Landmark Lost: Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Hastings Village (Part 2)
WILLIAMSBURG – Last week we took a trip down memory lane to visit the history of the Busch Gardens brand, the founding of our welcome park and the start of the village of Hastings. Today we’re going to take a look at some of the attractions and learn more about the closure of Hastings and the birth of its replacement.
After ten years, Busch Gardens Williamsburg (BGW) was already a juggernaut in the theme park industry. The park introduced two state-of-the-art Arrow Dynamics roller coasters, the Loch Ness Monster in 1978 and the Big Bad Wolf in 1984.
Additionally, new villages have been opened to add to the Old Country experience for the guests.
Unable to keep up with corporate competition, local coastal parks, such as Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Ocean View in Norfolk, and Seaside in Virginia Beach have closed their doors for good, sending their former guests to the BGW box office.
On a trip to the Old Country, guests could visit Germany, Italy, New France (which was supposed to pay homage to a French-Canadian forest village), Scotland, Tudor England and the medieval village of Hastings.
Hastings had a single tower, a jammer housed in a large building with a castle facade. It was a popular destination in the park as it allowed guests to rejoice in the famous battle of 1066 between William the Conqueror and King Harold.
However, in the early 1980s the park wanted to add a special spectacle for the village that would not only entertain, but take guests on a magical journey through medieval England.
“The enchanted laboratory of Nostramos the Magnificent”
While the dark jammer ride was fun, the park saw better use of the building it housed. The jammer made his way through the sun and moved to the park’s Oktoberfest village.
What kind of show could they put on this massive building? Busch Gardens vice president of entertainment Joe Peczi, Jr. came up with the idea for a sort of sorcerer’s apprentice theme.
Peczi reached out to a handful of people to help him develop a concept, including Gary Goddard, a former Disney fantasy who started Gary Goddard Productions, which would later become Landmark Entertainment.
Drawing inspiration from another popular story of a sorcerer’s apprentice who decided to try out his own powers with several misadventures along the way, this show had to be filled with low and high tech special effects, beautifully orchestrated music. , fun characters and even audience participation.
The building that once housed a dark merry-go-round has been magically transformed into a wizard’s lab for his cheeky young apprentice, Northrup, to take his guests on a journey twenty minutes apart throughout the day.
From 1986, guests crowded inside the laboratory. While they enjoyed the air-conditioned space, it was the spectacle that really stood out for them. Several generations would flock to space to watch Northrup try to turn iron into gold, consult both a dragon friend and a wise old owl named Pelinore, sing songs, fly through the air, shrink to an impossible size, compete. with a dragon who lived under the stage, and that the sorcerer Nostramos speaks to him through a magical screen.
This delightful show (although a little scary for the younger audience members) was one that guests returned to time and time again.
The challenge of the quaestor and King Arthur
As a park already known for many firsts, BGW would add another to its already impressive list. Four years after the start of the magical spectacle of “The Enchanted Laboratory of Nostramos the Magnificent” came the first full-scale motion simulator ride in the Mid-Atlantic.
In 1990, “Questor” burst onto the scene with a mad dash to find Zedd’s mighty crystal at the behest of a charming gnome named Alwyn. The guests walked through the cavernous walls before learning the quest (or) they were about to pursue in search of this powerful, but ominous crystal.
After being briefed by Alwyn, the guests were taken to the motion simulation room where they tied themselves to seats covered in dragon scales. The ride combined both live action footage and the use of miniatures to take explorers through caverns, a waterfall, and into the air on this magical journey.
What “Questor” has done is not only to provide a thrilling driving experience, but also to give customers who may not want to make bigger attractions a haven for fun.
“There are a lot of rides that adults are reluctant to do because they’re afraid they’ll be too difficult,” said Mel Bilbo, general manager of Busch Gardens in the 90s. “Due to the nature of the ride. “Questor” experience, it will have a much broader appeal than many rides. “
Below is a video uploaded by a fan of an advertisement for “Questor”:
Despite its popularity, “Questor” was not in tune with the medieval vibe of the village. After only five seasons, “Questor” made his final journey in search of Zedd’s crystal.
On June 22, 1996, “Questor” was changed to “King Arthur’s Challenge”. It was to be a 3D experience that took the horsemen on a journey to save Excalibur, the legendary sword drawn from the stone by King Arthur. While the idea for this ride was noble, its execution pales in comparison to “Questor”. Instead of live images, this ride was based on early computer-generated images (CGIs) and looked more like a rudimentary screen saver on a desktop computer running Windows 3.0 than a true immersive ride experience.
What else was there in Hastings?
The puppet show at the Magic Lantern Theater was followed by several song and dance performances that really had nothing to do with Hastings around 1066. However, these upbeat reviews were still popular among the crowds.
There were concession stands, an arcade, a studio where guests could check in singing on a variety of pre-recorded instrumental tracks and, of course, Wizard Works – a store that sold items of magical and fantasy plot.
Then just beyond the enchanted laboratory on a short path was Threadneedle Faire; a recreation of a Renaissance fair, filled with games and traveling artists. But it’s a lost landmark for another day.
From Hastings to Killarney
At the end of the twentieth century, everything about Ireland was all the rage, in part thanks to the popular Irish dance performances that were taking place around the world.
As for BGW, the park wanted to create a sensation as the new century approached. In 2000, guests were treated to a newly imagined Hastings. Or, moreover, a new village where Hastings once existed.
Tents and medieval architecture have been replaced with quaint thatched roofs and slight cosmetic changes to give the impression of a stereotypical Irish village. What the guests found were more than cosmetic changes, but new occupants inside the buildings.
“The enchanted laboratory of Nostramos the Magnificent” would no longer have Northrup singing earworm-worthy tunes while trying to turn iron into gold. Instead, the new show was hardly worthy of a memory. It will also eventually close, and the building where the Battle of Hastings took place and where the dragon lived under the stage was then used as an additional eating place and for events, such as Howl-O-Scream.
After the demise of “King Arthur’s Challenge”, the building that was fitted out for “Questor” initially housed “Corkscrew Hill”, a magical ride through Irish folklore in which CGI graphics were far superior to its predecessor. Although it was a popular but difficult ride, it was replaced by the forgettable “Europe in the Air” and then “Battle for Eire”, which used virtual reality headsets.
The Magic Lantern Theater has been redesigned and a new must-see show, “Celtic Fyre”, is presented throughout the season. This award-winning show features traditional Irish music, dance, fun and fantasy that engages audiences in the mirth of the performers. Despite the loss of several Hasting staples during the opening of Killarney, “Celtic Fyre” soothes the burn from this burn.
A lost landmark
Despite its lifespan of over two decades, Killarney’s beautiful atmosphere will always have Hastings in its shadow. Many of us still talk about when we were hanging over a waterfall on “Questor”, bought our first magic kit from Wizard Works, and hum the tunes we remember by heart as Northrop sang once turning iron into gold just before our very eyes.
Killarney was a worthy successor to the medieval village which opened with the park. However, he will never replace the puppets, the dragon and once upon a time Hastings.
Always be informed. Click here to get the latest news and information delivered to your inbox