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Battle for Eire: Looking Ahead
News about Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s newest attraction, Battle for Eire, has been buzzing around social media for months. Scheduled to open April of 2018, the ride will feature a state-of-the-art VR experience that utilizes custom visual software and a musical score that will wow the crowds.
I had the honor of attending the media day/ Hard Hat Tour and was given access to interesting and new details about the ride. Suzy Cheely, the Director of Design and Engineering at Seaworld Parks & Entertainment, Jason Ambler, Executive Producer & Director of Production at Falcon’s Creative Group, and Larry Giles, the VP of Engineering at Busch Gardens Williamsburg were all on hand to discuss and answer questions.
What to expect:
Battle for Eire will be located in the Ireland section of the park and will be replacing the Europe in the Air simulator ride. It is a one-of-a-kind Virtual Reality attraction that will allow guests a unique visual experience each and every time.
What does that mean exactly?
Each headset, unlike other simulator rides found outside Busch Parks, has been programed with a separate mini computer which enables 4K resolution and 90 frames per second. In addition, this new technology provides each rider a unique visual adventure. Based on the individual’s head movements, the software will trigger specific animations for each rider. Someone could ride numerous times and still not see all the programmed animation.
Personally, that fact alone has me really excited. For a theme park enthusiast like myself, nothing like a good Easter Egg* hunt! (I was told there were a few, so let the hunt begin!)
The actual story behind Battle for Eire is original but will have strong ties to Celtic Mythology. It centers around a main character named Addie, short for Aednat (meaning Small Flame in Gaelic). She is a fierce female Fairy warrior trying to save the heart (or magic) of Ireland. In order to do so, she must recruit the help of guests entering the ride. It will be up to the riders to assist her in bringing magic back to Ireland.
Addie is accompanied by her Dragon Ollie, who will be carrying guests on their simulated adventure. Ollie, short for Ollipeist (meaning “Fabulous Beast” in Gaelic), is based on the mythological dragon that legend has it, inhabits a lake in Ireland. Addie uses her friend Ollie to travel through Eire in hopes to beat Balor and his minions, the Sluagh.
Balor, the antagonist of this adventure is based on a Celtic supernatural being that has been referenced in legend as a personification of drought and blight. He is also a Cyclops that creates destruction whenever his eye opens.
The minions of Balor, the Sluagh, also have a connection to Celtic mythology. In myth, they are flocks of restless spirits that are troublesome and destructive.
Being that both Balor and the Sluagh are featured in this ride, it’s a safe bet that these creatures will certainly be a fearsome adversary on the quest to save the magic of Eire.
Larry Giles, VP of Engineering, hinted that each rider may choose to aid in saving the magic of Eire or not. I am intrigued by that ambiguous statement and wonder how that plays into the VR experience. I guess that will be a wait and see kind of answer.
So….what about the technical aspects of the ride itself?
Here are some facts and figures that may help answer your questions:
- Height requirement of 42”
- 7.1 mix audio and Stereo 4K sound
- VR headsets will all have their own computer to generate a personal experience with 4K resolution with 90 frames per second. (Seamless graphics at all times)
- 59 seats in each unit. There are two separate units for passengers.
- Total ride experience from pre show, loading, and ride itself is approx 15 min.
- Ride video will be projected on-screen for those not wanting to use the VR Headsets (in case riders are prone to motion sickness)
- VR Glasses (or Enchanted Lens as they are called in the ride) are separate from the Headsets (or Emerald Masks).
- There are 10,000 Emerald masks that feature a magnetic locking device for your VR
- Each Emerald Mask is returned at the end and sanitized completely. The actual VR headset never touches your face and can also accommodate guests wearing glasses.
- Uses existing unit has 6 actuators (Internal Hydraulic System) with 2000 psi. Similar systems are used at NASA for flight simulation.
- Voice talent hired from Dublin
- Original musical score from Irish Composer Colin O’Malley and features a full orchestra, choir, and soloists.
During the tour, I was able to go under the ride to view the mechanics and discover how it operates. The existing simulator will have a much larger range of motion from other rides that came before it. Previously, the mechanics were always hindered by keeping a tight alignment to a fixed screen. According to Larry Giles, it really “Moves and Dances” like never before.
Regarding the Musical Composition featured in the Battle for Eire:
During the behind-the-scenes tour, we did not have access to listen to the soundtrack. Luckily, I was able to reach the composer Colin O’Malley directly and he provided me with background information about the music and those who also contributed the original score.
First of all, let’s begin with Colin O’Malley. He is a highly acclaimed songwriter, orchestrator, and composer who has previously worked for companies such as Disney, Universal Studios, and Electronic Arts. In 2005, he received an Emmy nomination for his score in the PBS WW II documentary The Last Reunion: A Gathering of Heroes. If you would like to know more about Colin and his extensive background in music, I would recommend visiting his website at http://colinomalley.com
In addition, the soundtrack for Battle of Eire will feature the Capellan Orchestra; located in Prague and run by the conductor Petr Polonlanik. The soprano soloist is Jennifer Thigpen, who has a long career singing in The Voices of Liberty at Walt Disney World. She is also known for her #1 song on the classical music charts called “A Place in Heaven”. The Irish Wind accompaniment will be performed by recording artist and remote session musician, William Arnold.
No doubt the music will be enchanting and true to the spirit of authentic Celtic melodies.
Here are some music samples that may give you a sense of how epic the music will surely be:
Colin O’Malley: http://bit.ly/2FvjgPE
Capellan Orchestra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGh4FcZKekA
Jennifer Thigpen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tCg9P1QsMY
William Arnold: https://www.youtube.com/user/themusicinstigator
Well folks, now it is a waiting game from this point.
The park posted a generalized opening date of “April 2018” via social media but keep in mind that opening dates are always subject to change. Let’s hope that there will be no major delays.
So how do I personally view Battle for Eire so far? Honestly, I cant wait! The ride animation has this Don Bluth Animation style mixed together with a Labyrinth/ Dark Crystal vibe. The technical aspects seem to harness a superior version of an Oculus Rift with a simulator that utilizes the mechanics of a NASA flight simulator. It’s as if the technology of the best-selling novel Ready Player One* is here and we get enjoy the ride.
May the Battle for Eire begin!
(Top to Bottom: Interior Theming photo, Interior Shot of Battle For Eire, Suzy Cheely explains how to use the VR Headsets, Jason Ambler discusses the production aspects of the ride, and Larry Giles answers our questions regarding the mechanical and engineering behind the ride).
* Easter Egg: is an intentional inside joke, hidden message or image, or secret feature of a work (often found in a computer program or video game). The name is used to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter Egg Hunt. The term was coined to describe a hidden message in the Atari video game Adventure that encouraged the player to find further hidden messages in later games, leading them on a ‘hunt’.
Side note: In Battle for Eire, I’m hoping for some “Questor or Corkscrew Hill” Easter Eggs during the ride. Fingers Crossed!
*The book/movie Ready Player One is fictional story about a character named Wade Watts, who embarks on his search for an Easter Egg in Virtual Reality game; the discovery of which will lead him to inherit a fortune.
This year, Howl-O-Scream Bites right into your fears with scares to make you shiver!
If you haven’t experienced Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens this year, now is your time. Every weekend until Sunday, October 29th, the park is ready to scare and entertain guests with new additions and returning fan favorites. This year’s schedule also includes an additional bonus! The park will be open on two Thursdays (the 19th and 26th) and on select Saturdays (the 7th, 14th, 21st, and the 28th), guests will have until midnight to experience all the event has to offer!
As for me…
I’ve been actively returning to the park since opening day of Howl-O-Scream; making sure to catch up on all the fun opportunities guests can experience. As always, the park goes above and beyond to bring the ultimate level of fun and creepiness for those willing to be scared.
So what’s new?
Let’s start with Frostbite. Located in the Oktoberfest section of the park, Frostbite is a walk-through haunted house that utilizes the interior of the Curse of Darkastle ride. It was a fantastic choice! Without revealing major spoilers, I’ll just say that the maze is a very chilling experience; literally. The AC is kicked on full blast and sets the tone from the first step inside. Just so you know, “Winter is Coming”. (Wink…wink to any Game of Thrones fan).
I sincerely enjoyed the haunted house, with its clever use of the projection screens, sound effects, atmospheric lighting, ghoulish costumes, and a generous use of jump scares. It was by far, my favorite haunted house this year.
*Also… a cool side note regarding some Busch Gardens History found inside Frostbite:
You have to look closely inside the maze, but with a trained eye you can spot the old Neptune statue that was once located in the center of a small fountain in the Rhine River, (way back in the Old Country era). This statue was also reused in the retired Haunted House, Bitten. Oh Neptune, how glad I am to see you well.
In addition to Neptune, the lighted Gargoyles holding cauldrons are also found in the maze. These were originally in the decor of the Enchanted Laboratory, a show that had tremendous success in the old area of Hastings, (currently Ireland). These gargoyles reappeared in the once popular Howl-O-Scream dinner show, Blood Banquet. I couldn’t get a clear picture due to low lighting. Hint: They are near the end of the maze and you have to look up to spot them.
Moving from Oktoberfest to New France, you’ll find the other fresh addition. Axe Alley is a new Terror-Tory that replaced last year’s theme of Windigo Woods. Axe wielding Vikings stalk guests with unexpected battle cries and staged attacks. The themed area fits well with the nearby coaster, Invadr. Be warned! The Windigo still remains chained up… for now!
Last but not least is the new Escape Room, the Case of the Haunted Hotel. In the midst of a cursed hotel, this new attraction features a series of puzzles to trick guests and delay the possibility of escape! Returning is the Case of Mr. Karver; a mad doll maker who wants nothing more than to trick you into staying indefinitely! To those who played the game of Mr. Karver last year, there is good news. All the puzzles and challenges have been changed to create a whole new mystery to solve!
If you wish to enjoy The Case of the Haunted Hotel or, The Case of Mr. Karver, there are some things you need to know:
Both escape rooms have a separate up charge and are not included with regular admission. Making a reservation online or immediately upon entering the park is strongly suggested. Only six guests are allowed in each reserved time slot. You must be 18 or older with a valid ID. In order to receive a discount on admission, you must have a valid season pass. If you are interested in booking a time slot at either Escape Room, more information is found on the Busch Gardens website here: https://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/howloscream/experiences/no-escape
So what’s back again this year?
As I mentioned briefly above, the indoor haunted house, Bitten, has been removed. However, many of the previous Haunted Houses/ Mazes and Terror-Tories have returned.
- Unearthed: Scarlet’s Revenge (Ireland)
- Catacombs (New France)
- Cornered (Oktoberfest)
- Lumberhack (Oktoberfest)
- Circo Sinistro (Festa Italia)
- Deadline (Italy)
- Ripper Row (England)
- Demon Street (France)
- Vampire Point (now located in Oktoberfest)
- Sideshow Square (Festa Italia)
What about the shows and adult beverages?
Let’s face it; Busch Gardens Williamsburg is constantly ranked high in theme park shows and entertainment category. Rightfully so I may add! Talented singers, actors, musicians, and dancers light up the stage in unforgettable performances all around the park. Just remember that all the major shows contain suggestive adult overtones.
This year there is a new spin on an old classic. Night Beats: Revamped features a new stage and story. Located inside the Festhaus, the show contains a new cast of characters with a quick paced story line that keeps the music going. I find the show quirky, amusing, and full of current pop songs cleverly mixed in with samples of original Night Beats music.
Side note: I was sad to see that the old characters of Ulrich and Beatrix have been retired. However, I do appreciate the little homage by placing their names on tombstones at the top of the stage. Speaking of, the stage is opened to reveal the location of once beloved German band platform. If you grew up in the old days of Busch Gardens, seeing the musicians play back in their old stomping grounds will certainly bring back some memories.
If you are a fan of last year’s shows, you needn’t worry. Monster Stomp (England), Fiends (Ireland), and the Starfright Orchestra (Italy), have all returned!
And last but not least….
Those who are 21 and over will have plenty of opportunities to find adult beverages at numerous places around the park. Most locations feature “Spirit Bars” where a host of costumed character actors serve up some spooktacular concoctions to guests. Since there are so many to choose from, here is a link to the park’s website listings: https://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/howloscream/experiences/dining-and-spirits
This list does not include the wine tastings located in France, Germany, New France, and Italy. The France and Italy wine tasting locations also have themed cocktails!
Well folks, that’s a wrap!
It is always a pleasure to share my memories with all of you. I really enjoyed Howl-O-Scream this year and I hope you do too. Thanks for reading my blog and may you all have a “Wickedly Wonderful” adventure at Howl-O-Scream 2017! Cheers!
Here is an additional cool place to explore: A friend of mine, who runs IoMGeek.com, does an amazing job with theme park reviews and YouTube videos. He released a park walk-through and I highly recommend watching! Feel free to like, comment, and subscribe to his channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slObupBBF58
To the Team Members and Park Employees:
My gratitude extends to all those who have successfully come together to create a highly anticipated attraction each year. The amount of work transforming the park in such a short period of time always astounds me.
Thank you all so much. You guys and gals are all top notch!
For most of the fall-winter months, I saw what looked to be a strange, orange erector set structure reaching into the sky near Apollo’s Chariot. Soon after, light blue coaster tracks started rapidly appearing. During the off-season, these twisting tracks taunted me across the empty parking lots whenever I drove by on Route 60. Busch Gardens was obviously building a new coaster and thus, the anticipation of the opening day weighed heavily on my mind.
All the planning, design, engineering, construction, inspections, testing, and sheer will it takes to both fund and produce any thrill ride always amazes me. These talented people work so hard to please the riders, who are inevitably the final product’s judge and jury. In many ways, building a roller coaster is no different than producing a big budget, block buster film and praying for success at the box-office. However, this movie will play over and over for decades to come.
So I am putting on my Roger and Ebert hat and review Tempesto, the newest thrill ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
Tempesto was manufactured by Premier Rides and is now nestled in a very small footprint in the Festa Italia section of the park. It features three launch elements, a 154-foot inversion, and reaches 63 mph on 883 feet of track.
Sounds impressive right? Well it is! I was able to ride the front, middle, and back car and for a ride that is less than one minute, it packs a punch! Being shot through a magnetic launching system both forward in backwards makes the station house look like a blur. You then rocket straight up, twisting while you go to crest over a length of track that has what looks to be an impossible corkscrew twist.
The inversion is that of a slow roll, and before you even get to focus on the landscape, you are thrust straight down through a tight fit of steal beams and track. There is another disorienting go round and back through the station for a roll back stop.
What is behind the name, “Tempesto?”
Here is the park’s official statement:
“In the rich tradition of the classic Italian Daredevils, no single man wowed the crowds like Tempesto. Busch Gardens’ daring new roller coaster, Tempesto, lets riders take center stage and recreate his signature stunt. Guests daring enough to take on Tempesto will race into unbelievably tight turns at 63 miles per hour and defy gravity as they roll through a complete inversion 154 feet in the air.”
The ride delivered on white-knuckle elements, but just as impressive was the theming. In true Busch Gardens’ fashion, the park has taken a roller coaster and given it a back-story everyone can relate to. Imagine that you are in a crowd at the circus looking up at the acrobats, tightrope walkers, and trapeze artists. Safely you sit among the spectators with a bag of popcorn and soda and watch people risk their lives. But… what if you were the daredevil? What would it feel like performing such terrifying stunts?
In my opinion, the theme stems back to turn of the century daredevils. For instance, there was a real life daredevil named Diavolo, who performed in Adam &Sells Bros. Circus in 1902. His act seemed to defy gravity on nothing more than a bicycle. According to sideshow.com, Diavolo’s “…big trick was to ride the bicycle down a triple extension ladder placed at an angle of 52 degrees from a height of 60 ft, bouncing and jumping over the rungs, keeping upright all 79 feet of the way and riding down on the hippodrome track.”
Here is an image of Diavolo and his act:
Lucky for us we are not in a bicycle during the 154 foot inversion when riding Tempesto. The ride features a loose fitting, over-the-shoulder soft harness with a pressure lock lap bar. The front row offers a frightening view of the 154 ft inversion and for a brief moment you wonder if the coaster will make it through the complete turn. The back car gives riders a real gut-wrenching pull over each drop for an extra wow factor.
Going back to the turn of the century, people cried out for more stunts featuring bicycles, automobiles, and motorcycles. Their technology was new, edgy, and spoke to those who dreamed of the future. Busch Gardens uses that concept to their advantage with Tempesto.
The entrance and queue line reflects a time period of death-defying acts of a traveling circus from the early 1900s. Vintage inspired sideshow posters are placed on the walls and carnival like lights string across the entrance in all its retro glory. Even the ride’s gift shop carries the vintage décor of an era gone by.
Nevertheless, the park cleverly meshes nostalgia and modern technology. That is why Tempesto is perfect theming for the 40th Anniversary of Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It takes a timeless story and pushes the envelope for the daredevil in all of us.
My final conclusion:
Tempesto: an awesome ride with a Steam Punk vibe!
Now, it is time for you to decide. Will you stand and watch or do you dare to ride?
Thanks for reading my review and please make sure to Like BGW Memories on Facebook for more photos of Busch Gardens past and present. Feel free to share you memories, park photos, vinatge Busch Gardens images, and love for the park with us!
Here it is, 2014, and Thanksgiving is already behind us. You know what that means right? Busch Gardens Christmas Town has begun! The park is ready to boost our holiday cheer.
But you know what the best part of that is?
Nestled amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, the familial obligations, and shopping chaos, Christmas Town offers up a chance to slow down and smell the roses; or in this case, soak in the beauty over 8 MILLION lights!
Relaxing at Christmas Town is, hands down, my favorite tradition.
This year was no different. I attended the opening day festivities and it was a rather cold evening; alright…… very, VERY cold evening. Nevertheless, the entire park looked stunningly beautiful that frigid, frosty November night.
Upon entering, several Marines were stationed outside collecting unopened toys for the Toys for Tots program. Their enthusiasm and smiles warmly greeted those entering the park.
There is still time to assist: Donations will be accepted through December 14th. Just drop new and unwrapped toys at the Busch Gardens Welcome center to support local families in need.
Going back to Christmas Town, here is what I wish to point out for those seeking something new based on my experience on opening day:
England’s decor along with the new show Scrooge no More is high on the list of what I adore. All the while, Banbury Cross (as us old-timer Park enthusiasts say), was adorned with floating wreaths and lights galore!*
* I changed that whole paragraph to rhyme on my third edit. You’re welcome.
In front of the Globe, snow falls from the sky at night and Carolers and a Brass Band wander through the crowds at various times each day. The Hamlet is simply dazzling at night!
Over where the portrait artists are during the regular season, the park has converted the area to a bar staffed with Victorian dressed baristas, who serve you all kinds of tasty beverages, spirits, and treats. In addition, Squire’s is now Dickens Tavern and serves guests traditional Christmas dinners.
The Globe now features a new show aptly named Scrooge No More. My review?
I was blown away! The show is an instant park classic and a hopefully a tradition for many years to come. As the title suggests, it is based on Charles Dicken’s classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his journey to rekindle his Christmas spirit. It is a perfectly balanced with music, dance, theater, and high tech special effects.
I promise to write a full review after this season. But for the sake of those who have yet to see it, I dare not ruin the magic and surprise!
*On a side note: My appreciation goes out to all those folks who worked diligently to put this together. It is a strong, well choreographed musical that as a local, I am honored to have showing at Busch Gardens. Love, Love, Loved it!
Outside the Globe Theater, there is a photo opportunity where you may take a picture of yourself with friends and family with very Victorian themed backdrop. Possibly with a Clydesdale! Keep in mind that the horses have a limited time range with guests, so try not to fret if you miss it. The Highland Stables will still offer photo packages.
This brings me to another bonus this year: the “Photokey” option. If you plan on making memories with all the photo ops around the park, you may want to consider purchasing a Photokey in order to save money. Here are the locations included:
- Front Gate Photo (Fountain)
- Highland Stables (Scotland)
- Polar Pictures (Polar Pathway in Italy)
- Frosty Friend Photo (Festa Italia)
- Christmas Carriage (Big Ben in England)
- O Tannenbaum (Oktoberfest)
- Verbolten (Oktoberfest)
- Pierre & Penelope Photo (France)
The park offers a Single Day Photkey and a Premium Photokey (good through the entire event – until December 31st) . There are differences in price and what is included, so please link here if you are interested in either deal and read more about exactly what each package includes, availability, and pricing: buschgardens.com/photokey.
* Some of my own personal Photokey pics taken that day:
Most of the park, as well as the shows, remain the same. The shows: Miracles, Gloria, and Deck the Halls return this year. As always, they are amazing. Since I have reviewed them all before, I will move on to some tips that may come in handy regarding the entertainment:
- Get to each show early as seats go fast! Gloria especially.
- On busy days the Festhaus may reach capacity, so if you wish to eat dinner and watch the show, plan your trip accordingly.
- Dress in layers. The Virginia weather is iffy, always. It is also very warm in the Festhaus and in the inside theater. So keep that in mind.
- Download the Busch Gardens app or pick up a map upon entering the park to have an idea of the showtimes.
If you are a wine drinker (like me), you may wish to take advantage of the lovely wine glass set you can gather by visiting the France (Le Belle), Germany (German Gifts), and Italy (Bella Casa). These shiny goblets, etched with Busch Gardens on the base are sold as is, or as I prefer… (for a little extra cost), with wine in them!
They are so sparkly and festive with Busch Gardens softly etched on the base, that I was in complete “Must Have” mode when I saw them. So yes. Thank you Busch Gardens. I always wanted a themed sparkly wine glass set of my very own.
My Personal Wine Tips:
- Wines served at tastings vary through the seasons. Check them out periodically. There is a fan page dedicated JUST to wine at Busch Gardens. Did you know? Post your photos and keep in the loop here: https://www.facebook.com/OldCountryGrapevine
- Pace yourself. There are several places offering wine tastings. If you purchase a wine tasting you get a Christmas Town wine glass and when using the glass at the other locations, you get a discount.
- Don’t forget that if you are a season pass member, even wine has a 10% discount!
Christmas is also the season of giving. So don’t forget to peruse all the goodies at the gift shops this year. You may just find that perfect gift for your loved one.
For me, the Emporium is one of my favorites. You can get the latest Christmas Town items including the 2014 ornaments, Department 56 Colonial Williamsburg sets, and even personalized custom ornaments.
**They also had this mistletoe, frosty display that was so pretty. So yes, I had to get a picture of it.
So basically Christmas Town where you can enjoy, world class entertainment, lights-lights-and more lights, rides, seasonal foods and beverages, and visit jolly ol’ St. Nick all-in-one!
Speaking of Santa, I was finally able to enjoy Fireside Feast! If you want your family to get a unique experience with Santa, this is it. The dining extra is something best spent with the little ones, but I highly recommend it.
In case you are interested: The food was well seasoned and satisfying. During the meal, Santa recites the Night Before Christmas in a building that is both cozy and as warm as toast. After the recital, everyone gets a chance to go up on stage to visit with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the Elves. It certainly made me feel like a kid again! Yep. Even I saw Santa…… and took my husband with me!
Click here for more info: http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/christmastown/dine-and-shop/santas-fireside-feast/
Overall, Busch Gardens tied Christmas Town up in an exquisite bow for all of us to open and enjoy. I wish I could cover every store, every show, every little thing; but my suggestion is to get out there and see it for your self!
May you all keep the spirit of Christmas in your heart always. “..and as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless us Everyone!”
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
The entire park seems more alive and scarier than ever before. From the park website “The cursed have taken over… and that strange things start happening when you hear the haunting melody.” Don’t Listen is the warning. If you do listen, they say you will be cursed. How to lift the curse? Survive the night of course!
The atmosphere is much more adult oriented and graphic in nature. Parents really need to understand that most of the little ones will be terrified. I’m in my mid 30s and I was a shivering mess by the end of the night. All the décor around the park was more detailed and darker; Wendigo Woods especially.
New France has been changed into a Research Facility tucked away in the forests of Canada. The Wendigo, or half-beast demonic creature known for Cannibalism was believed to be legend. However, strange things are happening and terror is lurking all around! The terror-tory is amazing and New France has never heard so many screams!
Demon Street in Aquitaine has pumped up the volume with a street party atmosphere, complete with chainsaw welding demons! The bar serves up very potent signature alcoholic beverages that are sure to get the party started!
Vampire Point returns with more scare actors that hide through the twisting walkways in Rhinefeld Germany. If you find yourself thirsty for something else besides blood, make sure to reserve your tickets for the ever fun Blood Banquet. Count Vladtastic is back and the show has really increased in musical numbers and humor! The show is outdoors so you do not have to purchase a ticket to enjoy the antics of Vlad and crew, but the food is to die for! Tickets may be purchased at Guest Relations or online.
If you are feeling a bit naughty, head over to Ireland where the sexy nurses would love to give you a shot …. Of Vodka and Jello! Just like Vampire Point, Ireland also has a ticketed dinner show. Igor’s Fright Feast is also a buffet and features the character Igor, Swampy, and a team of naughty nurses. The show is a classic pop music montage of fun and laughs. The lighthearted humor is a perfect pairing to your dining experience.
Across the way at the Abby Stone Theater, Dr. Freakenstein is back at Fiends! This year the show focuses on vocal and acting talent of the fabulous performers. Dr. Freakenstein’s creature is not the only thing alive! The show is memorizing with moments of hilarity. The crowd is just as electrified as the creature.
Ports Of Skull is tucked away in San Marco Italy and is haunted by the tortured souls of undead pirates. Only two have a sense of humor, the rest are the hunt for a new crewmember! The pirate Barrrrgh and Crows Nest offer specialized food and drink with colorful characters to serve you your poison. Enter if ye dare!
I saved Ripper Row for last. It is the first and last terror-tory guests experience at the park. The ripper is looking to find his next victim, so don’t get lost or it may end up being you!
Speaking of the Ripper, Monster Stomp is a live high-tech musical performance at the Globe Theater. The show is fantastic! It takes the classic version of Monster Stomp and multiplies the visuals by 100! Imagine Monster Stomp meets Sweeny Todd. It is more of a Broadway style production; the sets, music, dances, and rhythms are extremely well balanced and leave you thirsty for more. Much like Sweeny Todd, the show is not for the lighthearted. There will be blood. Of course, the splatters are perfectly timed to haunting music!
If that isn’t enough, you still have the toe tapping Festhaus show called Night Beats. Ulrich, along with his shadows of the night, entertain you with powerful vocals and dance. The set itself has changed along with some of the musical arrangements, but the show is still as awesome as ever! If you are like me, you will end up singing the musicall night long. Even now, I am still singing: “We‘re running with the shadows of the night. So baby take my hand, it’ll be all right. Surrender all your dreams to me tonight. They’ll come true in the end……”
The six haunted houses: Catacombs, Bitten, Cutthroat Cove, The Root of All Evil, Deadline, and the popular 13: Your Number’s Up have all returned to thrill guests. I was able to go through Catacombs, Cutthroat Cove, 13 and Deadline. All of them seemed more intense this year and I’m not sure who was entertained more, me or the people directly behind who witnessed my constant shrieking.
So there you have it. Howl-O-Scream 2014 has begun scaring and entertaining guests once more! The innocent sweet sounding tune playing around the park may be pleasing, but Don’t Listen. So will you survive or end up being cursed?
Have fun, stay scared, and don’t find yourself alone in the darkness!
Special thanks to my friends at Behind the Thrills for allowing me to assist them with Media Coverage this year. Make sure to follow them on Instagram, Face Book, and Twiiter for the latest news. http://behindthethrills.com/
Info regarding Howl-Scream, hours, Ticket information, tours, and reservations; visit http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/howloscream/
There is a new breeze blowing at Busch Gardens this year that captures your ears and eyes; much like strawberry fields and marmalade skies. London Rocks marks the return of a live performance production at the park’s historic Globe Theater and it does so with a clear message: “All You Need is Love.”
The show highlights the counterculture movement of the 60s, 70s, and early 80s. During this time, music reflected the attitudes of those living in a very complicated, tumultuous time period. In order to explain the British culture through the decades mentioned, I would need to reference several books, articles, and documentaries based on the subject. London Rocks, however, has less than 30 minutes to convey recognizable elements of the decade; 23 minutes to be exact.
So what can you fit into a half hour? Let’s just say that the show is a powerhouse of visual images and subtle references, cleverly disguised as an easy-going musical about love and togetherness. It is obvious that a huge amount of time and effort went into making London Rocks and therefore, I wanted to make sure I honored that work by breaking down the symbolism and theatrical elements that brings the show to life.
I decided the most logical way to share my interpretation of the show is visually. It is my hope that I will shed some light on the story, symbolism, and music behind London Rocks.
Please note, this is just my interpretation.
Also as an FYI: The “60s” is really classified loosely from 1963 to 1974.
While watching the animation here is what you need to take note of:
- Colors: The scene is muted in mostly shades of gray and a splash of yellow, blue, and specks of bright red. The muted colors evoke daily life in London and the robotic nature of being a part of the system. The red is showcasing “Iconic” London, British symbols.
- Cultural References: The style of art is similar to the animation found in the opening sequence of the BBC/PBS TV program called Mystery! (as seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAmGsM4Dids&feature=kp ) Several announcements are made on the TV screen from an animated Queen Elizabeth that is an obvious homage to Terry Gilliam’s animation in Monty Python. The Abbey Road Records is appropriately named as the album “Abbey Road” still remains the best selling Beatles record. The fictional “QBC” network or Queen’s Broadcasting Network is harking to the actual “BBC” (British Broadcasting Network).
- Symbols: Businessmen with bowler hats and briefcases, famous London buildings, post boxes, the British Underground Sign, peace symbols, flowers, paisley prints, tea pots, and tea cups.
- Animation: the animation cycles to in force the “hum drum” daily life. There is a sleeping cat that ignores a little mouse in the window of the record store. The men and women go about their day in a slow, methodical drudge. When the TV broadcasts the Queen, she is featured only in black and white and babbles on about proper British rules like how to drink tea. In-between these clips, there are snippets of black & white broadcasts.
A sample of Monty Python Animation for Reference:
- Color: Lucy’s bright yellow outfit clashes against all the black and white. From this we get that Lucy does not fit in with everyday life and thus reflects the nonconformist movement of the era.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Typical London Rain, business men flocking to various jobs in the city. Lucy’s mini skirt, go-go boots, and hair style is showcasing how the youth used style and fashion as a means of rebellion. The record on her coat also shows that this may be inspired by the music she listens to. The audio and movements of the businessmen have a comedy style much like that found in Monty Python. **An example of what I am talking about:
After a very exciting animation of riding the British Underground, Lucy emerges to head home.
Cultural Reference: Lucy lives on Arnold Lane which I picture as a reference to the 1967 hit from Pink Floyd called Arnold Layne; a song with a very extreme counterculture message for the time.
- Color: The Yellow (aka: Lucy) is used to not only the door to her flat but to here bedroom window.
- Color: Her room is devoid of any color except for her window. I believe this is her world without music.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The British Flag on the bed sheet, the pictures of all the members of the Beatles, the band logo from Who, a strawberry, more peace signs and flowers, records, a poster of London, and some other images I cannot make out.
Side note: Lucy plays the record and starts to sing and dance in her room by herself. The song is “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll (But I like It) by the Rolling Stones. (1974)
- Color: This is the start of the spiral of Blue and Pink in the background. In this case, it is Lucy’s crush-infatuation-love for the lead singer. I call this “Falling in Love” (You’ll see it again)
- Song: “For your Love” by the Yard Birds (1965)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Peace signs, the Union Jack flag pattern, and a heart right below the lead singer that is projected on the stage. The four band members could reference the four Beatles, their costumes much like that of their early career. See below photo:
- Color: Red has been used to showcase only iconic British symbols so far. Now the color seems to evoke desire. The stage becomes more colorful the longer the music plays.
- Symbolism: Lips, peace signs, and paisley prints. The lips are an obvious choice for Lucy being enamored by the singer’s voice. I think the Paisley print is to represent the counterculture style of music.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Dancers come on stage with Camera’s for their heads and also (not shown) wearing over-sized Bowler Hats. This seems to reference a connection to Lucy’s infatuation with the singer’s image through the British media.
- Song: “What I like about You”by the Romantics (1979)
(This is not the actual animation for this scene. I am using this one to have a visual reference.)
- Color: The queen is shown to be only black and white. At the end the sun rises and is the same blue and yellow and blue you see for Lucy and Guy (who is about to show up in the next scene)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The Queen and her Corgis. She declares the music as “barking” and that the racket “Will never last.” This bit is to show that at the time the older population thought the music rubbish and that it was just an unwanted phase of the youth. At the end the sun rises playing The William Tell Overture.
- Color: Both Lucy and Guy have complimenting outfits in style and colors. The muted colors are back in this scene except for the records themselves which are in rainbow like colors. This multi-color aspect is starting to reflect what is considered bohemian or counterculture for the time.
- Song: “Wild Thing” by the Troggs (1966) and “Wishin & Hopin” By Dusty Springfield (1964)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Records, flowers, and peace signs. The records are obvious nods to popular records for the time. Albums such as Bowie’s Alladin Sane (1973) and The Beatles album Meet the Beatles (1964) are two that I can definitely make out.
- Color: The costumes of all the other characters are multi-colored, thus meaning they have truly embraced the Bohemian lifestyle. The bright red hat and boots (I believe) are used as a tool to gain focus on the fact that the couple is being drawn together.
- Song: “Come and Get It” by Badfinger. (1969)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Fashion exploded in the 60s. “Do your Own thing” was a time of self expression and being free. London was huge for the Mod movement and both Lucy and Guy represent that London “Mod” Look. The other characters are more of the “Hippie” style. Bell-bottoms, fringe, long hair, vests, folk-style hippie boots all reflect self expression-letting it all go and to be free from conformity.
- Color: Besides what is already mentioned above, the swirl in the background has taken a pink-blue color pallet from the monochromatic in the previous scenes. This ties in with the “love” aspect of Peace and Love.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Besides the fashion & hairstyles, there is an addition to flowers which is a play on the “flower power” concept of make peace not war theme of the 60s. The hippie characters surround Lucy and Guy in celebration of coming together in the spirit of love.
- Color: Main thing to note is that the streets of London in the animation are now in full color.
- Song: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by the Beatles. (1967)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: This is an interesting scene that requires some need 3D animation type effects. The dancers run in place but the animation is creating an illusion of them running forward. This, to me, symbolizes Lucy and Guy’s romance- or a whirlwind romance.
- Color: This set is all about pink and blue; just like the swirls before. The groomsmen are in blue and the bridesmaids are in yellow to represent the couple. It is hard to see but Lucy has yellow flowers in her hair and a yellow floral bouquet. Guy also has a yellow shirt and tie. The guitarist is in red and for me, this serves the same purpose as the woman in the red hat in the previous seen. “Desire- the drawing together of two people in love.”
- Songs: “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton. (1977) possibly one of the most lovely, romantic songs for any wedding. <<Yes, this played at my wedding so I am a bit biased.>>
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The groomsmen are dressed in an almost spot-on look for how the Beatles were dressed in the cover of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album from the Beatles. (1967) A historic album that was known to be “a historic departure in the progress of music” (Time Magazine). The cover even received notations in fine art! Also, the guitarist looks very much like Slash. Here is what the album cover looks like:
- Song: “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie (1987)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: This is where the album cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band comes into play. A myriad of people are placed together and animated in a very “Monty Python” style; swaying back and forth to the music. (Much like the lyrics themselves ~let’s sway) The dancers on stage are going through various popular dance moves such as the hustle and perhaps a bit of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Either way, the dance is catchy.
- Color: Note the Queen is wearing color now and is more liberal in dress. Red being Iconic Britain in this instance.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: This is the moment I realized what the “sun reference“meant! The sun (yellow) is Lucy and the sky (blue) is Guy. “Lucy in the sky with diamonds.” Check. The queen is also wearing clothing that is more liberal and saying the music isn’t all bad. For me this is a take that Britain herself is becoming proud of the new music. Attitudes are changing and moving forward into accepting new ideas.
To save time, I am combining all three animated sequences:
- Color: Blue and Yellow~ Lucy and Guy like the Sun and Sky.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The cars morph to reflect Lucy and Guy’s priority changing. After the wedding they go from a convertible (picture not shown) to a family style vehicle. Animation is once again showing the passage of time.
- Color: The interior of the car has yellowish tones and outside blue. It is also important to know that all of their children have yellow and blue elements to represent both parents.
- Song: A mix of three songs sung by the individual puppets. From left to right: “We will Rock You” by Queen (1977); “Octopus’s Garden” by The Beatles (1969); and “Come Together” by the Beatles (1969)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The couple’s children are singing different songs and arguing in the backseat. All three songs are all very different in meaning and attitude, yet still represent the feeling of the era. Their manner of dress enforces their differences. The girl puppet wins by stopping the other boys and choosing the song “Octopus’s Garden.” I may be wrong, but I think the two boy puppets resemble Paul McCartney and John Lennon. This would make sense as the Lennon–McCartney would be a songwriting partnership that is legendary. Both had distantly different styles and visions. Yet, despite their comradely, eventually they parted ways. As Lennon once said about McCartney: ““He provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, the bluesy notes.”
- Color: The characters of the Walrus and Gator are in red, white, and blue with stripes; much like the Union Jack Flag.
- Effects: Bubbles
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The best line in the whole song to describe why this was picked for the children growing up is this one line: “Oh what joy for every girl and boy, knowing that they’re happy and safe.” Of all the Beatles songs, this one is perfect for children. Written by Beatle’s drummer Ringo Starr, which I fondly note that in this scene the drummer is an Octopus. “The Walrus” is a common reference in Beatles songs and a part of various debates of meaning and origin. The crocodile really causes me to geek out here as I recall an old Beatles Cartoon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Db_45UVHuYs The song also says “coo coo cachou” (there are other spellings, which is a a nonsensical word used by the Beatles, then Simon and Garfunkel, and even more recently, in the movie Finding Nemo! It could honestly mean anything and perhaps is better left to be interpreted by an older audience. During the song, lyrics appear above and you can sing along. Again, this gave me a huge sense of nostalgia as the old Beatles cartoons for kids (which would fit the time of the triplets -1969) had “Sing-a-longs.”
- Color: Record store is in full color now with the Queen dressed fully in red. Lucy’s flat now has flowers that are in yellow.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Britain has embraced the music and is moving forward to the next thing with high hopes.
- Color: Everything is in a rainbow range of colors now. There is even a “Yellow Submarine” like Blimp carrying the Queen.
- Songs: “Strawberry Fields Forever” By the Beatles (1967) ; “Magical Mystery Tour” (1967) By the Beatles.
- Effects: There is a smell of strawberries that is pumped into the theater at this time.
- Color: Blue –Pinks (love) Blue sky (Guy) (Yellow Lucy) Lucy in the Sky… etc.
- Song: “Space Oddity” by David Bowie (1969)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The Big Ben flies into space much like the Space Race going on at the time. The song “Space Oddity” references Major Tom, a fictional astronaut, and was released in 1969. The first man on the moon was also in 1969. The milestone was huge in British society and all around the world. This animation, like previous animations, is speeding us to another decade and point of reference in Lucy and Guy’s life.
- Color: There are those same colors, now in combinations of blue and yellow. Signifying the children of both Lucy and Guy. Blue and Pink- love and peace.
- Song: “Under Pressure” By David Bowie and Queen (1981). Possibly one of my favorite songs of all time.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The triplets are now teens in the 80s and are unhappy. The 70s brought a depression and the 80s brought a sense of frustration and possibly a sense of the “World May End any day.” This is the part I relate to. I was terrified of nuclear war and the threat that tomorrow may end. Money was being spent and nothing was saved. People lived as if there was no tomorrow. The culture of the era reflected that. I would say these teens represent the musicians of Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, and Billy Idol. Also take note that in the background, there is a kitchen; thus meaning that they are at home in Lucy and Guy’s house (yellow).
- Color: Lucy and Guy are wearing Yellow Black and White. The colors in the back are muted once more, meaning “daily life” has returned. They have conformed to the system and no longer have peace, love, and happiness.
- Song: “Hard Day’s Night” by the Beatles (1964) Appropriately sung by a generation from the early 60s and when the couple first met.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Lucy is working. This shows that women are now in the working place and she is tired of being everything to everyone. Both are now working in a business job, much like the hum drum life of those animated figures drudging away in the streets of London. It looks as if they may be on the verge of breaking up. Their children are angry at this and are tired of the bickering. They fight among themselves only to have the girl bring them together much like the scene in “Octopus’s Garden.”
- Color: The swirls become pink and blue and thus love has returned. Their house is red and not yellow.
- Song: “Work it Out” by the Beatles (1965) to “Under Pressure” By David Bowie and Queen. (1981)
- Cultural References and Symbolism: Just like in any marriage, it takes work and love. Lucy and Guy find love with their children and with each other. After all, all you need is love.
- Color: Yellow is back for Lucy and Guy as more of a goldish color. The Queen and most everyone has some sort of Blue, Red, and White.
- Song: A clever use of the patriotic song called “Rule Britannia” mixed with “All you need is Love” by the Beatles.
- Cultural References and Symbolism: The queen is no longer supporting the music; she is in the music and proud of it. This means that the British people look back on their history in music and the arts in pride. In the end “Peace and Love” win out and the message is clear: “All you need is Love! Peace! and ROCK ON!”
My personal take:
I was a child of the 80s and all I knew of the 60s and 70s was what I learned through TV and my parents. Thankfully, my husband introduced me to music from the era. Not only did I learn about the the complexity and messages of the time, but I also realized that all the music I loved in the 80s and beyond stemmed from the radical change in philosophy and styles from the 60s.
That decade was huge in the development of the world. The time from 1960 to the 80s faced huge turmoil; war, nuclear threats, assassinations, and the uncertainty of what will be. Music, designs, and fashions all reflected the hope and desire to escape from the reality. In retrospect, it was an artistic way to show the multifaceted and complex nature of what direction the world would go.
Music binds us all together; generations, races, and sexes. We can agree about music and art in a way that each song speaks to us on some level. We relate to it; we put ourselves in the lyrics and find peace in the words.
Thanks to my loving husband, I not only learned about the classics of rock, but established a passion for a generation that I never experienced. London Rocks is that window for all generations. It is geared to teach us that love is the answer and no matter what, we can work it out.
I hope this article sheds light on all the symbolic meanings and details that went into this production. As a film studies major with a degree in studio art and animation, I appreciate the concept on every level. I felt with my knowledge, I could interpret some of the themes and meanings in an artistic way.
London Rocks is a loving tribute to all things British; not to mention, an era of tremendous change. I can never know what it was like to live in the 60s, but the show gives all generations a glimpse.With history we gain wisdom and understanding. We accept those who may differ from ourselves because we are no longer afraid.
To the creators and artists behind London Rocks, thank you for the work and passion put into this production. Every time I watch the show, I keep seeing more and more subtle references. Now if you could only add some Duran Duran, New Order, Erasure, and Pet Shop Boys to the list of artists; I would be even more ecstatic.
- A special thanks to Behind the Thrills who allowed me to assist them in coverage for media day. Here is their video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDP60JjEwB8 You guys Rock!
- Behind the Scenes Official Video from Busch Gardens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0axpOjtjvtk&list=UUPT2be1EnXUnBPwZ7l6FyCg
- Scot Gasparich, VP of Entertainment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8RmzYeB-cA
- Sam Buntrock, Show Director.
- Tim Bird, Projection Manager. From his Linkedin profile: “I am a Tony nominated show designer specializing in the integration of video projection into live work. Whilst working as a founder and creative director of the Knifedge agency, which ran for over 10 years, my work was dedicated to blending art with technology, in the service of storytelling and communication. This ethos continues into current work.”
- Jason Kantarowitz, Creative Producer. From IBD: http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=25730
- Ben Cohn, Musical Director. Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ben-cohn/4/445/531
- Ken Billington, Lighting Director. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Billington
- Stan Meyer, Set Designer. http://clearconceptentertainment.com/StanleyMeyer/ I adore Stan. A sharp dresser first of all. When I met him, that suit was fabulous. He has done tons of work for theme parks, including Verbolten at Busch Gardens. He took the time to speak with me and it was very hard for me not to drop into a “Waynes World bowing moment” of “I’m not worthy.”
Many thanks to all those I did not mention.
Please check out all of Busch Gardens Behind the scenes videos and interviews on their You Tube Channel.
In the meantime:
This past weekend kicked off the second annual Food & Wine Festival at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I couldn’t be happier. This fabulous festival features a wide variety of international cuisines, along with various beers and wines, all placed at culturally themed kiosks located around the park. With the success of the inaugural event last year, this year’s festival has evolved to be even bigger and better!
Luckily, much of the event has remained the same; which is fine by me. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Still, any great event needs to expand and evolve.
Therefore, here are some highlights for the new additions:
Two New booths have been added this year: The Caribbean and The American Southwest. Busch Gardens opened up the selection of extra cuisines to the fans on the internet. Overwhelmingly, the number one choice was the Caribbean.
To be honest, after the park announced the additional booths, I was skeptical; not to mention being slightly disappointed. I had considered the selections to be the “safer” choices for culinary exploration.
However, I was wrong to assume the food wouldn’t be exciting. In fact, my favorite booth this year was the Caribbean! The booth has a very Island inspired color pallet and features a large light house structure on top. Lanterns and décor made from sea shells are festively placed between the area of Rhinefeld and Oktoberfest. Odd for Germany? One would think so.
Still, the location is set in a quiet, wooded area and the shade offers a refreshing oasis on a hot day. My choice of the Jamaican jerk chicken with barbecue and pineapple salsa was fabulous to say the least. I paired it with a dangerously delicious “Bushwhacker;” a frozen mixed beverage consisting of cream of coconut, coffee liqueur, black rum, dark creme de cacao, and milk. It is so soooo good!
Moving on, the Southwest booth is also new and well themed; an adobe style building that features a working smokestack. I tried the Sonoran Spice Pork with jicama-chayote slaw & sweet pepper salsa. It was a very refreshing dish. My friend Luke has stated that the Chocolate Lava cake is divine and just from his photo, I have to agree!
Scandinavia has my favorite dish so far. The Smorrebred is an open-faced roast beef sandwich on dark rye bread with horseradish & pickled red onions. It was so delightful and reasonably priced, I went back for seconds! It paired nicely with the Ingleside Chardonnay.
There are so many choices and new dishes this year, I am just scratching the surface with what to see and do at the Food & Wine festival. Even by removing a few dishes here and there and combining some of last year’s Austrian with Germany in order to add the Caribbean; the event continues to surprise me.
Costumed representatives of each country greet you at the entrance to each kiosk. Tara was the first to great me when I visited the Caribbean booth. Heather welcomes you in Scotland, Clara in France, and so forth. (I am still gathering photos and names of each individual. I will add them to this article once collected).
The brightly colored flags of each country hang overhead for guests to easily recognize the kiosks this year. I found this to be a smart move on the park as it is also a nice touch to the event’s theme.
In the center of Oktoberfest, you will find a new booth dedicated to dessert wine tastings and Food & Wine Festival themed merchandise. I love this year’s design by Lester Coloma and plan on picking up a limited edition framed print.
Wine tastings are also found in Aquitaine’s Le Belle Maison Gift Shop (France), German Gifts in Rhinefeld (Germany), Oktoberfest, and Bella Casa Gift shop in San Marco (Italy).
“The Art of Food” booths feature some familiar and new faces to the line-up. All the artisans specialize in crafty sculptures and carvings of various foods. Make sure to stop by and speak with them all.
**More Artists will be posted here- check back soon.
The Aquitaine Band is back! In the evenings, have a glass of wine at the Crepes and Coffee booth or visit Nora at LeBelle Maison gift shop. She will be more than happy to pick out a French wine to savor while your listen to the soft Bohemian tunes.
The friendly staff of waiters and live musical entertainment has returned to the Wine on the Rhine cruise! Please visit the Busch Gardens website for more information about extras offered for the Food & Wine Festival such as behind-the-scenes tours and Wine on the Rhine cruises. They all require a ticket and you must book them in advance. http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/food-and-wine/
As you can tell, there is much to see, taste, and enjoy. I was talking to chef Durell Council, he was the most proud of the Caribbean addition this year and his specialty of Gamba Fritters; fried shrimp dumplings with pickapeppa dip. If you see Durell around the park, make sure to say hi and ask him about the dishes. He is extremely friendly and a great ambassador of the event!
Speaking of ambassadors, Chef Justin Watson, the executive chef of Busch Gardens Williamsburg, is often roaming around the park; closely inspecting food quality and overall operations. Humble and friendly, he will always give praises to all the departments and people who partake in making the event spectacular. If you see him, feel free to comment on the food. His passion for cooking will always shine through while discussing your dining experiences.
Well, that about wraps up my initial trip to the 2014 Food & Wine Festival. Since the event continues on through June 29th (Fri, Sat, and Sundays only), there is plenty of time for me to return again and again to enjoy most of what the park offers.
I hope you all get to visit Busch Gardens and partake in the celebration of food! Quoting the Food & Wine guidebook, it really is “A true taste adventure at the world’s most beautiful theme park.”
Busch Gardens Williamsburg has opened their doors for the 2014 season! The weather was absolutely picture perfect; sunny, cheerful, and a much needed break from a very long and bitter winter.
As any Virginian knows, Sunday was the exact opposite. So much so, I decided to stay home in the warm cozy confines of my couch wrapped tightly in a blanket and missed out on opening day for the general public.
The park did not have any official announcements or meetings for Pass Members. In all honesty, I have nothing to report about future attractions and events this year. Thus, all I can discuss are the small changes I saw around the park.
The first thing was a ginormous sign advertising the new water ride “Colossal Curl” at Water Country. Personally, I burn as fast a boiling lobster, so Water Country is not a place I can utilize or enjoy. I do believe that this is the first time such a large ad for Water Country was built inside the gates of Busch Gardens.
Last year we were told about a new show called London Rocks. The show was not ready by opening weekend and from what I gather will be opening in May. There were no real changes to Banbury that I could tell.
Apollo was my first ride and for a good reason. Apollo is turning 15 years old March 30th; thus please see the gathering I created as a special event for Apollo fans here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1458860284333719/ Yay for Apollo! I noticed that by the time we reached the top of the first hill, we could see the traffic to get in the park stretched to the interstate. I tell you folks, it pays to get there early.
In San Marco, the Artisans of Italy and Bella Casa gift shops got a new and classy face lift. The displays were much brighter and cheerful. The artists looked happy and the porcelain flowers looked as lovely as ever.
Also in San Marco, the new deck and dining area was completed. It looked fantastic and allows more seating, which will be nice come the food and wine festival.
The Rhine River cruise was closed due to upgrades, but the bridge was open and the renovations looked to be mostly complete. The extra space will certainly allow more traffic on the bridge; a much needed improvement.
Nothing much to report in Oktoberfest except the Festhaus floor has partially been repainted to a blood red color. Not exactly sure what purpose that serves; it struck me as rather odd.
Heading towards Rhinefeld, the Bunny trail was up in all its glory. The interesting critters from Illuminights found their way on the Bunny Trail and also into the gardens near DarKastle. The snail (who many park enthusiasts have named “Oscar”), the ants, bees/lightening bugs, giant turtle, and frog are all there. Oscar the snail was missing his French chef hat and mustache and Mr. Frog was missing his top hat and monocle. Interesting, and I am not sure the purpose behind it all.
Land of the Dragons has been spruced up with fresh paint and looked to be cleaner and brighter all around. The kids should enjoy the new look for the 20th anniversary of the play area. Rumor is that there will be a new show. Something I hope happens. The area would greatly benefit from another family fun show and activity.
Le Scoot was mostly refurbished. Hopefully there will be no delays in opening the classic ride when the weather is nice enough to enjoy it. I am just thrilled to see one of the original rides at BuschGardens get some love. It is a true gem and one that holds tons of memories since 1975. Also in New France, the newly renovated bathrooms have not been completed.
Oh, and before I forget; Europe in the Air was running again. I didn’t get a chance to ride it, but it was nice to see that Killarney had an operating attraction this year.
Entertainment wise, Entwined was the only major show playing. The lovely Killarney village band and the Italian Ensemble were performing in Killarney and San Marco.
Celtic Fyre will be opening (hopefully) next weekend along with “This is Oktoberfest.” A Sesame Street show will replace “Mix it Up” until the end of April at the Teatro di San Marco. Rumors are buzzing that the Maypole dancers and the Aquitaine village band will not be returning this year. If so, I will miss both performances immensely. They really added character to the park.
That is about it. Not much to report other than I had a good time and enjoyed seeing my friends and meeting new Busch Gardens enthusiasts. I’ll be heading out again next weekend, so if there are any new additions, I will let everyone know.
I hope you all get to come out and enjoy the park this year! In the meantime, no more snow Virginia- please!
While turkey leftovers are still in the fridge and families are together, many will set out to enjoy the joy of Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Already reaching the fifth year, Christmas Town has firmly established a yearly tradition for most of us. Every year the event brings friends, families, and even complete strangers together to celebrate the season with lights, fun, food, music, inspiration, and entertainment.
When Christmas Town opened on November 27, 2009; I was there; ready to go and see what Busch Gardens had to offer! Through the crowds I navigated with my brown coat and fuzzy earmuffs, bedazzled by decorations and the smell of hot cocoa and peppermint in the air! The Christmas music playing in the park gave me the warm fuzzies as I held my husband’s hand and just took the time to enjoy a lovely moment in time.
I am glad to know that five years later, I still have that warm fuzzy feeling at Christmas Town. This year the grand opening of the event was the weekend before Thanksgiving; a smart move on the part of Busch Gardens.
Having the event begin a week before the Thanksgiving weekend is brilliant when it comes to efficiency; performers get a little extra practice, retail shops make sure the registers are up and running, the rides operators are getting used to the cold, and the entire park gets a “test run” before a huge crowd lines up to enter the park after the Holidays.
I decided to go on both Friday and Sunday in order to capture all I could before the Holiday rush and to provide an overview of the ChristmasTown experience. Laughably and in typical Virginia fashion, one day the temperatures reached into the 70s the other, the 30s. Yet despite the temperature fluctuations, my experience remained the same on both days. For your enjoyment, here is an overview of what I consider the must see points of interest while visiting ChristmasTown this year.
This year France sparkles with a new look of silver and violet. The theme is the 12 Days of Christmas and the first thing one sees upon entering is a very large and beautiful tree with the numbers and corresponding “gift” for each day.
Also new in France is the roaming Royals of Aquitaine. Her Majesty Queen Florette, His Majesty King Francois, and their court Jester Harlequin loves to greet you and pose for a photo. The performers are fabulous and their improvisational humor will be sure to make wonderful memories for years to come.
Besides seeing the Royals, France offers a fabulous gift shop full of French themed merchandise, soap, and what else- wine! Le Belle Maison Gift Shop hosts one of the three locations in the park where guests can partake in wine tastings. The store sells the wine tasting package, bottles of wine, wine themed merchandise, clothing, jewelry, chocolate, Christmas ornaments, bags, French themed décor, and more.
Going past the gift shops and around the Royal Palace Theater is the Ice Palace Penguin exhibit. The ever popular exhibit features an up close look at the adorable penguins in a themed enclosure. The park also offers a behind the scenes penguin tour, but be aware that the tour must be purchased and booked in advance.
Here we come a Caroling!
Penguins and Roaming Royals are certainly entertaining, and so are the shows at Busch Gardens. This year features three returning classic shows: Gloria!, Deck the Halls, and Miracles.
Located in the Abbey Stone Theater, Gloria! set my holiday off right. It was the first show I saw this Christmas Town and even though the theater was toasty warm, the beauty and power of the performance gave me chills! Even the grouchiest humbug will admit that the soaring vocals of the music, accompanied by a live orchestra will make your season bright. The show is extremely popular and if you want a good seat, it is best to get there early.
Over in Oktoberfest Germany, Deck the Halls takes center stage at the historical Festhaus. The show brings back the classic Holiday Favorites that will get you tapping your toes. Kids will love the energy and fun of the performance and adults will appreciate the nostalgic flair. I never tire of seeing Frosty “thumpity-thump-thumping around the stage, but I do wish I could watch the show without singing “Heat Miser” for the rest of the day.
At the San Marco Theater in Italy, Miracles returns to inspire guests with moving music and contemporary dance. Located outdoors, I am always amazed at how well the performers dance and sing in downright frigid temperatures. They make it seem effortless and their hard work warms the heart and soul.
Unfortunately no times are given for three “roaming” musical performances, but be aware that there are Dicken’s style Christmas Carolers in England, a bagpiper plays in Ireland, and a Brass band performs in Holiday Hills. The musicians are amazing and if you are lucky, you may run across a performance.
Here Comes Santa Claus!
OK. I shouldn’t even have to mention it, but anyone wandering through Rhinefeld a.k.a. The North Pole, shouldn’t pass up the chance to see Santa, Mrs. Claus, and all the super cute Elves! Who cares what decade you were born in, no one is too old to see Santa and the photo op the park offers just screams Holiday Photo 2013! Even if you are too afraid to see Santa, at least peek into the window and give him a little wave.
“Please have snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree.”
Christmas is the season for giving, and there are plenty of places to find unique gifts for friends and family at Christmas Town. The stores are always so beautifully decorated that they become an attraction themselves. It is hard not to get inspired to go home and put up Christmas Decorations after walking through the gift shops.
Each shop offers guests something different, but a few stand out as being the most unique:
Artisans of Italy: Here one can purchase authentic Capodimonte Porcelain flowers created on site by master sculptor Nino Galoppo and hand painted by master painter Antonio Aprea. There are so many lovely choices of flowers; it is hard to choose just one.
Right next door is Bella Casa Gift shop where Italian wines, wine tastings, Italy, and Wine themed merchandise are sold.
German Gifts: No trip to BuschGardens is complete without a stop to German Gifts. The store harks back to the days of the “Old Country” era and features traditional authentic gifts from Germany including high quality, hand painted steins and carved wooden cuckoo clocks. In addition, hand Blown glass sculptures, German themed merchandise, Christmas Décor, Glasses of Glühwein, German Wine, and German wine tastings are also sold here.
Emerald IsleGift shop: A place to find authentic hand woven Irish sweaters, clothing, Waterford Crystal, and fine jewelry; as well as Ireland and Guinness themed merchandise.
Mistletoe Marketplace: Located in Oktoberfest, this open air market hosts numerous local vendors that offer guests the chance to buy locally made gifts.
These are a Few of My Favorite Things:
Of course there are rides and many other fun things to see. Lights and decorations are shining in every corner and smiles and laughter are found everywhere. Here are a few of my favorite things at ChristmasTown:
I never turn down a round trip ride on the train, where treetops glisten along your magical ride around the park.
The Flight of Lights turns the Aeronaut Skyride into a Santa’s Sleigh ride perspective of BuschGardens; alight with twinkling lights and the faint echo of Holiday music reaching every swinging cabin.
The feeling of riding the swings in the cold icy air never fails to make me feel like a kid again.
Sitting down with a bottle of bubbly with friends to toast to what we are thankful for.
Knowing that every time I come out to Christmas Town, memories will be made that will last a lifetime.
There really is so much to see and do around Busch Gardens during Christmas Town, that I could write a book. Just remember to take your time and enjoy the atmosphere of all the sights and sounds. Besides shopping, shows, food, and the rides; Christmas Town is a place to reconnect you to your childhood and to connect the young to their imaginations!
~~Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
This year Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens has captured my imagination and inspired that neglected artistic side to flourish once more. Many people are surprised to find out that my degree is in Studio Art and Animation. Sadly, that life long dream of being a traditional Disney Animator was promptly crushed when the studio stopped producing hand drawn films.
Yep, you guessed it. Life happened. Bills needed to be paid and my passion for art fell to the wayside.
Still, through it all, Busch Gardens has been a muse for me on many occasions. Going to the park and seeing the murals and small details captured my heart and imagination for decades. The quality and dedication to themeing is what Busch Gardens has been known for; something that is rarely appreciated until it is gone.
Therefore, I decided to make a series of articles about my need to capture these works of art and present them to a broader audience. It is my hope that when you read my stories and view my work, that it inspires you to look at Busch Gardens in another way; to see the beauty in color, line, light, and form.. to see performances as art and expression and to enjoy the little things.
The Art of Howl-O-Scream
Busch Gardens equals entertainment. Whether you are on a ride, watching a show, having a tasty treat, or just taking in the sights, the goal of the park is to entertain you. Many dedicated people behind-the-scenes; the unsung heroes, work tirelessly to find a way to make the magic happen.
This year for Howl-O-Scream, the park tried something new with their “Terror-tories” concept. Obviously, there was a decision made to bring the adult entertainment to a new level. I found myself intrigued by the new sights and sounds.
The number of times I have seen the show speaks volumes for the production value and talent of the performers. For me, I feel that I got away with stealing a free ticket to see a Broadway show. From the costumes, lighting, sound production, set design, choreography, and vocals; I am continuously entranced by the quality of it all.
For example, the rich colors of the opening number, the soft hues of the nocturnal set, the velvety purples and gold of the finale all give me chills. The choreography uses these colors to compose the performers on stage much like painting a picture.
The newcomer this year is my strongest recommendation for a dinner-theater experience. Blood Banquet never fails to entertain your sense of humor and to please the pallet with luscious food and beverages. By far, it has been my favorite addition to Busch Gardens along with the Food & Wine festival earlier this year.
Blood Banquet set the bar higher at Busch Gardens. This is the one place you can interact with the performers and share a few laughs. You get to see their costumes and lovely personalities up close and feel like you are a part of the act.
The whole things reminds me of Threedneedle Fair. Back in The Old Country era of the park, actors ran the games and interacted with guests daily in this area. They constantly stayed in character and spoke strictly with Old English accents. I was happy to see a similar concept return to Busch Gardens this year.
The actual “show” does not take place on a stage, but around the tables themselves. There is a heavy influence of the vintage Hollywood Glam and a nostalgic humor reminiscent of Groucho Marx. The costumes and set design reflect upon 1940s cinema and the ending number evokes the Broadway show and dance number “That’s Entertainment.”
Therefore it was easy to get lost in the art and magic of the production. Here are examples of what inspired me:
Other Examples: It is in the Details!
The rest of my artistic inspiration is based on several magic moments around the park; an extremely energetic performer that goes above and beyond or the hidden details in alcoves around Busch Gardens. If you look closely, you can always see art everywhere you go.
So what inspires you? Feel free to share your favorite Howl-O-Scream art with me and the readers.
In conclusion, I would like to send a special shout out to all those people who give 110% at the park. Thank you for all you do and for the memories!