One of my life long dreams has been to participate in setting a Guinness Book of World’s Record. So when I heard that Cypress Gardens would be organizing the world’s largest Easter Egg Hunt on April 1st, I knew I had to be there. It would give my son something he could boast about later, although he probably won’t remember the actual event. It also sounded like a lot of fun.
The event kicked off at 3PM with a speech from park owner Kent Buescher and some local dignitaries. A representative of the Guinness Book of World Records certified the event at having over 510,000 eggs (well above the previous record).
I caught up with Kent later and he was gracious enough to let me snap a photo of him holding the certificate given to Cypress Gardens by the folks at Guinness.
The vast lawns of the park were divided by age group and the eggs weren’t so much hidden as they were blanketed across the property. 510,000 is a lot of eggs to scatter around. That made it easy to find eggs for even the smallest toddler. Also hidden in some of the eggs were some gift certificates and other prizes, including a two-year scholarship to Polk Community College. That was pretty cool.
Park estimates I heard were that there were about 5,000-6,000 children in the park at 3pm. Although I think it could have been more. That’s about 100 eggs for each child. Now that’s an easter egg hunt.
Never the less in about 30 minutes almost all of the 510,000 eggs had been scooped up. Guests then got busy cracking each of the shells to find out if they’d won one of the prizes, which had to be redeemed by 6pm, or just candy. My son ended up with about 75 eggs and found only candy.
Alas this resulted in a huge mess around the park. I saw quite a few staff members out cleaning up for the rest of the day. Hopefully no permanent damage was done to the beautiful grounds. Next year, if they do this again, it might be wiser just to include a few solid eggs with numbers on them and then have those numbers correspond to a prize, or provide the chance to draw for a prize out of a barrel. Then the eggs could be brought home uncracked or perhaps recycled in neighborhood events.
We spent the rest of of the afternoon enjoying the rides and shows, including my first viewing of the world famous water skiing show. A good production, perhaps cut down a bit from the park’s glory days, that had me both laughing at and in awe at the stunts and talent exhibited.
Cypress Gardens itself is set near Winter Haven (about 10 minutes off Highway 27) and about 45 minutes south of the Disney theme park area. Known primaily for the Water Skiing show and the beautiful Gardens, the post 9/11 years were not kind to the park. Eventually it closed and offered to sell itself in parts if needed. Thankfully Kent Buescher, owner of the successful Wild Adventures theme park in Valdosta, Georgia, was so taken by the property and its potential that he bought the whole park lock and set about upgrading it to a full fledged amusement park. (see Wikipedia and Yesterland)
Then the 2004 triple hurricanes hit and devestated Cypress Gardens. It took a bankruptcy and a fight over insurance, but the park has now been open for over two years and operating successfully. While there may be some struggles ahead, I’m sure the park is destined for success.
Cypress Gardens is a what I call a ‘slow park’. Yes there are fast roller coasters, thrill rides, and the typical amusement fare. And you can certainly spend a day doing that. But Cypress Gardens is meant to be enjoyed slowly. A slow mosey through the Zoo area, a ride on the Sunshine Sky Adventure (I recommend a second ride just after dusk too), some family time spent exploring the botanical gardens, and, of course, take in a performance of the famous Water Skiing show. If you’re interested, you can even take in a concert from a touring performer (usually someone you’ll know by name) or one of the parks other regular shows.
Cypress Garden’s 200 acres soaks up people. So there is seldom a line for any of the attractions or shows. They’ve hired some of the friendliest people in the area, and they’re all invested in the success of the park, so they go out of their way to make sure your visit is a good one. Both days I’ve gone have been weekends and they have had special events and crafts added for the busy days too.
The park continues to grow. It recently added a water park, which was packed on April 1st with temperatures soaring into the 80s. They’re also well underway on construction of the ‘Starliner’ an ‘out-and-back’ wooden roller coaster, purchased from the closed Miracle Strip Amusement Park in Panama City Florida. Ultimate Roller Coaster has a great story on the history of the Starliner.
The ‘Starliner’ will run along one border of the park, next to a couple of the park’s existing coasters.
Here you can see some of the footings in place for one of the coaster’s two corners.
I think the Starliner will fit well into Cypress Garden’s new role in Central Florida. It keeps with the feel of the area, and adds in some traditional thrills at the same time. Not only is Cypress Gardens a great park for locals looking for a day of fun, but it’s well worth the trip for any visitor to Central Florida to see the history and the beauty of the park, plus soak in some old fashioned amusement park fun at the same time. I hope to see you there.