Opening Weekend Part 2: The Photo Update
Previous The Final Post of the Off-Season
I was going to post everything I have gotten this weekend at once but there is, quite simply, way too much content. Instead I’m going to break down everything from this weekend into two or three separate posts. This first post contains all four of the presentation videos and a ton of new information on the upcoming Food & Wine Festival. Enjoy!
Pass Member Preview Day Announcements
As mentioned in the previous post, Busch Gardens Williamsburg announced that they’d be hosting four presentations done by various members of the park’s leadership in Das Festhaus and The Globe Theater throughout the day on Saturday. While it took a ton of running back and forth, I did manage to film each and every one of the presentations. Each speech video will be included below with a quick summary of what was said for anyone who doesn’t have the time to sit through the full videos.
Park Presedent: Carl Lum
This is, most likely, the least interesting of all the presentations. That’s not to say Carl isn’t a talented speaker (because he most certainly his); however, Mr. Lum’s talk basically consists of a recap of the off-season and a little concert information. If you read BGWFans on a regular basis, there’s a very good chance you’ve already read all of what he talks about here. If you’re going to skip one, skip this one.
[li]New park branding and marketing campaign unveiled[/li]
[li]Announced revamped ticketing area and toll booths[/li]
[li]Talks about Emporium/Banbury Market changes in Banbury Cross[/li]
[li]Unveils Union Jack’s- a new 1960s and 70s styled shop in Banbury Cross[/li]
[li]Mentions changes to La Belle Maison in France[/li]
[li]Announces Mini Cooper contest in honor of Verbolten’s 1st birthday[/li]
[li]Speaks on the upcoming Food & Wine Festival. Much more on that later.[/li]
[li]Says that the park kept hearing they weren’t doing enough classic rock during their concert series so they tried to bring more of that genre in this year.[/li]
[li]Mentions Howl-O-Scream’s 15th season in passing. References the massive success of last year’s event.[/li]
[li]States that Christmas Town has turned into a family tradition for people in the Mid-Atlantic region and that the park is excited to bring it back for its 5th season. He also mentioned that Holiday Hills was a massive hit with customers.[/li]
[li]Closed by highlighting the fact that there’s a reworked Entwined alongside a new “German dinner show” in Das Festhaus.[/li]
Vice President of Entertainment: Scott Gasparich
As is normal for Scott, he hit this presentation out of the park. I, like many others, have disagreed with nearly every major change Scott Gasparich has made during his time at the park; however, I’m consistently impressed by his passion for the work he does and, at the end of the day, I’d much rather have someone who really does care about the things they’re making regardless of whether I enjoy them or not. In his talk, Scott does a great job of delving into what his and his team’s goals and aspirations are and the basis behind said goals. Similar to his presentation at Pass Member Appreciation Weekend last year, he was one of the few people who didn’t seem to have been given a script to read from full of marketing jargon and the like. He seemed to acknowledged that anyone who was nerdy enough to be at his presentation clearly knew what the park was doing and would likely be more interested in the thought-process that happens behind closed doors. Even though there’s no ground-breaking new information, Scott’s speech is well worth a listen.
[li]Busch Gardens Williamsburg is opening this year with 10 different show products around the park.[/li]
[li]The park has moved from eight concerts in 2012 to twelve in 2013[/li]
[li]Echos Carl Lum’s talk about the concert series this year[/li]
[li]Entertainment is fully responsible for all park theming[/li]
[li]Scott says he has never been a fan of Aquitaine, the park’s French hamlet[/li]
[li]The new wine shop in France will have servers who walk around the surrounding seating areas[/li]
[li]More general talk about the Food & Wine Festival. Again, all of this will be covered in the second half of this post.[/li]
[li]IllumiNights is back for 2013 with new shows in both Ireland and Italy. No real details given.[/li]
[li]On this year’s Howl-O-Scream: “The villages and the environment around Busch Gardens will not look like it ever has before.“[/li]
[li]Scott references the crowding issues that Christmas Town has had since its debut and states that it will be, once again, expanded to meet the growing demand in 2013. Also mentions that there will be some redesign work done on some of the older parts of the event.[/li]
[li]States that though they are responsible for everything stated aove, the park’s core shows are still their main focus.[/li]
[li]Scott says he has been very busy working on things for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.[/li]
[li]Calls last year’s Entwined a big experimental leap for the park and points to it being successful in bringing more people into Das Festhaus.[/li]
[li]Marks last year’s Entwined as a success but decided that for 2013, they could push things even further. Also admits that the previous version of Entwined was aimed at a very young audience and he hoped to fix that with the new 2013 version.[/li]
[li]Calls this year’s Entwined “new from the grass up“. 100% new song list, story, costumes, set, etc. Says that he believes it fits perfectly with the essence of Busch Gardens Williamsburg and the Bavarian theme of Das Festhaus.[/li]
[li]Entwined Version 3 was a collaboration between in-house staff and people from Broadway, Cirque du Soleil, Disney Parks, and various movie and TV shows.[/li]
[li]On Entwined: “… I’m sure you’ll enjoy it and if you don’t enjoy it, you know what, we also have an Irish dancing show.”[/li]
[li]Announces “the Oktoberfest show” to a cheering crowd.[/li]
[li]Claims the reasoning behind bringing This is Oktoberfest back for 2013 is to give guests a reason to come back to Das Festhaus a second time during the day to experience something completely different than what was offered earlier in the day.[/li]
[li]Says that the problem with This is Oktoberfest is that it doesn’t actually draw a crowd anymore because guests have “been there and done that“.[/li]
[li]Scott states that this year’s This is Oktoberfest is based off of the show as it was around 5 years ago and that recordings of the original Burgermeister, the late Bob Bauman, will be used.[/li]
[li]Briefly mentions Mix it Up and its new stage.[/li]
[li]Closes by running down the list of this year’s shows which includes two new small street bands located in Italy and Ireland.[/li]
Vice President of Culinary Operations: Franz Kitenko
Though he has held two different Vice President positions at the park over the past few years, Franz Kitenko isn’t a name you often hear tossed around in the community. Believe it or not, Franz actually started as Vice President of Cullinary Operations back in 1993. In 2006, he moved to fill the position of VP of Merchandise but now, for 2013, he’s once again back as the head of Cullinary Ops. Anyway, Mr. Kitenko gave the only speech that really announced news we hadn’t heard about prior to Pass Member Preview day. If you have any interest whatsoever in the Food & Wine Festival, you should defiantly watch this one.
[li]Opens by speaking about his previous positions as VP of Merchandise and, prior to that, VP of Culinary Operations[/li]
[li]Gelato shop in San Marco announced. All the gelato will be made fresh across the street in the former display kitchen.[/li]
[li]”Coca-Cola Market” announced for the Festa Italia tent structure across the path from The Trade Wind. When completed, it will take up around 40% of that pavilion. Work should be done by May 1st.[/li]
[li]Announces Loch Ness Monster’s 35th anniversary calling it both an icon for the park and for the industry as a whole. In celebration, culinary will be offering a commemorative souvenir drink cup for Nessie’s birthday.[/li]
[li]Soda fountain refill prices jumped by $0.30 cents this year and are now up to $1.29. If you’re using this year’s Loch Ness souvenir cup you can get refills for the old price of $0.99.[/li]
[li]Though wine tasting is a large part of the Food & Wine Festival, there will also be three permanent wine tasting shops throughout the park this year- one in Italy, one in Germany, and one in France.[/li]
[li]Closes by presenting a ton more general information on the Food & Wine Festival. Once again, see the second half of this post for more on that.[/li]
Manager of Zoological Operations: Jay Tacey
It’s very rare that we get to hear directly from the zoological department at the park. In the past, the marketing department has always seemed to enjoy marching the park’s animals out into the crowd as they tell you about their latest buy this, get that free deal, but you very rarely get to hear from the people responsible for the park’s animal attractions. I absolutely love that Jay Tracey was given a nice chunk of the spotlight this time around and, even better, that he actually had some very interesting things to talk about. There weren’t any massive announcements made but he did a great job of running down the list of what his department had done over the off-season. I think my summary basically points out all the actual bits of information in his speech but, if you have the time, his talk is still very much worth a listen. Also, just as a note: Jay’s talk goes till about the 12 minute point in the video below. He was immediately followed by Brad Elsass whose talk will be covered immediately following this section.
[li]Announces the new Bald Eagle exhibit. Names the reasoning behind it is to allow guests to get closer to the eagles than they have ever been able to before.[/li]
[li]New python exhibit in the Wild Reserve will house a 12 foot long Burmese Python named Cleopatra.[/li]
[li]A new border collie puppy named Sky has taken up residence in the Highland Stables. They plan to do sheep herding defenestrations with her in the future.[/li]
[li]New lambs have been brought to the park this year as well.[/li]
[li]The park will have a birds of prey tour for 2013 that will allow guests to get an up-close look at falconry and even participate in a falconry demonstration at the Highland Stables.[/li]
[li]Jay Tracy states that SeaWorld Park & Entertainment as a company has done a “terrible” job of educating the general public about all the conservation work that the chain does. Says that their new show on ABC, Sea Rescue, is rated number 1 in its time slot and that the the chain is very proud of what they’ve done with it.[/li]
[li]Mentions the new temperature controlled pet kennels in the front of the park.[/li]
[li]The Happy Tails program will be continuing this year. If you adopt a pet from one of the two local pre-approved animals shelters, Busch Gardens Williamsburg will give you two free tickets to the park.[/li]
[li]States that the department will be trying to bring some of the less often seen animals out into the public eye this year. Uses the park’s extensive collection of birds as an example for an area in which they could improve.[/li]
Director of Merchandise: Brad Elsass
Brad Elsass is yet another important person at the park that gets very little screen time during the park’s normal press events. Additionally, his department has, arguably, been the one that has made the largest leap in quality this season. With three major shop overhauls and new products all over the place, it looks as though they’ve been quite busy while we’ve been away. With that said, though his presentation was good, this is another one you can pass up without missing anything all that important. Pretty much everything he had to talk about on Saturday was already out there in the open for us to see and even then, there was nothing truly shocking about it. NOTE: Brad’s speech begins around eleven and a half minutes into the video below.
[li]Begins by talking about the revamped Emporium in Banbury Cross. Says that while designing the store the merchandise team tried their best to base their designs off of “the old country” theme and atmosphere that the park was originally built off of.[/li]
[li]Moves the talk towards the second new store in Banbury Cross: Union Jack’s. States that they tried to take a much more contemporary direction with this store to vary their range of products in the hamlet.[/li]
[li]Talks about the new shop in France and how they’ve converted it from an off-the-shelf apparel store into a shop much more fitting with the hamlet’s overall theme.[/li]
[li]Brad says that a common complaint from guests is that the park isn’t doing a very good job reflecting their hamlets through the merchandise being sold in them. Says that was one of the main reasons for the shop makeover in France.[/li]
[li]Announces that the popular “purchase-with-purchase” program is back again this year with a new bag. For those who doesn’t know, this deal allows you to buy a Busch Gardens branded tote bag for $15 if you spend a set amount of money in a store.[/li]
[li]Another rather major thing the merchandise department has worked on this year: Pins. Brad stated that they have been hearing a ton of demand to bring Disney-style pins to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Promises 60 brand new never-before-seen pins for the 2013 season.[/li]
Food & Wine Festival
After the park’s long reign of silence about their upcoming Food & Wine Festival they’ve suddenly decided to dump everything out there with a shockingly low amount of fanfare. Anyway, the content on the park’s site is rather annoying to navigate so we’ve included the basics below. For the full information provided by the park, check out the official event page for it here. If you’d like a summary of what we know thus far, feel free to continue reading below the map.
Full Event Map
Over the weekend the park officially launched the website for the Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food & Wine Festival. On it they’ve included a map of all the stations, a list of the countries that will be represented, and menus for the majority of the kiosks. As you can see on the map above, the countries represented in the event include six of the seven countries with dedicated hamlets at the park (Scotland, Ireland, France, Canada, Germany, and Italy- excluding England) as well as five additional countries that are not normally represented at the park (Scandinavia, Belgium, Austria, Spain, and Greece). With so many vastly different locations to represent it’s going to be very interesting to see just how much theming they’ll try to pull off- if any. And now, here are the menus that have been posted so far:
Prior to all of this being posted, I honestly didn’t have high expectations for the event but after seeing all this? I’m absurdly excited. It looks like they’ve put an absolute ton of work into it and I’m anxious to see how the park pulls off what is bound to be a very high-class event.
If everything posted above isn’t enough for you, I have good news: There’s even more. Below I’ve collected all the Food & Wine Festival information from the videos above and summarized it all up into a nice, simple list.
Important Food & Wine Festival Information from the Presentations
[li]The event will run on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from May 31st through June 23rd.[/li]
[li]Though the main focus of the event is on food and wine (naturally), regional beers will also be a fairly large part of the event. Specifically mentioned were two beer stations, one in Oktoberfest and one in the temporary Belgium area, that will allow guests to order a “flight” of different beers to sample which pertain to said area.[/li]
[li]The park has worked with the Virginia Department of Agriculture to find locally produced wines that will match the event in hopes that it will help support the regional economy.[/li]
[li]Along with the new gift shop in France (see Brad Elsass’s speech above), they’ve also included a small wine shop which will provide a table service wine experience to the new seating area they’ve added to the Royal Palace Theater-side of Aquitaine. Scott also stated that the landscaping department is currently working on adding grape vines to the area as well.[/li]
[li]The park has hired two executive chefs who have been working on developing the park’s menu for over a year now.[/li]
[li]Though official prices have yet to be announced, Franz Kitenko stated that most plates would be between $4 and $6 dollars each.[/li]
[li]The Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival will, in addition to the things listed above, also have a few unique shows and demonstrations. Specifically mentioned was a grape stomping show in Italy where guests will actually be allowed to participate. Additionally, new roaming musicians will be placed especially for the event in the French, German, and Irish hamlets.[/li]
[li]Franz also mentioned that there would be a celebrity chef named Virginia Willis doing cooking demonstrations on the first and third weekends of the event in both Ristorante della Piazza and Castle O’ Sullivan.[/li]
[li]In addition to the celebrity chef appearance, Mr. Kitenko also stated that there would be demonstrations from other chefs on everything from vegetable carving to master cake decorating.[/li]
[li]Lastly, the park has promised an up-charge experience which will allow guests enjoy a nighttime ride on the Rhine River Cruise with deserts and wine provided. To top it all off, a string quartet will also be accommodating you on your ride down the Rhine. This has got to be one of the most unique experiences you can find at a theme park today.[/li]
Told you there was a ton of content. Anyway, if you’d like to discuss anything you’ve seen above there’s active threads dedicated to basically all of the topics at hand on the ParkFans Forum, here. Of particular interest may be the Food & Wine Festival thread, here.