A new and improved Fiesta Village is back at Knott’s Berry Farm.
The bright colors of Fiesta Village light up a little brighter this summer. Fires burn and a cloud of mist glows atop the pyramid, while traditional dancers move, traditional bands play and traditional flavors are served up. All the while, Jaguar! roars overhead.
The renovations of Knott’s Berry Farm’s Fiesta Village, or as the park calls it, a reimagining, have added a notable spice to things in one of the oldest parts of Knott’s. In a deep celebration of Hispanic heritage, the area now looks and feels what its name implies. And it arrives (minus Montezooma’s Revenge, which is still mid-renovation) as part of a booming summer of activity, along with the return of Ghost Town Alive! and Knott’s Summer Nights.
“What you’re going to see here,” says William Alton Ortega, senior director of design for THG, “our focus was to create a more immersive Fiesta Village.”
And to that point, they succeeded mightily. THG, the Pasadena-based experience design company hired by Cedar Fair, previously did renovations on Universal Studios’ Jurassic World ride and Dodger Stadium. “You can come here and have a great time. Relax, eat, drink,” Ortega says. “We have three very immersive zones, a lot of great things for the kids, more guest comfort — more shade and more seating area — and overall, I think a fun place to bring the family.”
Even to the casual visitor, Fiesta Village should look and feel more authentic and connected now.
From the Spanish-tiled fountain and Spanish-styled casa design that frames the entrance to the indigenous, Mayan and Aztec motifs sprinkled about, everything is splashed with color, texture and nods to Hispanic history and culture. Up to and including alebrije (spirit animal) statues and calaveras, the brightly painted skulls, sold in abundance along Olvera Street-inspired Fiesta Mercado.
And the reimagining creates options on how a family can spend their time. While kids ride the coasters, parents can enjoy the mariachi music and folklorico dancers that fill the stages multiple times a day. And they can watch it with one of several new cocktails and a plate of Cal-Mex food. Or if you want everyone eating together, puppeteers from LA’s Bob Baker Marionette Theater put on a themed puppet show daily while everyone chows down.
“One thing we really wanted to focus on was bringing the whole thing to life,” says Christopher Do, producer for entertainment at Knott’s. “Not just things on stage, but we want them up close and to bring the streets alive, so during the daytime on the Fiesta Plaza Stage, we have the return of the Bob Baker Marionette Theater and Mariachi Angelitas. The Mariachi Angelitas start on the balcony and make their way down and go out to the audience.
“At nighttime, we have two wonderful things happening on the Fiesta Plaza Stage,” Do says. “We have salsa and pachanga dancing, and Calle Celebración and the amazing Folklorico dancers, Aztec dancers and huge puppets and stilt walkers, projections up top on Jaguar! and fireworks overhead as well. It’s a tribute to everything in Hispanic and Latin culture. We’re very excited for it.”
Due to construction delays, Montezooma: The Forbidden Fortress — formerly Montezooma’s Revenge — still has no scheduled reopening date, but when it returns, according to Ortega, it “will be a very different experience to what people are used to.”
When it’s time to leave the fiesta, Ghost Town Alive! and Summer Nights have returned, and thanks to a pandemic, it feels like ages since they’ve been gone. It’s the first summer for Knott’s and other theme parks that really feels like things are back to normal.
During the day, the interactive Ghost Town Alive! allows guests to influence the day’s events, go on secret missions and solve puzzles of the Old West. At night, there’s a summer party where visitors can listen to live music and DJs while they get a bite to eat or take a break between rides.
By Shawn Price