Today’s media day centered around the Highland Stables, Europe In The Air & Celtic Fyre. The tour was informal, it was only myself, Tanisha (who took all of our pictures today) & an editor from Theme Park Review going from location to location with a lot of interaction with park officials and with the animals in the stables.
Our first stop was at the newly re-themed Highland Stables. While there was still work going on, the animals were there. We were able to meet some of the Blackface Sheep as well as their new little babies, one being only two days old. The park has a total of 9 female sheep (including the newborns) and 1 male. I should also add that one of the sheep that was in the stables with us was expecting and it’s possible she could be having twins, so perhaps the park will soon have 11 total sheep. The adult sheep are around 3-4 years old and have not been in direct contact with a large number of humans until making Busch Gardens their home.
To my surprise the plan for herding is to have the sheep come into the park at around 11 am through Ireland and into the stables. Park officials said there would not be any separation between the animals and the guests, but that the animals will be trained to deal with the close presence of humans and the unavoidable occurrence of kids getting excited and running up to the herd. The sheep didn’t seem to mind us being close to them or even that we were holding their babies, so the fact that they will be surrounded by people during the season shouldn’t be an issue. The dogs will eventually take place in the herding process, staff mentioned that after about a year of training the dogs are ready, while still maturing and learning for the next three or four years.
Speaking of the dogs, they’re both female, named Katie and Molly. They are four months old and should be introduced to the sheep in about three to four more months when, as the staff put it, they are big enough and confident enough to stare them down if need be. These pups should feel right at home in the park as they are from a Virginia breeder and will actually have full run of the stables. That means that as guests pass through, the dogs will be among them, unlike the Dalmatians that were kept in a pen behind the stables.
There are four new Clydesdales that came from western United States. Two are female, two are male. We were able to get up close with Dakota who is almost 3 years old stands at about 5’10” (with some time to grow a little more) and weighs approximately 1,800 lbs. Needless to say, he’s big. Guests will still be able to take pictures with the horses just like they always have, but there is also the option of taking a behind the scenes tour of the Highland Stables which will include, among other experiences, having your picture taken with one of the Clydesdales without a handler. The price for the tour will be $19.95, but is available at half off to season pass holders through spring break (ends at the beginning of April).
The new fencing looks good, I think it goes better with the theme of the park than the old shiny white fences that were there and there is now a small section that will be open to the public to allow guests to walk up to the stables from the opposite side of the building from where the entrance is.
Europe In The Air
I was not able to get a peek inside, but apparently there is not a lot to see. The seating is the same as it has been in that location since Questor. The screen, however, is new and is panoramic. Three projectors will be showing the film at 50 fps with the edges blending together on the screen. The filming was done via a nose-mounted camera on a helicopter. The park was able to get extremely rare footage from just 50 feet over the Colosseum in Rome. The locations also include Stonehenge, London, Paris & the Alps.
There is a story to go along with this attraction. I’m aware of many people who had concerns that this attraction would have nothing to do with Ireland. The attraction centers around an Irish tour guide and the queue has been re-themed to resemble an airport according to officials. The total “flight time” will be about 5 minutes, with the total attraction experience time (pre-show) being about 15 minutes according to officials. The park officials seemed genuinely excited about this attraction and while they wouldn’t discuss the exact cost (yes, I asked), they were willing to say that it was a large investment. They were not able to give a specific opening day, but are expecting it to open in May.
The cast was rehearsing during the tour, but Phil, the Busch Gardens Entertainment Manager, took some time out to answer some questions and tell us about the show. The story behind this show is that this is a wedding reception set in a tavern pub. The music will be provided by both live musicians and some suite music. There will be more guest interaction during this show than in previous shows. There is a set of small tables at the foot of the stage (which can be seen in the picture to the right) at which guests will sit. At some point during the show the dancers will perform on the tables that the guests are sitting at, performers will also be coming off the stage and into the audience according to Phil.
The set is far different than it has been in the past and there was still work being done to give a real sense of being in a pub while watching the show. The show will be ready for opening weekend, but will not be showing during pass-member preview day.
In other news, the park noticed the success of the Christmas Town webcam and, while no permanent plans seem to have been made, it looks like the use of webcams will be expanded, with officials even saying it’s possible a webcam could be added to the stables. They’re also very interested in continuing their use of social networking opportunities which we obviously support here as well. So, if you haven’t already, make sure to follow @BuschGardens_VA on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook & bookmark the park’s Official Blog.
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