Shows and entertainment have always been an important part of a day at an amusement park or theme park, with many classic parks being home to multiple bandstands or band shells for concerts and shows.
|Under the leadership
of flamboyant designer Warner LeRoy, entertainment was a
big part of the formula for Great Adventure in 1974, with the theme park
featuring several show venues scattered throughout the Enchanted Forest. One of the original venues was the Bandstand on the Lake.
The open air design and lakeside location offered a relaxing atmosphere
for those hot summer days. The largest of four original bandstands,
Bandstand on the Lake also went by the name Bandstand by the Lake, and
quite often internally as the Main Bandstand.
With a steel frame accented by white lattice work and bright white and yellow canvas coverings, the showplace featured rows of wooden park benches which could be removed if needed along with wide open aisle ways. While not nearly as large as the park's Great Arena or Aqua Spectacle, the Bandstand on the Lake was much more suitable for smaller events and shows. Great Adventure's grand opening presentations were held at the Bandstand on opening day in July 1974.
|On any given day
varying bands, magicians, and variety acts played on the small stage.
In the late 1970's, thanks to a newly installed sound system, multiple
lighting rigs, and the compulsory mirror ball, when night fell the
Bandstand on the Lake became "Disco on the Lake" offering disco dancing
to the hottest hits.
The park's first musical show premiered in 1977 when the Bandstand hosted the "Ragtime Riverboat Revue" with a stage presentation which included live music, elaborate costumes, and themed scenery. With Six Flags' acquisition of Great Adventure in late '77, they looked to continue with musicals and introduced many of their signature "Broadway style revues." The Bandstand on the Lake was quickly upgraded by Six Flags with a solid roof structure with skylights replacing the canvas roof, enlarged stage and backstage areas to accommodate more elaborate productions, and a few seasons later the replacement of the movable park benches with rows of metal benches with back supports similar to those found in the park's major arenas.
With the addition of
the indoor and fully air conditioned show venue Americana Music Hall in
1978, the bigger, more elaborate shows moved across the park, while the
Bandstand still was home to smaller music revues with their smaller casts and
simple stage sets and costuming.
Even though the Americana Music Hall upstaged the Bandstand on the Lake, the venue continued to draw passing crowds, especially given its location next to the number one ride in the park at that time, the Log Flume. The Bandstand was a solid part of the park's "Show Row" - a name given to the four show venues along the lakeside including the Bandstand on the Lake, the Great Lake Grandstand, the Aqua Spectacle, and the Adventure Theater.
|With the introduction
of other showplaces throughout the park including the theater in the
park's children's area and the Batman Stunt Arena, attendance at the
Bandstand began to decline. That, coupled with changes in priorities of
management, the Bandstand sat unused or under used for several seasons.
Changing traffic patterns in the park meant many guests never even saw the
Bandstand, let alone stopped to see a show.
In 2004, the Bandstand was fenced off while at the same time signs began to appear promoting a new Tiger Island attraction for that summer. While rumors abounded about the Bandstand becoming a new showplace for this mystery animal act, nothing materialized at the park clear through to the end of the season . When the park reopened in 2005, the Bandstand had been refreshed including the removal of the showplace's skylights. It was now the new home to "We Got the Beat!" featuring the displaced Looney Tunes characters after Bugs Bunny Land was demolished for the addition of the Golden Kingdom.
|For the 2006 season, the Bandstand on the Lake got another facelift and a renewed purpose with the construction of Bugs Bunny National Park in the surrounding area. No longer were the Looney Tunes a stand alone show but instead part of an extensively new National Park themed land, home to Bugs, Daffy, Tweety, and the rest of the Warner Bros. characters. Bandstand on the Lake was officially renamed Bugs Bunny Wilderness Theater - the venue's first name change in over three decades.
|As the new centerpiece of Bugs Bunny National Park, the Bandstand got a fresh new paintjob in the rustic color pallet of the new land. New decorative lanterns were added to the support columns of the showplace providing much needed lighting to illuminate the new land's walkways. New fencing which matched those encircling the area's rides also replaced the vintage metal queue fencing behind the Bandstand.
Most seasons saw a
new variation on the traditional Looney Tunes show with tweaks to the
stories and songs. Often kids in the audience had an opportunity to join
the talented cast and Looney Tunes characters on stage to demonstrate
their singing and dancing talents. In addition, the Bandstand was
often utilized to host holiday themed shows for both Fright Fest and
Holiday in the Park.
Since Great Adventure opened in 1974, the Bandstand on the Lake has been home to dozens of entertaining shows and special events and presentations. While the Bandstand on the Lake venue has changed over time, there are still remnants of the original design still visible. Next time your taking in a show, look to the rafters - some of the original lattice and support elements can still be found from opening year when this lakeside showplace debuted for the very first time.
|Original Spotlight: March 12, 2021. GAH Reference#: SHOW-1974-002