The key to survival for beautiful Bonfante Gardens

I just returned from a half day at Bonfante Gardens with my
I just returned from a half day at Bonfante Gardens with my children. This is our first trip together there this summer. I made the supremely wise decision to buy VIP passes for the season, which means unlimited admission to both Great America and Bonfante Gardens.

My children prefer going up to Great America this summer, because it offers more for the tweens and teens. I still love Bonfante due to its proximity to our home and the relaxing feel of the park. But today I started to lose that loving feeling towards our local gem, and that has me worried about what the future holds for our park.

I have never been more concerned about the future of Bonfante Gardens than I am now. While I appreciate the fact that Paramount has stepped in to manage the park, my trips to other theme parks over the past two years has only made the problems at Bonfante Gardens seem more acute. If the future of Bonfante Gardens is to be decided based on the success of this summer, we should all be worried.

All of the successful theme parks I have been to have one thing in common; they have appeal to the masses. Broad appeal is crucial for the survival of Bonfante Gardens.

I think of the Sesame Place Park in Pennsylvania. Hearing the name, one would guess that it caters to small children – which it does. But its greatest success is that it offers attractions which keep those families coming back even when they have outgrown their affinity for Big Bird.

This park offers a couple of thrill rides, numerous water rides and wading pools for the little ones and thrilling water slides for the teenagers and adults. Similarly, Great America offers plenty of fun for young children while keeping the thrills up to date by adding new rides each season.

At Great America, there are a number of places to get drenched on even the hottest summer days. Locally, both Raging Waters and Marine World offer a little something different, and plenty of local people make these trips a part of their summer. All of these parks were crowded when we have visited. It has me wondering if Bonfante Gardens may have already missed the opportunity to succeed.

Today at Bonfante Gardens, we waited in no lines. There were less than a dozen people on the most popular rides at any given time. The parking lot was half full, so I couldn’t figure out where everyone was at first. Then I got to the waterfall. Well over 100 people were milling around the waterfall, attempting to cool off. There was another large group hanging around inside the mist of the rock maze. It was a pathetic site. Everyone at the park seemed to be looking for shade or water.

This is the gist of the problem at Bonfante Gardens. Given our summer climate, this park will not survive another season without an actual water ride. The park does not need another fountain or another misting area; they need an actual water ride. One that gets you so soaked that you immediately line up for a second dunking. It is as simple as that. Without the hope of such a feature at Bonfante Gardens, season passes will be a tough sell even to the Gilroy community.

Yes, the park is still beautiful. Yes, I enjoy the flowers and the trees and the gardens. But can I continue to tempt heat stroke out of some misplaced local loyalty? The answer to that is an emphatic “no.” What I witnessed today was large groups of people attempting to cool off at Bonfante Gardens, to no avail. These people did not look happy; they looked like they just wanted relief. My advice to the management of Bonfante Gardens is to give the people what they want, and perhaps you can save the park in the process.

Denise Baer Apuzzo has lived in Gilroy for 8 years. She is married and the mother of three children who attend Gilroy Public Schools. You can email her at [email protected]