From its humble beginnings as a tiny berry farm to its current status as one of Southern California’s premier family theme parks, Knott’s Berry Farm has a rich history. It’s a beloved destination for locals and tourists alike. Here are nine fascinating facts about the popular theme park.
1. Knott’s Berry Farm was initially operated in 1920 by Walter Knott and his family.
Walter Knott partnered with his berry farming cousin Jim Preston, then made his way from central California to Buena Park, where he leased 20 acres of land to farm a berry crop. During the Great Depression, Knott decided to diversify his income and began selling berries directly to consumers. He soon started selling root cuttings via catalog to other growers.
2. Walter Knott didn’t originally create or even grow boysenberries.
A man named Rudolph Boysen cultivated the berry—a cross between a red raspberry, loganberry, and blackberry. But Boysen lost interest in marketing the new variety when the community failed to embrace it.
Knott was able to find two wilted plants growing in a ditch on Boysen’s former property. He returned to gather some cuttings from the plant, and in 1933, he successfully grew his first small crop of the unusual fruit.
3. In 1934, Cordelia Knott marketed her “Special Southern Chicken Dinner,” which cost 65 cents.
The Knotts sold more than just berries and plant cuttings. While the Depression continued to rage, Walter Knott’s wife, Cordelia Knott, expanded her small tea room on the berry farm and offered fried chicken dinners. The 65-cent meal came with fried chicken, salad, dessert, and a drink. The restaurant, now called Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, is still open today. It’s famous for its fried chicken and boysenberry pie.
4. In 1940, construction began on what would eventually become the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park.
Knott decided to build something to keep patrons entertained while they waited to feast on his wife’s famous fried chicken. Ghost Town Village grew in popularity and soon became a destination in its own right. To encourage guests to visit the new area, Knott hired a group of actors to roam around the western-themed town. With the help of designer and painter Paul Von Klieben, Ghost Town underwent significant expansion, including the addition of several more themed buildings.
Knott’s Berry Farm continued to expand from there; the park now has four themed areas, complete with dozens of rides.
5. Knott’s Berry Farm launched a Boysenberry Festival in June 1959, the first of its kind.
The first Knott’s Boysenberry Festival kicked off in June 1959 and ran for only one week. A “Boysenberry Girl” was crowned, and attendees participated in pie eating and juice drinking contests. Today’s version of the festival lasts from March to late April and is extremely popular with Knott’s fans. It currently features around 40 different boysenberry dishes for guests to purchase, from jambalaya with boysenberry sausage to boysenberry cannoli to boysenberry margaritas.
6. Knott’s Berry Farm was the first theme park to have a Halloween event.
In 1973, Knott’s Berry Farm began hosting an event called Knott’s Scary Farm, which transformed the park into a haunted hodgepodge of scare zones and mazes. It’s now so popular that Knott’s Scary Farm has become the longest-running Halloween event at a theme park. It encompasses the entire park and features 1000 monsters and several different mazes.
7. Knott’s Berry Farm’s previous mascot scared its guests.
“The Old Timer”—a seemingly neckless, white-bearded prospector—became the park’s first walk-around character mascot in 1973. Though previously used in print products, the character’s 3D look was very unpopular with guests; Knott’s own son admitted that the mascot scared visiting children.
Snoopy now represents the California attraction. Knott’s Berry Farm partnered with Charles Schulz in 1983 and introduced the family-friendly Peanuts characters in a section of the park called Camp Snoopy.
8. Knott’s Berry Farm has a replica of Independence Hall that was built in 1966.
The replica of Independence Hall is adjacent to Knott’s Soak City, and is free for guests to access. It’s a brick-by-brick duplicate of the original Independence Hall. The structure is so similar to the real deal that some scenes for the 2004 movie National Treasure were filmed on-site.
9. Knott’s Berry Farm celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2021.
Knott’s reopened in 2021 after closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and celebrated its 100th anniversary by hosting a time capsule ceremony. Among the items in the time capsule is a panoramic photo of all in attendance plus a banner with the names of the park’s employees on it.