news from News from 2006
News from 2005
Winter Haven, Florida
www.Polk on Line.com
ACTWON: History of News from the Winter Haven News Chief
News on this page from 2005
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Competitors form partnership - News Chief
Ledger Acquires The News Chief In Winter Haven - The Ledger
The News Chief Publishing Group's daily newspaper operation has been sold to
The Ledger and its parent company, The New York Times Company.
"It's just giving the people of Winter Haven a stronger daily newspaper
with the resources of the News Chief and The Ledger combined."
The News Chief, which traces its history to 1911 and The Florida Chief newspaper,
will continue publishing under its own banner
Another obvious change for readers will the the disappearance of
the stylized American Indian chief on the logo for the News Chief.
"The paper will still bear the name News Chief,
but we at The Ledger and The New York Times Company
are sensitive to Native American issues,"
Wikipedia The New York Times Company
The News Chief site was changed from www.polkonline.com to www.newschief.com
so all links here to the old site no longer work
A commemorative guide published by the News Chief
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Buescher out at Gardens, Baker Leisure Group in
Baker Leisure Group
an Orlando-based consulting and management company for themed attractions,
will take over day-to-day operations of the park from previous owner Kent Buescher.
Rob Harper and Brian Philpot, the owners of Mulberry-based Land South Holdings Group
The decision to replace Buescher was made for a number of reasons, Philpot said.
It took time for the new owners to learn about the industry and to figure things out, he said.
Philpot said the decision was not personal,
but he said that he wants the park to survive and that he and Harper
wanted the best management team in place "from top to bottom."
www.Baker Leisure Group.com
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Pope Jr.'s death surprises family, community leaders in Polk
The loss of Dick Pope Jr. is one that was surprising
and saddening to family members, friends,
and former colleagues of the former Cypress Gardens leader.
Richard "Dick" Downing Pope Jr., of Winter Haven,
died at his home at 10 p.m. Thursday from pancreatic cancer. He was 76 years old.
Born in 1930, Pope was the son of Cypress Gardens founder Dick Pope Sr.
Just a little boy when the park opened in former Winter Haven swamp in 1936,
Pope Jr. went on to become president of the park from 1962 until 1985.
Pope was also a world champion water skier
who is credited with popularizing the sport throughout the world
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Frances;
two daughters, Julie Dantzler (Rick) and Ann Wood (Allen);
a sister, Adrienne Pope Watkins;
two granddaughters, Elizabeth and Margaret Dantzler;
and two stepdaughters, Paris and Brittany Wood.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Julia Pope, in 1986;
his father Dick Pope Sr., in 1988; and by a son, Dick Pope III.
Richard Downing Pope Jr.: He was a Southern gentleman
A man of many talents, Pope was a pioneer in the sport of water skiing.
He was a national and world championship skier,
was one of the first to bare feet water ski, and even created his own line of water skis.
"We all grew up learning to ski on Dick Pope water skis.
But he never let (his accomplishments) go to his head," said Rick Dantzler,
who is married to Pope's daughter Julie.
"He was very generous and he was very humble."
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Gardens owners act quickly, slash prices
The first act of business by the new owners of historic
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park is a plus for park guests.
The cost of a ticket has been reduced by $10.
The new price for a general admission ticket is $34.95, down from $44.95,
and the new price for a ticket for juniors (ages 3 to 9 years)
and seniors (age 55 years and older) is $29.95, down from $39.95.
In addition, the parking fee has been reduced from $10 to $7,
and second-day admission is free with the purchase of a ticket.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Land South Holdings owns Cypress Gardens
After a slight delay, the closing for the sale of
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park was finalized later Tuesday.
Park CEO Kent Buescher confirmed Wednesday
that the closing had concluded Tuesday evening without any problems.
Brian G. Philpot and Robert Harper IV of Mulberry-based Land South Holdings
purchased the theme park last month for $16.8 million.
Buescher said with the closing out of the way,
he and the new owners can now begin "working to run and enhance the park."
Philpot and Harper have said they will keep the 71-year-old Florida landmark
operating as a theme park
Wild Adventures was sold to Herschend Family Entertainment
in Missouri for $34.5 million
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Local investment company wins shot to run historic park
A new page turns for the Gardens
Land South Holdings LLC, a Mulberry-based real estate investment company,
was the winner by default in a one-day bankruptcy auction for
the historic, 71-year-old Winter Haven theme park.
Land South placed a $16.8 million bid for the park on Sept. 14, and Tuesday it was accepted,
according to Ward Stone Jr., a bankruptcy lawyer for current Gardens parent company Adventure Parks Group LLC of Valdosta, Ga.
According to its Web site www.landsouthgroup.com
Land South Holdings LLC is a privately held investment company
that specializes in large land acquisitions in the southeastern United States.
Lakeland lawyers Brian G. Philpot and Robert F. Harper IV
are the Land South Holdings founders, managers and partners.
According to the Web site, Philpot focuses exclusively on real estate as
an operator, owner, investor and developer.
Former state Sen. Rick Dantzler, who spearheaded efforts to save the Gardens property
from developers after the park closed in May 2003,
said he knows both Philpot and Harper and is concerned about
how they will manage the theme park.
"I have a hard time believing that Rob (Harper) and Mark (Philpot)
want to operate a theme park, but maybe they do," Dantzler said late Tuesday afternoon.
Dantzler is the son-in-law of Dick Pope Jr., the son of Cypress Gardens founder Dick Pope Sr.,
Friday, September 7, 2007
Cypress Gardens must be sold because of bankruptcy requirements
On Thursday, Adventure Parks Group LLC,
announced that Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in Winter Haven
and Wild Adventures park in Valdosta, Ga.,
will be sold to the highest bidder in a private auction starting Sept. 25.
The sale will fulfill requirements resulting from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing by Adventure Parks Group a year ago,
but it does not mean the end of either theme park.
The opening minimum bid for a package purchase of the parks is $53.25 million.
An opening minimum bid for Cypress Gardens alone is $17.4 million
and the opening minimum bid for Wild Adventures alone is $38.85 million.
In September 2006, Adventure Parks Group filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors seeking payment for $25 million in debts.
Much of the company's financial difficulties can be traced to 2004,
when three hurricanes ravaged East Polk County
and left a trail of destruction at Cypress Gardens.
Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce's Web site
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Starliner brings out coaster enthusiasts
The hot Florida sun didn't stop people from standing in line to ride
the new Starliner roller coaster at Cypress Gardens Adventure Park on Saturday morning.
However, the excitement was short-lived.
The ride had been running for about half an hour when park officials shut it down
due to a technical difficulty.
The American Coaster Enthusiasts, a group of self-proclaimed adrenaline junkies
who travel around the country to ride roller coasters,
were among the many who stood in line Saturday.
Along with people sweating it out to ride the coaster,
many screaming young girls waited in line to meet actor Cody Linley,
who plays Jake Ryan on the Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana" television series.
Linley autographed posters and portraits and posed for pictures with his many fans
Cody Linley at the Internet Movie Database at Wikipedia
American Coaster Enthusiasts at Wikipedia
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Starliner's opening postponed
Delay in computer components' arrival cause s Saturday's celebration to be put off
Roller coaster enthusiasts will have to wait a little longer to ride
the Starliner at Cypress Gardens Adventure Park.
According to a report on the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce's Web site,
the computer components necessary for the operation of the roller coaster
have not arrived in time for Saturday's scheduled launch.
The park planned to have the grand opening celebration of the $5 million project
with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and festivities at 11:30 a.m
But the 1963 coaster requires modern safety and operational upgrades for state inspectors, according to the Chamber's blog.
Without the new technology,
the ride can't be calibrated and tested in time to be certified by the state.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Gardens, state inspectors confident about ride safety
The safety of theme park rides in Winter Haven
and across the nation took on additional focus Friday,
following a severe accident involving a 13-year-old girl at
Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville.
On a freefall ride similar to the Drop Tower at Cypress Gardens Adventure Park,
the girl in Louisville had both her legs severed above the ankles
"What happened in Kentucky is horrible," Robert Jacobs,
the chief of Florida's Bureau of Fair Rides, said Friday.
"It was a ride malfunction. The cables snapped.
The ride at Six Flags was manufactured by a different company
than the one who does the Drop Tower at Cypress Gardens.
According to Jacobs, state of Florida personnel inspect all rides
at state theme parks, including Cypress Gardens, twice a year.
According to Sara Sumner, a spokeswoman for the park, all rides are thoroughly checked
before the gates to the park are opened to guests each morning.
Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection
Wikipedia Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom
Friday, June 15, 2007
Cypress Gardens to host TV series by international gardening expert
On Thursday, Tim Alan said his Christian-themed television series,
"Eye on Gardening" will air directly from the park.
Even though Alan will visit other gardens, various scenes will be shot at the park.
There will be 52 shows created each year, with no reruns,
unless an episode is heavily requested by viewers.
While stationed at the park, Alan also plans on giving clinics and talks about gardening.
His show is aired only on Inspirational Life Television digital cable network, worldwide in Europe, Inspiration Network International and at www.Inspiration.net.
"It's an honor to celebrate a good partnership with a friend," said Kent Buescher,
the president and chief executive officer of Cypress Gardens.
"This is the greatest guy. He's seen as a Christian gentleman throughout the world."
www.Eye on Gardening.com
Friday, June 8, 2007
Cypress Gardens to unveil Starliner coaster on June 30
Thrill-seekers only have a few weeks to wait until the opening of the Starliner roller coaster
at Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in Winter Haven.
Florida's original scream machine will be officially introduced June 30 with a flurry of activities.
The Starliner, an all-white wooden coaster that tops out at 70 feet on the first hill,
was originally built in 1963 for a park in Panama City Beach.
The historic coaster, rescued by Cypress Gardens
when the Miracle Strip Amusement Park closed in 2004,
was created by coaster designer John Allen of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.
The park plans to celebrate the opening of the $5 million project
with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and festivities beginning at 11:30 a.m. June 30.
Wikipedia Philadelphia Toboggan Company
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Cypress Gardens to raise its prices
The price of a general admission ticket for Cypress Gardens Adventure Park has gone up $5
The move, announced Tuesday, comes at a time when the park's parent company,
Adventure Parks Group LLC of Valdosta, Ga.,
is working to reorganize its finances under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
Effective immediately, the regular admission ticket for people ages 10 to 54 is $44.95, plus tax
For seniors age 55 and older and children ages 3 to 9, the ticket is $39.95, plus tax.
Children under the age of 3 are admitted free.
Previously, admission prices were $39.95 for visitors ages 10 to 54
and $34.95 for seniors and young children.
Cypress Gardens, the state's first amusement park, celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2006.
The park also announced in late 2006 that it was going to add at least two new rides
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Letter - Dan Insdorf
Here's some marketing advice for our Gardens
I was very excited when Cypress Gardens re-opened.
I purchased a season pass and visited the attraction on several occasions
I recently visited the park on a Sunday . . .
The attendance was sparse and there was no excitement in the air
Cypress Gardens is for young adults and there is little for the older crowd
There is a definite lack of excitement in the air at Cypress Gardens.
They need mini attractions throughout the walkways,
such as magicians, mimes, jugglers and other interactive presentations.
Unless the park can draw tourists from the Orlando attractions for the day,
this park will not survive.
I truly hope Cypress Gardens continues to enjoy success.
Many local businesses depend upon it.
The way I see things progressing, I don't think it will.
Wikipedia - Orlando, Florida
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Local authors compile book of Gardens photos.
Three local authors created a book
of more than 120 pages of black-and-white pictures,
capturing the history of Florida's first amusement park.
Mary Flekke, Randall MacDonald and his daughter Sarah wrote
"Cypress Gardens" which is published by Arcadia Press. $19.99
Readers will learn about a time when visitors to the Gardens
paid 25 cents to tour the lush pathways.
The pictures capture images of Southern belles,
human ski pyramids and topiary figures.
To get pictures for the book, the authors
sifted through the Cypress Garden archives, searching through
hundreds of reels of film, pictures, transparencies and scrapbooks
Arcadia Publishing Cypress Gardens - - Amazon
Friday, November 10, 2006
Gardens owner goes all out
Kent Buescher, president of Adventure Parks Group LLC,
announced he's reaching into the past to help boost attendance at
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park.
Buescher said he plans to add Star Liner,
which was Florida's first roller coaster and was originally built in 1963
for the Miracle Strip Amusement Park in Panama City Beach.
It will be the sixth roller coaster to the park.
It will be rebuilt at the park and brought up to safety standards, he said.
Plans are to open it in late May or early June, with 2,640 feet of hills and valleys.
Buescher estimated the total cost at $5 million.
By spring 2007, the first phase of Bugsville,
an area for young children to learn about insects, will be complete.
But all this comes at no extra expense to attendees, as Buescher said
admission will remain at $39.95 for adults
and $34.95 for juniors and seniors for the next year.
Wikipedia - Miracle Strip Park
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Chapter 11 petition is to keep attraction open
Filing for bankruptcy protection doesn't mean the end of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park.
On the contrary, the owners of the theme park
say the reason they went to bankruptcy court Monday
and filed a Chapter 11 petition is to keep the park open for years to come.
According to the Florida Bar Association,
Chapter 11 involves a corporate reorganization.
In a Chapter 11 case, the creditors are temporarily stopped
from taking any action against the debtor
while the debtor tries to work out a better financial plan
Buescher vows to get Cypress Gardens on track
Kent Buescher, president of Adventure Parks Group LLC,
said he filed bankruptcy protection under
Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code on Monday in Georgia
"After a great deal of study and recommendations,
I chose the only expedient course of action
- to not only preserve the park and its operations, employees,
but to ensure that the parks had a bright future,"
Buescher said Tuesday during a brief visit to Winter Haven.
Wikipedia Chapter 11 - United_States_Code
Sunday, August 13, 2006
For a week, Mike Douglas called Gardens home
When they learned about the Friday death of entertainer Mike Douglas,
three local men recalled with great detail
the visit Douglas made to Cypress Gardens in early 1968
to make his daytime television show
Douglas, who died on his birthday at age 81 in West Palm Beach,
taped 10, 90-minute shows during a weeklong stay at the Winter Haven theme park,
which at the time had Dave Dershimer, George Ogburn and Red McGuire
among its employees and associates.
Among the many stars who came to the Gardens to appear on "The Mike Douglas Show"
were band leader Duke Ellington; Michael Landon,
who played Little Joe on the "Bonanza" TV western;
boxer Muhammad Ali, who had just changed his name from Cassius Clay;
singer-dancer Joey Heatherton; Totie Fields;
swimming champion-turned "Tarzan" actor Buster Crabbe;
and singer-actress Mary Ann Mobley, the 1959 winner of the Miss America Pageant.
www.The Mike Douglas Show.com
IMDb Mike Douglas
Wikipedia Mike Douglas
Monday, August 7, 2006
Gardens eyes return of kite tournament
Guests should look to the skies to be amazed Aug. 25 to 27
as the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Show hosts the return of the Precision Kite Tournament.
Practices start Friday, preliminary competition takes place
Saturday and the finals are set for Sunday.
The invitation-only tournament will feature the world's top hang gliders
performing in a number of different events,
including the slalom course, freestyle, tribble drop, Bermuda triangle and a bull's-eye landing.
Points are awarded for each event based on style and competency
and the pilot awarded the most points will walk (or glide) away with first place.
With the heights of competition reaching more than 800 feet above Lake Eloise,
organizers say the tournament will be exciting for both competitors and spectators alike.
Wikipedia - Sport kite
Friday, May 26, 2006
Letter - by Jamie Beckett
Hollywood comes to Polk County
Twenty years ago, I lived a very different life than the one I enjoy today.
I was a professional musician then, living in the heart of New York's Greenwich Village
A tall, thin kid wearing a green Army jacket caught my eye occasionally too.
He looked familiar somehow, his hands dug down deep in his pockets.
We never spoke, but we spent a fair amount of time breathing in the same smoky atmosphere,
our ears ringing with the same loud music, a glass of beer on the table in front of us.
I saw that same tall, thin kid this past week, right here in Winter Haven.
The Army coat is long gone - much like my formerly healthy head of hair.
And the kid's better looking now, to be honest,
although he always carried himself in a way that implied
he was moving on to bigger and better things.
He did too. His name is John Cusack
and he's successfully transformed himself from the tall,
thin kid wearing an Army coat to a name-brand commodity
Cusack and crew were at Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
recently to film scenes for a movie called "Grace is Gone."
Like all fathers of young girls, I believe my daughters are absolutely beautiful.
And, like all fathers of young girls, I'm absolutely right on that score.
So, it came as no surprise when my daughters
began to occasionally discuss their intentions to become actresses
Once on location, we saw production assistants buzzing like bees.
Lighting crews worked their magic.
The second team stood their ground,
replicating the approximate size and shape of the three actors
who would be taking their place for the actual shoot.
Within an hour of seeing how a real live film shoot works, my girls were bored to tears.
I did what any decent dad would do.
I let them ride the Triple Hurricane to get their hearts pumping again.
As we attempted to leave the park and head home,
so my girls could write reports about their observations of how movies are made,
the film crew was in need of extras.
A dozen or so people were required for a scene
featuring the tall kid in the Army coat and his two movie kids.
My girls and I were selected.
If you've never had the opportunity to see the smile on young girls faces
in the moments immediately after shooting their first scene in a feature film,
I can tell you, it's very nearly indescribably blissful
IMDb John Cusack
Wikipedia John Cusack
Friday, May 5, 2006
Movie crew starts filming at Gardens on May 18
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park will transform to a movie set May 18
when Plum Pictures and New Crime Productions
will produce scenes from the movie, "Grace is Gone."
According to the company's Web site,
the cast includes John Cusack, Marisa Tomei and Mary Kay Place
The park is inviting guests to the park for the day of the shooting,
and extras may be used to fill background scenes
Cypress Gardens movies included
the 1953 movie "Easy to Love" starring Van Johnson and Esther Williams
the 1948 "On an Island with You" starring Williams and Ricardo Montalban
IMDb Grace Is Gone
IMDb Easy to Love
IMDb On an Island with You
Friday, April 28, 2006
NYC jumbotron ad features Cypress Gardens performer
Cypress Gardens has been getting prime exposure in New York City this week.
In fact, New York City residents walking through Times Square
between 4:55 and 5 p.m. can simply look up at
the Nationwide Insurance Jumbotron and see a glimpse of Florida's treasured gardens
Dave Dershimer, owner of The Dershimer Nationwide Agency in Winter Haven,
decided to submit a photo of his friend, Bob Taintor,
whom he met while working at Cypress Gardens about 40 years ago
In the photo, Taintor is first shown performing at Cypress Gardens
as a human kite performer in 1962 and then shown flying a kite at the age of 62.
The motto, "Life Comes At You Fast,"
scrolls across the bottom of the Jumbotron as the advertisement is played in Times Square.
Taintor joked: "Kent Buescher ought to love me.
It ought to be good for a lifetime pass, I think!"
The Web site www.lifecomesatyoufast.com.
will show the ad between 4:55 and 5 p.m. today.
Individuals also may submit their own photos for the campaign at www.nationwide.com.
Wikipedia Times Square - 42nd Street and Broadway, Manhattan, New York City
Thursday, April 6, 2006
Cypress Gardens won't host Easter sunrise service
Those who look forward to attending Easter Sunrise Services
at Cypress Gardens might be disappointed
to learn that the park will be closed this year on Easter Sunday (April 16).
According to Cypress Gardens Spokesperson Sara Sumner,
the park will not open on Easter Sunday,
and so it will not engage in its traditional Sunrise Services.
The park is also closed on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving
Friday, March 31, 2006
Leaving park wasn't a good experience
Friends and I spent a lovely afternoon at a concert at Cypress Gardens,
but by the time we got out of there, we were furious,
and I am sure the thousands of people who came after us were equally angry.
There was an army of police and park personnel directing traffic,
but they sent us only one way, causing us to travel more than three
miles out of our way to get back to Cypress Gardens Boulevard.
They even had a police officer waiting to hand you a ticket if you tried to turn around.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Curry loved working at Cypress Gardens
From 1979 to 1985, Suzanne Curry
worked in the Public Relations Department at Cypress Gardens.
She began working as a public relations manager
and was promoted to public relations director three years later
At 4:30 p.m. on her final day at Cypress Gardens in May 1985,
Curry was wished farewell by skiers, who held up signs spelling out
"We'll Miss You Suzanne" during their last ski show of the day.
Although she feels she made the right decision to leave,
Curry admits leaving the Gardens
was the hardest decision she ever made in her professional career.
Once she left, Curry began producing television segments near Orlando
All of the experience she gained while working at Cypress Gardens
led her to be successful at other jobs.
Currently, Curry works as the co-owner of Curry Gilmore Consulting,
which she established in 2003
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Special to the News Chief
becomes oldest Belle
Visitors followed Fallon DeWitt around
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park,
asking her questions and taking pictures of her
in her lilac-colored antebellum dress
the park Belles are known for wearing.
At age 15, Fallon doesn't work at Cypress Gardens.
She was just the first participant
in the reintroduced Junior Belle program,
which allows girls to dress up like a professional beauty
and have the day documented on film.
and have a photographer take pictures of them
in some of the classic Cypress Gardens photo spots,
such as the gazebo and the botanical gardens.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Gardens' water park scheduled to reopen
Those looking for a way to cool off Saturday will be happy to know
it is the soft opening of Cypress Gardens Splash Island water park.
The new water park opened last summer,
but was shutdown before the season was complete due to hurricane damage.
"It's a good time to do it. The weather is good,"
Public Relations Manager Lynn Wright said.
The park is home to an interactive children's play area,
wave pool, lazy river, speed slides and more.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for Splash Island is set for noon March 30.
Thursday, March 9, 2006
Letter to the editor:
Cypress Gardens section enjoyable
I want to take this opportunity to let you know
the Cypress Gardens 70th-anniversary special section
was a refreshing change from all of the bad news usually reported
It was presented beautifully, as were the following articles
that added more history and other information of interest.
As was mentioned in your articles, Dick Pope Sr. was a people person.
Not only did he walk the paths at Cypress Gardens to greet the visitors,
he visited with his employees often.
He used the Gardens in various ways to help charitable organizations
Thanks for the memories.
We have heard that phrase before, but I sincerely thank you.
The News Chief helped put Winter Haven and Polk County on the map
Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Suit filed against Gardens to 'preserve' evidence
An Orlando attorney representing the family of an injured Orlando boy
said he filed a lawsuit against Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
to ensure that "we preserve the evidence" of a recent park accident that involved the boy.
Carlos R. Diez-Arguelles of the Attorneys Trial Group
filed the action Friday on behalf of the parents of 13-year-old Martin Llamas,
who fell from the park's Triple Hurricane roller coaster the evening of Feb. 25.
Llamas' parents, Publio Junco and Maria Cota,
are suing the theme park for at least $15,000.
Diez-Arguelles said the family has not asked for a specific amount of money
because the extent of he boy's injuries have not been fully determined.
Diez-Arguelles said his clients are "dirt poor."
He said he is hoping to set up a fund for the family,
which he said does have health insurance
See more Monday, February 27, 2006
Monday, March 6, 2006
First horticulturist transformed swampland into lush greenery
Ever wonder what Cypress Gardens was like
before the beautiful flowers and exotic plants were planted? Mary Adams knows.
She knows because her father, Vernon Rutter Sr.,
was the first superintendent and horticulturist at Cypress Gardens.
Prior to being hired by Cypress Gardens founder Dick Pope Sr.,
Rutter worked as a manager of a golf course in Howey-in-the-Hills,
between Clermont and Leesburg.
"(Pope) hired my father because he had a big truck
that he could take the workers to work in," said Adams,
who was in second grade at the time.
Adams said her family moved to Winter Haven in 1934,
two years before Cypress Gardens officially opened,
so her father could be closer to work
Rutter, who helped the Popes transform the Gardens
from a swampland into beautiful greenery with splashes of colorful flowers,
shared the founders' vision for the park
and played an influential role in shaping it into a world-renowned tourist attraction
Rutter's hard work and dedication did not go unnoticed.
About five years before he retired,
Pope surprised Rutter with a statue in his honor.
The statue of St. Fiacre, the patron saint of gardeners,
was made in Italy and stands in the Rose Garden today
in tribute to Rutter's hard work and dedication to the park.
Wikipedia Saint Fiacre
The patron of horticulturists, outside his hospice
Fiacre ploughed a very fertile garden, with only his walking stick.
Saturday, March 4, 2006
Indians take over Gardens for a day
More than 400 Cleveland Indians fans lined up
with baseballs, bats, trading cards and other memorabilia
for the team to sign during its annual spring training meet-and-greet Friday.
The event was held at Cypress Gardens for the first time this year.
"It's just a good partnership," said Lynn Wright,
spokeswoman for Cypress Gardens.
"We wanted to establish a relationship with the Indians
and show we're good partners with the Winter Haven community."
Changing venues also was a change in price -
the Cypress Gardens Grand Slam BBQ was $30
plus the regular price of admission while past years' field days were $15, total.
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Indians, Gardens team up to host Grand Slam BBQ
The Cleveland Indians and Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
have teamed up to host the first Grand Slam BBQ
on Friday, from 4:30 to 10 p.m., at the theme park.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Winter Haven Youth Recreation Fund.
Only 500 tickets will be sold for Grand Slam BBQ, but tickets are still available.
Tickets are $65 per person, or $63 per person for groups of 15 or more.
Cypress Gardens season passholders can purchase tickets for $30 each.
Those who cannot attend may still donate to the
Winter Haven Youth Recreation Fund
by sending a check specifically marked for the fund to the
Winter Haven Department of Leisure Services
210 Cypress Gardens Blvd., Winter Haven, FL 33880
Winter Haven Department of Leisure Services
The Cleveland Indians
Monday, February 27, 2006
Boy injured at Gardens still in critical condition
A 13-year-old boy who fell out of wooden roller coaster at
Cypress Gardens remained in critical condition Sunday at a Tampa Hospital
Martine Llamas, of Orlando, was airlifted by helicopter to
St. Joseph's Hospital following the Saturday accident,
which happened at approximately 6 p.m.
According to reports from the Gardens and the Polk County Sheriff's Office,
the boy fell out of a car on the Triple Hurricane roller coaster
and landed approximately 12 to 15 feet below on a grassy area.
Cypress Gardens Public Relations Manager Lynn Wright
said Sunday that, according to eyewitnesses,
the boy was dared to stand up during the ride.
Llamas apparently took the dare and worked his way out of the lap restraints, Wright said.
A Sunday morning inspection of the ride, conducted by a specialist
with the Florida State Bureau of Fair Ride Inspection,
found no malfunction with the ride or the coaster's lap restraint system, Wright said.
In a statement, Cypress Gardens chief executive officer Kent Buescher said
guests' safety and enjoyment are the park's primary concerns
See more Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Polk County Sheriff's Office
St. Joseph's Hospital
Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection
Roller Coaster Database
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Pope family got a good deal for Cypress Gardens' land
The current entrance to Cypress Gardens didn't always belong to the Popes,
the family that established the Winter Haven park in 1936.
Norman Anderson, a housing developer,
sold two parcels to Dick Pope Sr. in 1969,
long before Cypress Gardens Boulevard had been constructed.
"I didn't have them very long,
and I didn't think it was any place to build houses," Anderson said.
And Pope, always the shrewd businessman, saw the value in the land.
Anderson doesn't remember how much the property went for,
but he said Pope got a good deal on the sale.
Monday, February 20, 2006
EDITOR'S NOTE: The News Chief today continues its publication
of a series of occasional stories and photographs - many contributed by readers -
related to the 70th anniversary of Cypress Gardens.
While Judi Dershimer was attending high school in Georgia, she joined a ski club.
Water skiing was her passion and her lifelong dream
was to work at Florida's precious Cypress Gardens.
Just before her high school graduation in 1966,
Dershimer and a friend visited the popular theme park.
They had sent in applications to be hired as water skiers
and during their visit they were interviewed - and hired on the spot.
"We graduated high school and came back and started skiing," she said.
"It was really a dream come true because that was what I really wanted to do."
Dershimer skied at Cypress Gardens for about 20 years.
She met her ex-husband, David Dershimer, while skiing at the Gardens in 1968
Monday, February 6, 2006
Airwaves promoted Gardens
Cypress Gardens founder Dick Pope Sr., the P.T. Barnum of Florida,
found several creative ways to promote his theme park
and make it a household name -
not just in Florida but throughout the nation and even in some parts of the world.
For example, do you remember hearing George Ogburn on the radio?
Or how about the postmark for P.O. Box 1, Cypress Gardens, FL?
Many area longtimers might recall Ogburn's stage name,
George Prescott, and his famous introduction,
"This is WGTO 540 AM broadcasting from beautiful Cypress Gardens, Florida,"
WGTO 540 AM history at www.DizzyRambler.com
WGTO 540 AM history at www.cflradio.net
U.S. Postal Service
Wikipedia P. T. Barnum
Friday, February 3, 2006
Gardens' owner: Insurer shorted us
Officials from Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
believe they're owed $24 million in insurance money
for losses incurred during the 2004 hurricane season.
The park's insurance company has paid out only about $6.5 million.
A disagreement about the difference is tied up in
the 10th Judicial Circuit Court in Bartow,
where a judge has been asked to decide
exactly what damages were covered under the park's policy.
"We had no idea we'd end up in a dispute like this,"
Cypress Gardens owner Kent Buescher told the News Chief.
Cypress Gardens suffered $30 million in damages following the triple-punch of
hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne in the fall of 2004
RSUI Group and its operating company,
Landmark American Insurance Co., saw things differently.
Wikipedia 2004 Atlantic hurricane season
Saturday, January 28, 2006
EDITOR'S NOTE: Today the News Chief continues its series
of occasional stories and photographs - many contributed by readers -
related to the 70th anniversary of Cypress Gardens.
Look for more stories and photos in upcoming issues of the News Chief.
For Dave Dershimer, being a Cypress Gardens water skier
was a dream that started when his family took a vacation
to the park when he was 8 years old.
And years later he was able to make that dream a reality.
That first trip to the Gardens left a
"great, positive impression of pretty girls, sunshine and water skiing"
- and Dershimer wanted to be part of it.
Dershimer set out for Florida in 1964,
hitchhiking his way down to Winter Haven from Harveys Lake, Pa.
An insurance agent, Dershimer has an office full of Cypress Gardens memorabilia
that he's collected throughout the years.
Dave Dershimer - Nationwide Insurance
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Banana George Blair becomes park mayor
George Blair celebrates his 91st birthday today.
It's also his first full day as honorary mayor of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park.
Blair, who holds several world records,
started his skiing career at "40 years young," he said.
He is the oldest barefoot skier in the world
and became a popular addition to the world-famous Cypress Gardens water ski show.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park Official 70th Anniversary Souvenir Edition
32 pages of history
Friday, January 20, 2006
EDITOR'S NOTE: The News Chief today begins publication
of a series of occasional stories and photographs - many contributed by readers -
related to the 70th anniversary of Cypress Gardens.
Look for Saturday's News Chief, which will include
the Cypress Gardens Adventure Park Official 70th Anniversary Souvenir Edition
Sitting in front of a wall filled with pictures of water skiers, plaques and memorabilia,
Nancy Daley doesn't have the sun-bleached hair of her skiing days
or the tan that comes from spending every day on the water.
And though she has no problem leading Lake Alfred City Commission
meetings as the mayor, Daley is fairly soft-spoken,
not exactly what one would expect from a performer who spent 22 years
as one of the world-famous Cypress Gardens water skiers.
When she was 9 years old, Daley first saw the Cypress Gardens water ski
show during a vacation in Winter Haven.
"I watched the show and said that same day,
I'm going to be a Cypress Gardens water skier,' " Daley said.
Wikipedia Lake Alfred, Florida
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Readers come through big for Gardens section
To borrow an old phrase, it has been an absolute blast working on
the Cypress Gardens 70th Anniversary special section
which will hit the streets with the News Chief on Saturday.
When we made our call for reader contributions to the section
- personal stories, favorite memories, work experiences at the Gardens,
photographs and the like - we expected a good response,
especially with the rekindled interest in the revived and reinvigorated theme park.
Instead, what we received was an overwhelming response
- hundreds of photos (recent and historic),
many interesting personal tales related to the Gardens and dozens of story ideas
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
'Banana George' eyes 91st birthday party at Gardens
The man who brought together bananas and barefoot water-skiing
will observe his 91st birthday Saturday
with a special celebration at Cypress Gardens.
Banana George has taken barefoot water-skiing
to seven continents and 69 different countries
over his career that started when he was already 40.
Thursday, January 5, 2006
Dick Pope made Gardens household name
The history of Cypress Gardens and the story of Dick Pope Sr.,
the colorful personality who made the park a household name across America,
were presented during a Winter Haven Heritage meeting Wednesday morning.
The focus of the program, held at the Winter Haven Public Library,
was a video made for a roast of Dick Pope in the 1970s.
Presented by Bob Gernert, president of Historic Winter Haven,
the video traces the life of Pope through old newsreel footage and early photographs.
"You can see what a tremendous and powerful personality he was,"
Gernert said. "His public relations skills were unparalleled."
Gernert said the park's current owner, Kent Buescher,
believes in the park as Pope did and has embraced the legacy.
Winter Haven Public Library
Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Happy 70th to Gardens
With the past in mind and the future bright,
Cypress Gardens celebrated opening 70 years ago Monday
The park opened Jan. 2, 1936,
and the milestone was marked with a ceremony
and signature water ski show at the stadium on Lake Eloise.
Taking a page from Dick Pope's playbook,
owner Kent Buescher entered with two Cypress Belles on his arms
and had grand sentiments to share on the park's history and outlook.
"You know, it's hard to believe that 70 years ago
this little place by the lake became a reality," Buescher said.
"Dick Pope Sr. brought tourism to this great state and created this wonderful place."
Dick Pope Jr. joined Buescher up front to cut the birthday cake for the park.
He said his parents would have been proud to see the park today.
"There's a lot of different things that (the new park) put in," Pope said.
"They've done a great job
Also on hand at the event was Banana George Blair,
the iconic barefoot water-skier who started at the Gardens in 1967.
Banana George appeared on a hydrofoil ski
and plans to mark his 91st birthday on Jan. 21 with another show at the Gardens
Bob Gernert, executive director of
the Greater Winter Haven Area Chamber of Commerce,
took the podium to trace some of the park's history.
Sunday, January 1, 2006
Gardens grow to No. 41
Park achieves honor after reopening in November 2004
It took 70 years, but Cypress Gardens
has made it into the top 50 theme parks in North America,
according to figures complied by
Amusement Business magazine and Economics Research Associates.
With almost 1.4 million visitors in 2005, the figures,
based on attendance, put Cypress Gardens at No. 41 in North America.
This could be considered the first birthday present Cypress Gardens gets.
The park turns 70 on Monday, and just like adults reliving their youth,
the theme park famous for water skiers and Southern Belles is going back to its roots.
ERA, Economics Research Associates
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Gardens' 70th anniversary nears
Cypress Gardens is turning 70 on Monday, and just like adults reliving their youth,
the theme park famous for water skiers and Southern Belles is going back to its roots.
The festivities begin Monday, when visitors to the 11 a.m. ski show
will be treated to the return of the water-ski pyramid
and pieces of cake after a short ceremony.
But that's just the formal part of the anniversary.
The real fun and nostalgic attractions have already begun.
The famed ski show has already started to incorporate
the more traditional routines and stunts, including the popular water-ski pyramid.
The theme park has also reintroduced the Cypress Belle,
an old-fashioned paddle boat that carries passengers
along a scenic route for daytime excursions, as well as a dinner cruise
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Free presentation on Gardens' creation is Jan. 4
On Jan. 4, Winter Haven Heritage meets at 10 a.m.
in the multipurpose room at Winter Haven Public Library
to share memories of the early days of Cypress Gardens.
Bob Gernert, president of Historic Winter Haven,
will present a film delineating Cypress Garden's beginnings.
Sponsored by Friends of the Library,
the event is free and the public is encouraged to come
Winter Haven Public Library
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Gardens vision grows
Thriving park to renew ski show, cruise
Seventy years ago Cypress Gardens first opened its gates,
and the reborn park has big plans to mark the milestone
"Beginning Nov. 1 we're kicking off a 14-month anniversary celebration
that will not only celebrate the future of Cypress Gardens, but also the past,"
park owner Kent Buescher announced during a press conference Wednesday.
Celebrating the past includes the launch of a new water ski show
that will incorporate more traditional routines and stunts,
the kind that helped make Cypress Gardens a household name.
The Cypress Belle paddle boat will set sail once again
for tours in the daytime and dinner cruises at night.
Plus, a new water taxi service will ferry guests
from the north end of the park to the south end.
In February, cruises of the Botanical Gardens, which started in 1938,
will return to give visitors a leisurely tour of the park's flora.
During preparations for opening last year,
Cypress Gardens took direct hits from three hurricanes
and suffered damages estimated at $28.
Buescher and his Adventure Parks Group
eventually spent $80 million on the park,
"way above the preliminary estimates of $45 million," he said.
But attendance will top 1.4 million visitors this year
and Buescher announced the park would finish its first year of operation in the black.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Theme park's economic impact on area profound
According to officials at Cypress Gardens Adventure Park,
the park's economic impact on the area is profound.
Cypress Gardens employs 400 year-round workers
and more than 700 during peak season.
Cypress Gardens has a $160 million impact on the region
and the average tourist spends $168 a day in the area,
according to the Central Florida Visitor & Conventions Bureau.
Sales tax generated by the park is estimated at $2.98 million annually.
Cypress Gardens is projected to welcome 1.6 million visitors in 2006.
Original estimates for 2005 predicted 750,000 guests,
but 1.4 million ended up visiting the park.
With attendance of 1.4 million,
Cypress Gardens will be listed in the top 50 theme parks in North America.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Water tower repainting won't include Cypress Gardens logo
Cypress Gardens will lose some nostalgic advertising in downtown Winter Haven.
The water tower with the vintage Cypress Gardens logo
is scheduled for a paint job this year.
But touching up the design isn't part of the plan,
said Tony Viola, director of utility/engineering services.
Alyson Gernert, spokeswoman for Cypress Gardens Adventure Park,
said the logo had been placed there as part of an agreement between the city
and the old park years ago.
"If the city came to us and wanted to use our new logo, we would work with them on that,"
she said, but was doubtful as to how much financial support,
if any, the theme park could provide.
Winter Haven has budgeted $100,000 for improvements to the water tower.
Sunday, October 9, 2005
Family remembers historical Cypress Gardens trip
In a different time but a familiar place,
a Winter Haven family made history when they walked through the grounds of
Cypress Gardens one Sunday afternoon
When the color of one's skin meant more than it should,
the Doles family broke new ground as the first black family
to visit the park on Palm Sunday in 1942.
Their father, Jim Doles, started as caretaker at Cypress Gardens in 1936
and helped build the canals and bridges that made the park famous.
Without heavy machinery, Doles and other workers did the work by hand
and with shovels, turning a swamp into a garden.
Their father walked five miles to work everyday from their home, rain or shine.
Jim Doles worked for the park's first owner, Dick Pope Sr.,
and because of that he enjoyed a high level of respect in the black community.
Friday, October 7, 2005
Cypress Gardens' public relations manager set to leave
Alyson Gernert was the very first person hired
to work at Cypress Gardens when it reopened.
As the park's public relations manager,
Gernert has kept Cypress Gardens in the news
ever since she began working for the park almost a year and a half ago.
But on Oct. 26, the same day as the park's 70th anniversary press conference,
Gernert will hand over the reigns of the public relations department to a new manager.
Gernert has accepted a job with the Orlando Convention and Visitor's Bureau
Gernert said her time with Cypress Gardens has taught her patience and
"definitely all of my professional skills have been refined here."
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Chamber honors members
Buescher, Bogdahn are award recipients
The Chamber presented the 2005 Industry Award for 100 Employees or More to
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park. Owner Kent Buescher accepted the award.
"It's an honor," Buescher said.
"It's been a lot of hard work, a lot of challenges, but at the end of the day, it's worth it."
Attendance projections for the first year were 750,000,
but the park meet the goal in five months.
Not only are there are more people going to Cypress Gardens,
there are also more people working there.
"We had started out and planned for 350-400 people,
and now we're pushing 600," Buescher said.
Saturday, September 3, 2005
Cypress Gardens launches Kidzpalooza
Launched Friday was Kidzpalooza, a new children's event that will last until Sept. 26.
The monthlong event, which offers children a variety of activities and programs to enjoy,
is included in the theme park's admission
and lasts from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Monday.
Each weekend will offer guests and a variety of festivities.
Shows such as "Franklin," "Scholastic's Magic School Bus," Little Bear" and "Garfield"
will be offered, and children will be given an opportunity to meet cartoon characters
such as Toucan Sam, Mona the Vampire, Tony the Tiger and Caillou.
Also unveiled Friday was the 20,000-square-foot wave pool
in Splash Island- known as Kowabunga Bay.
Kowabunga Bay is the final attraction to be opened in the water park this year,
joining Paradise River, the Polynesian Adventure, the Voodoo Plunge
and the Tonga Tubes that have been in use at the water park.
Kowabunga Bay, which is filled with 568,000 gallons of water,
entertains guests with four-foot waves that come crashing through the pool.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Cypress Gardens to host teen contestants
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park will play host to
the 52 Miss America's Outstanding Teen contestants Sunday.
Miss America's Outstanding Teen is a sister organization of the
Miss America Organization.
The program promotes scholastic achievement, creative accomplishment,
healthy living and community involvement for America's teens.
Burma Davis Posey, a former Miss Georgia and chairman of
Miss America's Teen Day at the park,
says she is happy to be associated with Sunday's event.
Burma Davis Posey Founder and President - Friends of Cypress Gardens
www.MAO Teen.org Official Miss America's Outstanding Teen Website
www.Miss America.org Official Miss American Pageant Website
Monday, August 1, 2005
E-ticketing system coming to Gardens
Visitors of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
will soon be given a more convenient option in the way they can purchase tickets.
Adventure Parks Group, LLC will soon be offering an online service
where visitors can purchase their tickets online.
Visitors will be able to purchase e-tickets for both
the Cypress Gardens Adventure Park and Wild Adventure Park,
providing them with the convenience of purchasing the theme park tickets
in the privacy of their own home.
Michael Jetter, vice president of economic development for Adventure Parks Group,
said the new service will be available in the "not too distant future."
Saturday, July 30, 2005
Splashing relief - Gardens' new water park soft opening huge success
Splash Island, Cypress Gardens' new water park, opened Friday morning
to the relief of hundreds of sweating people waiting online outside the gates.
The "soft" opening debuted the park's
Paradise River, a lazy river, and Polynesian Adventure, a wet-play structure.
Kowabunga Bay, a 20,000 square foot wave pool,
Tonga Tubes, the 40-foot tall twin tube-slide complex
and Voodoo Plunge, the triple slide complex with two 60-foot slides,
will open in the end of August, Public Relations Manager Alyson Gernert said
The entire park, once it is completed, can accommodate 1,200 people, she said.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Work nearly complete on new water park
Cypress Gardens will soon offer a whole new way to cool off.
Splash Island, the park's newest area, will feature six attractions
including a wave pool, a lazy river, water slides and a wet-play structure
which can hold up to 500 people at a time
Young children can play in the Tikki Garden, where pop-jets and bubblers spray water.
Polynesian Adventure, the wet-play structure,
will offer slides, rope ladders, water cannons
and platforms below a 42-foot high water dump-bucket.
Kowabunga Bay, a 20,000 square foot wave pool,
will offer a chance for people to cool off on an inner tube in the waves.
Paradise River, a 1,000 foot lazy river,
will let people relax on tubes while flowing slowly around bends and curves.
Tonga Tubes, the 40-foot tall twin tube-slide complex and Voodoo Plunge,
the triple slide complex with two 60-foot, will also allow for cooling off,
though not without a thrill.
The park is also preparing to open its newest roller coaster, Galaxy Spin.
Galaxy Spin, a spinning mouse coaster,
will have spinning cars that run on the tracks which have drops and sharp turns.
The cars, Gernert said, will look like a 1950's version of UFOs.
Galaxy Spin, she said, should be open by the first week of August.
Saturday, July 9, 2005
Polk gets ready if Dennis turns
Polk County is now in a state of emergency.
The Board of County Commissioners
held a special meeting on Friday to prepare for the possibility
that Hurricane Dennis could change direction and move closer to Polk County.
As part of those preparations,
the board voted to declare the county in a state of emergency
and authorized the execution of contracts with companies
for disaster cleanup, debris removal and information gathering.
Wikipedia Hurricane Dennis
Monday, July 4, 2005
Impressive souvenir collection
Bob Gernert has accumulated Cypress Gardens memorabilia
Bob Gernert Jr. was first introduced to
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park when he was about 10 years old.
Dick Pope, who is notoriously known as the "Father of Florida Tourism"
and was the creator of Cypress Gardens, became an inspiration to Gernert.
In fact, Gernert actually met Pope in the early 1980s
However, it wasn't until many years later that Gernert became interested
in the park's background and history, and even more years later that he began
accumulating the park's treasured collectibles as a personal hobby
Gernert currently serves as the executive director for the
Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce
"About 10 years ago, I was looking for something to do, a hobby.
I decided I was going to collect postcards."
Then he decided to become more specific
and simply collect postcards of Florida tourist attractions.
Three years later, Gernert then decided to narrow the scope of his hobby
down to collecting memorabilia from Cypress Gardens.
Then in 1999, Gernert discovered something
that made his search for Cypress Gardens memorabilia a bit easier
www.ebay.com, an online auction site.
"It completely transformed the way I collect Cypress Gardens memorabilia," he said.
On any given day, Gernert said, more than 200 items
relating to Cypress Gardens will appear for auction on eBay.
Gernert, 56, said he feels that Pope would be very happy
to see the new life of Cypress Gardens
and that his creation will be introduced to new residents and visitors for years to come.
He also said that he feels the park will continue being successful in the future.
For now though, Gernert will continue visiting the park that is so dear to his heart
and learning more about the cultural landmark known as Cypress Gardens.
Sunday, July 3, 2005
'Trading Spaces' TV show star visits Cypress Gardens
Eight "Trading Spaces" television show fans won a private meet-and-greet Saturday at
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
with the show's talented and easygoing carpenter- Carter Oosterhouse.
IMDb Carter Oosterhouse
Wednesday, June 1, 2005
The 2005 hurricane season starts today,
but weather experts have already started the fervor over potentially devastating storms
Charley left 34 people dead, causing $14 billion in damage from Florida to the Carolinas.
Another 38 deaths were attributed to Frances,
which caused more than $9 billion in damage in five states.
And 28 people died because of Jeanne,
leaving $6.5 billion in damage in her wake in 10 states and Puerto Rico.
Polk County was spared any destruction from Ivan
which caused 52 deaths and more than $12 billion in damage in 16 states
after that storm went up through the Gulf and hit the panhandle.
But even here, 14 people died because of the storms
six with Charley, five with Frances and three with Jeanne.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Animals inhabit Gardens
Nature's Way opens, is home to 150 species
Birds and jaguars and alligators, oh my!
It was a literal zoo at Cypress Gardens Adventure Park on Thursday as park officials,
guests and local dignitaries celebrated the opening of Nature's Way.
The restored area of the park is now home to more than 150 animals,
including wallabies, muntjac, ducks, lemurs and goats.
The park's most famous resident is Tarzan,
a 75-year-old, 700-pound, blind alligator who starred with
Johnny Weissmueller in the Tarzan movies.
Because the alligator is blind, animal trainers must splash his food
- raw chicken - in front of Tarzan so he can sense it is nearby.
A female jaguar named Sheba also calls Nature's Way home,
moving from the Everglades to Winter Haven to become a full-time resident.
"We've brought the animal component and nature
back to a great park like Cypress Gardens,"
said Kent Buescher, owner of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park.
"It has turned out to be a beautiful, beautiful area
with wonderful animals already here and many more coming."
Many of the animals housed at Nature's Way were purchased from breeders,
while others came from rescue organizations.
IMDb Johnny Weissmueller
Date of birth: June 2 1904 - Date of death: January 20 1984
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Gardens' success overwhelming
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park continues to exceed even its owner's expectations.
In the five months since its grand opening,
more than 800,000 guests have visited the park and
more than 80,000 annual passes have been sold.
In an effort to meet the demands,
park officials plan to host a job fair from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday
at the human resources offices at Cypress Gardens
located at the south security entrance.
Applicants must be 18 years of age or older
and willing to participate in the park's mandatory drug testing,
said Alyson Gernert, public relations manager of the park.
The park currently employees 525 cast members.
It is undecided how many people will be hired during the job fair.
Gernert said the target date for the grand opening of Splash Island is July 4 weekend.
For more information regarding the job fair,
contact the human resources department at (863) 324-2111, ext. 4047
or log on at www.cypressgardens.com
Friday, May 13, 2005
County's loan to Gardens may be repaid early
If tourism in Polk keeps booming the way it is,
the county's going to pay off the $2.5 million
it loaned to help save Cypress Gardens a year early.
Revenue flooding in from the "fifth" penny on the county's bed tax
is exceeding what staff estimated it would generate and shows no signs of stopping.
Tourism overall has been consistently up from previous years -
typically holding steady around 20 percent more than in 2003 -
but hotels and other accommodations in Polk
made 73 percent more money in February 2005
than they did the same month last year.
That means bed tax collections are up -
including the penny used to save Cypress Gardens
from being razed by a developer's bulldozers
Mark Jackson, the county's director of tourism and sports marketing,
said Thursday that "if we continue on this trend,
we will have collected roughly a little more than $1 million
by the end of the year" from the fifth cent.
Then-owner Larry Maxwell had confirmed plans to develop the 150-acre park
if a deal couldn't be reached to buy it from him,
putting pressure on county commissioners,
state officials and now-owner Kent Buescher.
Buescher, who also owns Wild Adventures in Georgia,
ultimately bought the park for $7 million,
while the state bought the development rights for $11 million.
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Park admission policy needs to be changed
I have a 3-year-old son, Bryan, who is mentally challenged, to put it politely
Well, to make life a little rougher on us,
my wife purchased four season passes to Cypress Gardens
so that we could spend some quality family time together
as we do have two other children.
But in order to use these tickets,
we have to get a special baby sitter for Bryan (can't leave him with just anyone).
All because Cypress Gardens insists that EVERYONE must buy a ticket.
We even took his medical records up to them and showed them that
Bryan could not use their park in any such a way,
but they have insisted to stay with their policy of "no concessions."
This is just plain wrong!
It isn't that we can't afford another pass, it is the simple plain fact that it is wrong.
Pay full price for a child that wouldn't know
if he was on the moon or in the middle of the ocean?
Upon request, Kent Beuscher,
the owner of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park responded as follows:
Until last year, we allowed severely disabled persons to enter the park for free.
Unfortunately, we were challenged by an ADA advocate
for treating persons with disabilities differently from others.
U.S. Department of Justice - Americans with Disabilities Act
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Crane tips at Gardens
No injuries, bathhouse damaged in minor mishap
A large crane placing trusses on the roof of a new bathhouse
at the park's soon-to-open water park, Splash Island,
sunk in the sand causing it to tip to one side about 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Officials hope to have the park completed by Memorial Day weekend,
but that date is likely to slip by with only a partial opening,
said Kent Buescher, owner and president of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
and the upcoming Splash Island.
Officials broke ground on the new water park in late February.
Keeping with the retro-Florida theme of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park,
Splash Island will be home to a Polynesian atmosphere.
Splash Island is expected to cost $10 million to construct, Buescher said.
This cost will be added to the approximately $54 million already spent on
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park renovations
Sunday, April 3, 2005
Gardens owner acquires Southern Breeze
The Southern Breeze,
an authentic replica of a 19th century paddle wheel boat
that operated from inside Cypress Gardens,
has come under new management.
Kent Buescher, owner of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park,
has purchased the 70-ton boat for an undisclosed amount.
He plans to rename the boat Cypress Belle,
in honor of the belles of Cypress Gardens.
The boat was previously owned by
Espen Tandberg of Southern Grace Cruises Inc.
The Popes, the previous owners of Cypress Gardens,
had a contract with Tandberg in which park guests
could purchase tickets for the boat at a booth
located just inside the old park entrance.
The cruise was an additional charge.
The Southern Breeze was originally built in 1989
by LaCrosse Riverboat Company in LaCrosse, Wis.,
as one of nine in a series of 1880s-style paddle-wheel boats.
It is a true paddle-wheel, diesel-propelled only by two stern wheels
Dec 18 1998
Paddle-wheel boat expected to return to water today
Cypress Gardens' newest attraction
a 100-foot long authentic paddle-wheel boat
has completed its cross-country trip from Cleveland to Winter Haven
The attraction, unlike others at the gardens,
will require a fee additional to the park's entrance cost.
Without tax, the ride will cost
$5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $2 for children ages six to 17.
The dinner cruise will cost $17.95 Sunday through Thursday,
with lower prices for children and seniors.
Friday and Saturday nights, the dinner price will be $19.95,
with a youth and senior discount,
while the brunch will be offered for $15.95, also with discounts.
Friday, March 25, 2005
Cypress Gardens offers sunrise service, free admission
As promised, Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
will celebrate Easter with a sunrise service and free admission.
Traditionally the Easter Sunrise Service
has been a big part of Easter in Polk County," Buescher said.
"It was an event I wanted to do again as a thank you to the community."
The park is scheduled to open at 7 a.m. Sunday
with an Easter Sunrise Service at 7:30 a.m.
inside the park's concert venue, Star Haven Amphitheater.
The park will remain open until 3 p.m. Sunday.
No rides or shows will be operational.
However, the park's well-known botanical gardens
and butterfly exhibit will be open.
Friday, March 25, 2005
Winter Haven unveils streamlined city logo
Residents will begin to notice a new logo on city vehicles, signs and letterhead.
The city's current logo, a female water skier holding a glass of juice,
has graced the side of city vehicles for years.
It will soon be replaced by a new logo that simply reads,
"Winter Haven" in green text,with the words
"Chain of Lakes City" written in blue lettering below.
The origin of the skier-logo is somewhat sketchy.
A local woman was the skier depicted in the emblem,
which for many years was used on
Cypress Gardens Citrus Products produced by the Snively Plant in Eloise,
explained Bob Gernert Jr., executive director of
the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce.
It is speculated that Dick Pope, the original owner of Cypress Gardens,
had something to do with the city adopting the logo as its own, Gernert said.
Although Cypress Gardens, which closed in April 2003,
reopened as an adventure park late last year,
city officials made the decision to eliminate the famous female skier from its city logo.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Ride operator fired
The ride operator found at fault for the train collision at
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park on Saturday has been terminated.
The incident was Cypress Gardens Adventure Park's
first ride-associated injury since reopening in December.
The incident, involving two trains on the Citrus Line Railroad,
occurred about 6:15 p.m. Saturday.
One train was at a standstill when the other train,
traveling about 3 miles per hour, hit it head-on.
The trains sustained minor damage.
Florida Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Fair Ride
Inspections found the cause of the crash to be "operator error,"
To ensure this type of incident does not occur again,
all employees that operate the train
will go through a special training session again
Monday, March 7, 2005
Tourism on the rise in Polk
County sees 22 percent increase in visitors
The Central Florida Visitors and Convention Bureau's site,
was recently redesigned with tourists in mind -
not that the county's having any trouble getting visitors here.
Sunday, March 6, 2005
Gardens' ice show needs to change
I would like to express my disappointment in the ice show in the park,
which we attended on Saturday.
I have attended the ice show many times over the years
and with the exception of one time, it was an excellent show.
That show had one act that featured a girl skater
that was very scantily dressed and danced-not skated-very suggestively.
Tuesday, March 1, 2005
Old performers at Cypress Gardens, road rage
Why are they getting all these has-beens,
who I myself thought were already dead,
to perform at Cypress Gardens? It's an Adventure Park,
yet my teenage children have never even heard of
Chubby Checker, Pat Boone, Burt Bacharach, etc. Let's update a little!
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Owner Buescher expects 1.5 million park visitors in '05
Nearly 400,000 people have visited Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
since its opening, according to Kent Buescher,
owner of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park.
An average of 2,500 people visit the park on weekdays
and more than 20,000 on Saturdays, he said.
Before the park closed in 2003, the annual attendance was about 400,000,
something the new park has achieved in only a few months.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Gardens to make splash
Ground broken for water park
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
will soon be the first combination theme park in Florida
to offer visitors two different parks for the price of one, year-round.
Park officials held a ceremony on Tuesday
to break ground for Splash Island, a full-blown water park suitable for all ages.
Once the park opens this summer, visitors can enjoy both theme parks
for the admission price of Cypress Gardens
Splash Island is expected to cost $10 million to construct, Buescher said.
This cost will be added to the $54 million
already spent on Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Gardens will pick up litter
Complaint raises question of who's responsible to remove trash
Since the park reopened late last year,
"there are a lot more paper cups and Cypress Gardens flyers along there.
A lot of grocery bags."
... talking about the road along Helena
stretching the length of the Cypress Gardens property.
Cypress Gardens spokesperson Alyson Gernert
said park managers have decided to pick up the trash
- even though it's not their responsibility. It's the county's.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
Gardens bounces back
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a three-part series
looking at the recovery of residents and businesses since Charley,
followed by Frances and Jeanne, hit six months ago.
We are now three months out from the new season
So the damage statistics reflect a mixture of both types of structures:
22,255 damaged and 739 buildings destroyed by Charley
10,339 damaged and 121 destroyed by Frances
20,883 damaged and another 988 destroyed by Jeanne.
Total damage shows
53,477 buildings suffering some type of destruction and
1,848 considered destroyed.
The hurricanes caused more than $1 billion in actual property damage in Polk,
but likely caused around $500 million in economic costs.
Alyson Gernert, spokesperson for Cypress Gardens Adventure Park,
said hurricane damage ended up costing twice as much as originally predicted,
jumping from $10 million to $20 million.
Park officials had projected that 750,000 people
would visit Cypress Gardens in its first full year
After just over two months, Gernert said,
around 300,000 people have paid admission.
Part I Part III
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Gardens' owner Buescher paying for review of problems near park
While a tangled knot of cars along Helena Road is a good sign
for Cypress Gardens Adventure Park,
it can be a headache for residents traveling in the area.
To get a handle on the problem, Kent Buescher,
owner of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park,
has funded a study to review traffic problems in the vicinity of the park.
An average of 10,000 to 17,000 people visit the park during concert days
Monday, January 24, 2005
Polk friend remembers Johnny Carson
The late Johnny Carson who taught Americans how to stay up after midnight
will always be remembered as the birdman of Cypress Gardens
by at least one Winter Haven fan and friend.
Professional aerial photographer Richard Johnson
was Carson's original "flight instructor" for the comedian and talk show host's
September 1968 broadcast at Cypress Gardens.
Carson had to figure a stunt that would let him shine over the beauties
to follow his "Johnny Carson Discovers Cypress Gardens" special
on the Miss America Pageant.
Google Johnny Carson IMDb Johnny Carson www.Johnny Carson.com
Date of birth: October 23, 1925 - Date of death: January 23, 2005
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Cypress Gardens surpasses expectations
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park has surpassed expectations
with record-breaking attendance since its grand opening six weeks ago.
The park has seen more than 200,000 people pass through its gates
since the grand opening on Dec. 9.
More than 50,000 people have also purchased
year-round passes to the park.
"I'm extremely happy with our first month or so of operation,"
said Kent Buescher, owner and president of Cypress Gardens.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Kent Buescher tells all about his Cypress Gardens purchase
What was the driving force in your purchase of Cypress Gardens?
The first time I came to the gardens after it closed,
I was both disappointed to see how much the park had deteriorated
and pleased with what I saw as potential.
The gardens were absolutely breathtaking -
the natural beauty from the lake to the gardens. It was ideal.
I could see how the addition of rides and attractions
could turn this into a successful adventure. It's also a great market.
I'm trilled to have a part in saving a significant part of Florida's tourism history.
The attractions, shops and restaurants fo Jubilee Junction...
Roller coasters and other thrill rides...
Cypress Gardens has a new look but maintains its southern charm
The new Cypress Gardens blends the old with new in various shows
Plenty of premiere entertainment planned at the new Cypress Gardens
Hundreds attend opening day at new Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
Friday, January 7, 2005
The city of Winter Haven is booming
with the reopening of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in December
and the new construction taking place along Cypress Gardens Boulevard.
Leading the way in new development is a Super Wal-Mart
planned on Cypress Gardens Boulevard in Southeast Winter Haven.
Sunday, January 2, 2005
Cypress Gardens to hold job fair to meet demands
An increase in park attendance at Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
has officials making plans to hire additional employees
to meet customer service demands.
In order to meet the customer service demands,
park officials plan to hire more than 100 additional employees
during a two-day job fair scheduled from 1 to 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.
Applications will be accepted for ride operators, food service personnel,
and retail and guest services.
No Southern Belles will be hired during this job fair.
Interviews will be conducted on site.
Once tentatively hired, the employee must pass a drug screening
For more information regarding the job fair,
contact the Cypress Gardens Human Resource Department at
(863) 595-2265 or log on at www.cypressgardens.com
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News from 2006
News from 2005