- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 2004

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) — One of Florida’s first theme parks, Cypress Gardens was known for its lush native plants, water-skiing show and young women dressed as Southern belles.

The concept was a hit with tourists in the 1950s but officially died last year. The park couldn’t compete with attractions such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Orlando and Busch Gardens.

But Georgia theme-park operator Kent Buescher thought Cypress Gardens had potential if it could meld nostalgia with modern attractions. Earlier this year, he bought the park for $7 million under a deal that involved state and local government and a nonprofit conservation group.

After a $45 million investment in four roller coasters, 34 other rides and new restaurants, Cypress Gardens is set to reopen today, hoping to find a niche in central Florida’s tourism market. The hoop-skirted belles are back, as are the gardens and water skiers.

“We wanted the park to have a vintage feel. That’s why we’ve left a lot of these elements in place,” spokeswoman Alyson Gernert said.

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