I am hard pressed to pick the moment that first made me fall in love with GHOST TOWN ALIVE at Knott’s Berry Farm.
Maybe it was my first meeting with dastardly bandit Ox Mayfield, as he stood behind bars telling passersby that he committed all the crimes of which he was accused, but still wanted them to vote him innocent.
Maybe it was my first meeting with the kind Pony Express employee Nellie, who wanted to hear my wife and I’s love story.
Maybe it was my first town meeting where the honorable Judge Roy Bean explained to the gathered crowd that our verdict would decide the fate of the aforementioned Ox.
Whatever moment it happened to be, I was very quickly hooked on what GHOST TOWN ALIVEhad to offer and decided to spend the entire afternoon just checking out this event. In fact, I became so invested in this offering that I decided to return the very next day at park opening so that I could take it all in from the beginning. To my surprise, my second time around had some characters that had not been present the day before, so I was offered a whole new way to experience this wonderful addition to the park.
To best explain the proceedings to the uninitiated, I would tell people to think of this as a theater performance that takes place across all of the Ghost Town section of Knott’s from park opening until about six in the evening. During the course of the day there are some major events that range from a trial, to bank robbery, to a hoedown that wraps up all of the main storylines that guests are free to see or avoid as they see fit. These major events happen about every hour, but even in the interim there are plenty of characters roaming about that are just as happy to talk with visitors or assign tasks to keep people entertained.
Honestly, as much as I enjoyed the big events, I was just as amused by the smaller offerings. From playing cards with the sheriff, to being taught by a bandit how to throw a lasso, to being sworn in as an honorary firefighter, there were plenty of little things to occupy my time between the larger story beats. What made these things just as entertaining was that each of them involved a lot of time playing with the various characters occupying this town.
The actors are where this baby really shines. Initially I was impressed by the commitment each had to their role as they all stayed in character even when talking to one another. Even the actors who did not have a single person interacting with them did not once break (I should know, I eavesdropped in on their conversations as I walked by). When I found that they all were so committed to their roles, it allowed me to suspend some of my disbelief and begin to really lean into their characters.
As I started to learn more about each of the players, I became just as intrigued by their stories as the overarching tale. Each of the players has a backstory that can be discovered by listening to their conversations with others, asking them about themselves, or it might just come up in the course of an interaction. The fact that there were actors who never really had any effect upon the larger story yet were still given their own little story within the grander event added a sense of life to the town as a whole.
All in all, this is a great experience that is loose enough so that guests can jump in or out at their own leisure. Those who want to get really involved will benefit from being recognized by the actors (possibly by name) and therefore becoming more likely to be picked for things like holding a lawyer’s suds cup as he shaves on the street, being quoted in the town paper that goes out every hour or two, or helping a bandit escape police notice. I really cannot say enough nice things about GHOST TOWN ALIVE apart from saying; I cannot wait to return for another visit. Fans of westerns, families, those who want to feel involved in a story, and those who just love theater are sure to get a big kick out of this incredible event.