Hey guys! It’s that time of year again. The annual Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival is here. Lots of changes and new kiosks this year. Some good changes, some not so good.
Ever since it’s inception, the Food and Wine Fest is one event I look forward to at the park every year. I love food. I love wine. Perfect combination, right? This is also the time when you get to try foods from around the world, as well as eating something different in the park if you’re tired of eating at Das Fest Haus or Trapper’s Smokehouse. I will say though, this year is full of mixed emotions for me. Too many changes missed kiosks from previous years.
First off, what happened to the chef demos??? The demos have been a huge favorite of mine the last couple years! I loved seeing the dishes being prepared, and yes, being able to try them on the spot, fresh made. The demos were always a huge hit. Those kiosks have been replaced by drink stations. Not a bad swap really as some of the infusions are really good, but I still miss the demos.
New kiosks this year are Mexico, Jamaica, and Philippines, as well as the herbal infusions, garden to glass, and the sangria garden.
If you pay close attention to the new food kiosks, you’ll notice some of your past favorites were kept for some of the new kiosks. Like the empanadas from Spain are now at Mexico.
My favorite booth this year once again was Brazil. I’m crazy for the churrasco (steak with chimichurri sauce). This is a hard one for them to mess up. The steak is cooked on the grill pit outside of Trapper’s Smokehouse. Pair this with the Brazilian Lemonade or Caipirinha (rum with sugar and lime) and add their abacaxi (grilled pineapple).
If I had to pick one food booth to skip though, it would be the Philippines. I was intrigued about their Mamon, a butter sponge cake topped with shredded cheese with raspberry sauce. Cheese on a sponge cake with raspberry sauce? My curiosity got the best of me with this one. My idea of sponge cake, or any cake for that matter, is something soft and moist. The sponge cake here was hard and crispy, more like a cookie than a cake. The raspberry sauce was good but there was no shredded cheese on the cake (or was it cooked inside?). I wish I had tried the Siopao (steamed pork bun with sweet soy glaze) instead. If you have to pick a kiosk to skip, this one would be it.
Other returning favorites from Ireland (bangers and colcannon), Korea (beef bulgogi), and Mediterranean (lamb sliders and loukoumades) were still popular and very good. While I was looking forward to ending my sampling with the pecan bacon bars from Virginia, by the time we made it back around to them, they were sold out, unfortunately.
Another new favorite though was at the Italy kiosk. Italy replaced Spain (I miss the scallops and gazpacho!) with their mushroom risotto and caprese. I skipped the risotto (although I have heard from others it’s really good) and opted for the caprese. This simple dish is a hit. The tomatoes and mozzarella cheese make for a nice light, refreshing, dish to enjoy in the hot summer. Yes, I can make it at home, and I do, but this one is worth it at the park as well.
Now for the drinks. The new herbal infusion station offers up drinks such as lavender lemonade, watermelon mojito and mint julep, and rosemary lemon Moscato. We opted for the lemonade and mojito. the lavender lemonade was REALLY strong. The lavender overpowers the lemonade flavor. In fact, as we drank it down, we added water and more ice and it was still too overpowering for us. This was one drink we couldn’t finish. The watermelon mojito however…..SO GOOD!!! I could get this over and over. Not too sweet, not overpowering in flavor. It had the perfect combination of everything to it. Highly recommend!
I will admit I skipped the Garden to Glass kiosk. I don’t do Bloody Mary’s and after the lavender lemonade, I was scared to try the Strawberry, Orange, Beet & Ginger Smoothie
My absolute favorite new kiosk this year though, is the Sangria Garden. You cannot pass this one up!! If they kept this year round, I would be one happy girl. They offer four flavors: Red Sangria – Traditional red sangria White Sangria – Citrus Moscato sangria Rose Sangria – Strawberry rose sangria Frozen Sangria
You can buy the sangria by the glass or try all four as a flight. Either way, it’s worth it! The frozen sangria was the best, followed by the red, but honestly, all four are very good, very refreshing, and perfect on a hot summer day.
The food and wine festival runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, through June 30. If you’re a member, don’t forget to scan your pass at the self serve kiosk at the park entrance and claim your free sample with EACH visit!
This weekend, Busch Gardens will be opening for the 2019 season. While it’s been a long two months since the park closed in January, I know everyone is eager to get back to their favorite coasters.
On Saturday, Busch Gardens Williamsburg will be kicking off the season by hosting Coasting for Kids, a fundraising, roller coaster riding event for kids with critical illnesses and their families. This event is being co-hosted by Give Kids The World.
Haven’t heard of Give Kids The World? Neither had I until recently. Here’s a little information on them….
GKTW was Founded in 1986 by Central Florida hotelier and philanthropist, Henri Landwirth.
The GKTW village, opened in 1989, is an 84-acre, nonprofit resort built exclusively to serve critically-ill children and their families. The villas offer fully accessible accommodations, with all meals provided on site, tickets to local attraction, plus all transportation.
Local wish-granting organizations also assist GKTW with providing airfare, car rentals, spending money, and anything else the families need, to include helping with medical care and translators. These donations help to relieve the stress of illnesses by giving the families a week long dream vacation, stress free.
And the best part? There is never any charge to visiting families, and no child is ever turned away.
Since 1986, GKTW has served over 160,000 families from all 50 states and over 75 countries.
If you think GKTW sounds similar to another well known organization, Make a Wish Foundation, you are correct. According to Jessica Mueller, Social & Content Strategist for GKTW, they actually partner with Make A Wish Foundation and over 230 other wish granting partners to fulfill wishes of critically ill children whose wish is related to theme parks. “When wish granting organizations have a child whose wish is to visit the Central Florida attractions, they work with us. We fulfill the wish for not only the wish child, but the whole family with a week-long, cost-free dream vacation.” says Mueller.
How can you participate in the Coasting with Kids event at Busch Gardens? Simple. The park is asking for guests to start your own fundraiser to help support the mission. By raising just $100 (that’s EASY, right?), you can receive an event exclusive t-shirt, and all day access to Busch Gardens beginning at 8:00am with exclusive early rides on the coasters.
If you want to know more about GKTW check them out on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/gktwvillage/
The Busch Gardens Coasting for Kids event page can be found here https://www.facebook.com/events/2028429887210033/?active_tab=discussion
For more information about the event, and how to start your own fundraiser (it’s not too late!!!) visit http://www.gktw.org/coasting to sign up.
10 million lights….candy canes and cookies galore….peppermint fudge hot cocoa. These could only mean one thing….CHRISTMAS TOWN IS HERE!!
In it’s tenth year (yes, ten years!!) Busch Gardens is pulling out all the stops for this year’s Christmas Town. And yes, I mean, they’re pulling out ALL the stops…starting with the train.
One of the newest attractions this year is the Christmas Town Express. This 1.5 mile tour around the park is absolutely beautiful and worth the wait. Speaking of the wait, get in line early. With only one station (Caribou) open, the line can fill up pretty quickly. Refill your hot cocoa mugs, sit back, and enjoy the ride!
The second new attraction this year is at the Wilkommenhaus. Once again the park is using their light mapping projection system to transform the Cookies and Cocoa shop into its own gingerbread house. The projections come on every 15 minutes after dark, tempting you to escape the cold and indulge in the parks delicious homemade cookies and hot cocoa, located just inside.
For those of you with small kids, Sesame Street Forest of Fun has family photos with your favorite Sesame Street characters, as well as the new stage show ‘Elmo’s Christmas Wish’.
There may be no other new shows this year, but for those that have enjoyed them in past years, Deck the Halls is back in it’s tenth year (yes, it’s the longest running Christmas Town show), as well as Twas that Night, Scrooge No More, Gloria!, and Gift of Harmony. This is probably my only complaint. While Gift of Harmony was new last year, I would love to see a new show inside Das Fest Haus. Deck the Halls is great, but after ten years, can we get something new?
And don’t forget to round out your night visiting Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in Holiday Hills, along with his friends from the Island of Misfits, for photos, and the big man himself, Santa Claus, inside NewKastle (formerly Darkastle). He’s ready to hear your Christmas wishes and take photos!
And while you’re walking around the park, don’t forget to indulge in all the Christmas Town goodies. Whether you’re stopping by Josephine’s Creamery de Chocolat for a sugar overload with their beignet sundae or peppermint freak shake, or you’re enjoying a hot roasted sirloin sandwich from Das Fest Haus, there is food and treats throughout the park for everyone to enjoy.
Christmas Town is open now through January 5, 2019, on select nights. Check www.christmastown.com/va for more information and tickets.
Can you believe it’s the end of October already? Where has this year gone? Seven months ago we were excited for another year of roller coasters, and now we’re nearing the end of Howl-O-Scream and getting ready for Christmas Town.
What has been your thoughts on Howl-O-Scream this year? Have you been yet? Do you plan on visiting the park for one last scare before they close and prepare the park for Christmas Town?
2018 is also the 20th year for Howl-O-Scream. The park geared us up for weeks leading to the opening by leaking teasers for the new mazes and scare zones.
This year we said goodbye to the mazes Bitten, Deadline, and Catacombs, and said hello to new mazes, Dystopia, Demented Dimensions, and The Vault XX. We also saw the return of Frostbite, Cornered, Circo Sinistro, and Lumberhack.
Along with the mazes, new scare zones Fool’s Court and Garden of the Souls joined forces with the returning zones, Sideshow Square, Vampire Point, Axe Alley, and Ripper Row. Fool’s Court, located in New France where Demon Street was, is full of evil jesters looking to steal your soul. Literally. These guys are great. Creepy and fun to watch. Garden of the Souls though, located in Davinci’s Garden in the San Marco area, is my absolute scare zone this year. Loosely themed to Dias De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, you can watch the skeletons as they roam while trying to steal the souls of unsuspecting park guests. I would really like to see this theme expanded on. I think they did a fantastic job with the characters and costumes, as well as the theme throughout the garden itself.
I have to say, while I absolutely LOVE the new themes this year and I hope to see them return next year, I have bitter disappointment in Sideshow Square. Since it opened two years ago, this has been my favorite zone. The team that played the circus freaks, because seriously, that’s what they were, were always amazing to watch. The gypsy fortune teller, the demon clowns, Wendy the wind up doll, and the ring leaders. I could (actually, I would) spend HOURS watching them do their thing. Interacting with guests and each other. But not this year. This has been my biggest disappointment for Howl-O-Scream this year. They replaced the majority of the troupe (minus the gypsy) with clowns. But the entertainment just wasn’t the same. If the park were to bring one scare zone back, I would ask (beg) them to bring back the original troupe.
Also a disappointment this year was Circo Sinistro. Again, since it opened two years ago, was a favorite maze. The themeing was great, the scares were good. This year, I was bored. No scares. Not one. Not even anyone trying. I think the guests walking through the maze did more scares on each other than the actual cast. Needless to say, I was so disappointed in this maze this year that I couldn’t bring myself to another walk through.
Another disappointing maze for me was Frostbite. I LOVED it last year. There was always something around the corner. The ice walls added to the feel of being inside a frozen castle. This year, it’s like they didn’t even try. It’s like the park debated about even using the space for a maze and decided at the last minute to bring it back, and then half assed the decorating. So bad that when I went through I spent more time walking through blacked out ‘hallways’ with no scares, than actually being scared. Again, this was a visit one time only maze this year.
The best mazes this year were the new ones. While I found Dystopia to be ‘just OK’, I really enjoyed Demented Dimensions and The Vault XX. I could walk through both mazes again and again and catch new details inside with their themeing and decorations. But my absolute favorite maze this year, has been The Vault XX. This maze pays homage to Howl-O-Scream’s past mazes and themes. If you can, check out the details of the various rooms and see if you can find your favorite characters from years past.
All in all, this has been another great Howl-O-Scream year. If you haven’t been yet, this is your last chance. Sunday will be the last night before the park reopens for Christmas Town. Grab and friend and head over for some last minute scares!
Can you believe it’s August already? Where has this summer gone?
2018 has been a busy year for Busch Gardens. New pass program, Food and Wine Fest, Concerts, Summer Nights, and the upcoming Beir Fest.
What was your favorite food or drink this year at the Food and Wine Festival? I absolutely fell in love with the Brazilian booth. The Churrasco was delicious and perfectly cooked, the grilled pineapple was a hit, but my absolute favorite this year was the Brazilian lemonade!! I couldn’t get enough of that drink and kept going back for more every chance I got. While I’m still bummed they removed the Canada booth, Brazil was the perfect addition to replace them and quickly became my new favorite booth.
Not long after the Food and Wine Fest ended in July, the park introduced their Summer Nights event. Music, lasers, pyrotechnics, fireworks, and let’s not forget the dance troupe, Light Balance.
If you haven’t been to the park to check out their Summer Nights yet YOU NEED TO GO!! Replacing the pirates show at the Royal Palace Theatre this year is SPARK, a live rave/ dance party featuring lasers, pyrotechnics, music, and bubbles. This show is running nightly through August 12.
The Wilkommenhaus features projection light mapping (think lasers projected onto the building). The sun goes down, the building lights up! This is a fun show that I would love to see return next year.
If you’ve been through the park during the day, you’ve probably noticed the park left the Cuba Kiosk up from the Food and Wine Festival. This kiosk is open and offering fun treats such as fried Twinkies and Acai berry bowls (think frozen yogurt with toppings, yum!) and mixed drinks.
Just a few feet away from the Summer Nights Kiosk at Josephines Creamery the park is featuring their all new Freak Shakes, available only during Summer Nights. What is a Freak Shake? It’s an insane monstrosity containing a cold and creamy milkshake buried under a mound of marshmallow fluff, chocolate chips, cookie dough, whipped cream, and a cookie or brownie (or if you prefer the subtle flavor of strawberry shortcake, you can get one of those as a Freak Shake as well). Let me just say, these shakes are not for the weak. It took two of us to attack ours and we still couldn’t finish it. At $14 for the shake I recommend trying them at least once, but get it on an empty stomach and make sure you have a buddy (or two) to share it with. You’ll thank me later.
Now, finally, topping Summer Nights off, is the amazing dance troupe, Light Balance. First seen on America’s Got Talent, this dance group is AMAZING. The Abbey Stone Theatre has gone completely dark (when does that ever happen?) to show off the groups neon lights and effects. Without spoiling too much, all I can say is if you haven’t seen these guys perform, you need to ask yourself, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? If you’ve never heard of the group, take the time and look them up on Youtube. You won’t be disapointed. Their shows are only 12 minutes long, but trust me, it won’t feel like 12 minutes. If you plan to see them this weekend at the park, make sure you get in line EARLY as it’s a show you won’t want to miss and seats fill up fast.
Summer Nights ends this weekend, August 12.
So, what happens after Summer Nights ends? The precursor to fall, Beir Fest. Beer lovers, this event is for you! Similar to the Food and Wine Festival at the beginning of the summer, Beir Fest is the parks version of Oktoberfest. With over 100 beers on tap each weekend, German foods like pretzels, turkey legs, and bratwurst, live music, and the tapping of the Firkin Keg every Friday, this event is the closest you’ll get to Oktoberfest. Enjoy beers by the glass or by the flight. Pair with a delicious salty pretzel or go authentic with German sausages from Das Fest Haus.
Beir Fest run weekends only August 17-September 3.
This past week Busch Gardens revealed to local media the behind the scenes construction of their newest ride for the 2018 season, Battle for Eire.
The storyline of the ride is Addie, the heroine, and her dragon sidekick Ollie, are battling the evil Balor and his minions Sluagh for the Heart of Ireland.
If you haven’t heard by now, Battle for Eire is a Virtual Reality ride, the first of it’s kind at Busch Gardens. With the use of goggles, the VR give you a full immersive experience, basically surrounding you in the storyline and making you feel as though you’re there with Addie and Ollie. If you’re not a fan of VR, or are afraid it might give you motion sickness though, that’s ok. The park took that into consideration and has designed the ride so that it can be ridden with or without the VR goggles. If you choose to ride without, you’ll view the screen as a 4K video.
While in line, riders will pick out their headgear and put it on and tighten it down. Once on the ride itself, you’ll put the VR goggles on. The goggles attach to the headgear by three magnets so you literally just pop them onto the headgear.
I know there are a lot of concerns regarding the VR headgear and how it works vs cleanliness, and let me put those fears to rest right now. The headgear is perfectly safe and clean. Don’t trust me? Trust the park. Why? Because you trusted them over the years to keep the 3D glasses at Curst of Darkastle and the shows inside the Globe Theatre clean. The headgear will be cleaned in the same sanitizing machine those 3D glasses were cleaned in. And don’t worry, the park has purchased plenty of the headgear, literally THOUSANDS, to ensure they have plenty for a full days operation with cleaning and turnaround. But what about the goggles themselves? Don’t worry about those either, they will NEVER touch your face.
Just a few stats about the ride for those that don’t already know….
There are actually 2 ride ‘rooms’ with each platform seating 59 guests.
The estimated experience time is around 15 minutes from time in queue to the time you’re walking off the ride.
You can ride with or without the VR goggles. If you choose without, the screen will be the equivalent of watching a 4K television screen.
Speaking of TV…..the frame rate for the video will be 90 frames per second. The average television runs at around 30 frames per second.
The voices of the characters were done by actual actors in Ireland.
The characters based on Irish lore.
Battle for Eire is created by Falcon’s Creative Group, the same group behind the creation of Curst of Darkastle.
While no official opening date has been given out yet, the park is aiming for a spring opening.
If you’re like most locals, you probably have an annual pass for either Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, both parks, or even the 11 park Platinum pass. Last week, Busch Gardens announced their brand new MEMBERSHIP program for their 2018 operating season. Yes, that’s right, Membership. The new program has three tiers, Basic, Unlimited, and Premier, with prices starting at $10 per month, per person, or $120/year.
Let me break the new membership levels down for you.
The Basic membership gives you admission to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA, Howl-O-Scream, and Christmas Town, on select days, subject to blockout dates, 50% off general parking, guest ticket discounts, member sneak peeks, and in park discounts
Unlimited and Premier memberships both offer unlimited admission to Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, Howl-O-Scream, and Christmas Town, no blockout dates, free general parking, member sneak peeks, and in park discounts. While the Unlimited pass gets you 2 free guest tickets, the Premier level gets you 3 free guest tickets and free preferred parking.
What are the blockout dates for the Basic Membership? Pretty much spring break, holidays, and most Saturdays. In other words, the busiest days of the theme park season. While at first glance, this may be a huge deal breaker for most people, if you prefer to visit the park during the middle of the week when it’s not super busy, this may be the deal for you. You still have plenty of time to visit the park, even during peak season, and can still get your money’s worth of your membership. For more information regarding the blockout dates, check their website https://buschgardens.com/williamsburg/annual-pass/blockout-dates/
Something I’m curious about with the new memberships, that the park has yet to disclose, is the member ‘sneak peeks’. Will this be something similar to how local museums offer their members private invites to opening night events for new exhibits? Will park members receive private sneak peeks to events like the Food and Wine Festival before it’s open to the general public? Or will these mysterious sneak peeks be something else completely? Only time will tell as the park hasn’t said anything beyond ‘more information will be coming soon’.
Probably my only complaint regarding the memberships and how they’ve been created, is the fact that we don’t get to opt in or out of Water Country USA. I’m torn on this. I’m not typically one for water parks, but I don’t hate them either. But I feel it would’ve been nice to have had one more pass option, not including Water Country USA on it. Not to knock the park, it’s a great park, but for those that absolutely don’t go to water parks, this portion of the membership goes to waste. I would’ve liked to have been given a membership option for one park as well as the two park options, at a slightly cheaper price of course. Maybe Busch Gardens will reevaluate their membership plans down the road and adjust their offerings to suit this need/want. I know those Water Country USA only pass holders would appreciate the option as well.
Now, for those existing pass holders, I’m sure you’re wondering how these new memberships affect your current passes. Well fear not, you have options. You don’t have to switch over to the memberships…..yet. If your current annual pass is paid for in full, you don’t have to switch over until the pass expires. If you’re on the EZPay, you can keep your pass until you’re ready to switch to the membership. If you want to switch to the new memberships now, anything you’ve paid for your current pass will be prorated for the membership. It is currently unclear just how long the park is planning on allowing the annual passes to continue though. It could be through the end of the 2018 season, it could be three years from now. Originally the park had listed a January 2019 date that all passes must be changed over by, but since their announcement, they have removed that original date and are stating you can keep the current pass for now.
This years ChristmasTown at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, as usual, did not disappoint! I will go event by event with my thoughts.
Santa’s Workshop moved this year to the Darkastle location. It is much bigger and just beautiful. You really get the feeling you are walking through Santa’s workshop, with elves along the way to answer questions and even keep the children entertained while waiting in line. You can see our interview with Santa at the bottom of the page.
Gift of Harmony
ChristmasTown’s newest show is an accapella experience, located in the San Marco Theater in Italy. The music was awesome, fun, and I have to give props to their beat boxer, who killed it. All around great cast and vocal experience!
Always a beautiful show with a mix of gospel and and classic Christmas hymnals, with a bit of jazz fusion in the Abbey Stone Theater. Having a live orchestra really makes the show more full. Powerful vocals make for an awe inspiring performance.
Deck the Halls
A traditional show with classic Christmas songs, is fun and great for dinner in the Festhaus. Again, BGW brings in the live band to give it that full sound.
Twas that Night
The third year for this amazing ice show did what it always does, amaze! An awesome cast led by Olympic medalist and world champion figure skater, Elvis Stojko, called for ooohs and ahhhs from the audience throughout the entire performance. A great show and a must to take the kids. You can see our 2016 interview with Elvis below.
Scrooge No More
Easily my favorite show that BGW has ever done, no matter the season! The visuals, the cast, the music and design bring an amazing version of A Christmas Carol to The Globe Theater. There are not enough words in my vocabulary to describe how much I love this show, and if I weren’t able to spend a whole day at ChristmasTown, I would go just for this show.
My sons and I got to visit with some of the characters from the classic Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer claymation. It is a blast to get to see life sized versions of the childhood favorites.
All in all, 2017 ChristmasTown was a great experience that just gets better every year! See you all in the Spring, until then…
GET UNLIMITED ADMISSION – TWO PARKS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE
Take advantage of the best deal of the season as opening day approaches
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (February 27, 2017) – Opening day is only one month away, but there’s still time to take advantage of the best ticket deal of the season at Busch Gardens® Williamsburg.
Through March 31, consumers can get unlimited admission to Water Country USA® for free with an online-only purchase of a Busch Gardens Fun Card. For the price of a Single-Day Ticket to Busch Gardens, guests can buy a 2-Park Fun Card and enjoy unlimited visits to both parks through Sept. 10.
Busch Gardens opens March 25. Water Country USA kicks off its season May 20.
That’s not the only steal of a deal. Busch Gardens is also offering a 2-Park Preschool Pass to make it affordable to take young children to both parks. This limited-time, online-only offer, allows children ages 3 to 5 to enjoy free unlimited admission to the Williamsburg parks through Sept. 10. Parents must register online by May 31.
Bursting at the seams with exciting rides, concerts and events, this upcoming season promises to be one of the most action-packed years at Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.
The season opens with a visit from animal expert Jack Hanna on March 25 – 26 and kicks into high gear with the spring opening of InvadR™, Busch Gardens’ first wooden roller coaster. Hold onto your Viking helmet as you fly over nine air-time hills, including a 74-foot plunge at almost 50 miles per hour. Grab your family and run for the hills aboard InvadR.
Summer kicks off with the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival, which will take place weekends from May 26 – July 2. Tantalizing new food and beverage options abound throughout the festival, including the addition of India as a new kiosk.
In July and August, Busch Gardens becomes a cooler place after dark during Summer Nights, presented by Coca-Cola®. Special entertainment, culinary experiences and a fun nighttime atmosphere will give guests a new reason to visit during summer evenings.
Summer Saturdays will be even more special with the Summer Nights Concerts, featuring popular rock, pop, country and contemporary Christian performers live under the stars in the Royal Palace Theatre. Confirmed acts include 38 Special, Josh Turner, MercyMe, Jeremy Camp and Rend Collective, with additional names to be announced. Concerts are free with park admission.
Two special shows join the entertainment line-up. Britmania™, a new musical revue featuring British hits from the 1960s to today, debuts June 30, and will be performed throughout the day in the Globe Theatre. A new show in Das Festhaus® will make its debut on March 31. OktoberZest will feature traditional German music and dances, with a modern twister, offering diners a fun Oktoberfest experience every day. All For One™ returns for its second season with new action and adventure. The swashbuckling tale of the Three Musketeers runs nightly in the Royal Palace Theatre from June 30 through Sept. 3, except for concert Saturdays.
Guests can spend a hot summer day in a fun and refreshing way at Water Country USA®, Virginia’s largest water park. The park offers fun for the entire family with a retro surf theme, resort-style amenities and more than 40 state-of-the-art water rides and attractions.
For more information or to purchase a Pass Membership, Fun Card and tickets, visit www.buschgardens.com/va or call (757) 229-4386. “Like” Busch Gardens on Facebook, and follow @BuschGardensVA on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
This year on the hayride was one of change and excitement. We had new management in Jack Chapman, our long time head of make up, and Jason Lingle, former assistant manager of The Village of the Dead. Jack’s wife Sandy is on board as our HR manager. With the help of some veteran actors, Billy Joyner, Paul McHendry, DJ Liles, Travis Chapman, Amanda Winteringham, Eric Sobotta and a few others, construction of Dr. Lazurus’s Woodland Asylum began back in June. A new energy and excitement was running through the hayride, sparking fresh ideas and a desire to create something great.
I spent all of the time I could muster in the woods, helping where I could with my limited carpenter skills and my expert ability to pick up trash and branches. I was dumbfounded every time I arrived in the hayride with the amount of work that was being done. Jack, Jason, Billy and Sandy spent more hours out there than anyone, by far, creating an awesome playground for our actors.
With change comes new obstacles, and we experienced some resistance from mother nature. We had a pretty bad rainstorm that dropped a tree in our graveyard area, but miraculously, it caused no damage. The flooding was our biggest issue, but with help from some pumps we got it mostly dry. That was soon followed by Hurricane Matthew, which was way worse than we ever expected. We had several trees down, one that split but didn’t fall, that we were able to have cut down before it could cause serious damage. The flooding washed away most of the graveyard, and left standing water everywhere. We remained determined, and were still able to put on a hell of a show.
Our cast this season had a lot of new faces, my family included. My oldest son, Talyn, started his second season with more a full time volunteer status, missing only one night this season. My wife, Amanda, and my younger sons, Jake and Hunter, joined us a few nights this season, catching the scare bug.
I know I cannot remember every name of every actor/volunteer we had this season, but I will try!
First Stage: Guard shack
Guests hear how the asylum is in chaos as the patients are uprising after finding out Dr. Lazurus has been using the inmates for his own twisted experiments. Actors: Gaylord Brown, Billy Joyner, Nate McGuiness, Patrick Wiley, Tom Dvorak, myself, Eric Baker
The asylums patients who have been buried here are rising from the grave. Actors: Liz Rodenfels, Avery , Takoda Carter, Jakob Donaldson, Hunter Donaldson, Taylor Vogel, Nick Vogel, Paul McHendry, Amanda Donaldson, Bryce Hawkins, Mariah Cunningham, Robert Phillips, Jason Lingle
Stage 2: Mortician and Lucky
The guests are being warned of the presence of the smallest and most vicious of our inmates, LUCKY! Actors: Brandon Pierce, Tom Dvorak, Patrick Wiley, Nick Balovich, Justin Lee, Trey Pardue , myself
Stage 3: Pharmacy
The pharmacists offers relief to the passing guests. Actors: Eric Sobotta, Tiffani
Stage 4: TV Room and Psychiatrist
The old man watches static on his TV as the patient and psychiatrist argue. Actors: Stacy Turlington, Francine Miller, Drake Holland, myself, Amin, Tyler Owens, Eric Sobotta, Robert Phillips
Stage 5: Solitary Confinement
Dr. Stanley explains the purpose of the confinement, and how some our disturbed patients may have escaped.
Stage 6: Cafeteria
Hungry? Try some feetloaf! Actors: Amanda Winteringham, Alan Swack
The inmates are rioting, causing chaos and dismay for the doctors and guards. Actors: Noah, Talyn Donaldson, Rachel Matthews, Tiffani, Takoda Carter, Trey Pardue, DJ Liles, Gaylord Brown, Skylar
Tunnel: The Lab
The story of how Dr. Lazurus is using the patients to find a cure for his own dark demons. Actors: Richard Bergstresser, John Dikun, Gaylord Brown, Takoda Carter, Nate McGuinness, John Aldridge, Talyn Donaldson
Finale: The Failures
Earlier in the season, the doctor told you that this was your end. Later, the doctor is dead and the inmates are in charge now. Beware the experiment! Actors: John Aldridge, Nate Reep, myself, Tom Dvorak, Rachel Matthews, Francine Miller, Drake Holland, Justin Lee, Takoda Carter, Ashley Dennis, Avery, Brandon Lee, Eric Baker, Ken Gerlach, Kevin Lupton, Mariah Cunningham, Robert Phillips, Sandy Chapman, Jack Chapman
My Character this season was named gniK (pronounced “Nick”). gnik is a maximum security patient that could be seen throughout the asylum, and on different stages throughout the season. I chronicled our season through his eyes on Facebook. We were given a lot of freedom with our characters and the use of cutthroughs that allowed us to attack the wagon in multiple places. I think this freedom made it easier to put ourselves in to the characters. I was able to adapt gniK to the psychiatrist stage, the guard shack, the mortician stage and the finale. Our story line made it very easy to change around characters and it gave returning guests a different show weekly. I found a companion in “Clementine”, a pick ax handle that gave me something to “threaten” guests with. On the first stage, gniK explained how there was an uprising, and he and Clementine took out the guard. On the mortician stage, I got to introduce “Lucky”, our resident leprechaun played by Brandon Pierce. This little dude is impressive, and he is one hell of a guy! In the psychiatrists office, I played opposite a skeleton I named Dr. Spaceman (30 Rock reference), and I actually went crazy one night when I was “forced” to listen to “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” over and over for four hours. In the finale, I explained how I had killed Dr. Lazurus and we have taken over the asylum.
I have to tell a story here. One of our new volunteers, Bryce, was placed in the graveyard. I was on first stage that night, and as I came around the corner I saw him laying on the ground. I was curious as to why an actor would just be laying on his back, I stood and watched this…
I was so impressed I called him on it after the night was over.
Nate Reep, our veteran chainsaw runner and my forever brother, found a new apprentice in John Aldridge. Mad respect to John who made his first year a huge success. X gonna give it to ’em!
Alan, the kitchen cannibal, joined our lunch lady, Amanda, to create a disturbing scene in the cafeteria. I loved seeing what they did next.
Ashley came in last year as a make up apprentice who got thrown in to acting. She was very teachable and I have a lot of respect for her courage when the show started.
Billy has been an actor for a long time in Virginia Beach’s Nightmare Mansion as well as HCF. His character, Patient 14, was super creepy and the addition of his puppet, Truman, caused guests to fear flu shots. A true method actor.
Our “Jumpers”, Caveman Paul, DJ (Patient 09) and Travis (The Muffin Man), defied gravity nightly. They constantly put their bodies on the line, and I cannot respect that more.
The “little ones”, Avery, Tiffani and Liz, caused a lot of surprise in their ability to climb wagons. It was a joy to watch nightly.
Eric and Mariah brought the creep and energy every night!
Eric Sobotta, AKA Pinocchio, and Tyler Owens really stepped it up this year! I am so proud, brothers!
Rachel, your cheery disposition kept a smile on my face ALL season long!
Francine, Richard and Drake are another family that brings the scare. Richard being gassed every night was a highlight in the tunnel, while Drake playing the psychiatrist to Francine’s patient was a stroke of genius.
Gaylord…What can I say? A good friend and constant form of comedy. I love working with you!
John Dikun, the young doctor, had a good first season. The tunnel is a hard place to work, and your first year was a success.
Justin is a walking ball of sarcasm, which I can relate to. It was great working the finale with you.
Ken, for the time you were with us, you showed bravery in the face of adversity.
Kevin, dude, I am proud of you. ‘Nuff said!
Nate McGuinness never quit. When the mask came on, he was in character…wagon or not!
Doc, one of my best friends in the world! I am so glad you were able to come out and play. I am super proud of your first scare experience!
Patrick and Tom, you are always ready wherever they put you. You are crazy in and out of character and I always have a blast working with you two. I put you together because, as a trio, we have a chemistry in comedy.
Robert, you brought it dude. Great athleticism and shear will to scare!
Stacy, you are one of the sweetest girls and a disturbing psychiatry patient…sooo good!
Shut up, Trey
Takoda, you were everywhere and always energetic. It was fun watching you work!
TT, well done this year, little dude!
And lastly, my family. Thank you for being out there and understanding when I wasn’t home when you weren’t. Amanda, I am so proud and I loved watching your character come to life! Jake, You just wanted to be scary and you achieved it! Hunter, I haven’t seen a kid have more fun out there! Talyn, you seriously earned your place this year, you really made a lot of people proud!
Alright, let’s get star…SQUIRREL!
We found a new mascot! Henry is a young squirrel that seemed to have no fear of people
Our awesome makeup team helped so much, especially with the fact that we had so many first year actors. Jack Chapman, Ashley Dennis and Travis Chapman, thank you!
There would be no hayride without the “speed demons” driving the tractors. Mary Mary,Tyler “Deere Slayer”, Robert “Deere Whisperer”, Nate “Bearded Rusty Wallace”, Evan “Tractor Pull”, Josh “Mario Andretti”. You guys did an amazing job this year!
Our monitors have the task of making sure the guests know the rules, follow the rules and “put away your *%*&^$ cell phones”. Witchy Poo Anne, Kate (The inmate that was allowed to come and go), Teresa (Queen of lemony goodness), Ricky “Sparkles”, Trish (Created an atmosphere of comfort and ease, *snort*), Elisa (the evil gas lady). I love having people to interact with while on stage, and you guys really helped drive the show.
Of course, Jason, Jack and Sandy. Thank you again for providing a place that allowed creative flow in a playground that we couldn’t have imagined! Jack, you are a mentor to me. I appreciate everything you have taught me and trusted me with. Jason, this was our first year working together, and though we sometimes disagreed, we found common ground and I have a ton of respect for your skills in building, design and creativity. Sandy, our momma, you set us straight when we needed it, got our backs when we had conflicts, and you were a shoulder when we needed one, I cannot thank you enough.
Every night, before the show, we would meet in the tunnel and get hyped, here was the final nights session:
I honestly believe this was our best season ever! I love my hayride family! BooRa!
Pics by Gary Horton:
Pics by Attraction Chasers
Be sure to watch this year’s video and BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER!