unofficial motto used by the US Postal Service should also reflect on the duty of maintaining and operating the trams at Busch Gardens.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from their swift completion of their appointed rounds.
In 1982, the tram operators would always conclude your ride with:
“We hope you have enjoyed your visit with us today, and invite you to return soon. ……Please watch your step as you exit and have a pleasant evening from Busch Gardens The Old Country.”
Needless to say, I enjoyed my trip then, today, and I will be returning to the park many times in the future. To all those wonderful people that make our little tram ride to and from the park so enjoyable: Bravo!
There is a great video to watch regarding the trams and it can be seen here:
Joe’s Job: tram operator at Busch Gardens Tram Operators work the 10-10 shifts all summer to drive visitors to Busch Gardens from their cars into the park.
*southern weather-based colloquialisms found on this page have been passed down to me by my grandmother..
She, bless her heart, always recited the most charming of Appalachian gems. Here are some of my favorites : I’m as full as a tick. Jumpy as a cat in a roomful of rockers. Pretty as a speckled pup. It’s hotter than the devil. Happier than a cow in clover. Skinny as a rail. He wouldn’t know the truth if it looked him in the face.
On a side-side note: For years I thought “Si-goggle,” or Appalachian slang for crooked, was an actual word until I was scolded by my first grade teacher for making up nonsense. Why, I reckon she done think me dumber than a coal bucket! Guess I was never one for book learnin’ y’all.