It’s a land of fantasy, yet shrouded in mystery; in the middle of a bustling community, but in a time of its own. It’s a place packed with history where stories come to life, and a place where perspective and reality shift. It’s Evermore Park, and no, it’s not the setting for a new film or television show. It’s actually one of the newest members of the community: a unique, immersive theatrical experience set to finally open its gates to the public this month in Pleasant Grove.
Evermore has surfaced in the news on and off again for the past few years, but with its opening imminent (currently set for a soft opening Saturday and a grand opening Sept. 29), there are still a lot of questions swirling as to what guests of the venue can actually expect. With that in mind, here are 10 things you need to know about the magic, mystery and history of Evermore Park.
It actually already opened.
People have been wondering for a while if or when Evermore Park would open its gates to the public, but what some don’t know is that it already has. In conjunction with FanX: Salt Lake Comic Convention, Evermore played host to hundreds of guests the evening of Sept. 8 for the FanX: LORE Party – a closing event for the convention and an introduction of sorts to the new venue, creating a bridge between the usually Salt Lake-centric event and Utah County.
Evermore will officially open, however, Sept. 29, with a soft opening Sept. 22 as details are finalized and construction of the immersive world continues.
Reviews are in, and Evermore was a hit.
Though Evermore has only been open one night so far, attendees as well as individuals who have toured the park have already taken to the internet to review the experience.
“The future is coming, and this park is embracing it,” said Robert Blair in a recommendation on Facebook. “Beautiful architecture, incredible staff, and SUCH a fun story!”
“Everything is amazing to experience,” Katy Olschewski commented. “Went to the opening party and it was like stepping into another realm. The performances were wonderful, the food was delicious, the actors were interactive, asking you questions (and) making it seem like Evermore was a real place. I will recommend this place to every one of my friends!”
The park was a lifelong dream for its founder, Ken Bretschneider.
“It started when I was a little 5-year old kid,” Bretschneider said of the origins of Evermore. “I grew up in a really, really bad home situation where my father was very abusive, so it’s not all a happy story. But I had (a) wonderful situation happen.”
Bretschnieder told of a Dutch family who lived nearby with a father who looked just like Gepetto from Disney’s “Pinocchio.” A creative man, this father would create incredible things for his children and their friends, including Bretschneider. Through elaborate tree forts, submarines, mazes and more, this man created a safe space for imagination.
“That was so important for me as kid – I needed escapism,” he said. “I had to get out of that environment. It left such a huge impact my entire life that I kept being drawn to this idea of imagination and creativity, and how it’s so important for children and adults alike to be able to explore with their imagination and have an escape for a moment, to do something that’s not part of the everyday grind.”
It started at his own home.
“I kept being drawn to this idea of imagination and creativity and how it’s so important for children and adults alike to be able to explore their imagination,” Bretschneider said.
So he, along with friends, family and neighbors set out to create their own magic at Bretschnieder’s home, eventually orchestrating an elaborate ghost pirate-themed experience he would bring to life each Halloween.
“It started out small – 100 people came to it,” he said. “That was probably back in 2009 or something. Then every year we kept building it up. The next year 300 or 250 people came by and we kept adding on to it; kept building out all these details. We spent money and time building sets, props and costumes and kept adding new things. … I built an entire set of an old Victorian graveyard that was really elaborate, really realistic and other friends and family came in and help participate as actors.”
By 2013, 11,000 people made their way through Bretschneider’s home and the elaborately designed area surrounding it, filling the neighborhood in hopes of finding their own adventure.
Evermore is a giant stage, but no acting experience is required.
One of the biggest questions surrounding Evermore is just what to expect, and according to Bretschneider, that’s an immersive, interactive experience.
“It’s what I call a giant, living stage that, to me, is the ultimate stage to build,” he said, before mentioning his travels to Europe and the enchantment of a gothic and Victorian village. “I knew what I needed to do was build an old European village in the middle of Utah, and build it in such a way – create walls around it, landscape it with immense gardens – that it creates a world you enter, and when you enter inside that world I can immerse you fully into that experience.”
The design of Evermore was intended to be classic, making it so it can easily change from story to story, allowing for different events throughout the year. Add in actors and special effects, and you can make decisions and adventure through the immersive world.
“We combine a show, a living, walking experiential show where you can experience an adventure, then go into a festival environment and experience the festival,” Bretschneider said. “We also offer experiential retail, food, entertainment and visual effects with different artistic-based entertainment. We’ll have everything from music to acrobatics and magic shows all integrated into the storyline and cohesive to the storyline. That’s what we do.”
Evermore was created with the help of top industry talent.
Despite the fact that Evermore is a personal project for Bretschneider, and there are no large-scale investors bringing it to life, it’s evolved with the help of some pretty impressive talent.
“Here we are probably hundreds of iterations of design later, and we’ve brought on Disney Imagineers, people from Universal Studios, artists from the Hollywood effects industry and tons of people from the local market,” he said. “We built a studio, a world-class studio that would hold up to any Hollywood studio, and we use everything from technology to practical design to create original immersive stories inside what is an 11-acre, old-style European village hamlet. We can create any story you can think of, and they’ll change throughout the seasons.”
The first experience, LORE, is perfect for the Halloween season.
“We’re working feverishly to get open for fall, for September, with a production called LORE,” Bretschneider said. “There will be two different flavors. We’ll have, obviously, a Halloween adventure, which by the way is my favorite season every year – I find it very magical. So we’ll do the “Magical World of LORE” which is an earlier show that leads into our festival environment, which is age appropriate for kids, young adults, or anyone who doesn’t like haunted or scary type adventures.”
That’s just the early show, though. For those who are more a fan of spine-tingling fun or fearful adventure, there’s “The Cursed World of LORE.”
“It’s a creepy adventure for Halloween,” Bretschneider said. “It’s more age appropriate to teenagers and adults, and is a macabre-style haunted adventure, though not like lot of haunts that typically pop up in Utah – it’s a full theatrical production. We don’t just do ‘boo scares’ and ‘pop-up scares’ – there’s character interaction in the environment and visual effects.”
LORE even has its own original soundtrack, which includes six hours of musical scores along with live instrumentals. To add to the environment, there will be 5,000 Jack-O-Lanterns, live performances, games, quests and more.
Evermore mixes history with the present
Though built, designed and constructed in the modern age, Evermore was created to appear as a place out of time, meaning buildings, furnishings and structures were created and then aged to give a unique feel. Adding to the impact is a variety of items brought back from Europe to help create a real, detailed environment.
“The whole village has historical pieces from Europe, including columns, doors, window jams, furniture – the pieces are all from the Gothic era and some are as old as 900 AD,” Bretschneider said. “There are Celtic ruins we brought back and I don’t know how many tons of all-hand carved stone.”
In total, the Evermore team brought back 14 40-foot containers of historical items from Europe to be used in the design and creation of Evermore, from real tombstones to centuries-old furnishings, statues and figures to pieces of architecture.
“We brought all this history back to (create magic) with amazing productions on top of it,” Bretschneider said. “LORE has 70 unique characters with masks, prosthetics, animatronics, lighting, sound, music, smells – everything. There’s a lot of technology and something like five miles of fiber optics with actor triggered controls and timed controls. … The name of game for Evermore is it’s really all about the detail.”
According to Bretschneider, it’s all about a balance between the old and new.
“With those historical pieces, there’s just some kind of spirit and magic to it you just can’t recreate,” he said. “We create original art, but we also appreciate these historical pieces and, to put them in that world, the world comes to life.”
Evermore has hopes to expand.
Though Evermore Park already consists of a base European village, that’s not all that’s in its future. The park is 11 acres with three main themed events per year and smaller events throughout, not to mention beautiful, intricate gardens and architecture Bretschneider says he hopes he can build on with phase two, including another 120,000 feet of old town and a 40,000 sq. foot manor house with secret passages and secret stairways.
“It will be a major extension of our living stage,” Bretschneider said. “We could do a murder mystery experience in it and do some themed adventures.”
The extension could add a world of possibility to Evermore, but right now, the team is focusing on preparing for the main opening.
Pick a time and prepare to explore.
Tickets to Evermore Park are already available for purchase at evermore.com, with Early Bird Pricing set at $29 for adults (age 13+) and $16 for children (age 3+) for purchases made before Sept. 29, and Standard Pricing set at $34 and $19 respectively post-opening.
Tickets are sold to each available experience, with the Magical World of Lore starting at 6:30 p.m. and the Cursed World of Lore starting at 8:15 p.m., though guests can explore and enjoy the festival experience at their own pace.
“They’ll be getting anywhere from an hour and a half up to a possible three hours, depending on how you want to spend (your time),” Bretschneider said of the adventure and experience itself. “I want to make sure people get to have a very substantial experience for that money.”