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Christmas Town 2014: A Time to Relax and Rejoice!
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.”
A Look Into London Rocks
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:
Three cheers to Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival!
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.”
Pass Member Preview 2014
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!