It was almost an understated moment last September, when, after years of anticipation, the gates of Evermore Park in Pleasant Grove finally swung open, welcoming the public into a realm where fantasy meets reality. Though nestled just off the interstate in Pleasant Grove, the park’s concept and initial reception drew national attention, with everyone wondering how exactly a theme park based on experiences rather than rides and attractions would work.
One year in, and Evermore has earned itself a swathe of devoted fans, continuing to grow and evolve and welcoming three seasons of adventure for return guests and newcomers as well.
Whether you’re a seasoned “World Walker” or still haven’t made the trek to another realm with a visit to Evermore, here are six things to know about the immersive reality experience.
— By Kari Kenner, Daily Herald
Evermore is just one of several epic ventures
Evermore Park is the lifelong dream and brainchild of artist and entrepreneur Ken Bretschneider, but it’s not the only project he’s been working on. Bretschneider is responsible for the creation of successful encryption security company DigiCert, has spent time in fine arts as an oil painter and even stepped down as the CEO of the wildly popular hyper-reality VR experience known as The VOID. On top of his responsibilities as CEO and founder of Evermore, he’s also in the process of launching THE GRID, a venue hyped to be “the future of entertainment” with a multi-level, indoor electronic racetrack, hyper-reality simulation by THE VOID, and a retro food and drink lounge dubbed THE ONE UP, according to thegrid.com.
It takes a village
Though maybe tangentially, the popular phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” actually applies pretty handily to the process of creation for Evermore. To make his dream a reality, Bretschneider enlisted top talent from across the entertainment industry, including veteran Disney Imagineer Josh Shipley, who serves as Evermore’s Chief Creative Officer.
According to Shipley, beyond the highly talented and qualified staff creating costumes, mastering makeup and assisting in character creation, part of the village behind raising Evermore is the sheer number of actors who are on the frontlines of the experience. Though some have multiple responsibilities in the studio and take on dual roles, a busy night can bring 54 different characters to the park for guests to interact with, with over 40 part-time actors cast to perform at Evermore.
Evermore will never be finished
According to Shipley, to make sure the Evermore experience is always top-notch for guests, the staff takes feedback pretty seriously, whether in person or online. Though most guests are enthusiastic about the experiences they have, a common comment occasionally surfaces about how Evermore will be even better when it’s finished.
“That’s like saying I’ve stopped being creative, or stopped coming up with stories,” Shipley said. “We will always be developing.”
Whether that’s allowing the story to evolve and grow based on interactions with park attendees, or continued development and expansion on the park structures themselves, it’s safe to say that there will always be something new to see and do at Evermore Park.
Focusing in on Mythos
When Evermore first opened last September, it was shrouded in darkness and mystery with the theme of Lore. Guests were tasked with the opportunity to not only explore and interact with characters, but go on quests to uncover the sources of the darkness. Lore served as a unique, immersive Halloween adventure, with daylight fun for younger ages and an evening of scares and exploration for older crowds.
As the seasons changed, the portal to Lore was closed, hailing a time of excitement and holiday-themed joy with Aurora. Some characters moved on with Lore, new ones arrived during Aurora, and even more bridged the adventure between the two themes.
Mythos is the third and final main season for Evermore this year before Lore returns, and it brought with it its own unique opportunities and challenges.
“Mythos has been a lot of fun and excitement but with that, we have to be very conscious and aware,” Shipley said. “It’s a very fantasy-themed world and that opened up a familiar mythological world with unicorns, dragons, ogres and trolls.”
Those fantasy elements allow for an adventurous story that doesn’t cater to the Halloween season like Lore, or holidays like Aurora, but focuses instead on a realm of storytelling and tropes that are familiar to all ages.
“The youngest of children to oldest of grandparents all have an idea of how that fantasy, forest-y realm and adventure world is,” Shipley said. “Finding every age is at Evermore during Mythos, playing, joining guilds, shooting archery, laughing with ogres and goblins; it actually is a really fun world to create.”
What to expect in the future
“At first it was easy to think that we could do an annual cycle then reset and start over again,” Shipley said of the main experiences at Evermore. Quickly, though, they discovered that wouldn’t work.
“These characters have become so real to so many people including our actors that it’s more lifelike to play into the fantasy,” he continued.
What transpired during Lore last fall fed into the story of Aurora, and both prior seasons helped shape the future of the current season, Mythos.
“What I do think is important is that people do understand it is a living breathing world: that the story does evolve around the actions of our guests,” Shipley said. “When the Mythos portal is closing, there are things that carry that weight into Lore. It is a continuation; it is a sequel, and what you bring to Evermore will influence what happens to these characters.”
Not everyone who attends Evermore will be as eager as others to jump feet first in to a realm-altering adventure, though, and according to Shipley, that’s totally fine.
“There are so many different layers and elements of engagement,” Shipley said. “The hardest part is conveying that message up front for someone who hasn’t been there. When they get there, they get to choose the level they want to be involved, and people do understand they get out of it what they put into it. That even means just being an observer or a watcher in the world. ... All I can say for this first year is just come in and play – come experience it for yourself.”
So when can you adventure?
Evermore Park’s Mythos wraps up this weekend with park openings Friday and Saturday, 6-11 p.m., but that’s not the end of the adventure. After a brief break, the park is scheduled to reopen once again with the theme of Lore, with an estimated open date of Sept. 6.
Current admission is $19 on Friday for adults 15 and up and $22 on Saturday. Child tickets are available for ages 6-14 for $9 Friday and $11 Saturday, with children 5 and under free with a ticketed adult.