As Williamsburg, Virginia residents, it’s almost impossible to imagine our small town without the popular amusement park, Busch Gardens. For years, tourists and locals alike have visited the European themed park to enjoy dozens of rides, entertaining shows, delicious food, and countless seasonal events. Whether your visiting for ChristmasTown, Howl-O-Scream, or just a summer night, your guaranteed a wonderful time at Busch Gardens, which happens to have been voted as the most beautiful park in the world for 29 consecutive years!
Unfortunately, the fun was cut short in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 virus reached the United States. Like most other activities, Busch Gardens was shut down in order to ensure the safety of the population. Luckily, the theme park has found away to bounce back after its unprecedented break with specialty outdoor events and a limited capacity. Busch Gardens has new events scheduled all the way through December of 2021.
The best place to receive information about Busch Gardens’ new guidelines is from the people who work there. So, we went directly to the source and Zoomed with current Buch Gardens employee Ryan Holcomb. Ryan mentioned that he worked shift before the shut down, but the majority of his time working has been after Busch Gardens shut down for Covid. When asked what guidelines he was required to follow as an employee, he responded, “Masks at all times unless you are eating or drinking and try your best to stay 6 feet a part from other people, especially guests.” Next, Ryan explained that he mainly worked on the entertainment staff and Covid has affected his job because he is unable to interact with audience members. Next, Ryan mentioned how the entertainment staff has definitely been limited, but he is not sure about the rest of the staff. When asked about which sections of the part were closed Ryan stated, “Festa Italia is closed, Italy is closed, [and] Scotland is closed.” He mentioned that he was unaware of any special compensations being offered to current pass holders.
Ryan then gave us a run down of the current and up coming events. “Right know we are doing a Mardi Gras theme at Busch on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It’s basically just trying to have fun with what we can do. After that we are moving on to a St. Patrick’s Day type thing.” We then asked Ryan if he though the regulations will be staying the same for a while or changing soon, and he said that he feels they will most likely stay the same for a while. Ryan then explained the hardest part about working at Busch during Covid is not being able to interact with the kids. Finally, Ryan explained that anyone can order their tickets online at the Busch Gardens website.
Though Busch Gardens has had limited capacity for the past year, many people still attended the park throughout the recent months. With Howl-O-Scream, Christmas Town, and even the summer holidays, the attendees of the park may have had quite a different experience then they would’ve had in the pre-covid world. So, by telephone we interviewed a regular attendee of Busch Gardens, who has attended Busch Gardens in the recent months, Kaylynn Koon. Koon responded to the question if she had been to Busch Gardens before the new regulations, with yes, she had. She visited the park in October of last year, 2020, during the times of the new safety guidelines. When asked about how much has changed, Koon responded, “A lot, almost nothing was open, very few people were there and not as many employees. The event was very small, as well, but I still had to pay the same amount, and a little extra.” Koon also told us that she thought the new regulations made the park less fun. She reported that there weren’t many people in the park at a time. When asked about changes she would personally make to make the park more fun, but also safe, she responded, “Decorating more for event, as when I went, there was barely anything, more music, and maybe a couple more things open.”
Koon told us she would not be attending the park’s new events, stating that the entrance process was too difficult. Describing that process, she said, “You need to go online and pick a day, a time, how many guests, and a parking spot. If you get a seasons pass, it’s the same thing except not paying for parking, but you are paying full price for the pass. Then, they send you your passes, that you have to print out, so they can scan them when you walk into the park. It’s not so much doing all of that that is difficult, but the way it’s set up on the website is confusing.” She went on to tell us, “I think they could [stay open]. I just think they need to fine tune their system, instead of rushing things. The regulations hurt the atmosphere of the park, but everyone needs to stay safe.” Koon then said, “I don’t think it’s [the regulations] helping or hurting the park, because it’s such a big and wealthy company, but I think keeping it open helps let people keep their jobs and earn money. I don’t think closing for the pandemic, or opening in the middle of it, affects the company as much as it affects the employees. So, I think they should stay open in order to keep jobs.” When asked what she is looking forward to most in the future of Busch Gardens, Koon responded with, “Being able to go back once all of this is over, and experiencing the old atmosphere again.”
In the next few months, if you’re looking for something fun, and safe, to pass the time, be sure to look at Busch Gardens’ future events! They are taking the proper precautions to keep everyone socially distanced, while also maintaining a fun atmosphere. With only a few rides and events missing, they are making up for it with the proposal of new events coming soon, so look out for that in the upcoming spring and summer holidays!