It was many years ago when I first heard that Chris Merritt was writing a book about the history of Knott’s. I had known Chris for a few years, and although we have never had a close friendship, there is a mutual respect as Chris is another one who “gets it” when it comes to Knott’s…and he “gets it” in a big way. Chris has a professional ability and a personal passion to capture the accidental history of America’s First Theme Park. Knott’s is a southern California institution that is nationally and internationally known. Most people today know it by the roller coasters, jams and jellies, and most importantly, the chicken dinners. But very few know how Knott’s came to be. I know…at least I thought I knew…until I read “Knott’s Preserved”. Now I really know.
I received my copy at the Knott’s Preserved signing event held at Knott’s Berry Farm on April 18th, 2010. Due to family responsibilities that day I couldn’t stay for the entire event, and I know I missed out on some fantastic once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Chris assembled a phenomenal group of speakers for the various park tours and panel discussions, and for those of you who made it, I know you experienced something that is very special and very true to the feel of the “old” Knott’s – back when people took the time to notice the little details and quiet atmosphere that gave Knott’s its charm. Before the times of fast rides and roller coasters that are in such demand by today’s theme park guests.
Of the many people I saw that day, it was great to see my long-time friend Rick West, editor and owner of ThemeParkAdventure.com. (For complete coverage of the Knott’s Preserved signing event, go to Rick’s article here). Rick was one of the first people I knew who allowed himself to enjoy both Disneyland and Knott’s. I soon learned how worthless it was to compare the two, and started to allow myself to enjoy both for what they are. That was many years ago, and the lessons have lead to many memories of wonderful times at the farm, including many enjoyable years as a Knott’s employee.
Once I started reading Knott’s Preserved, it was impossible to put down. The book began with an unspeakable honor. I am listed in the acknowledgements along with other industry website/blog authors, creative professionals, and industry icons who assisted Chris along the way. I am humbled to the core to be listed among such people. It was very good of Chris to share his thanks to so many who aided him along the way. Chris, “Your welcome!”
As I read, I found myself awestruck by the interviews, stories, and rare photos that Chris and co-author J. Eric Lynxwiler were able to assemble. No one has ever published a book quite like this, so I’ve never been able to piece together the scattered knowledge I have of Knott’s early days. I had many moments of “Oh! So that’s where that was!” and “I remember that…but I had no idea it was so significant!” Gypsy Camp, and the Covered Wagon Show are two such examples. I am old enough to know about them, but never experienced either myself. It was so good to read in-depth accounts of both.
Knott’s Preserves focuses mostly on the early days of Knott’s, up to and through the mid 90’s and The Boardwalk. Little space is given to the modern Knott’s, and no space is given specifically to Knott’s seasonal events like Halloween Haunt. But that’s ok. The purpose of this book was to shine the spotlight on Knott’s history, not the modern park. And honestly, when I finished the book, I didn’t want to read about the roller coasters, I wanted to go back and read about the history all over again. That’s what makes this book special, that’s what makes Knott’s unique.
I had high expectations for Knott’s Preserved and those expectations were more than met. It’s a fitting tribute to Walter and Cordelia Knott and the many people past and present who have given their heart, soul, and talent to the Farm for nearly 100 years.
“Knott’s Preserved: From Boysenberry to Theme Park, the History of Knott’s Berry Farm”
By Christopher Merritt and J. Eric Lynxwiler.
Forward by Tony Baxter.
Available at Knott’s Berry Farm and Amazon.com
Additional pictures, audio and video at www.knottspreserved.com