Located near the Grand Canyon in Williams, Ariz., Bedrock City is a Flintstones-themed amusement and RV park that’s 46 years old, a family business, and currently in the process of revitalizing the kitschy attraction that’s open 365 days a year.
According to Brandon Dee – whose grandfather built the park, and who is the rising force behind its current revival – the park exemplifies a family business that thrived, survived, and still continues on in a changing amusement landscape.
“Family business, continuation, nostalgia, Americana,” is how Dee describes the park. “My grandfather was amazing, he built this place in less than 12 months with about a dozen other guys. Literally, they created it from the ground up in that time, from the roofs to the sewer system to the campground, the diner, the gift store, to of course the gem – the themed village of Bedrock City.”
Dee notes that visitors who really enjoy the park are excited by how unique it is, the product of one man’s vision and creative ability. The theme park takes up 12 of the 40 acres that comprise the property.
“You can wander through the houses – Fred’s house and Barney’s place, the courthouse, and the jail for example. Kids can take pictures with their favorite characters.You can visit the giant Brontosaurus, and slide down its tail the way Fred did in the cartoon. Or you can crawl through the giant snake, as well as climb in the dinosaur. There’s a giant volcano that has a train ride which runs through it. These are simple attractions, there’s nothing interactive, it’s not like Disneyland. But it is a great place for families to come and spend the day, let the kids run around, have a picnic, enjoy a meal,” Dee attests.
Bedrock City wasn’t the first Flintstones Park that Dee’s grandfather constructed: he built one in Custer, South Dakota with his own father, which has since been sold and no longer exists as a theme park.
“My grandfather was good at construction, and he had a unique construction concept at the time, using chicken wire and spray concrete. He built it at this location with the idea that the Grand Canyon was going to become ever more popular, and he had this niche construction style that really fit the concept.” His construction style allowed realistic recreations of the town of Bedrock as seen in the Flintstones cartoon series of the 1960s.
But why build Flintstones attractions at all?
“At the time that the park began, Hanna Barbera was not a giant media conglomerate; they frequently licensed things like campgrounds and small amusement parks, and at one time there were a number of other licensed Flinstone-themed amusement parks out there,” Dee reports.
Along with the fun of the theme park that is Bedrock City itself to explore, visitors enjoy the attraction’s diner, which also has a fun, Bedrock-theme, including cozy burning fireplaces, cave-like styling, and Flintstones-centric names for its menu items. “We do themed food that appeals to families, like Bronto Burgers, our Chicasaurus chicken sandwich, Brontosaurus ribs, and gravel berry pie for dessert. We also serve cactus juice. We try to offer call backs to the television series, lots of things that any fan of the show will be sure to recognize.” Dee says serving plates are styled to emphasize references to the cartoon, such as offering big portions of the ribs that references the giant ribs Fred would have hanging out of his car on the series. “For breakfast, we have fresh-from-scratch buttermilk pancakes, gravlax and eggs, and eggs Benedict. It’s a little bit of a surprise to people who visit that here we are in the middle of nowhere, but we have really good food.” Dee himself is a professional cook and baker. “I make sure we have well-presented, fresh-from-scratch fare. The food, such as biscuits and gravy, our Sunday tradition, brings in local residents as well as visitors to the park.” A mix of locals and out of town guests is strong for the park.
Despite the bevy of food items on the menu, when pressed for which items are visitor favorites, Dee laughs “For better or worse, our five-cent coffee is our very most popular item. We have been offering it for 46 years.”
In the park’s gift shop, visitors find both Flintstone-themed items such as T-shirts and cookie jars, and Grand Canyon name-dropped products.
The park’s admission fee is just $5, so even with a full meal at the diner, families can experience the old-fashioned fun for a low price.
To promote the park, Dee is starting serious social media outreach, focusing on Facebook and Instagram, where the amusement park is already gaining traction. He recognizes social media as a necessity to get the word out about the park, which despite its longevity, is not as well-known as it should be in Dee’s opinion. “Five million people go by Highway 64 on their way to the Grand Canyon, and we get only a small percent of them, a little more than 1 percent really, although the number is rising in recent months,” he attests.
Dee talks about other changes ahead besides the park’s use of social media as a marketing tool.
“Our big focus is revitalizing and refurbishing,” he says, noting the fact that the park is actively working on improvements. To that end, he’s looking for some fresh helping hands, too.
“We’re in need of artisans and artists interested in showcasing their talents and making something unique and beautiful here. There are already so many amazing touches of artistic talent in this roadside theme park, but the old talent pool has evaporated,” he notes. “So, we are looking for people to want to get involved with what we are doing, who want to create something special, and help us build up Bedrock City.”
And, along with overall improvements in the theme park, the park’s campground is “coming out of the Stone Age,” Dee jokes, with wi-fi being added this summer.
“We are now the one and only Bedrock City,” Dee relates. “What really comes to my mind about the park is that it’s simply a real special place, one man’s vision, hard work, and community are what shaped it.”