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Reopening Constitutes Convention at Knott's

September 18, 1998|LESLEY WRIGHT

It took a $1-million renovation to make Independence Hall look as pristine as the original did when it opened in Philadelphia in 1750. But, at a rededication ceremony Thursday, Knott's Berry Farm owners said it was worth the effort.

"We sincerely hope this rededication will ignite the fire of patriotism for the next 230 years," said Knott's Vice President Jack Falfas.

Students from Anaheim's Patrick Henry Elementary School joined the celebration, which included fife and drum bands and actors dressed as 18th century patriots handing out copies of the newly minted Constitution of the United States.

The building, open free-of-charge every day but Christmas, closed for the renovation in June. It opened Thursday, the 211th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

The building had fallen into disrepair since it was built in 1966 under the supervision of Walter Knott, founder of the amusement park.

When Ohio-based Cedar Fair investigated buying the park last year, there was talk of tearing it down.

Unthinkable, said Richard Kinzel, president and CEO of the company. "Renovating the hall was the first decision we made after acquiring Knott's Berry Farm," he said. "What better place than an amusement park for the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness?"

Craftsmen, architects and designers shuttled between Philadelphia and Buena Park to compare specifications, down to the custom-mixed paints, the 2,075-pound Liberty Bell and the gold-leaf, hemp-reinforced plaster that forms the olive branches framing the clock faces.

The ceremony included a roll call via an amplified conference call from all 50 states, starting with Delaware, the first to ratify the Constitution in 1787, and ending with Hawaii, admitted to the Union in 1959.

Red, white and blue balloons and 200 white doves were released into the air, to the delight of the several hundred attending.

"I'm very happy," said Stephen Knott, grandson of Walter. "Any time we can raise patriotism and an awareness of government is a great thing."

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