Knott’s Boysenberry Festival: A Special Preview Just in the Nick of Time
When I attended Knott’s Berry Farm’s Boysenberry Festival Tasting Preview event on March 5th, 2020, little did I know how drastically the world would change less than a week later. Sadly, the pandemic meant that last year’s Boysenberry Festival was canceled, and the rest of the world never got to taste the delectable dishes I previewed that evening. But good news: the Knott’s Taste of Boysenberry Festival is back this year, with safety precautions in place and a new array of boysenberry delights for you to try.
Knott’s 2021 Taste of Boysenberry Festival kicked off yesterday, March 5th, and runs until May 2nd. I’ll share the details about this year’s event at the end of this post, but first, I’m getting into the boysenberry spirit by reflecting on the media preview event I attended a year ago yesterday.
So, what’s the deal with boysenberries anyway? Why do they merit an entire festival? Well, fun fact! The Knotts family is responsible for popularizing the fruit, a delicious cross of the European raspberry, the European blackberry, the American dewberry, and the loganberry. Though the boysenberry was originally bred by a farmer named Rudolph Boysen, in the late 1920s, Walter Knott brought the plant to his farm in Buena Park, California and became the first commercial farmer of boysenberries. What began as a farm soon grew into a restaurant and pie business, then a small theme park. Today, Knott’s Berry Farm is one of Southern California’s premier theme parks and a place my family has held near and dear to its heart for generations.
Spend five minutes at Knott’s Berry Farm, and you’ll see that the park is overflowing with boysenberry treats. From boysenberry punch to funnel cakes to pies to candy, if you like boysenberries, you’ll love a visit to Knott’s any time of year. But Knott’s takes all things boysenberry to the next level during their Boysenberry Festival each spring. In non-COVID times, alongside Knott’s electrifying roller coasters and charming themed areas, the Boysenberry Festival also offers live music, stage shows, pie eating contests, a history exhibit, and more. This year, much of the park, including the rides, is closed for guests’ safety, but you’ll still get to experience the best part of boysenberry season at Knott’s: the wide array of boysenberry-inspired dishes.
Weeks before the 2020 Boysenberry Festival was set to open to the public, this Knott’s Anniversary Ambassador was invited to attend the Boysenberry Festival Tasting Preview. As the park was closing for regular guests, ambassadors and other media reps were ushered into the park for our special event. And I have to say: even if I hadn’t been able to taste one boysenberry dish the entire night, just being in the park after hours was mind-blowingly cool for me. I’ve been regularly visiting Knott’s since I was a baby, and seeing it without the usual crowds made me feel like a VIP. When we left the event later that night, we strolled through Ghost Town, which truly had become a ghost town: the only people in sight were a couple of security personnel. Definitely a very different way to see a theme park!
The preview event was set up in Knott’s Wilderness Dance Hall, formerly the Jeffries Barn. I’ve mentioned that Knott’s has always been a special gathering place for my family, and this was one of our favorite spots because our last name is Jeffries. No, it wasn’t named in our honor; rather, it was built in Burbank by boxer James J. Jeffries (no relation, as far as I know!), and Walter Knott moved it piece by piece to Knott’s Berry Farm in 1955.
But back to the most important part: the food! Inside the barn, we were offered the chance to sample dozens of the festival’s boysenberry dishes, from savory snacks to delicious desserts. When you think boysenberry, you may think about jam, pie, and, well, not much else, but Knott’s seriously gets creative with their boysenberry concoctions. And wandering around the barn, freely sampling the variety, was tons of fun.
Available for tasting: brussels sprouts topped with boysenberry balsamic and bacon, pork bao buns with boysenberry kimchi and nam pla, boysenberry cajun shrimp over grits, boysenberry chicken mole on cilantro rice, pastrami sandwiches on a pretzel bun with boysenberry mustard, boysenberry beer cheese soup topped with boysenberry drizzle and brown butter croutons, beef tips with boysenberry mashed potatoes, samosas with boysenberry chutney, boysenberry ceviche with tortilla chips, and boysenberry steak chili with a boysenberry cornbread muffin.
For dessert? Boysenberry macarons, boysenberry cannoli, and boysenberry bread pudding topped with boysenberry coulis and creme anglaise sauce. To quench our thirst after all that, outside the barn, we could also sample boysenberry wine, beer, and sangria. Google, I swear I’m not just keyword stuffing “boysenberry.”
But wait: there’s more! There was also a preview table featuring all the dishes that weren’t set out for samples that night, including mac and cheese bites with boysenberry ketchup, boysenberry sausage and meatball pizza, Philly cheesesteaks with boysenberry fried onions, boysenberry butter grilled cheese sandwiches with pork belly, tamales with boysenberry sweet sauce, boysenberry sausages on buns, a two-foot long hot dogs on boysenberry buns, riblets in boysenberry barbecue sauce, turkey sandwiches with boysenberry aioli, boysenberry lemon churro bites, crepes with boysenberries, banana, and chocolate, boysenberry punch, boysenberry basil lemonade, and loads more.
And if that left you hungry? There was also “The WOW Pastry,” a gigantic cheeseburger pastry with boysenberry ketchup and the “Mega Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner-Burger in One” that fed four. I wasn’t kidding when I say Knott’s get creative when it comes to boysenberries.
In addition to all the food that would leave us full for weeks, we also got a sneak peak of the fun merchandise they would be offering at the festival, from tie-dyed Snoopy spirit jerseys to boysenberry lavender body lotion. And, the dog, the myth, the legend himself, Snoopy, was there decked in his boysenberry-hued chef’s outfit to greet attendees. What can I say? Purple looks good on beagles.
Though the 2020 Boysenberry Festival never came to pass, I’m thrilled the public has the chance to try all of these concoctions and more in a pandemic-friendly format this year. I’ve been playing it incredibly safe since the pandemic hit the U.S., but in September, I did escape my self-quarantine for some spooky snacks and festive sightseeing at Knott’s Taste of Fall-O-Ween event.
I was impressed by Knott’s COVID-19 safety precautions, which I detail in that post but which included temperature checks, frequent table cleaning, markers keeping people 6+ feet apart in lines, and strict mask requirements. Because the event was outdoors and capacity was limited, it was relatively easy to keep a distance from other guests and felt about as safe as strolling through my neighborhood. You can learn more about the Taste of Boysenberry Festival’s safety protocols here. We all have varying levels of comfort outside the home these days, so you should gauge the situation for yourself, but if you do go, please be smart, maintain a safe distance from others, and double mask!
The Taste of Boysenberry Festival will be open for food and retail on select dates from March 5th to May 2nd. Admission includes 5 tastings for adults for $45 or 3 tastings for children for $20, plus you can save 10% as a Season Passholder. More than 80 items will be available for you to try, including many of the dishes I tried at last year’s preview event and more. Check out the full food and drink listing here. Plus, the festival offers boysenberry-themed merchandise, handmade crafts from local artisans, performances from Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies, and a virtual Easter Egg Hunt. Tickets and further information are available here.
I had no idea the boysenberry festival preview event would be one of my last outings of 2020, but I’m so glad squeezed it in just in the nick of time. I’m hoping to check out the Taste of Boysenberry Festival next week, and I can’t wait to see all that Knott’s Berry Farm has to offer this year. Hopefully, we will all be vaccinated and resume normal activities soon, but until then, I hope you stay healthy and can enjoy safe, distanced outings like this one!