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Though Thomas’ statements are resoundingly forward-looking, the company remains grounded in the legacy created by the past. This is evident in the Visitor Center, which serves as a tribute to the designers, luthiers, musicians, and songs that made Fender famous throughout the past 60 years.
The center opened on September 19, 2011, following two nights of grand opening celebrations. The first night was a party thrown for Fender’s employees and their families. More than 2,000 people attended—including Eddie Van Halen and Steve Miller—and enjoyed a night of live music headlined by Los Lobos. The second night was a sneak peek for media and VIPs. Fender players like John 5 and Duff McKagan mingled with guitar-industry notables like Phyllis Fender, Janie Hendrix, and Seymour Duncan, while Dave Mason, Raphael Saadiq, and Buddy Guy with 12-year-old protégé Quinn Sullivan provided the tunes. Fender even had a surprise preview of new Eric Clapton signature amps on hand.
Now that the center has opened to the public, visitors to Corona, California, can stop by any weekday, except Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and take in the sights and sounds of Fender heritage with no admission charge. Every guitar hanging on the wall can be played in an amp-filled sound room, and visitors can even design their dream guitar and have it built in the very factory they tour. The factory tours, offered at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., are also free, but visitors must be age 9 or older and be wearing closed-toe shoes to participate.
While we’ll have to wait and see what comes of Fender’s beefed-up R&D, the Visitor Center is here now—and it’s bound to become a Mecca for guitarists. Enjoy this look inside, then watch our video tour,guided by CEO Larry Thomas, along with a tour of the Fender amp factory (not open to the public) and demos of thenew Eric Clapton signature amps.