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Trail's End for Park Attraction

Amusement: A slice of Knott's history, the Covered Wagon show, closes after 57 years.


BUENA PARK — The first attraction ever opened at Knott's Berry Farm--a quaint portrayal of Knott family ancestors' trek West--has gone the way of hand-churned butter.

The Covered Wagon show opened when the park did in 1940. Visitors gazed at a cyclorama depicting a wagon train traversing a desert plain toward the promised land, and heard an audio tape describing the travelers' hardships.

But the show had been attracting fewer and fewer visitors so park officials decided to close it, according to Tom Mehrmann, vice president of Knott's operations and entertainment.

"We hated to do it because it was such a key piece of our history," Mehrmann said this week. "But it wasn't as relevant to our guests anymore."


At least one guest would disagree. "The cyclorama showcased the struggles of early American pioneers as well as the lifestyle of the Knott family before they arrived in Buena Park," says Richard West of Irvine, a self-described theme park historian. "It was one of oldest standing attractions in the Southland."

Elements of the Covered Wagon show still can be seen, Mehrmann said. The cyclorama's detachable desert-scene mural, a 25-by-10-foot canvas painted by Fritz Seelig and Paul Von Klieben, has been stored, and there are no plans for its display. But a wagon and pioneers' heirlooms are on view for educational tours of the park's Ghost Town, taken by some 100,000 schoolchildren annually, according to Mehrmann.

The park also ended a four-decade tradition of daily shows at Ghost Town's Birdcage Theatre this year, because of diminished interest in the 19th century melodramas. The programs are still being staged there, but less frequently.

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