PLEASANT GROVE, Utah, Oct. 31, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — If you’re one of those folks who cherishes Halloween you would be well-advised to top off this year’s season with a trip to Utah County — to Pleasant Grove to be exact — where one of the most innovative entertainment parks in the country is open for business and officially blowing minds.
The multi-million-dollar dream known as Evermore — brainchild and obsession of founder and CEO Ken Bretschneider — is now a reality.
The gates to the village opened September 29 in a soft rollout and the reviews are promising.
“They love it,” said Bretschneider. “We are exceeding our projections. It’s been a long process, but we are finally off the ground.”
The twinkle in his eye, the enthusiasm in his voice, telegraph what seems apparent by the lines of awestruck visitors streaming through the park by the thousands nearly every night — that Evermore is not only generating rave reviews, it may just be the next big thing in immersive interactive entertainment.
If the project takes off, there are eight more like it on the drawing board.
Billed as being far more than just a theme park, Evermore draws visitors into a living, breathing, theatrical experience — a fantasy-based landscape where guests and characters interact against the backdrop of an authentic Gothic village. It is, in effect, an 11-acre stage — a place where fantasies unfold and participants are the stars.
For Bretschneider, bringing the project to fruition has been a lifelong dream.
“I grew up in a really rough situation, and I needed escapism as a kid. I had my heroes out there who helped me escape that bad world, and go into a world of magic and imagination. For me, that’s a really important part of why I do this,” he said.
“Evermore is designed to look like an old European village,” Bretschneider said. “I wanted it to be real, so I went to Europe and picked up thousands of objects from the Gothic era and brought them back here.
“It was like a giant treasure-hunting quest. It took a year to plan, and then we spent days working from 7 o’clock in the morning until 12 o’clock at night hunting down all of these items, from private collectors, antique dealers and reclamation yards. We traveled to six countries and sent back 14 40-foot cargo containers.”
“You see, Evermore is all about detail, and that’s the experience, layers and layers of detail that makes it really exciting,” Bretschneider said. “We’re not a multi-billion-dollar theme park with rides. We’re an adventure, and we have to create that adventure to satisfy people and really immerse them into the story. The only way to do that is to do it in high-level detail.”
That attention to detail and its impact on the Evermore experience is clear the moment you enter the park. After buying tickets at the main gate, guests are greeted in a cobblestone courtyard by a cadre of costumed characters. They subtly question patrons about the nature of their visit, setting the stage for themes of the night.
As visitors travel down the village path, they’re treated to a visual feast — a stunning display of color and motion, including the light from 5,000 jack-o-lanterns that bathes the park’s interior. The dramatic play of light and shadow adds an other-worldly dimension to the Evermore landscape, and it’s here that the portal begins to open and a state of immersion begins.
First stops include the Notting Glass House — home to a menagerie of majestic critters, including pythons and parrots and Great Horned Owls — followed by a stroll to a tilted tavern, where the interaction between costumed cast members and guests provides more fodder and insight for the dramas ahead.
Early in the evenings, the Evermore experience is aimed at families, softer in tone, and geared toward younger kids — but as the night wears on, and the shadows grow long, a much darker game begins.
Tours of the village church and cemetery take a decidedly ominous turn, as blood-thirsty ghouls and soul-stealing succubi try to prey on passersby.
Around the bend in the village square, a sordid cast of characters appears — from swashbuckling swordsmen and tarot card readers to witches and fairies and real fire- eaters. Archers and axemen appear there as well, and the bright orange flames seem straight out of hell.
It is, in a word — spectacular.
It’s been a little more than a month since Evermore opened and their Halloween-based production officially known as “Lore” will end Saturday, Nov. 3.
Daily Hours: 6:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Monday-Thursday — $22 adults (ages 13+) $12 children (ages 6-12)
Friday-Saturday — $29 adults (ages 13+) $16 children (ages 6-12)
Children under age 6 are free.
Evermore’s second seasonal effort, a Christmas-themed production called “Aurora,” will begin Nov. 23.