Bobbejaanland is a renowned theme park in Lichtaart,
Belgium. It was founded by Bobbejaan Schoepen, a Flemish singer, guitarist and entertainer who enjoyed international popularity in the fifties and early sixties. After 15 years he got weary of touring. In 1960 he decided to build his own music theater: he started draining a 30 ha marsh that he bought in 1959. He build a venue with 1000 places where he could perform as often as he liked. December 1961, the Bobbejaanland amusement parkwas born. In 43 years Bobbejaanland became one of the most popular theme parks in Europe. Bobbejaan and his family sold the park in 2004.
Bobbejaans lifework grew organically from his musical career. His personal manager Jacques Kluger invented the name. The first decade the heart of the park was a combination of waterfun and show. Numerous artists from the Belgian, Dutch and German variety scene performed over there. Following the advice of
Phantasialand-owner Gottlieb Löffelhard, Bobbejaanland evolved from 1975 onwards in the direction of a regular theme park, with the aspect of show gradually retreating to the background. Encompassing fifty attractions and four hundred employees, the park developed into a huge tourist draw in the Benelux, France and Germany. Thanks to its independence as a family concern, it was also able to bridge the gap with (more audacious) educational and cultural projects. By the end of the seventies, for example, Bob's wife Josee (a former opera singer and model) opened a museum with authentic works of art from the Hopi and Navajo cultures in Phoenix, Arizona, now one of the most complete private collections of Indian art in Europe.
From the beginning of the nineties, three of his five children participated full time in the park. Bobbejaanland was fine tuned, down to the smallest detail. Now it can foster its reputation of a place that loves children and it can present itself as the first amusement park in the world that has focussed on environmental policy. The most remarkable measure to that effect was the construction of a 70 meter high
windmill. that provides the whole region with energy, with an adjoining museum of alternative energy. With its mix of informative fun, Bobbejaanland can rank as the maverick among European amusement parks. Not in the least, it stands out because of its totally unique identity, which is a natural consequence of the total dedication of the founding father and his family to this life work.
) is a giant shuttle that reaches topspeeds of 110 km/h). In 'Kinderland' (=Kids' Country, 1995) you'll find attractions for the smallest visitors on 7000 m2. In 1979 Bobbejaanland placed the Looping Star roller coaster (Zwartzkopf), which became a ride with a certain cult satus over the years. The family sold it in 2003.Because Bobbejaan Schoepen is mainly a folk and country singer, the park is still partly themed as a western village (for example the El Rio White Water Rapids and the El Paso
Dark Ride). In the Star Theater, Las Vegas style shows are performed. The life of Bobbejaan is also a lucky bag of colourful anecdotes. Once, he managed to buy the original Zorro's horse from guntumbler Casey Tibbs, but unfortunately the animal tread on an exposed cable and passed away. From his American friend Nudie Cohn, he acquired the peculiar white arty Pontiac ( Nudie Mobiles), skillfully decorated with American coins. He spent ten thousand dollar on it, but looking back he would consider the car the most effective and talked-about element of all the attractions he featured.
Bobbejaan Schoepensuffered from intestinal cancer, which gave rise to the idea to part with his life's work Bobbejaanland. Apparently there was no stopping him: in the winter of 2003, a major investment of 12 million dollars was made for a couple of world premières: the Typhoon and the Sledge Hammer (supra "attractions").
In 2003, the consumer’s organisation Test-Aankoop conducts a large-scale comparative survey of 13 European amusement parks. On a European level, Bobbejaanland came off second best after
Phantasialandfor as good as every aspect under scrutiny, together with Disneylandand the Parc Astérix. For Belgium, Bobbejaanland is considered to be the best. (Test-Aankoop magazine 477, June 2004).But April 2004 the final decision to sell the park was taken, after a preparatory period of more than three years. Bobbejaanland was sold to the Spanish-American Parque Reunidos group. With this decision, the last family concern in the sector of amusement parks in Belgium disappeared.
During the 43 years of the Schoepen-management, we can consider the founding father to be the artistic brain behind the park. His wife José (who is the oldest of sixteen children) was the commercial backbone, and her sister Louise set up a solid foundation with regard to accounting and finances. The key to success was the mutual trust in this triumvirate and their pragmatic and powerful work ethic.
The artist dominates the entrepreneur
In the mean time Bobbejaan focuses again on his music career. In 2005 he gave four surprise performances on the European literary festival Saint Amour. On February 13th 2007, Bobbejaan Schoepen received in Belgium a
Lifetime Achievement Award(ZAMU) for his important role in the Belgian music history. In April 2008, Bobbejaan released a new album called "Bobbejaan", featuring Geike Arnaert( Hooverphonic) and Daan and produces by his own sun Tom Schoepen.
Since the park was sold in 2004, the number of visitors decreased significantly. In January 2007 the British investor/company
Candoverbought Parques Reunidosfor probably 935 million Euro from Advent (a financial group from Boston) who paid 3 years before 240 million Euro. The name Parques Reunidosstill exists. and exploits 22 parks in 6 countries in Europe and made in 2006 a profit of 193.5 million euro.
Bobbejaan and his wife still live "on" the domain, in the original house where the history of the park started.
* [http://www.bobbejaanland.be/en/index.html Bobbejaanland Website (English)]
* [http://bobbejaanschoepen.be/index.php?pagina=home&lang=eng/ Official site Bobbejaan Schoepen]
* [http://www.myspace.com/bobbejaan Official myspace Bobbejaan Schoepen]
* [http://www.yodelingwhistler.com The Yodeling Whistler]
* [http://bobbejaanschoepen.be/index.php?pagina=tijd&filter=bobbejaanland Bobbejaanland Timeline]
* [http://www.bjlfansite.be/ Bobbejaanland Fansite (Dutch)]
* [http://www.bobbejaan-online.be/ Bobbejaan-Online (Dutch)]
*Bobbejaan Schoepen (Johan Roggen, Publisher Het Volk, 1980 - D/1980/2345/10).
* [http://www.ethesis.net/kleinkunst/kleinkunst_inhoud.htm De Vlaamse kleinkunstbeweging na de Tweede Wereldoorlog - Een historisch overzicht (Peter Notte, Universiteit Gent 1992)] . 'The Flemish Variety Movement after World War II - An Historical Overview'. Peter Notte,
Ghent University, 1992)
*Bobbejaan Schoepen — "Histories" documentary,
4 January 2001(Canvas/VRT)
* [http://houbi.com/belpop/groepen/schoepen.htm Bobbejaan Schoepen — The Belgian Pop & Rock Archive (Dirk Houbrechts and the Flanders Music Center, 2001)] .
*"Brel Le flamand" — Histories documentary, 2003 (Canvas/VRT).
* [http://bobbejaanschoepen.be/ Bobbejaan Schoepen Archive — Bobbejaan Records bvba]
* [http://bobbejaanschoepen.be/index.php?pagina=bio Official Biography Bobbejaan Schoepen] — by Tom Schoepen - "Volkskundige Kroniek" van de Federatie voor Volkskunde in Vlaanderen (i.e. “Folklife Chronicles”, magazine of the Folklife Federation Flanders)- yr. 14 - nr. 2 April-may-juin 2006).
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