Busch Gardens throws 40th birthday bash

JAMES CITY - Busch Gardens Williamsburg threw itself a 40th birthday party Saturday night complete with music, food, a movie premier and a massive fireworks show to top off the night.

Guests, including long-time park employees, past employees, most of the park's past general managers, special guests and local movers and shakers first enjoyed a taste of park cuisine from the various countries in Busch Gardens while they listened to British Invasion pop in the park's England area.

Del. Brenda Pogge, R-James City, said she distinctly recalls when the park came to town in 1975.

"It was like Disney World came to Williamsburg!" she recalled. "I was 18 so I could drive myself, and I had a job so I didn't have to ask my parents for money. It was great!"

In remarks later in the evening, Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City, recalled that the park had a big impact on area tourism.

"People had been coming here for Williamsburg or Jamestown or Yorktown. While those attractions are still vital, there's no question of the kind of market impact Busch Gardens has," he said.

Inside the theater where Norment spoke, guests at the VIP event got to view a retrospective of Busch Gardens 40 years of television ads.

After park president Carl Lum introduced and praised past park managers and staff, guests were treated to a screening of "Busch Gardens: 40 Years of Fun," a 40-minute documentary of the park's history from May 16, 1975 - when Busch Gardens Old Country opened with eight rides - until today.

Milestones in the parks history, including the introduction of new rides like the Loch Ness Monster, Alpengeist, Griffon, Verbolten and the gone-but-not-forgotten Big Bad Wolf, were highlighted.

The night ended with a "40 Years of Fun Fireworks Spectacular."

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