Bobbejaan Schoepen, the founder of Bobbejaanland in Belgium, passed away on May 17, the day after his 85th birthday.
Born as Modest Schoepen on May 16, 1925, the blacksmith’s son forged a musical career and went on to become Belgium’s most popular country recording artist. There may not have been much competition for the title, but this does not take away from his achievements. A keen whistler and yodeller, he represented Belgium at the 1957 Eurovision Song Contest.
Tired of touring, Schoepen built his own theatre in 1960 on marshland near the town of Lichtaart. A year later Bobbejaanland was born. Over the years it grew to become one of Europe’s most popular amusement parks, in an area that features a particularly rich concentration of parks and attractions.
Bobbejaan continued to perform at the park regularly until his latter years, and encouraged three of his children to work there. Son Jacky, who eventually became general manager, left soon after his parents sold out to the Spanish Parques Reunidos group in 2004. The park retains Bobbejaan’s name to this day, and only last year he released a comeback album.