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BUENA PARK – After nearly five months of renovation, the popular Timber Mountain Log Ride, one of the first log flume rides in the country, opened to much fanfare earlier this month, sporting updated lighting, sound effects, and some 60 animatronic characters.
Scheduled to open May 30, a one-day delay seemingly failed to quench the excitement of park goers who offered cheers and hollers during a grand reopening ceremony last week.
Standing adjacent to the entrance of the Log Ride, Raffi Kaprelyan, general manager of Knott’s Berry Farm, praised the late Wendell “Bud” Hurlbut, who used his own money to both design and build the attraction in 1969.
“One of my earliest jobs was working for Bud Hurlbut. He was an industry pioneer that knew how to create an environment that could tell a story no one else had,” Kaprelyan said. “He had to pitch the idea more than once, but the Log Ride is a special attraction not just in Southern California, but in the entire theme park industry.”
Knott’s has not revealed the actual cost of the multi-million overhaul, but with the help of animatronics designer and developer Garner Holt Productions, the theme park has significantly upgraded the 2,100-foot-long ride while staying true to the original storyline of a lumber camp in 19th century California.
While the original ride contained just 15 animatronic figures, the refurbished attraction features 54 fully-animated characters, all new background drops, updated foliage, and a livelier soundscape.
Housed inside of an eight-story building, the Timber Mountain Log Ride takes riders through an 85-foot-high by 330-foot-long mountain range of pine forests, waterfalls, and bridges.
Atop 42,000 gallons of water, floating logs used to pass a collection of mechanical figures and taxidermied animals before reaching the inevitable forty-two-foot freefall, but now visitors are greeted with more detail, humor, and visually stimulating sequences.
In addition to animatronic bears, squirrels, and raccoons, the animated scenes also include characters dangling from rope ladders, smoking pipes, sawing through trees, and resting on hammocks.
Buena Park Mayor Elizabeth Swift, an employee at Knott’s herself when the Log Ride first opened, recalled the first grand opening.
“In 1969, I was working here in Indian Village as a college student. On the day of the Log Ride opening, the park was packed,” she said. “Knott’s Berry Farm has played such an important part of my life and the life of this city.”
Swift presented Knott’s Berry Farm a city proclamation declaring May 30 Bud Hurlbut Day to commemorate the visionary’s legacy.
“Bud Hurlbut was an amusement park genius and we’d like to honor him today,” Swift said. “He devised mechanisms to make his rides educational and fun.”
Despite the Log Ride’s popularity today, ironically, park owner Walter Knott was not interested in the concept originally.
Hurlbut had planned on designing the ride as a roller coaster that would appear as if it were floating in a trough, but after consulting with others, it was proposed the attraction be a free-floating conveyance in a water-filled trough.
After several rejections, Knott finally agreed to green light the attraction in 1968. The Timber Mountain Log Ride took nearly a year to construct and cost more than 3.5 million dollars. On July 11, 1969, screen legend John Wayne and his son, Ethan, took the first ride down the flume.
Ethan Wayne spoke fondly last week of the childhood memories he made riding the Log Ride with his father.
“I remember the day clearly, it’s one of my earliest memories with my father,” Wayne said. “I was 7 then, I’m 51 today, but that memory is still clear. I still feel the excitement.”
Wayne continued: “Knott’s creates great memories for children. I want to get on this ride just as bad as I did then.”
Published: June 13, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 09