Bonfante extends season by three weeks

– Bonfante Gardens is extending its longest and most successful
season yet by an additional three weekends.
By Lori Stuenkel

GILROY – Bonfante Gardens is extending its longest and most successful season yet by an additional three weekends.

The family theme park, which for the first time in its three-year history remained open after Labor Day this year, will continue to operate on weekends through Nov. 16.

“We’ve had a really good fall at the park,” said Nicole Koebrich, spokeswoman for Paramount Parks, which took over Bonfante’s daily operations this year.

Increased attendance at the park has continued since the park ceased daily operations after Labor Day weekend. The park also experienced its single most successful day ever this season, with record numbers visiting on the Sunday before Labor Day. Park officials do not release actual attendance numbers.

“We just had a great fall, and our guests are still coming to the park, so we want to make sure we keep our gates open,” Koebrich said.

Bonfante was able to retain all the staff members needed to keep the park open, Koebrich said.

Since opening in April under Paramount management, park attendance and season pass sales increased over last year.

“We’ve made a significant operational turnaround this year,” said Bob Kraemer, chairman of the park’s board of directors.

Park officials have been especially pleased with attendance numbers over the past two and a half months, Kraemer said.

“It’s a very positive trend and one that we hope the public will continue to support,” he said. “We continue to need all the attendance we can get because we still have a debt situation to handle.”

While the park has seen a marked turnaround this year after poor attendance in seasons past, it still has millions of dollars in unpaid debts.

“We continue to work the issue and work with the creditors,” Kraemer said.

Meanwhile, the park continues to enjoy high attendance numbers and its first profitable season. Weekend-only operations kicked off after the Labor Day holiday with a Harvest Festival theme featuring fall-related activities and attractions. Most of the advertising for the season is over, but crowds continue to visit the park.

“The Harvest Festival has been greatly successful,” Koebrich said. “There’s a lot of kids’ activities going on at the park.”

Children can participate in harvest-themed arts and crafts, view friendly scarecrows displayed around the park, or even practice milking a pretend cow in the farmers market.

Harvest Festival activities end on Halloween, when children can trick-or-treat in the park from noon to 5 p.m., but all regular rides and attractions will remain open through mid-November.

“The weather is beautiful, it’s a wonderful time of year, and we hope people continue to come,” Kraemer said.