Busch Gardens Williamsburg has sent us a press release regarding the new tenants of their traditional Highland Stable near the Loch Ness Monster.
Busch Gardens’ Highland Stables has new tenants and a new look. Situated in the park’s Scottish village adjacent to the Loch Ness Monster, the Highland Stables has been a park icon for three-and-a-half decades. When Busch Gardens opens to guests March 26, the stables will feature the park’s own team of Clydesdales as well as a flock of black-faced sheep, two Border collie puppies and a Eurasian barn owl.
The sheep and dogs will eventually lead daily herding demonstrations both inside the stable’s pasture and in guest areas of the park. “The dogs are only a few months old and are still too young to herd sheep. We will introduce them to the flock later this summer,” said Jay Tacey, Busch Gardens’ zoological manager.
Along with the new animals, the barn itself is getting a facelift. The gleaming white fencing and polished brass tack is giving way to a more rustic look and feel akin to barns found on farms dotting the Scottish countryside. New picket fencing around the perimeter of the pasture as well as an earth-toned paint scheme all around pays homage to traditional Scottish life on a working farm.
The Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales—a fixture at the park since 1975—left at the end of 2009 soon after the Dec. 1 sale of the parks. Busch Gardens’ new Clydesdales are black with a white blaze and other markings common to the breed of Scottish draft horses.
“They’re simply beautiful animals,” said Tacey. “These gentle giants are very popular with our guests, so we’re designing our demonstration programs that allow people to get even closer to these majestic animals. Combined with our sheep-herding demonstrations and our birds-of-prey exhibit, guests will experience farm life like never before.”
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!
BGW’s New Highland Stables, Irish Show, and Simulator
When Busch Gardens’ original Clydesdales were shipped off to St. Louis last year, this left the park with a problem: “What do we do with the stables?” And how can you have “Busch Gardens” without Clydesdales?
The solution: Get new Clydesdales. Heck, why not sheep? Why not turn the Highland Stables into a Scottish farm? The park experimented with some “temp” Clydesdales during Christmas Town last season, and guest reactions were uniformly positive. So they bought four new Clydesdales (two males, two females), along with eight Scottish Blackface Sheep (one ram, seven ewes) and four Border Collies (two males, two femalse) to herd them.
Yes, there will be regular herding demonstrations at BGW, but not right away. The dogs are still pups, and they have to learn how the sheep “work” to gain the confidence they’ll need to herd them. This will all be part of the “Highland Stables Up Close Tour,” which will include photo ops with the Clydesdales, personal interaction with the dogs and sheep, and lessons about Scottish farming techniques. The cost for the tour will be $19.95, but the park is running a half-price special for passholders during Spring Break, which ends on April 11.
But you don’t necessarily have to pay $19.95 to see some sheepherding. The sheep themselves will be herded across the park, starting in Ireland, to Highland Stables at 11:00 each morning, then back at 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon. (Talk about adding atmosphere to the park.)
The park also shared some information about their new simulator and show for 2010. Corkscrew Hill in Killearney ended its eight-year run last season and is being replaced with Europe in the Air, a “flying tour.” (“You’re up in the air”—get it?) The park had been thinking about making this change for a few years, said Larry Giles (VP of operations). The same type of simulators are used to train pilots, so “why let it do what it does best—fly?”
Like any good theme-park attraction, there is a backstory. An Irishman named O’Shea has started his own travel business (“No-Time Travel”) and has built a special machine that can fly guests from Ireland, past Stonehenge and London, to Paris, to Germany, to the Alps, to Italy, and back again in five minutes. (If only all flights to Europe were this fast.) The footage used in the simulator was shot from the nose of a helicopter by In-Motion Entertainment and includes a flyover of the Roman Coliseum from only 50 feet. The simulator also boasts a larger curved screen; three new digital projectors capable of projecting at 50 frames per second (the standard is 24); and a picture that is “seven times” sharper than HD. (And, no, it isn't in 3D.) The preshow segments are being shot this week, and the ride is scheduled to open in May. It sounds like a great replacement for Corkscrew Hill.
Finally, Celtic Fyre, a new Irish dance show, will be debuting in the Abbey Stone Theatre. The theatre is being redone to resemble a large Irish pub, which is hosting a wedding reception. There will be toasts to the bride and groom, dancing in the aisles, and even tables for park guests adjoining the stage. The show is still in rehearsal, and they haven’t finished the theatre’s transformation from a ruined abbey to a pub yet; so, the show will probably be in “preview” mode going into the summer season.
My thanks to everyone at BGW today for giving is this look at what's in store for this season.
Hmm--and what sort of "adventures" will we have today?
Why, adventures with sheep, . . .
. . . horses, . . .
. . . and dogs!
Meet Jennifer--the trainer.
And now, meet some Scottish Blackface Sheep! These lambs are only seven and two days old, so the sheep have already been "busy."
"What's that? You have feed, you say?" These sheep come from a Virginia breeder, as do the collies.
"Are ye eyeballin' me? Ye best not be eyeballin' me, laddie! I'll butt yer head as sure as shootin'."
Aw, cute little bugger isn't it?
"Help! This man has a jar of mint jelly in his pocket! Let go of me, you fiend!"
Well, it is lunchtime--guess we'd better move on.
Next up, fiesty Border Collies. They were originally bred on the near the border of Scotland and England--hence the name.
Trainers call this "using positive reinforcement." Dogs call this "giving us FOOD!"
They've been learning the basics, such as "shake" and "rollover." And they're learning to respond to typical Scottish commands, such as "That'll do" for "Come here."
"Can we have some more 'postive reinforcement,' please?"
"This is my ball! MINE, I tell you!"
Meet Dakota, who is quite the "escape artist." This horse can actually duck under the top chain and get out, so a second chain was added. That's pretty limber for a Clydesdale.
Dakota is three years old, stands about 5', 11' tall at the withers, and will probably grow another two inches.
"Yum! 'Positive reinforcement' for me!"
"So, Dakota--are you enjoying Busch Gardens?"
"Well, I was a bit distressed that the rides can't handle someone of my girth. Then again, I do weigh 1,800 pounds."
Time to herd some sheep!
Let's follow them to Ireland, shall we?
Larry Giles fills us in on "Europe in the Air."
Goodbye giant hand. Wonder what the new entrance will look like?
"Celtic Fyre" will be opening at the Abbey Stone Theatre this season.
Still in rehearsal.
The show will feature live music. I've always appreciated this touch about Busch's shows (not as much dependence on playback).
One last look at a Clydesdale. Good to know that they'll still be part of the atmosphere at BGW. Thanks for reading.
Most of my fears about the take over by Blackstone have been wiped away by this great update. I'm so happy to see that not only are they purchasing new clydesdales but they're also expanding on the idea!
Corkscrew Hill was a little weird. I didn't enjoy it very much. I'll be excited to see how "Europe in the Air" (very DCA-esque pun there, huh?) is received, although I expect there's going to be a lot of comparisons with Soarin'.
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