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Remembering Bill Wiley

“Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come.  Share the keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future.”  ~Mattie Stepanek

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It is pretty obvious I am a very sentimental person.  I see life as a series of events that shape who we are and how we respond to the world around us.  Someone once asked me in a job interview, “How do you see yourself?”  It was a good question and one I had thought about before.

I told her that “I see myself as thousands of puzzle pieces glued together by people who have influenced my life in both a positive and negative way.  My interests, my personality, hopes, dreams, morals; all of which stem from those moments in my life that someone said or did something that shaped my view of the world around me.”

I have always been very aware of connections that tie us all together.  Sometimes they are recognized immediately, but most of them go unnoticed until much later.   It is with great pleasure that I share this story with all of you.

When I started BGW Memories, people were frequently asking if I had any photos of the Brewery Tour.  After searching for months, not one single picture surfaced.  Then when I least expected it, I got a message from William “Bill” Wiley.  He mentioned was that he once worked at the Anheuser Busch Hospitality Center.  With that little note, he attached three photos.  One was of the elusive Hospitality Center; another was the Eagle One monorail.  My favorite was the picture of  him proudly standing in front of a recruitment table.

Hospitality Center

Hospitality Center

Eagle One Monorail

Eagle One Monorail

Bill by the Recruitment Table

Bill by the Recruitment Table

I was electrified with joy!  Not only did this serve to spark my own memories but I knew that it would be appreciated by hundreds of other BGW enthusiasts.

In January, I received an email for Bill’s daughter Nancy.  She explained that her father had passed away and wanted me to know how much he loved BGW Memories.  I started crying as soon as I read those words.  I felt such a loss.

Chances are,  I personally met Bill at some point.  My mind began wrapping around the connection.  I never knew that the man behind the smile at the Hospitality Center would later send me such a treasure trove of history.  Even though I cannot recall the sound of Bill’s voice or conversations at the park we may have shared, knowing we both had the chance to reconnect is a miracle.

We go through our lives never knowing all the ways we affect others.  Bill Wiley taught me that what we do, no matter how small, matters.  In turn, I will never see the photos of the Brewery Tour again without thinking about Bill and his enthusiasm and kindness.

Thank you for sharing your memories with us Bill.   Also to Nancy:  Thank you for telling me how much your father enjoyed reading BGW Memories and how proud he was to be a part of Busch Gardens history.  We will forever be connected and for that, I am sincerely grateful. 

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Please honor Bill by reading about his life.   William “Bill” Wiley’s Obituary is found here:  http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/DailyPress/obituary.aspx?n=William-Roy-Wiley&pid=168882269

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“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
― John Steinbeck

For those wanting to know more about the Brewery Tour:  a regular contributor to BGW Memories, Christopher Shwartz sent me links to the entire Brewery Tour captured on film.  The You Tube videos were posted by “SCIONIZER.”  Thanks to you both for this precious documentation of park history!

1.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOmTtPmFJ34
2.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dleS01NRG0
3.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUtBaBwN5Q4
4.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ti0QaImVSg
5.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEA5BeerH4A
6.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81eH6s1muTw
7.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekNDY7d2PAA
8.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToYfwGw8Qbs
9.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P34MniqMw5o
10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Qk43AVHZcw

A Look back at 2013: The Year of Friends

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Another year has come and gone and I find myself staring in to the abyss of two long months without Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  The cold dark winter sky looms over me as a coaster-less depression rolls in.  Yet amidst the gloom and leafless trees, I reflect upon 2013 with fondness.   I will declare 2013 as another new chapter in my experiences at Busch Gardens.  Through the broad reaches of the internet, I will call it:  The Year of Friends.

Before social media came around, it was a lonely road roaming around the park.  A good analogy of this isolation would be as if I only person who showed up to a sci-fi convention in costume.  No matter how many times I went with friends in years past, no one shared my level of enthusiasm.  That is, until now.

Starting a community fan page was something I had wanted to do for quite some time and thank goodness I took the plunge!  This year I connected with a family of enthusiasts that made me feel at home.  At last, I could be myself and no one would think odd of me.  It was refreshing and glorious!

The first event in 2013 was Pass Member Preview Day.  It was a cold wet March morning, yet I was honored that so many fans gathered into a huddle to start the day off right.

Our First Meet-Up

Our First Meet-Up

For those who have never been to Pass Member Preview, it is scheduled the day before the park opens to the general public and usually features presentations scattered in various locations.  The presentations are designed to inform season pass members of what to expect for the new operating season; call it a teaser trailer.

This past year’s preview consisted of promoting the new Food & Wine Festival; something I could barely contain my excitement about.  When the event arrived, I was not disappointed!

I instantly feel in love with the event, the food, and the atmosphere.  The Food & Wine festival was almost like a special gift given to the loyal guests of the park.  I would even say it was a very successful enticement for many locals to come out to enjoy the spring weather by tasting European themed dishes and to pair them with various wines and beers.  Hello?  Awesome!

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As a local and an avid park goer, this event was my favorite all year.  I felt a constant draw to the park just to enjoy the simple pleasures of food, wine, and the company of dear friends.  It almost brings to mind the TV show cheers, where everybody knows your name; where the bar is Grogan’s Pub and the entertainment was Celtic Fyre and the Killarney Village Band.

The locals enjoy a pre Celtic Fyre toast!  (Photo Credit: Wrangler Roy Photography)

The locals enjoy a pre Celtic Fyre toast! (Photo Credit: Wrangler Roy Photography)

I love the Killarney Village Band!

I love the Killarney Village Band!

My friends and I also acquired a new favorite place to congregate during the event; Aquitaine, France!  Before the Food & Wine Festival, the hamlet of Aquitaine consisted of a brief stop for a ride on Griffon. Yet with the wonderful addition of the Aquitaine Village band, a lovely reinvention of Le Belle Maison shop with the best wine expert in the area, and the charming French Waiters, my friends and I found a new home!  So many hours were spent enjoying wine, singing Oh la la with the band and taking in the scenery of twisting vines while the enticing smell of crepes and coffee lingered in the air.  Oh la la indeed!

My favorite waiters!

My favorite waiters!

Last night of Illuminights!

Last night of Illuminights!

I felt that the Old Country had returned from these small touches of unique experiences.  Our group felt full of anticipation for each day that we would all converge upon our favorite table to discuss life and Busch Gardens.

I would also like to mention my other favorite addition during the Food & Wine Festival:  the Wine on the Rhine cruise.  The price of the cruise was extremely affordable and included a sophisticated snack of cheeses, chocolates, and a wine of your choice.  A charming band serenaded your journey.  It is romantic and a relaxing way to your evening with friends or that special someone.

The wonderful Wine of the Rhine River cruise band!

The wonderful Wine of the Rhine River cruise band!

With the new event, let us not forget a coaster legend reached another milestone in 2013.  The Loch Ness Monster, celebrated its official 35th anniversary.  I planned a mini gathering of fans and even had a poster made for Nessie’s birthday to honor the old girl.

That anniversary morning, the “usual suspects” as I call us, ran into the gates to be the first to ride Nessie that morning.  The park had also decided to celebrate this moment by offering the first 100 people an anniversary tee shirt as well as a chance to be recorded on the celebratory 1st ride of the day.  I was so extremely honored that my best friend and I made it to the front seat! Trust me, we ran hard to earn that spot!

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Looking at that photos taken that day, it is easy to see the love and appreciation for Nessie.  May she live long and remain forever in our hearts!

I would like to randomly insert another favorite memory of 2013; one of my favorite performers took the time to come take a photo with me in his Big Bad Wolf costume.  Anyone who has read my blogs knows my love the classic coaster that once traveled at the “speed of fright” but also for the singer that played the part in the show Entwined.  It remains one of my favorite pictures of the season!

I love this picture!

I love this picture!

During the summer, I took several behind-the-scenes tours that I highly recommend.  Attending the Bird of Prey Tour, The Ultimate Insider Tour, and the Coaster Tour with fellow park enthusiasts was well worth my time and money.  Our tour guides were fantastic and the memories that were made will last forever.  I have written reviews of all the tours on my Blog and please read them at your leisure!

Bird of Prey Tour

Bird of Prey Tour

Coaster Tour Glory!

Coaster Tour Glory!

Bobby made our Griffon adventure fantastic!

Bobby made our Griffon adventure fantastic!

The regular season still held more adventures!  My friends and I were able to catch the last show of “This is Oktoberfest.”  For me, the show is a true representation of the Old Country era of traditional German Festhaus music.  My favorite memory was being selected to dance the Polka one last time with one of my favorite performers; again- another one for the memory books!  It was a touching and fitting way to say goodbye to a show I loved so much for the 2013 season.

Polka time!

Polka time!

Not only did our band of park enthusiast brother’s and sisters enjoy the last of “This is Oktoberfest” and “Entwined”, but we also gathered to enjoy the final performance of Celtic Fyre.  We had so much fun and the cast was so touch by the showing of love and support from their fans.  Many of the 2013 cast has moved onto new ventures but their place in our hearts will never be forgotten.

Thanks to Roy Richards for this wonderful moment of Celtic Fyre!

Thanks to Roy Richards for this wonderful moment of Celtic Fyre!

Thanks for the memories to all who made the regular season shows full of joy and magic!  Best of luck to all of you who are returning and those moving on.  Our love and wishes go out to you all.

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Before the end of the summer, another Pass Member special announcement was made in the Festhaus.  The family of avid fans made their way to be the first to hear what we can look forward to for HOS and for 2014.  We learned about the new format of Howl-O-Scream (HOS) and got to see special look at the new show set to be in the Globe Theater in 2014 called “London Rocks.”

The crowd of fans gather!

The crowd of fans gather!

After the presentation, the performers came out in a vintage double-decker bus to have a meet-and-greet with the fans.  Obviously, this was my favorite part.

These are my boys!  Love you guys!

These are my boys! Love you guys!

The last event I attended in the summer was Wild Days.  A ticketed event of either a breakfast or lunch will include meeting Jack Hanna and a close encounter with exotic animals.  I have never missed this event and plan to continue the tradition every year!

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After the summer, Howl-O-Scream seemed to arrive overnight.  Truth be told, I loved the new Terror-tory Concept and the more adult themed atmosphere.  Entertainment was key in 2013 with classic shows, bars, and a new location worthy of a special note.

My absolute favorite was Blood Banquet!  The concept of a “dinner theater” has been something I have wished for!  Luckily, it far exceeded my expectations!

In fact, my friends and I became regular attendees.  I adored the cast and their enthusiastic portrayal of an eccentric band of vampires, gypsies, and glamorous beauties.   The food was the best in the park and I pray that next year the concept continues to expand with our lovely cast of characters.

My love to all of you! Fangs for the memories!

My love to all of you! Fangs for the memories!

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The last tango~ a lovely moment captured by my friend Frank Forrester.

The last tango~ a lovely moment captured by my friend Frank Forrester.

Of course the shows Fiends and Night Beats were our other favorite haunts.  Our group tended to enjoy the warmer indoor aspect of the shows and the quirky arrangement of tunes catered to fabulous vocal talents.

It takes color, choreography, musical ability, dance, composition, and a strong concept to make a work of art like Fiends.

It takes color, choreography, musical ability, dance, composition, and a strong concept to make a work of art like Fiends.

My favorite composition from Night Beats.

My favorite composition from Night Beats.

OK, I have to mention the highlight of my Howl-O-Scream entertainment experience.  I was called up to have none other than Night Beats lead star, the vampire host with the most, Ulrich himself!   I totally made me swoon with delight!  For the record, he is an enchanting vocalist. Wow.

What a moment!

What a moment!

* I wrote two Blog Articles about Howl-O-Scream this year if you wish to see more of the event in greater detail!

After Howl-O-Scream ended, Christmas Town began.  As always, friends gathered for the opening day without disappointment.  The weather was perfect and the park looked lovely as always.   Our first destination was to see the very first show of Gloria!  Two words; BLOWN AWAY!

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We all were in quiet awe before erupting in a standing ovation.  The power of the vocals brought chills and even caused me to shed a few tears.

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Aquitaine France had a new look for Christmas Town, and for the better.  My favorite addition was the roaming performers, The “Royals of Aquitaine.” Her Majesty Queen Florette, His Majesty King Francois,, and the lovable Jester Harlequin with his sidekick Jester junior, brought smiles to everyone!  This kind of entertainment sets Busch Gardens apart from the competition and never fails to create fond memories for guest.  Bravo to the trio!  They were certainly the crowd favorite this year!

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Moving on from France, the show Deck the Halls in Oktoberfest has always been another fan favorite.  So much so, the the park had to close the Festhaus frequently as it would continually reach capacity.  The talent is always top notch!

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Christmas Town is also more than entertainment, shopping, and lights.  I would like to mention that an outside the Festhaus a delicious all-you-can-eat buffet was open on occasion.  Tucked away; I found it a very affordable hidden gem.  My only complaint was that I wished it had been open every night as I would have gone everyday.  The food was so good and I even met a few new friends while waiting in line.  Oh, and there was ham.  Glorious Glazed Ham!

Yummy ham!

Yummy ham!

From Germany and continuing into the San Marco Theater of Italy, the show Miracles was performing with the usual flair of inspirational music and talent.  My favorite is always the vocal solos, the ballet dancer, and the finale!  One can never leave without feeling that Christmas is more than gifts; it is about love and togetherness.

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Speaking of togetherness, a friend of mine decided to embrace the Christmas season of giving to a family who normally could not have enjoyed Christmas Town.

On behalf of the anonymous donor and representing BGWFans and BGW Memories, I was there to welcome them to the park and see them off with the blessing bestowed upon them off with a package of VIP parking, park admission, quick queue passes, photos with Santa, complete meal packages, a cashless wristband with pre-paid spending money for additional gift purchases as well!

They were a military family whose father was stationed overseas during the holidays.  It was an honor to witness such an act of generosity.  I was told they had a wonderful time and were very grateful.  For me, that is the spirit of giving!

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As for my holidays, I spent Christmas Eve with my dearest of friends at Christmas Town.  The day was absolute perfection.

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I was also at Christmas Town on New Years Eve.  My college buddy, who came all the way from San Diego to spend the day with me and my close friends at Busch Gardens, was a delightful way to say goodbye to 2013.

Of course it was sad to see the season come to an end.  I will miss my Busch Gardens family of friends but look forward to being reunited in 2014.

New Friends and a new family through social media!

New Friends and a new family through social media!

Perhaps I may run into you in the park as well.  Please introduce yourself and feel free to share your favorite moments and memories with me!  I would love the chance of making a new friend.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year and a fun filled adventure at Busch Gardens in 2014!

CHEERS!

My husband: he's a keeper!

My husband: he’s a keeper!

>>>  A Special Thanks to all those who worked Christmas Town and spent their Holidays providing families with beautiful memories!  It is hard work to keep up a smile during cold weather and provide great service and perfect performances every night!  Thanks for the memories and being such wonderful, beautiful people.  Happy New Year to you all!

Best wishes to a talented, lovely lady!  Hope to see you in 2014!

Best wishes to a talented, lovely lady! Hope to see you in 2014!

Having fun on the flume!
Having fun on the flume!

Spending quality time with a up incoming park enthusiast!

Spending quality time with a young park enthusiast!

Late night Verbolten rides are the best!

Late night Verbolten rides are the best!

Busch Gardens and best friends.

Busch Gardens and best friends.

From the Styx concert~ best wishes always!

From the Styx concert~ best wishes always!

Snow at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

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*This article was previously written and shared on BGWFans.com and on Busch Gardens VA Blog in 2010.  In recovering my hard drive this past month, I have found my old story and photos.  Enjoy.
The Swings ready to fly in the snow!

The Swings ready to fly in the snow!

December 31, 2010

When I was very little, I used to dream about what Busch Gardens Williamsburg looked like in the snow. Most kids would peer out their window and watch the falling fluffy flakes; thinking about snowball fights or building a snowman. Not me. I would try to imagine what the Loch Ness Monster Roller Coaster  all covered with snow and ice; sparkling in the winter sky.

What happened in the park when it snowed? Did anyone get to walk around and experience the acoustic nothingness that only comes when snow falls? Did the Rhine River Freeze? All these questions plagued me back when there were no social networks updating fans with a constant stream of photos or Blog posts. Heck, you couldn’t even e-mail the park for a quick answer! You had to send in a handwritten letter; yeah, remember those folks? The paper and pen kind? Oh, how times have changed!

Still, a few decades later, my ultimate winter questions were answered. It only took two miraculous things to happen; Busch Gardens opened their doors throughout December with an event called Christmas Town and Virginia was hit with one of the largest snowstorms in decades. Of course the bad news was that in order to safely open the park, the employees had the arduous task of clearing over a foot of snow on all the pathways, bridges, steps, railroad trestles, and more.

Most of us get tired after cleaning off our cars and shoveling the driveway. Imagine doing that over 350 acres! The dedication of everyone involved in the clearing process allowed the park to reopen three days later. Knowing this, I had my camera charged up and ready to go with heartfelt appreciation. This was a real snowfall and the park had to be spectacular!

I got there as soon as the park opened; set out for the sole purpose of gathering the ultimate Busch Gardens winter photo showcase. I was not disappointed; icicles dangled from the roof tops like prisms, snow blanketed every inch of the landscape, the Rhine River was frozen solid, and the frosty air made Christmas Town at Busch Gardens reminiscent of a winter themed lithograph by Currier and Ives.

Being at the park after a snowfall was just as I imagined in my youth; it was magical. Perhaps Santa was finally answering some of my Christmas wishes on those old “handwritten” childhood letters after all. However, I am still waiting for my own personal roller coaster. Santa, I hope you are listening.

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Beautiful Busch Gardens

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Italy in the snow.

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Ice and snow everywhere!

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France’s frosty trees!

For more Winter Wonderland Christmas Town snow pictures, please visit BGW Memories on Facebook for the complete photo album.

Feel free to submit your own Busch Gardens in the snow photos to keep the album growing!

The Art of Busch Gardens Part One: Howl-O-Scream

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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.

Night Beats

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.

Just the loan door and stairs evokes "theatrical" production.  The simplicity is the beauty of this set.

Just the lone door and stairs evokes “theatrical” production. The simplicity is the beauty of this set.

Colors pull you into another time.

Colors pull you into another time.

The rich fabrics and performances capture the imagination.

The rich fabrics and performances of the actors capture the imagination and spirit.

Lighting highlights the performers interaction and directs the viewer to that perfect moment on stage.

Lighting highlights the performers interaction and directs the viewer to that perfect moment on stage.

Subtle lighting and color sets the mood for the performers to create a moment like this.

Subtle lighting and color sets the mood for the performers to create a moment like this.

The nocturnal dance number changes to a soft blue; moonlight feel. The outfits flutter to elude to feathers in flight and the performers act owlishly as they dance.

The nocturnal dance number changes to a soft blue; moonlight feel. The outfits flutter to elude to feathers in flight and the performers act owlishly as they dance.

Perfect lighting and powerful vocals dashed with a splash of humor make this scene forever memorable.

Perfect lighting and powerful vocals dashed with a splash of humor make this scene forever memorable.

From top to toe, the performers hist every motion to provide that extra magic to the choreography.

From top to toe, the performers hist every motion to provide that extra magic to the choreography.

Body language and and background colors convey exactly what needs to be said without even hearing the lyrics.

Body language and and background colors convey exactly what needs to be said without even hearing the lyrics.

My favorite dancer of Night Beats.  I can't help but to watch the effortless motion across the stage.  The art of Dance.

My favorite dancer of Night Beats. I can’t help but to watch his effortless motion across the stage.

The art of humor and dialogue. Let us not forget the script writers as well!

The art of humor and dialogue. Let us not forget the script writers as well!

Pyrotechnics add drama to a very theatrical pose.

Pyrotechnics add drama to a very theatrical pose.

My favorite composition from Night Beats.

My favorite composition from Night Beats.

 Blood Banquet

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:

I love the cinema feel to the costumes and hair styles.

I love the cinema feel to the costumes and hair styles.

Creating an atmosphere is the first step.

Creating an atmosphere is the first step.

Inside the Vampire Point Hotel, the buffet decor is set to have that old world; haunted charm.

Inside the Vampire Point Hotel, the buffet decor is set to have that old world; haunted charm.

Let us begin with Count Vladtastic.  The show starts once this colorful character sets foot outside.  His dry wit and quick thinking add to the fun and whimsy of dinner at the Blood Banquet.

Let us begin with Count Vladtastic. The show starts once this colorful character sets foot outside. His dry wit and quick thinking add to the fun and whimsy of dinner at the Blood Banquet.

It is all about Guest interaction at Blood Banquet.  Better watch out; Count Vladtastic is watching you!

It is all about Guest interaction at Blood Banquet. Better watch out; Count Vladtastic is watching you!

The Collins are a great set of characters as well as Lugosi.  Often times you will find them roaming outside the dinner area and never miss a great photo op.  Love the costumes!

The Barney Collins, Lugosi, and Marge Collins. Often times you will find them roaming outside the dinner area and never miss a great photo op. Love the costumes and the fact guest interaction is the first priority for Vampire Point!

Vampire Tourists, who would have thought!  The Collins family pose for a great photo.

Vampire Tourists, who would have thought? Marge, Barney, and Leticia Collins make sure to add flare to the show!

Chef Juliet uses her French Charm and Brewing talents to entertain guests.  Ironically, she uses garlic in all her food.

Chef Juliet uses her French Charm and Brewing talents to entertain guests. Ironically, she uses garlic in all her food.  Notice the use of Green & Red.  Great use of complementary colors.

Lugosi, obviously named after the famous actor Bela Lugosi, is not a vampire and is both resentful and relieved his master Count Vladtastic has not made him a vampire.

Lugosi, obviously named after the famous actor Bela Lugosi, is not a vampire and is both resentful and relieved his master Count Vladtastic has not made him a creature of the night.

One of them prays to be a vampire, the other not so much.  These lovely ladies hope to serve you drinks and provide you a warm welcome at Vampire Point Hotel.

Mary Sue prays to be a vampire; Mary Ann (sporting the garlic) does not. These lovely ladies hope to serve you drinks and provide you a warm welcome at Vampire Point Hotel. Their hairstyles, costumes, mannerisms, and beauty take you to another era.  Kudos to everyone!

A little dinner music is provided by the lovely gypsy violinist.

A little dinner music is provided by the lovely gypsy violinist, Svetlana Bendova. Her colorful costume and lovely smile entrances the guests while they enjoy their meal.

The Collin's daughter may text on her phone and would kill to see Lady Gaga, but she never misses the chance to shake her wings or have a drink with guests.

Leticia Collins may text on her phone and would kill to see Lady Gaga, but she never misses the chance to shake her wings or have a drink with guests. Love the hat!

Good food and good times are key at Vampire Point!  It is, Valdtastic to say the least!

Good food and good times are key at Vampire Point! It is, Valdtastic to say the least!

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.

Making a return appearance is the Gargoyles from the Enchanted Laboratory show in the 80s.

Making a return appearance is the Gargoyles from the Enchanted Laboratory show in the 80s.

Ms. Nellie goes above and beyond to entertain guest as they roam through Ripper Row.  Her character has to be one of the most interesting additions to the park in years.

Ms. Nellie goes above and beyond to entertain guest as they roam through Ripper Row. Her character has to be one of the most interesting additions to the park in years.

Smoke, shadow, reds and blues add horror to the silent and spooky headless ladies of White chapel London.

Smoke, shadow, reds and blues add horror to the silent and spooky headless ladies of White chapel London.

I love when performers stay in character, even when they are not center stage.  This lovely nurse strikes a pose in the shadows of the show Fiends.

I love when performers stay in character, even when they are not center stage. This lovely nurse strikes a pose in the shadows of the show Fiends.

Even off stage, the actors  of Dig it Up- Ham it up!

Even off stage, the actors of Dig it Up- Ham it up!

It takes a lot of work to decorate an entire theme park.  Make sure to look for all those hidden scares in the air and everywhere.

It takes a lot of work to decorate an entire theme park. Make sure to look for all those hidden scares in the air and everywhere.

This creepy character greets you at the Pirate Baaaargh with a hint of humor and a dash of scare.  He is hilarious.

This creepy character greets you at the Pirate Baaaargh with a hint of humor and a dash of scare. He is hilarious and the  costume is fantastic!

Open Casket Bar Vampires - serve you drinks in character and in a very tantalizing way.  Their charm, costumes, and personalities are sure to lure you and your money on some frightfully sweet beverages.

Open Casket Bar Vampires – serve you drinks in character and in a very tantalizing way. Their charm, costumes, and personalities are sure to lure you and your money on some frightfully sweet beverages.

It takes time to theme a store and set up merchandise displays.  Dont' forget to admire the artistic effort that goes into selling these treasures.

It takes time to theme a store and set up merchandise displays. Dont’ forget to admire the artistic effort that goes into selling these treasures.

Hand painted works and various signage take time and talent.

Hand painted works and various signage take time and talent.

Costumes - costumes!  The skill needed to make all those costumes for the performers around the park never fails to impress me!

Costumes – costumes! The skill needed to make all those costumes for the performers around the park never fails to impress me!

The drummers are always having fun but the cave girl always steals the show with her performance and mannerisms. You go girl! Female drummers rule!

It takes color, choreography, musical ability, dance, composition, and a strong concept to make a work of art like Fiends.

It takes a complete knowledge of color, choreography, musical ability, dance, composition, and staging to make a work of art like Fiends.

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!

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Festhaus Recipes

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How many of you love food served at the Festhaus?  Silly question right?

To those who were not old enough to remember when the park opened in 1975, it may come a surprise to learn that the Festhaus was not officially “there” until 1976.   It also opened with along with the rest of the Oktoberfest section of the park.  Der Marketplatz, Die Autobahn, The Trabant (Der Blitzschneller), Die Schwarze Spinne, Der Wirbelwind, Das Wirbelwindchen, the Arcade, all the skill games, Der Roto Baron, and the Schwartzkopf Wildekatze coaster.

Oktoberfest opens!

Oktoberfest opens!

Oktoberfest was a success for the park and so was the food!

Back in 1979, the park published a cook book that was written by the creative brains behind the Festhaus menu.

Yes.  A cookbook for the Festhaus… the glory of it allin vivid color and text!

Let us take a moment to thank Festhaus Chef Karin Elliot and Velma Wong (pastry chef) in a quiet meditation.  Think of bratwurst with sauerkraut, a side of German potato salad, and a big old slice of German Chocolate Torte cake.

Top Chef Masters

Top Chef Masters

Sadly, this book is no longer in production and chances are that the only place you may run across it is in a used book store or in a thrift shop book bin.  Speaking of, Kelly Sweeney Osato, one of the readers of BGW Memories, found this lovely book in a thrift shop and decided to cook her own “Oktoberfest” Feast right at home.  Even better, she sent in photos of the fruits of her labor.

I bow to her culinary skills!

This is a feast!

This is a feast!

After reading carefully over my own copy of the Festhaus cookbook; I discovered that in order to properly cook traditional German food, the chef must possess a ton of patience and fee time.  Also, the directions can seem vague and difficult to follow.  However, after seeing the results from Kelly’s triumphant Top Chef Victory, I may have to break out the crock pot and skillets.

The finished plate.

The finished plate.

For those daring enough to follow in Kelly’s footsteps: Be aware that many of the ingredients may not be easily found at a grocery store.  You may have to go to a specialty, international grocery store.  Also, cheesecloth and numerous hours of simmering, pickling, and refrigeration are required for many of the dishes.

So, don’t go expecting an instant Festhaus meal in minutes!  Nope. This is hard work; home cooking.  Busch Gardens style….. and it is not for the faint of heart!

The reason I am spending my free time typing out this book, is to  provide everyone the chance to experience this long forgotten treasure.  I plan on making installments to this post with chapters being added every so often.

He's a keeper!

May the spirit of Oktoberfest be with you all!

Ein prosit, ein prosit, der Gemutlichkeit!

BierMeister

Busch Gardens Postcard featuring Bob Bauman.

Spoiler Alert:  I found out why that German Potato Salad is so good; BACON!  Yes, a good ol’ cup of bacon and the grease is simmered to make the sauce.  Even in Germany, bacon always makes things better!
Disclaimer: Please do not email with questions about the recipes and how to cook things.  I really don’t know.  Check Google.  It is a better chef than I am!
I should also mention that I am doing this in the spirit of Busch Gardens fandom and no money is being made by me or anyone that may help me with this little endeavor of mine.  Since the book is no longer in publication, I thought it would be acceptable to share my treasure with you all.

Busch Gardens Festhaus Cookbook

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Published for Busch Gradens

By

Taylor Lewis & Associates

1979

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Recipes provided by Festhaus Chef Karin Elliot and Velma Wong, pastry chef. The Old Country

Photographs taken by Taylor Lewis in Germany at The Old Country Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia.

Editor: Joanne Young

Designed by Ahia

Food Stylist, Dora Jonassen

First printing Copyright 1979

By Taylor Lewis & Associates

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest opens!

At Busch Gardens Festhaus, every day’s Oktoberfest – the happy season of good food, good fellowship, dancing and song.  In Germany, where Munich’s huge Festhaus tents on the Theresienwiese are the heart of Oktoberfest, the holiday extends for sixteen glorious fall days as it has done since 1810.  In that auspicious year, Bavarian King Maximilian proclaimed a public celebration of the marriage of his son to a Saxony princess.

Such a happy custom was too good to abandon when the wedding was over, coming as it did when the harvest season when the hops were in and Munich’s famous breweries were turning out kegs of golden beer.  Today, the first Keg is tapped by the Lord Mayor to signify the opening of Oktoberfest.  Brass bands play, carousels turn, roller coaster cars soar up and slide down.  Young and old lock arms and sing, swaying to the music or raise their own on-litre steins (the only size allowed on Munich grounds) in merry toasts of “Ein, Zwei, Drei, Prosit!”

Germany’s famous wurts are in mouthwatering abundance, along with spicy sauerkraut, red cabbage, and tangy hot potato salad.  Over all hangs the tantalizing fragrance of barbecued beef, roasted daily on huge spits.

Join the fun at Busch Gardens Festhaus and when you go home, have your own Oktoberfest with the help of these authentic German recipes.

Table of Contents

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Food for Oktoberfest and other German Recipies

Oktoberfest History

Soups and Salads

  • Potato soup
  • “Clear Across the Garden” Soup
  • Noodle Soup
  • Chef’s Salad Dressing
  • Herring Salad
  • Carnival Coleslaw with Apples
  • Beet Salad
  • Hot Potato Salad

Favorite Side Dishes *to be added soon

Meat, Poultry, and Fish  *to be added soon

Breads and Pastries  *to be added soon

Miscellaneous  *to be added soon

Festhaus Songs *to be added soon

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SOUPS AND SALADS

potatosoup

Potato Soup

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Potato Soup

(Kartoffelsuppe)

4 Medium potatoes

1 medium cucumber

1 ½ teaspoon salt

2 cups cold water

2 small green onions

1 ½ cups half-and-half cream

½ teaspoon dried dillweed

¼ teaspoon white pepper

¼ teaspoon celery salt

Peel and dice potatoes and boil till soft in salted water.  Peel cucumber, remove seeds, and chop.  Mix with finely chopped onions.  Place large sieve over bowl and pour potatoes and cooking water through.  Reserve several table-spoons of cubed potatoes to give soup texture, and press remainder through sieve and mix with cooking liquid.  Return to saucepan.  Add cream, seasonings, cucumber and onions, and simmer over very low heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently.  Garnish with thin cucumber slices and a dash of dill.

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Clear Across the Garden Soup

Clear Across the Garden Soup

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“Clear Cross the Garden” Soup

(Quer durch den Garten Suppe)

4 cups of beef stock (or 4 cups bouillon)

1 onion sliced thin

½ tablespoon chopped parsley

3 tablespoons of butter

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup sliced carrots

½ cup chopped cabbage

½ cup cubed potatoes

Salt and Pepper to taste

The best thing about this soup is its versatility.  Walk clear across the garden, pick whatever vegetables are in season and add them to the soup!  This can include green beans, limas, brussel sprouts, zucchini, spinach, turnips, green peas, or whatever you like.

Sauté celery, onion, carrots, and cabbage in butter.  Add to soup stock or bouillon), add mix to potato cubes and parsley.  Then add your own variety of vegetables plus cubes of meat left-overs (or sauté 1 cup cubed beef round with vegetables if you like).  Simmer until potatoes are tender.  Serve with herbed croutons or slices of fresh homemade bread and butter for a complete meal.

For variety: Add 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, or 1 cup of fine noodles, or ½ cup alphabet macaroni. 

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noodlesoup

Noodle Soup

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Noodle Soup

(Nudelsuppe)

4 pounds beef chuck with bones

2 quarts water

2 leeks

2 large carrots

2 stalks celery with leaves

½ large onion

½ teaspoon peppercorns

1 tablespoon salt

1 bay leaf

1 pinch each of marjoram and thyme

2 sprigs parsley (or 1 teaspoon parsley flakes)

4 ounces thin noodles

½ cup sliced carrots

Cut meat off bones and reserve.  Cover soup bones with cold water and bring to boil in sauce pan.  Strain off water, cover soup bones with 2 quarts fresh water, and continue cooking.  Tie leeks, carrots, celery, onion, and herbs into cheesecloth square, and place in soup pot along with salt.  Simmer for an hour, then add meat which has been cut into cubes and sear on all sides in a very hot skillet.  (German cooks prefer to sear the cut side of onion the same way before tying into cheesecloth bag, but this method is optional).  Continue simmering for at least two more hours, skimming as necessary.  Correct seasoning and cool.  Remove fat congealed on top before making the soup.

Heat stock to boiling, then remove meat with slotted spoon and keep warm.  Add ½ sliced carrots and cook until partially tender.  Add very thing noodles, approximately 1 ounce per cup of stock, stirring so noodles do not stick together.  Cook until noodles are tender and serve.  Pass meat cubes in separate dish, letting each guest add desired amount to soup bowl.

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Chef Salad Dressing

Chef Salad Dressing

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Chef’s Salad Dressing

(Salat Marinade)

1/3 cup white vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water

1 clove garlic, mashed

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1 teaspoon carroway seed

1 teaspoon salt- dash of freshly ground pepper

½ cup chopped parsley

Chop Parsley very fine, wrap in cheese cloth, and wring out parsley juice.  Mix ingredients except sugar and parsley in bowl. Let stand for at least two hours.  Add sugar and parsley, and mix again.  Chill before serving over salad greens.

For variety: Add ½ cup finely chopped onion as a delicious marinade for fresh tomato slices; or pour over sliced boiled potatoes and garnish with crisp bits of bacon for a simple cold potato salad. 

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Herring Salad

Herring Salad

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Herring Salad

(Heringsalat)

3-4 ounce jars marinated herring fillets

12ounce carton of sour cream

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon sugar

2 tart apples

2 small onions

½ teaspoon dillweed

Core but do not peel apples and cut into thin slices.  Peel onions and slice thin.  Drain herring fillets and gently stir into sour cream in bowl.  Add vinegar, sugar, apples, and onions.  Chill in refrigerator 4 to 5 hours, or overnight.  Transfer to serving bowl, sprinkle dill on top, and garnish with thin apple slices if desired.

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Carnival Coleslaw with Apples

Carnival Coleslaw with Apples

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Carnival Coleslaw with Apples

(Karnival Krautsalat)

2 cups grated green cabbage

2 cups grated red cabbage

1 small orange, chopped

1 large apple, cored and chopped

2 medium carrots, grated

½ cup raisins

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

Grate cabbages and place in ice water to crisp while preparing carrots and fruit.  Do not peel apple- the red skins adds color and flavor to this bright salad.  Drain grated cabbage and dry between paper towels.  Toss with chopped orange and apple, grated carrots, and raisins.  Combine lemon juice with honey and pour over cole slaw, tossing lightly before serving.

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Beet Salad

Beet Salad

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Beet Salad

(Rote Beete Salat)

#2 can (16 oz) sliced beets

1 tablespoon super

1 tablespoon vinegar

½ teaspoon carroway seeds

1 small Bermuda onion, sliced thin

Drain beets and mix juice with sugar, carroway seeds, and vinegar.  Mix beet and onion slices together in bowl, stirring lightly.  Pour marinade on beets and refrigerate overnight to blend flavors.

For variety: Add 2 tablespoons Burgundy wine to marinade.

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Hot Potato Salad

Hot Potato Salad

hotpotatoesalad

Hot Potato Salad

(Warmer Kartoffelsalat)

6 large potatoes

¼ pound bacon (approx) to make 1 cup chopped bacon (uncooked)

1 cup chopped onions

2 cups water

3 tablespoons cornstarch

½ cup vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

¼ cup each pickle relish and chopped pimento

Boil potatoes then refrigerate about 6 hours.  Peel and slice.  Chop bacon and onion fine and brown in skillet till bacon is crisp.  Do not drain.  Add Cornstarch mixed with water to bacon grease, stirring till mixture thickens, and simmer for several minutes.  Stir in sliced potatoes and simmer until they are hot.

Breads and Pastries

Black Forest Cherry Cake

(Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte)

2 Cups Flour

1 ½ cups sugar

¼ cups milk

½ cup butter

1½ teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

½ cup cocoa

½ teaspoon red food coloring

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs, and measure rest of ingredients into bowl.  Blend on low, scraping constantly.  Beat 3 mintues on high speed.  Pour into two 9 inch round cake pans that have been greased and floured.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-50 minutes.

Filling:  2 cups black cherries canned in heavy syrup; combined with 2 tablespoons of Kirschwasser.

Frosting: (Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte) pint heavy cream, whipped or 1 large container non-dairy whipped topping

Slice each cake round horizontally to make four layers.  Place one layer on flat plate.  Fill pastry bag with whipped cream and pipe a generous ring around the edge of cake layer and a large rosette in the center. Fill exposed ring of cake with cherry filling.  Place the second layer of cake on top and repeat.  Place third layer and top and frost the entire cake layer with whipped cream.  Crumble the fourth layer into fine crumbs and sprinkle on the sides of the cake.  Using whipped cream, pipe two rosettes on top of cake and top each with a maraschino cherry.  Garnish the center top of cake with chocolate curls.

Bavarian  Torte

(Bayrische Torte)

Use chocolate cake recipe for Black Forest Cake.. (see above)  or your favorite Devil’s Food Cake Recipe.  Bake on rectangular sheet cake pan at 350 degrees until cake pulls away from the edge of pan and toothpick inserted in center of the cake comes out clean.  (About 25 minutes)  Cut cake into thirds so you have three equal rectangles.

Place one portion on cake board plate and spread with non-dairy whipped topping about ½ thick.  Place second portion on top and press down slightly to level off top.  Spread Second Layer with whipped topping and place third layer on top.  Frost top and garnish with chocolate sprinkles.

 

More to come!  Stay Tuned.  🙂

In the meantime- enjoy learning the lyrics to a Festhaus Song:

In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus:
Eins, zwei, g’suffa . . .
Da läuft so manches Fäßchen aus:
Eins, zwei, g’suffa . . .
Da hat so manche braver Mann:
Eins, zwei, g’suffa . . .
Gezeigt was er so vertragen kann
Schon früh am Morgen fing er an
Und spät am Abend kam er heraus
So schön ist’s im Hofbräuhaus.

Zicke Zacke Zicke Zacke Hoi Hoi Hoi!

Wunderbar!

Zicke Zacke Zicke Zacke Hoi Hoi Hoi!

Zicke Zacke Zicke Zacke Hoi Hoi Hoi!

The Reason Behind BGW Memories

Me and My brother at Busch gardens.

Me and My brother at Busch gardens.

Deciding to create the BGW Memories Facebook Community and Blog was not an easy decision.  I knew exactly how much effort and time would have to go into making this concept come to life.  Despite worrying about late night editing, networking, frequents updates, messages, responses, and the occasional mean-spirited comments sent my way, I felt compelled to make it all happen.

But why?

If you are reading this, then you have the answer:  You

We all go through our lives hoping to make a connection with others.  We seek out people who have similar likes and interests.  We want to know that we are not alone.

Often we look to our past in order to help us find these connections.  What city we grew up in, what schools we attended, what ancestry we shared; are all bonds formed among a group of individuals.

Since 1975, millions of people share the wonderful experience of visiting Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  I am proud to be one of them.

I have always lived near Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  It was my constant, my babysitter, and my best friend.  Many kids go to a summer camp.  I went to Busch Gardens.  In the 80’s my parents would drop my brother and I off at the park and we would roam freely around during the summer.  It was heaven!

Me flying the red Baron plane.

Me flying the red Baron plane.

For that reason, I decided to reach out to others like me and form a kinship by creating BGW Memories.   It is my hope that by preserving the past, we will strengthen the bonds between generations of park goers.

I am already thrilled that so many people have responded.  What is even more amazing is that some kinships have already become friendships!  There is one friend in particular I would like to mention.  His name is Gary Terrell.

Since Gary first posted photos and stories here at BGW Memories, I was instantly drawn to how much we were alike.  I thought to myself, “Here is a person that remembers those long forgotten details of the past and loves them as much as I do!”  In fact, many of the photos shared here came from his collection.

Gary helping his son at the Battlements Shooting Gallery.

Gary helping his son at the Battlements Shooting Gallery.

One item he sent to me recently was a video of his family visiting Busch Gardens in the 90s. When I watched the film, the happiness I heard in his voice and the smiles I saw on his wife and son’s faces brought such joy to my heart.  It also brought me back to my own childhood.

It was me waving to my mom and dad in the Little Balloon ride.  It me sitting on the battlements shooting gallery in Hastings.  And when Gary asks his son where he is on the video, I can visualize me looking up at my dad at that age saying “Busch Gardens!”

By sharing such a wonderful moment from his life,  Gary helped me to remember my past as well; a truly priceless gift.

Me smiling up at my mom in the Ball Pit at Eagles Nest.

Me smiling up at my mom in the Ball Pit at Eagles Nest.

So to all the people who wish to find a connection to their past at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, you are not alone.   In fact, you may be holding that missing piece of history that someone out there has been searching for.  

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Three Stars for Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival

The Michelin star rating for restaurants has only three awards with “Three Stars” being the highest an establishment can receive.  Three stars is only rewarded  to those rare places exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients. Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage(Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey).  

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It’s official.  My mind is blown.  It’s been three days since I attended Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival and I am still finding it hard to put into words just how amazing this event is.  It’s like trying to describe the Mona Lisa or Niagara Falls to someone who hasn’t seen it.  No matter what I say, I doubt I am capable of capturing the fun experience in writing.

But I’ll try.

I was there for both the first “official” day of the event and the following day.  Even with two full days of gluttony, I barely scratched the surface of what the Food & Wine Festival has to offer.  For the first time in Busch Gardens history, I failed to ride any coasters.  The only ride I did manage to hobble onto was the train and that was only to speed up the process of getting to and from food kiosks.

The first day was spent learning how the Festival works and how to navigate through the lines to receive small tapas like portions of the various culinary delights.  The choices!  The flavors!  How can one decide?  It is as if Chef Gordon Ramsay made a smorgasbord of food and then told you to pick just one dish to eat.  It cannot happen.  “One simply cannot choose just one.”  Thanks Boromir for providing us that lovely internet meme to use in this situation.

Preview

Then, on top of that, each station has an array of beer and wine to select to go perfectly with your choice of delectable yumminess.  There was one moment I envisioned myself looking like Jabba the Hut slithering around the park in a gorge fest of debauchery.  I refrained.. barely.

At the end of each day, I felt like the Mr. Creosote on Monty Python’s Meaning of Life that after eating, “one wafer thin” mint could cause my stomach to explode; and I was OK with that.  I was happy.  Very, very happy.

I was also lucky.  Bacchus must have been smiling upon me because I was picked for being the first contestant in the new show Grape Stompers, given a complimentary opportunity to enjoy the Chef’s Guest dinner, and also attend a special VIP event that included meeting the Resident Chef of Busch Gardens, Justin Watson, before setting sail on the Wine on the Rhine cruise.  Thrilled, is not even close to describing how I felt about all this good fortune.

However, my good fortune is yours as well!  Now I have a very clear picture of the events, food, and wine to share with you here.  It is my sworn duty to provide you with a breakdown of what I saw, tasted, sipped, and experienced during those fun filled two days.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy my overview of my weekend in more detail.  It is so extensive that I decided to put it into categories of Entertainment, Food & Wine, and Merchandise.  If you find that my writing style fluctuates, I apologize.  It is just that getting everything down on paper is not an easy task!

Well here goes… prepare yourself for a Busch Garden’s fan-foodie extravaganza of information!  Are you all a twitter yet?  You should be!

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Entertainment

The Chef’s Guests  

~an interactive dinner show with Virginia Willis, a highly acclaimed chef and writer.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this show as I have never attended a cooking demonstration-dinner hybrid before.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Virginia Willis was charming, funny, and the meal she prepared for us was divine.  Her story about her grandmother was so heartwarming and thanks to Virginia, I will never look at Grits the same way again.  She made me a “true grit” believer!  I am already planning my own version of her recipe in the near future.

Overall Experience:  Well worth the cost.  The food was fabulous and did I mention the grits?  They were absolute perfection of a Southern classic dish!  I chose Elios Mediterranean White Wine to pair with my Pork Loin and found it was a very smooth and went great with my meal.  I highly recommend it.

What is included:  Learning how your meal is prepared along with recipe cards to take home.  Menu includes Gold-Peak Sweet Tea Brined Pork, Tangle of Bitter Greens, Grits with Corn and Vidalia Onions, assorted desserts including Coca-Cola Cake.  One Alcoholic Beverage is provided with proper ID, water, soda, or coffee.

Cost: $19.00 (pass member discounts apply)

Dates available:  These may sell out fast!  There are only two more days left to book the dinner- June 15th and 16th so book it now y’all!

For More Information:  Virginia Willis website http://virginiawillis.com/biography.html and Busch Gardens information and ticket reservations:  http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/FoodandWineFestival/Extras

** If you do not wish to purchase a ticket, you may still be able to see Chef Willis on stage for no additional fee at San Marco Theater June 15th and 16th (dinner and beverage are not included).

Chef Willis prepares our meal.

Chef Willis prepares our meal.

Book Signing in Bella casa Gift Shop

Book Signing in Bella Casa Gift Shop

Grape Smashers

~ an interactive show where four guests are selected to actually stomp grapes on stage at the San Marco Theater.

I was anxious to see the show and made sure that me and the group I was with got to the theater early to find a seat.  However, I didn’t sit down long as I was immediately selected to be a participant!  Talk about exciting!

The performers gathered me and three other individuals in a huddle and gave us directions on what to do.  We were to put on these white suits and protective goggles, go on stage, and stomp the living daylights out of some grapes in a friendly competition of sorts.  I did my best, but alas… I will not harbor any “sour grapes” towards the victor.

Overall Experience:  It was hilarious!  I had a complete blast being in the show and came back later to see the show from another perspective.  It is just as funny watching people hop around on grapes.   The music and humor make the show very entertaining.  A memory I shall forever cherish!  Thanks Busch Gardens for making my day!

The whole event was captured on film and can be seen herehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iTwfRH0DrQ&feature=youtu.be

Thanks to www.bgwfans.com for filming and sharing their link with me.

For more informationhttp://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/FoodandWineFestival/Complimentary-Activities

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Stomping Grapes!

Stomping Grapes!

The end!  Winner is Bryan from Pittsburgh!  Congrats Bryan!

The end! Winner is Bryan from Pittsburgh! Congrats Bryan!

Wine on the Rhine

~ A live band performs on a Rhine River cruise while you enjoy a glass of wine and treats.

As soon as I heard that Busch Gardens was offering a separate cruise on the Rhine River to enjoy music, wine, and food, I never hesitated.  I bought the tickets as soon as they went on sale.  This was something I had hoped the park would do for years and I was not disappointed.

My cruise was perfect.  The evening had cooled off and dusk allowed the landscape to be lined in soft shadows.  The quiet motor of the boat was a perfect tone to set a relaxing zen state of our group.  Our hosts and hostesses made sure we were clear the bridge and a tray of food and the cutest bottle of wine were both handed to me.

The band began to play the perfect blend of nautical, whimsical music.  I was so lost in the music, wine, and chocolate that it really surprised me to see the boats take us all around the right bend of the Rhine River; an area that was once a part of the old cruises in the early years of the park’s operation.

Overall Experience:  I adored every aspect of this cruise from beginning to end.  Perfect.  Book the tour now as I think it is an absolute steal!  This is a perfect date night, girl’s night out, or just a fun way to spend a weekend evening.

Cost:  $16.00 (Pass Member Discounts will apply) Seriously- $16.00 – book it before it is sold out!  Otherwise, Que Syrah Syrah. ~ba dum bum!

More Informationhttp://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/FoodandWineFestival/Extras

My friend Luke and I enjoy our cruise on the Rhine with wine!

My friend Luke and I enjoy our cruise on the Rhine with wine!

The Village Band of Aquitaine is also the band that serenades you on the River Cruise!

The Village Band of Aquitaine is also the band that serenades you on the River Cruise!

The wonderful Wine of the Rhine River cruise band!

The wonderful Wine of the Rhine River cruise band!

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The Art of Food

~Busch Gardens has rounded up 15 various food art experts and will having food demonstrations of their work in three locations in the park during the Festival.

I happened to run into Burton Farnsworth, an extremely talented artist who can make illustrations out of fondue that you would not believe!  Being an artist and trained in animation, I was entranced by his work.  Please make sure to look around at the Festival for these booths and see what magic is being made at each station.  Obviously no one told Burton not to play with his food!

Locations:  Ireland, France, & Italy.

For more information:  http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/FoodandWineFestival/Complimentary-Activities

Burton was so much fun to meet!  What talent!

Burton was so much fun to meet! What talent!

The art of food artists of 2013.  Fabulous!

The art of food artists of 2013. Fabulous!

Food, Wine, & Beer

Kiosks are set up around the park that house samples of various famous dishes from various European Countries.  After my second day at the Food & Wine festival, I would recommend purchasing a pre-paid wristband at the Food & Wine Welcome Center when you enter the park, grab a “passport” food & wine brochure and a pen, and set off on a major culinary adventure!

Over two days, here is what I have experienced so far:

Scotland

Location:  Where Pigs in a Kilt normally operates.  It is tucked under an overhang near the stables.  This is the location of the famous Scottish Egg, so you may want to have a little “Egg Hunt” of your own!

My selections:

Chilled Pea Soup:  The day I went to the park was extremely hot!  The first stop was Scotland and I chose the chilled soup.  This is not for everyone, but folks who enjoy a little adventure in their meal will love it!  Presentation: a beautiful swirl of green and cream.  Taste:  Minty, Sweet Pea Bliss!

Wine:  I chose the Chateau Morrisette Vidal Blanc as I thought it would balance my sweet pea soup.  It did.  A lovely Virginia Wine on a hot Virginia day.

Chilled Pea Soup

Chilled Pea Soup

Scotland's Finest

Scotland’s Finest

France

Location of Kiosk: Tucked away in the old Bistro 205, France is a bit hard to locate.  However, I highly recommend stopping there.  I made it my first destination of the day as I thought it was an appropriate way to start out the Food & Wine Festival.   C’est Si Bon! Magnifique! Having waiters bring you the food to your table was a nice touch.

My selections:

Vichyssoise:  I had this dish on my first day at the park.  What can I say; I am a fan of chilled soup on a hot day!  Basically the soup consists of sweet onion, leek & potato puree with truffle essence.  Presentation:  Simple as it should be.  Taste:  A balance of bitter and sweet.  The name may be hard to pronounce, but what a wonderful treat.  This dish is for folks who wish to extend their pallets and try something a little different.

Moules Provencales Avec Rouille:  Balancing my meal, I decided to try the steamed Mussels  in Tomato Fennel Broth & Lemon Saffron Mayonnaise.   This was the first time I have ever had seafood at the park and shellfish of all things!  Presentation:  Three Mussels in a light red broth.  Taste:  I enjoyed it.  I just wish there were more than three mussels.  I love seafood!  I see food and I eat it.  Ba dum bum.  Thanks, I’ll be here all week!

Wine:  Horton Viognier:  Horton is Virginia Winery and many people may not know that the Viognier was pronounced Virginia’s State grape in 2011!  I love Viognier and this sample had that refreshing splash of flavor I needed with my seafood dish.

1st stop France!

1st stop France!

Viva La France!

Viva La France!

Canada

Location of Kiosk: Trapper’s Smokehouse outside grille.  Look for the very large Canadian apple and onion themed sign.  It screams Oh Canada!

My selection:

Pumpkin Carmel Mousse:  I actually tried this at the “Chef’s Guest” show but nevertheless shall review it here.  Presentation:  a generous portion of crème’ brulee style custard in a clear cup.  Taste:  Creamy, smooth, and oh so good.  Pumpkin and Carmel- how can you go wrong?

Oh Canada!

Oh Canada!

Austria

Location of Kiosk:  This may the hardest kiosk to spot.  It is inside the Funnel Cake building in Rhinefeld Germany.  The line begins to the side closest to the carousel.  Hopefully, it is not too tucked away.  I would hate for people to miss the dishes of Austria.

My selection:

Tafelspitz mit Apfelkren:  Being that I traveled to Germany and Austria; I was really being critical of this dish.  It is the national dish of Austria, so I was nervous about how they could possibly get the flavors authentic enough for my liking.

Presentation:  In a little tray are several slices of beef that has been simmered in a broth and sliced thin.  Next to it is a horseradish and apple sauce that you dip the beef in.  Taste:  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!  I will say that before you run out and buy it… you have to like horseradish.  If you don’t, forget it.  It is not for you.  I am still impressed how the chef’s got the horseradish to balance with the apple flavor, but they nailed it.  Bravo.

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Tafelspitz

Tafelspitz

Menu Options of Austria

Menu Options of Austria

Germany

Location of Kiosk:  Centrally located near the Festhaus, Darkastle , and Mach Tower.  The food and beer stand in Germany is impressive and worthy of the center stage. Da isst es sich gut!

My selection:

Currywurst:  This was the dish I was craving since the announcement.  I loved this dish when I was in Germany and I often ordered this is little restaurants and street carts in Berlin and Leipzig.  Presentation:  a little paper tray with several cuts of Knockwurst with spicy curry tomato ketchup and a side of roasted potatoes.  Taste:  It took me back to Germany.  I felt like I had just handed my money to a vendor in Berlin, not Williamsburg.  I will be enjoying this dish again and again for the remainder of the festival. Es schmeckt gut!

Yay Germany!

Yay Germany!

Sorry, this smelled so good that I started eating and forgot to take the picture.  This is already munched on!

Sorry, this smelled so good that I started eating and forgot to take the picture. This is already munched on!

Beer Flight:

I am unable to drink beer; but was lucky enough to be with folks who were enjoying both beer flights.  Option 1:  German Beer Flight or Option 2:  Virginia Beer Flight.  I am providing photos of the samples as I felt it was a great deal!  Even though I couldn’t drink them, I thought they smelled wonderful!  The presentation of the samples was fabulous and even included a break down of the beers and their flavor profiles.

Beer is always good!

Beer is always good!

Italy

Location of Kiosk:  Behind San Marco Theater.  This Kiosk may be missed if you are walking from Italy to Germany, but could never be said if you were walking the other direction.  It has a gorgeous sign made out of wine corks in the shape of huge grapes.  I love that detail.  Molto Bene!  Bellissimo!

My selections:

Caprese Salad:  One of the best deals in the park.  Fresh Mozzarella, grape tomatoes, and a salad mix with Italian Vinaigrette.  Presentation: Salad in a cup.  Taste:  Cold, refreshing, tangy salad with lovely chunks of mozzarella.

Antipasto Platter:  Sliced meats, olives, mozzarella, and roaster red peppers.  I wasn’t super hungry and this dish offered a nice portion for those who would like a nice snack with wine.  Taste:  meats, olives, and cheese.  Again, how can you go wrong with that?

Panna Cotta:  Vanilla Cream Pudding with strawberries.  Presentation:  Artistically presented on a platter with a sliced strawberry to the side.  Taste:  Delicious.  I wish this was served all year long.

Wine:  I love Chianti and so I chose the Donna Laura Chianti.  It was mellow with a few peppery notes.  It went well with my Antipasto Platter.  Delizioso!

Italy is so beautiful!

Italy is so beautiful!

Antipasto Platter

Antipasto Platter

Spain

Location of Kiosk:  In Italy on the right hand side between Da Vinci’s garden and San Marco Theater.  It is a brightly colored kiosk that cannot be missed.  If you look closely at the silver sun on the top and side, you may be surprised to find out that it is actually made from cooking utensils!

My selections:

Tapas:  Roasted Marcona Almonds, marinated olives, and manchego cheese with Membrillo (quince paste).  Presentation:  Most impressive presentation of food in the park I have seen thus far.  A clear plastic three divided tray is used to separate the ingredients.  Taste:  I could eat these items all day long… on weekends, at night, in a box, with a fox, on a train, in the rain.  I was surprised at how something so simple in concept, could be so enjoyable at a theme park.

Venera con Jamon:  Scallop Wrapped in Cured Ham with Saffron Rice and Romesco Sauce.  Presentation:  A jumbo scallop cooked with a strip of bacon skewered together and a side of rice.  Taste:  The Scallop was amazing.  It was wrapped in Bacon. Case closed.  I wish the rice had more saffron but since it is the most expensive spice per pound, I shouldn’t be too picky!  Still, it prepared well and I will never, ever turn down a scallop.  Or Bacon. Mmmmm bacon.

Pancho Sangria:  I was told by two of my friends that this was astounding.  Therefore, I shall try it on my next trip.

Spanish Kiosk

Spanish Kiosk

Delicious Treat- Tapas!

Delicious Treat- Tapas!

This Scallop is calling my name!

This Scallop is calling my name!

Greece

Location of Kiosk:  Next to Escape from Pompeii.  White with a blue tile mosaic pattern; there is no confusion that the kiosk represents Greece.  However, don’t forget to look up!  There is a super cute little red table on top with two bistro chairs.  Simply adorable.  I wonder if you can ask for reservations.

Welcome to Greece

Welcome to Greece

Cute little detail on top!

Cute little detail on top!

My selections:

Halloumi:  MY FAVORITE DISH AWARD GOES TO THE MIGHTY HALLOUMI! Griddled Greek Cheese with Clover Honey and Crushed Pistachious.  Presentation:  Exactly that.  Taste:  Heaven in Cheese form with honey and pistachios on top!  More please?

Souvlaki Tzaziki  Presentation:  a marinated roasted pork & sweet pepper skewer with cucumber dill & yogurt sauce over a bed of fresh greens.  Taste:  Awesomeness on a stick.

Salata:  Greek Salad with Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette and a crispy pita chip.  Taste:  Greek Salad is hard to make unique when you can order it so often at restaurants.  However, the Lemon Oregano dressing makes this salad a little different and I really enjoyed it.

Wine:  Elios Mediterranean Red Blend:  Smooth and somewhat dry.  I chose this wine to go with my pork skewer and salty Greek salad.  It was a good, but I could also see the Elios white wine being a better choice with the pork.

Tzatziki

Tzatziki

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Kiosks I missed~

Ireland

Location:  As soon as you enter Ireland from Scotland to your left.  Previously a food cart, this area was touched up to have more of a Celtic Flair and offers Irish food like Bangers and Colcannon, Irish Cheese and of course, Guinness.

Neat Celtic Detail on Ireland's Kiosk

Neat Celtic Detail on Ireland’s Kiosk

Scandinavia

Location:  Ireland; across from the Abbey Stone Theater.  Rustic décor with a mighty big fish hanging off the building signifies you are at the Scandinavian station.  Cured salmon, Swedish meatballs (that I heard were fantastic), and a waffle cone cookie are your choices here along with wine and a frozen cocktail.

Sweedish Fish anyone?

Sweedish Fish anyone?

Crepes & Coffee

Location:  France near the Le Belle Gift Shop.  A beautiful new addition to the park; this stand is under a wooden trellis with hanging wisteria.  Here you can buy a crepe, coffee, or a glass of wine.  Having French waiters greet you and ask you about your day while enjoying your food selection:  Priceless!

Crepe Kiosk

Crepe Kiosk

My amazing French Waiters.

My amazing French Waiters.

Belgium

Location:  In France near Griffon Gifts.  It was formally a drink kiosk and features a lovely little sampler platter of Belgian chocolate, toasted hazelnuts, and Edam Cheese.  (Much like the Spain Tapas plate).  The booth also has a Belgian “Beer Flight” of four beers.

Look for this tower.  If you find it, your next to the Belgium kiosk.

Look for this tower. If you find it, your next to the Belgium kiosk.

Merchandise

Different from the wines featured at the kiosks, the Wine Tasting is offered at three gift shop locations:  Bella Casa, Le Belle, and German Gifts.  These locations also feature wine related merchandise, apparel, and even bottles of wine.

Each location offers the guest four samples of wine and a souvenir Food & Wine Festival Glass for $14.95.  Once the glass has been purchased, one can take it to the two other locations and partake in the tasting for only $6.95 (Season pass member discounts apply).  DEAL!

Bella Casa

Located near San Marco Theater and adjacent to the Artisans of Italy Capodimonte shop; Bella Casa features an Italian Wine Tasting or an Italian/ Virginia Wine Comparison.  My favorite wine of the festival so far belongs to a local vineyard and featured a wine at the Bella Casa Gift Shop.  So Congratulations to Ingleside 2007 Cabernet!

The Bella Casa Wine Tasting area.

The Bella Casa Wine Tasting area.

It is always fun to drink wine with friends both old and new!

It is always fun to drink wine with friends both old and new!

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Le Belle

Located in the Aquitaine section of France near Le Aeronaut Skyride, Le Belle offers a selection of French Wine or a Virginia/ French comparison.  The French rosé was my favorite, but honestly; they were all very nice.

Where to find the French Wine Tastings!

Where to find the French Wine Tastings!

Cheers!

Cheers!

German Gifts

Located in the Rhinefeld section of Germany, German Gifts hosts an array of German Rieslings as part of their tasting set.  I am not one to drink sweet wines such as Rieslings, but after tasting their selections; I was impressed.

German Gifts is where to go for Wine Tastings

German Gifts is where to go for Wine Tastings

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*****

Each of the above gift shop locations offers full bottles for purchase either to enjoy in the park or to take home.  Just be aware that once the bottle is opened, it cannot leave the park!  So if you plan on drinking a bottle with friends, best to start early and finish it in time before you leave.

Tee shirts and tote bags with the Food & Wine Logo are also being sold in the park.

Food & Wine Cashless Wristbands are also sold in several stores in case you miss the Welcome Center entering the park.

In Conclusion:

I cannot encompass the true experience of the Food & Wine Festival into words.  It is just that expansive.

Speaking with Justin Watson, the resident chef of Busch Gardens, I was amazed at how much planning and preparation went into each dish and how even something as having fresh parsley for such a large crowd could pose such a challenge.  He seemed quite anxious to hear feedback on the recipes created by the talented culinary team at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

He needn’t worry.  Everything was exceptional!  Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage(Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey).  Three Stars!

Good Job Busch Gardens!  Perfecto!

Good Job Busch Gardens! Perfecto!

So hop on out to Busch Gardens and discover what your favorite dish is!  Just remember to stop and smell the rosé along the way.

This is an event to savor!

Thumbs Up!

Thumbs Up!

Time to Wine and Dine at Busch Gardens

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Something new is brewing at the park and surprisingly, it isn’t beer.  It’s wine!  Busch Gardens Williamsburg will open their arms and wine bottles to welcome all to their very first Food & Wine Festival in 2013!

Austrian, German, Canadian, French, Scandinavian, Grecian, Italian, Scottish, Spanish, Irish*, and Belgian* cuisines will be featured at various locations (kiosks) around the park.  Suggested wine pairings to the various food samples will be offered at each location. (See below for more details on dates, times, and pricing.)  There will also be a German Beer*, and Crepe & Coffee* kiosk as well.

In addition to the festival, the park is offering quite an array of extra wine experiences.  There will be wine tastings offered in France, Germany, and Italy, a “Wine on the Rhine” cruise, and also a very elite VIP tour for the serious wine and food aficionados out there.  Most of these will require advance booking, so make sure to visit the Busch Gardens webpage or the Tour Center inside the park to see dates, times, prices, and availability of purchase.

As a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur and foodie (A person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet), I cannot wait to enjoy all the park has to offer this year in wine, food, and fun!

*Note:  (Above information marked with an asterisk was added to the Busch Gardens Website on 5-15-13)

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Please note all information listed below was directly found on the Busch Gardens Williamsburg website as of May 15, 2013 and therefore, event details and pricing may be subject to change.

The Food & Wine Festival basics:

http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/FoodandWineFestival?from=Top_Nav

Dates:  Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 31 – June 23
Time:  11 a.m. until one hour before park closing

Admission to the festival is included with park admission, and individual tastings range in price from $3-$7.

Grape Smashers™

It’s a merry Merlot mess at Il Teatro di San Marco, where our all-new interactive grape-stomping show is a fantastically fun spin on a classic Italian tradition. Bring your friends and family and watch as our crazy cast smashes grapes. Think you’ve got what it takes to be a champion? Get ready, because you could be challenged to a stomp-off. 

Cooking Live!

Live cooking demonstrations with Chef Virginia Willis throughout the day at Il Teatro di San Marco on May 31 – June 2 and June 15 -16. See venue or park map for show times.

Food & Wine Festival Welcome Center

Situated right outside the main gate, our Food & Wine Festival Welcome Center is a one-stop information shop. Have a question about our brand new event? Ask one of our friendly hosts, or pick up a special event guide that will point you toward the closest culinary adventure. Browse culinary-themed merchandise, or register for unique experiences like wine tastings, behind-the-scenes VIP tours and celebrity chef encounters. 

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Additional Food & Wine experiences to consider in 2013

Please note all information below was found on the Busch Gardens website as of May 15, 2013; event details and pricing may change.

French Wine Tasting

http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/BookOnline/Extras/AllExtrasPage?from=Top_Nav

Enjoy a tasting of four French wines in our newly renovated wine bar located at La Belle in New France.  

Wine Tasting details:

  • Taste (4) different French wines.
  • Each sample is (1) ounce of wine.
  • Learn about the wine offerings of France.
  • Recieve a complimentary souvenir wine glass.
  • Tastings are approximately 20 minutes in length.
  • Available daily from May 24th – October 27th, 2013.
  • You must be 21 years of age to purchase and consume alcohol.
  • Positive proof of age is required.
  • General admission to the park and parking are not included and are required.

Please arrive 15 minutes in advance to confirm your reservation.

Pass members receive a special rate by logging into the pass member area of the website. 

Cancellations: Dining reservations must be cancelled or rebooked a minimum of one day prior to the scheduled dine or total payment will be forfeited.

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Food & Wine VIP Tour

http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/BookOnline/Extras/AllExtrasPage?from=Top_Nav

The Food & Wine Tour offers a sampling of foods and wines from around the world. This experience will excite your palate for sure!

  • Each tour will be enlightened by its own personal guide.
  • Learn about food and wine pairings from various cultures.
  • Experience the flavors of 6 food menu items and a choice of 3 beverages.
  • Tour is approximately 3 hours in length.
  • Available every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from May 31 to June 23.
  • You must be 21 years of age to purchase and consume alcohol.
  • Positive proof of age is required.

General admission to the park and parking are not included and are required.

Cancellations: Tour reservations must be cancelled or rebooked a minimum of one day prior to the scheduled tour or total payment will be forfeited.

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Wine on the Rhine

http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/BookOnline/Extras/AllExtrasPage?from=Top_Nav

Enjoy a glass of wine served with cheese, crackers, strawberries, grapes and a dark chocolate truffle while cruising the Rhine River

  • Wine choices for guests ages 21 years old include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Moscato, Chardonnay and White Zinfandel.
  • Beverage choices for guests under 21 years old include water, soda or a juice pouch.

Your cruise details:

  • Check in at the Rhine River Boat Docks 15 minutes prior to your selected cruise time.
  • The boat will leave the docks promptly at the designated cruise time.
  • The cruise is approximately 25-30 minutes in length.
  • You must be 21 years of age to purchase and consume alcohol.
  • Positive proof of age is required.
  • The Rhine River Boat Docks are at the bottom of a hill and a steep set of steps. 
  • The area is not wheelchair accessible.

Cancellations: Reservations must be cancelled or rebooked a minimum of one day prior to the scheduled cruise or total payment will be forfeited.

Park admission and parking are not included and are required.

Pass Members receive a special rate by logging in to the Pass Member area of Busch Gardens’ website.

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Busch Gardens Live concert series Sailed Away with a Rocking Start!

Let's ROCK!

Let’s ROCK!

Upon hearing that the legendary progressive 70s rock band Styx would be the opening concert series at Busch Gardens this year, I couldn’t have been happier.  I grew up as a roller-skating Rink Rat kid and therefore, the music of Styx was engrained in my head at an early age.  Their music is a part of who I am and my journey in life.  What a joy to finally hear them play live and at Busch Gardens Williamsburg no less! Woot~ mega Score!

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  Puffy white clouds sailed away in blue sky above the venue and the quiet breeze kept the temperature just right to rock the night away.   I decided to upgrade and pay a bit more for the reserved seats for me and my husband.  This also included my dinner for the evening and made for an excellent date night. 

Cheers to Styx!

Cheers to Styx!

The seats we found were a few rows from the front-right and without any obstructed view.  Pretty soon the Royal Palace Theater was full of guests and the energy started to grow while up tempo 80s music got the crowd moving.

The crowd is ready.

The crowd is ready.

When the band came out, I was impressed.  Being that most of the 80s bands are returning to the touring circuit, I’ve seen many famous groups return to the stage.  Some bands hold up well and they look and sound amazing.  Others; well… so the story goes.  Styx was a band that fell in the former category. 

Tommy Shaw, guitarist-singer-songwriter for Styx, looked better than he did in the 70s.  I have no idea what diet and exercise regiment the guy is on, but sign me up!  Vocals for the group sounded just as I remembered and it was if I was transported back in time. Classic; timeless and influential to modern music; Styx really did their music justice that night.

Go Tommy!

Go Tommy!

Their setlist had a great balance of their Progressive Rock history with hits such as: Lady, Come Sail Away, Too Much Time on my Hands, and Renegade.  I stood and danced the night away!  Even with the obvious omission of Mr. Roboto, my husband and I had a blast! The fact that such an event was technically free to park guests still astounds me. 

Busch Gardens should be proud to have added such a classic rock band to their roster and I am super excited to see who else will grace the Royal Palace stage in the years ahead!

Now I can hold my head high and proudly say I saw Styx perform live in concert!  Domo Arigato Busch Gardens.  Domo. 

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The Ultimate Insider Tour: Ultimately Awesome!

All My Tour Badges

All My Tour Badges

Taking the Ultimate Insider Tour was for me, the “ultimate” Busch Gardens guru was a no-brainer. I was a very happy camper pulling up to the parking lot at 8:30am; ticket in hand and meeting my friends for an 8 hour adventure!

The tour includes preferred parking, early access to the park, touring the bakery, a behind-the-scenes tour of The Curse of DarKastle and Pompeii, VIP access to rides during the tour, VIP seating for Celtic Fyre and Entwined, and a meal voucher that includes a entire main course, side item, desert, and drink!

All of this awesomeness set me back $80.00.  However, when you calculate the meal into the ticket price, your actual tour is closer to around $63.00.  Being that I had one of the best trips to Busch Gardens in quite some time, I say it was worth every penny.  Also, my season pass offered me a discount on the price, so it was even less.

Our little group of four consisted of a serious gang of Busch Gardens enthusiasts.  We all planned on taking the tour together in order to maximize our park knowledge.  I sure hope that our tour guides enjoyed all the geeky trivia we were blurting out the entire time.

The Start of Our Tour

The Start of Our Tour

Speaking of, we had two tour guides greet us at the park entrance; Ashleigh and Kelsie.  Both of them greeted us warmly and immediately began the tour.  Kelsie was currently training under Ashleigh, so I made sure to stay close by and give her as many trivia facts as possible.  She now possesses the knowledge of how many cabins are on the skyride, the hidden “Grimm’s Hollow” throwbacks found in Land of the Dragons, and pretty much everything and anything you needed to know about the Big Bad Wolf roller coaster.

There is nothing I love more than talking about Busch Gardens and I am glad Kelsie was patient enough to listen to me.  “Much to learn you still have…my padawan. Now, know the exact date that Busch Gardens opened do you?”

Going back to the tour, we started out with a trek to the Festhaus bakery.  For someone with a wheat allergy, it was like being set in the Garden of Eden and told not to touch the forbidden fruit.  Torture I tell you; absolute torture!

All the wonderful Cakes!

All the wonderful Cakes!

Cakes, rolls, and all kinds of floury treats hit your senses as soon as you walk in the door.  Racks of torte cakes rolled by, bakers were applying icing on carrot cakes, and even a plate of chocolate chip cookies were set out with a little note that said “Thank you for Taking Our Tour.”

I was so touched by their kindness but since I couldn’t eat my cookie, I passed it on to another in my group that was more than happy to sample the dessert on my behalf.

Looking in at the bakery.

Looking in at the bakery.

The bakery was amazing.  It was a flurry of workers getting everything made for the day.  The supervisor stepped in and explained that all the bread, cakes, and so forth were made fresh everyday at the park.  Yes.  Everything at Busch Gardens is made fresh for you everyday! There are no “frozen” cakes that they thaw out.  So next time your mouth begins to water over a layered torte cake at the Festhaus, just remember, it was made with pride right there at Busch Gardens!

We were led outside the Festahaus bakery and made our way over to the maintenance area of DarKastle.

Instantly, we were greeted by a long  row of mechanical sleighs.  For a moment, we all just stood in awe before we all whipped out our cameras; it was one of those eye-opening WOW experiences!

Inside DarKastle

Inside DarKastle

Joe and Jason, two members of the DarKastle maintenance team, went over the questions we had about the technical aspects of the ride.  They were very considerate of our inquiries and seemed to really enjoy the interaction with our group.  They even allowed me to have a little cup of their coffee; a much needed boost to my early morning adventure at Busch Gardens.

Joe and Jason at work!

Joe and Jason at work!

After testing one of the sleighs right in front of us, we all headed through the ride on foot.  Seeing all the detail of the ride first-hand was astounding.  During the ride, you are turning and swerving all the time and you hardly get a moment to really notice all the detail.  I was extremely impressed at the craftsmanship of the ride and the technology behind it all!  The tour guides made sure we were finished our walk through by the time the ride opened for the general public.

One wall of DarKastle

One wall of DarKastle

The spooky painting you see at DarKastle

The spooky painting you see at DarKastle

The tour led us to the control booth were we got to witness the testing of the ride.  We were shown all the safety checks and how the ride securely operates on a day to day basis.  I was in theme park heaven at this point.  I could almost see the clouds part and a ray of light hit the control panels with a choir of harmonious voices singing “AHHHHH!”

Happy Day!

Happy Day!

Saying goodbye to all the staff at Darkastle, Ashleigh and Kelsie took us onward, stopping at a few rides along the way.

Escape from Pompeii was next on our agenda and upon reaching the ride, we went inside the secret passage that no guest dares to venture.  It was a dark hallway and very spooky.  In fact, many of the Howl-O-Scream decorations were still up, so the haunted atmosphere was a little disconcerting walking up stairway that led us up to the Pompeii control tower.

Onward to Pompeii!

Onward to Pompeii!

Many times I looked up to the Escape from Pompeii facade and noticed a little mesh covered window next to the final drop.  I’ve often wondered who is peering at me from behind that curtain; making sure all the riders were securely seated in the boats.  Four long flights of stairs later, we met the team member who does just that.  The room was air conditioned too, which must be nice on those hot summer days.

The window looking out.

The window looking out.

At the control tower.

At the control tower.

Back tracking a little, we went into the room were the pyrotechnics were being controlled.  Yes.  A team member is responsible for all that fire you see leaping around you as you pass by safely in your boat.   I will say that control room was rather hot but it was absolutely hilarious to watch guests scream at all the explosions; oblivious that they are being watched from above.

The pyrotechnics booth.

The pyrotechnics booth.

We took this time to grab some lunch and watch Entwined at the Festhaus.  After the walking for four miles, the air conditioned break was perfectly timed.  It was also very nice to have dining passes. We could have any meal and dessert of our choosing.  Score!

And they lived happily ever after!

And they lived happily ever after!

During our trip, we decided to sign up for the Verbolten Insider Tour in addition to the Ultimate Insider Tour.  We purchased our tickets and met up with the 1pm tour group at Verbolten.  I had been in the building once before, but I have never had the joy of climbing up the hill behind the building were the final drop is located.  It was like standing on sacred ground.  Looking around, I could feel the start of tears thinking that I was right were the Big Bad Wolf roller coaster once stood.  Being so close to that special place and also having a rare glimpse of the new ride that will always contain a part of “the Wolf’s soul,” was a bit overwhelming for me.

Behind the Scenes at Verbolten!

Behind the Scenes at Verbolten!

Awesome shot!  Go Verbolten!

Awesome shot! Go Verbolten!

The inside of the building was rather intense as you can hear all the sound effects and the coaster roaring by!  It was fun to have such access to what only a few park employees get to see on a daily basis.

The controls of Verbolten.

The controls of Verbolten.

After the Verbolten tour we rode a few more rides and went over to Ireland to watch Celtic Fyre.  Having  VIP seating allows  you front row access.  I’ve seen Celtic Fyre over a hundred times, but nothing beats seeing the power of the dancing just inches away from your nose.

Love this show!

Love this show!

Lastly, we took a peek in the maintenance bay of the Loch Ness Monster and also inside the control room of Europe in the Air, where I ran into Cristal who  used to work at the Big Bad Wolf.  I was so happy to see my friend again and to also find a little “Wolf” sticker hiding out at Loch Ness!  It was a perfect end to a perfect day.

Me and Krystal giving our howl out to the Big Bad Wolf!  Awwwoooo!

Me and Cristal giving our howl out to the Big Bad Wolf! Awwwoooo!

Look what I found!

Look what I found!

Parting is such sweet sorrow,  and I was sad to say farewell to Kelsie and Ashleigh since I thoroughly enjoyed their company on  Busch Gardens Ultimate Insider Tour.   Eventually, I hope to take all the tours the park offers  because as I always say:

“One can never have too much of Busch Gardens Williamsburg!  EVER!”

Saying Goodbye after a wonderful day!

Saying Goodbye after a wonderful day!