Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the Midsummer Scream panel 45 Years of Knott’s Scary Farm. To best describe the conceit, I will turn to the official summary:
“Knott’s Scary Farm’s 45-year history is discussed by an epic panel of veteran cast and crew.”
They were not kidding when they said they had an epic panel. Not only was this one of the few ninety minute presentations at the event, they also had twelve different guests, which is at least two times as many as any of the other panels. It was a lot to take in, but the format was so well executed that it made this approachable even to those who had never attended Knott’s Scary Farm before.
Our first group of guests, made up of John Waite, Diana Kirchen Kelly, and Julie Owens, were around for the genesis of the event. They each played a role in bringing the Halloween spirit to the park, whether it be decorating the log flume for the event, performing in a side show, or scaring guests as the infamous green witch. It was interesting to hear how the event started as a marketing ploy with a local television entertainer, but proved to be incredibly popular.
Moving into our second set of speakers we were introduced to Brian McGee, Del Langdale, and Todd Stubbler, who each added something new to the Scary Farm. From ride operators becoming haunt designers to seasonal scenery designs that rivaled most year round theme park buildings to the invention of “slider” scare actors, each of them took on new roles that revolutionized how the haunt was handled. To this day, the level of growth from both an attraction standpoint and a popularity standpoint is nearly unrivaled in the forty five year history of the park.
The third group of guests, made up of Larry McCauley, Todd Faux, and Jon Cooke, helped to guide the event when it transitioned into the entertainment umbrella at Knott’s. With the new department came one of the biggest changes: the park started hiring professionals to design the event. We got to peek behind the curtain a bit and hear what it was like from not just the first ever haunt designer’s standpoint, but also from that of one of the managers and a current haunt designer.
The final group was made up of Ed Alonzo, Vickie Yahn, and Ken Parks, each of whom was involved in the shows put on at Knott’s Scary Farm. This group highlighted the performance portion of the event be it a naughty magic show, playing the modern day green witch, or just writing one of the spoof shows. Through their stories we got to experience how the park strives to not just have great haunts, but to also just provide solid entertainment for those who are not really into haunted houses.
All in all, this was a brisk, well-structured panel that provided a lot of information in an easily digestible format. I will be honest, I have yet to have the pleasure of attending this iconic haunt and this presentation made me eager to have my first experience in the park. This is the sort of presentation that a massive event like Knott’s Scary Farm deserves and I applaud Midsummer Scream for pulling all of these disparate parts together.