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Knott's Heads Over to Boardwalk : Park Puts Roaring '20s Behind to Make Way for Beach-Themed Area


BUENA PARK — Listen up, Knott heads: The berry farm's gone seaside.

In the first complete overhaul of one of its six major theme areas, and just in time for summer, the Buena Park amusement venue has replaced its 21-year-old Roaring 20s section with the Boardwalk, inspired by Southern California beach culture.

Boardwalk attractions include AirHeadz, HeadAche, HeadSpin, HammerHead (which opened in advance of the others, in April) and, yes, KnottHeads.

So what does a head theme have to do with the oceanfront lifestyle?

"We started with heads that really looked like beach balls, and it kind of evolved from there," said Robin Hall, Knott's Berry Farm's vice president of design and architecture. "That may not be as direct a line as it might have been, but it's fun and playful, and we wanted a crazy image. . . . It certainly has a teenager bent to it."

No doubt the revamping will help keep the relatively folksy park in the public eye in the wake of such attractions as Disneyland's popular Indiana Jones addition and Universal's new, state-of-the-art Jurassic Park ride. (The Indiana Jones ride debuted last year, but Knott's spokesperson Dana Hammontree says plans for the Boardwalk were underway "way before that.")

A clownish sphere with a conical nose--KnottHead, singular--serves as the Boardwalk's logo.

HeadAche, which features a KnottHead with 20 centrifugally whirling arms, replaces Greased Lightning. For now, each car still sports a lightning bolt and clouds. "We're planning on making them more seaweed-like," Hall said.

HeadSpin, a faster spinning ride with strobe lights, replaces Whirlpool. Riders follow a parabolic rather than circular path.

AirHeadz, a two-story food and game center replacing Cap'n Kelly's, anchors the Boardwalk.

Out front at Amazing Pictures, visitors' faces can be superimposed on a variety of backgrounds including X-Men comic covers and "Baywatch" promos. A nearby ice cream stand is called ConeHeadz.

Among interactive and virtual reality games inside AirHeadz are head-to-head Indy 500 racing, and Alpine ski racing with a swivel-step for simulating turns.

At Photomorphosis, you can "morph" with your mate or a video model, and the "gene machine" will produce a photo approximation of your future child. Other possibilities include a travel fantasy photo that places you in front of famous landmarks, or a photo that blends your face with that of an animal, artwork or famous American.

AirHeadz's twin eating areas are Junk Food and Good Food. Good Food offers Mrs. Knott's fried chicken, lasagna and salads. At Junk Food, you can get pizza, churros and chili cheese fries.

Upstairs, the Virtual Lounge is a Knott's-style 'toon town dream house for teens. In the bedroom, a video monitor screens cartoons and scenes from "I Love Lucy"; the "microwave" in the kitchen ruins a macaroni-and-cheese dinner with the push of a button. The lounge is intended as a teen hangout; AirPhonz allow for table-to-table communication, and on a recent visit all phones were in use.

"Cyber Sports in 3-D" is an hourly 10-minute show running indefinitely in the Nu Wave Theater. Using 3-D glasses, the show begins with electronic suggestions of spectator sports--which now apparently include ballet--and progresses to photographic footage of more extreme activities including rock climbing, snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding. There's a smoke and laser finale.

The HammerHead, whose design is loosely inspired by the hammerhead shark, continues to elicit as many screams from onlookers as it does from its often literally head-over-heels participants. The 42-passenger gondola describes a 360-degree arc, 82 feet at its high point, and spins as it orbits.

The Boardwalk's landmark Pacific Pole rises 50 feet into the sky from the lawn of the Boomerang roller coaster but remains dwarfed by the 180-foot Sky Jump nearby. Look soon for the KnottHead on top.

According to Hall, the name "KnottHead" didn't originate with the Boardwalk. It was first used, he said, "a long time ago for some wonderful woodnick characters [with] branches for noses and eyeballs painted on," in a part of the park called Jungle Island.

"I've been waiting 10 years to use that name," Hall said. "It's also tested the Knott family's sense of humor. A sense of humor in an amusement park is definitely an asset, and they proved to have a good one."

The park's five other themed sections are Ghost Town, Fiesta Village, Camp Snoopy, Wild Water Wilderness and Indian Trails. Spokesperson Hammontree had no idea why Roaring 20s was the area to get the ax, but for now, at least, among its last vestiges are two Flapper mannequins on a bench at the corner of Charleston Circle and Memory Lane.

* What: The Boardwalk at Knott's Berry Farm.

* When: Park hours: today, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m.-midnight.

* Where: 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park.

* Whereabouts: Exit the San Diego (405) Freeway at Beach Boulevard and go north, or exit the Riverside (91) Freeway at Beach and go south.

* Wherewithal: $19.95-$29.95.

* Where to call: (714) 220-5200.

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