Don’t brush aside our painters!

As the clock ticks louder and louder, counting down the minutes till opening day, all our different crews are out and about doing whatever it takes to get the park ready.

The painters are hard at work. It’s hard to tell sometimes, because they have such a rollicking good time slapping on that paint. They’re a hilarious bunch of guys. (We tease them it’s because of the paint fumes…)

This is Don modeling the spring’s finest paintwear. (Thanks for not making a face at the camera, Don.)

I asked Rick, our graphic artist, to estimate the amount of paint we go through each season. He had to brush up on his math skills to arrive at his answer…

Up to 1000 gallons a year.

Wow. Color me amazed.

Time to whine

Last night, the Indiana State Legislature made a timely decision.

Next April, the entire State by law will “spring forward.”

Now maybe David Letterman and Jay Leno won’t make quite as much fun of the Hoosier State. And the national news anchors won’t have to make a big deal every spring and fall when they announce, “Every state in the Union…except Indiana, Hawaii and Arizona…will change their clocks tonight.”

If you’re not from around here, you probably don’t know this, but even when we’re on the same time, we’re on different time.

Huh?

When you visit Holiday World this summer from, say, Indianapolis, you may decide to check ahead of time about time zones. You might check on our website. Hmmm…Indy is on EST (Eastern Standard Time) and the town of Santa Claus is on CDT (Central Daylight Time).

So … do you leave a little earlier or a little later?

Neither.

Mathematically speaking, EST=CDT. You’ll cross a time zone, but won’t need to change your watch.

Confused yet? Welcome to my world.

All that may change in 2006. In April next year, the entire State will “spring forward.” But, unless there’s a federal decision to move the time-zone lines, most of Indiana will be on EDT but five counties in southwestern Indiana will be on CDT. And then you’ll definitely need to change your watch when you come to visit from Indy.

An Evansville news staffer thought it would be fun to talk to us about the potential for confusion.

Will talked about the importance of “one state, one time.” (The man’s a walking slogan maker.)

He explained that looking at a time-zone map, it appears that Indiana should be on Central Time. But the Indianapolis area is on Eastern Time. In his opinion, it’s more important for us all to be on the same time than for our five counties to stay on Central.

Then the reporter asked to speak with someone who lives on one time and works on the other during the winter months. I’d already roamed the hallways hitting up Tori, Vanessa, Rachel, and Sabrina (who would have done it, but she just got a perm). Matt is apparently still celebrating Tax Day and was unavailable for comment.

Everyone was really, really sorry…but just didn’t feel comfortable being interviewed for TV. So the pinch-hitter was forced to step in. I live an eight-minute drive from work, but in another time zone. So from October till April, it takes me 68 minutes to get home in the evening (even when the roads are clear). And in the morning, I manage to go back in time and arrive at my desk 52 minutes before I left home. (Believe me, the science-fiction/time-machine geeky excitement wears off pretty quickly. Then it just gets annoying. And no, I don’t suddenly look down and realize I’m still in my jammies.)

So, gentle readers, don’t worry about time zones this season. If you were on-time last season, you’ll be on-time this season. (Of course, if you were an hour early last year and I waved at you in the parking lot at 8:00 am CT, you might want to linger over that last cup of coffee a bit longer.)

If the Federal government decides to move the time-zone lines, I’ll be sure to let you know. And if they don’t, I imagine I’ll be back again a year from now, whining about time.

And you can set your watch to that!

Problem solving the high-tech way

Wow! Will Koch is getting into this HoliBlogging — two days in a row! (He cautioned me not to expect something every day. We’ll take what we can get, right?)

This is from Will:

Yesterday, our marketing director, John, called and said we needed to talk about the logo design for the water tower. We had planned to put the Holiday World logo on it in its usual “stacked format.”

It would be about 32’ wide by 25’ high. A nice size that would probably be visible a few miles away. The painting contractors had the art, and should have started painting the logo several days ago, but there wasn’t a logo there yet, so I knew something was up.

The problem, apparently, was that because of the logo’s height, it was wrapping too far up and down the sides of the tank. Because of the decreasing radius of the tank as you go up or down from the “equator,” this would cause too much distortion. It wasn’t going to work.

So, John and I had to sort out the problem. The question was, how much does the curvature affect the art?

How big can we go without really messing up the Holiday World logo?

Fortunately, I had something in my office that worked out as a stand-in for the water tank. It was the “Official Zinga Test Ball,” a basketball used by Andreas Tanzer of ProSlide to test the Zinga before we put water, inner tubes, and people on it.

According to Andreas, a basketball on a dry slide is a pretty good stand-in for an inner-tube-on-a-wet-slide. Anyway, the Zinga Test Ball became the stand-in for something else—-the bowl on our new 500,000-gallon water tower.

As you can see, we decided that the “horizontal” logo would look the best. We even used the basketball to determine exactly how long the logo could be and still be read without too much distortion. Indiana is famous for basketball, but who knew how clever we Hoosiers could be about finding new and creative uses for them?

Anyway, the water tower problem was solved, and the Zinga Test Ball has a new look for a while.

10 days till opening: Will Koch’s thoughts

Here is Will’s first HoliBlog post:

As opening approaches, everywhere I go in town, people ask me, “Are you ready?”

And I always respond, “No. But we will be on opening day.”

They also want to know whether I’m nervous about getting the park open. The funny thing is that I always (honestly) reply that no, I’m not nervous at all. And I’m not.

We have such a great team of Directors, Managers, and Staff who’ve been with us for many years and who just know what needs to be done that I don’t have to worry.

I know that our parks are in capable, caring hands, and that the work will get done. There are always a few battles that we’re fighting or things that we’re waiting for as we come down to the wire (this year it’s the concrete embedments for our new Applause Hands fountain in the entrance plaza—we’re 10 days from opening, and some of them still aren’t here) but by and large, our staff just gets the job done.

The parks are a beehive of activity during these weeks (watch out for golf carts, mules and gators in the walkways), and it can be a little scary walking around and thinking about all of the things that need to be done before opening.

Heck, we have a water tower sitting in The Legend Parking Lot in three big blue, red, and yellow pieces right now.

At the same time, it’s also satisfying to know that all of our rides have been set up, tested, and passed state ride inspections. I feel good that Raging Rapids, Frightful Falls, The Wave, and The Congo River are already full of water, with filters running.

With luck, we’ll start filling Bahari, the new wave pool, on Friday. It will be ready for Splashin’ Safari’s opening on May 14. I’m extraordinarily proud of our staff for never missing an opening date with a new ride or attraction. This time of year, it’s interesting to read the press releases from other parks that are explaining how their new attractions will open late due to bad weather. The weather hasn’t been perfect here, either. But Bahari will be open on May 14. Enough said.

Anyway, we’re getting ready. We’ve “built it.” Now, I have to face the issue I really do worry about: “Will they come?”

Stay tuned.

Around and around we go!

…well, maybe not we.

I don’t know, maybe it has something to do with getting older, but those circular rides make me sick.

Sorry, I can’t “spin” this into something positive, but it really doesn’t matter, does it? You either like to put centrifugal force to the test or you don’t.

I’ll pass.

Back in 1992, the Kochs offered to take all the park directors to the annual IAAPA convention. Whoopee! We eagerly read through the printed materials detailing the multi-day event. Lots of workshops and seminars. An opportunity to network (oh, boy! was that ever the big buzzword back then) with management from other parks. Plus, we’d get to visit a big park near the convention site.

Huh? Why would we want to do that?

Oh—of course! To network some more, stroll around the park, munch on some goodies, maybe watch a show.

Rides? They have rides? Will it hurt their feelings if we don’t ride?

What the heck am I doing working for a theme park? Most rides terrify me. When we “employee tested” Liberty Launch a few years back, no one wanted to sit next to me for fear of permanent hearing loss. And I’ve already told you about testing The Raven a few weeks back.

My first park experience was at Quassy Amusement Park, or as it was then called, Lake Quassapaug. I was three or four and was determined to go on the kiddie helicopter ride. It looked wonderfully exciting and I begged and begged until my parents agreed to let me ride.

Big mistake.

When the ride started up and my pudgy little hands grasped the bar, I held on as tightly as I could. Unfortunately that bar was in the position that lifted my cute little helicopter to its highest position. Miles and miles above terra firma. My parents and brothers looked like ants from my terrifying vantage point.

So I did what I still do in such situations: I screamed my lungs out.

They actually had to stop the ride to let me off. I guess the other little kids had the opportunity to get a second, longer ride, so maybe they weren’t too mad at me. I’ll never know for sure, though; there was no way I could force myself to look back to check.

Happily, there are many, many children and adults out there who love rides that spin around. One mom emailed me recently to tell me she and her son always ride the Virginia Reel together—it’s their favorite ride. (Heaven help me – I can barely think about that ride!)

The Roundhouse is gone (you know that, don’t you?). Don’t get worked up about it, though, because we’ve replaced it with Revolution. It’s basically the same ride, actually, only a little bit bigger, a little bit faster, and with a slightly higher tilt.

And a spiffy light package:

Thanks to Tori, our director of rides, for providing this photo. She snapped it over the weekend, when it was incredibly cold and obnoxiously windy. What crummy conditions for training!

We’re all so pleased that replacing the Roundhouse with Revolution means we can still use Tori’s little joke: After you get soaked on Raging Rapids, be sure to spin dry on Revolution!

If it’s all the same to you, Tori, I believe I’ll drip dry.

The big countdown

Oh, my gosh — it just hit me! How does time pass so quickly from year to year?

There’s never enough time to get ready.

And now, all of a sudden, we’re down to single digits!

Just eight months till Christmas! (Faked you out, didn’t I?)

It’s so much fun to be out at the Front Gate during the season, to see the look on our Guests’ faces as they enter the Christmas section. All of a sudden, there’s Christmas music! Some folks look shocked, but then start laughing. Others immediately start singing along. Still others don’t notice; they’re too busy checking to make sure they didn’t already misplace their car keys.

And then there’s the Santa statue. How many families crowd around Santa for a family portrait each summer? It’s really sweet to watch. Sometimes we get to play photographer after offering step in and snap the photo so that the entire family is in the shot.

He’s all spiffed up and ready for opening day:

One of my favorite stories from over the years involves the Santa statue.

A young family was walking into the Christmas Plaza. Mom, Dad, and a little girl. She was four, tops, and cute as a button.

Daddy pointed out the Santa statue, “Look, honey, there he is! You’ve been waiting and waiting to see him! Who is it?”

The little dumpling turned to see. Her face suddenly broke into gleeful recognition. She let out a joyous squeal and ran toward the statue as fast as her chubby little legs could take her.

Who is it, honey?

“MICKEY!”

15 days till opening

…and the park is bustling with preparation!

Our hardworking crews from Grounds and Cleaning are scrubbing every inch of the park, removing the winter grime.

And the rides are coming out of hibernation, complete with a fresh coat of paint.

A contractor sees to it Splashin’ Safari will “rock” with Beach Boys music this summer.

Chris, our Director of Entertainment, works on the set for the new American Country show.

And the foods folks pay close attention to their training:

Look at that picture-perfect funnel cake!

More training this weekend as we all get ready to open our 59th season!

The agony of de feet

Important Notice to all new Hosts and Hostesses: It really helps to “break in” your spiffy new white sneaks before the first day of work.

Now, that doesn’t mean to drag them through a mud puddle the way my older brothers did as we trudged to Sacred Heart Elementary on the first day of school each year. I mean wear them for a while, walk in them, stand in them. Wiggle your toes. Adjust the laces. You’ll be glad you did.

Years ago, Holiday World‘s “uniform room” was located right outside of my office. A few of those years, we bought hundreds and hundreds of pairs of shoes so our employees didn’t have to go shopping somewhere else for their uniform shoes. We were their sole provider.

All those tennis shoes … well, they stunk! Not a stinky-feet odor, thank goodness, but the rubber, or whatever it is on the soles of the shoes, created an interesting work environment.

Usually there was someone on hand to help outfit the new folks. But once in a while, some poor little newbie would wander cautiously into my office and whisper, “Do you have this in a size 7 narrow?”

Comfortable shoes are very important for park workers. We warn everyone at the Job Fairs that most of our positions require a lot of standing. Broken-in shoes help ease that transition as your entire body adjusts to being vertical for hours at a time.

Rachel and I took a HoliBlog photo walk through the park the other day. We made sure no one was watching and she snapped a shot of one of my new sneakers:

Can you tell the size of someone’s shoes from a photo like this? Well, in the interest of fair disclosure, I’ll tell you. I wear an 8½.

No big deal, right? Nothing to be ashamed of, certainly. Probably downright average.

Long ago, at a former job, my boss decided at the last minute to fly several of our staffers to Los Angeles to attend a huge food show. We all worked for Pizza Today magazine, which originated here in Santa Claus, Indiana (the pizza capital of the world, hadn’t you heard?).

Normally, I’m not a girlie-girl like-let’s-go-shopping-okay? type. But when the others asked me along, what the heck.

After picking out nice outfits which we hoped would make us look a little less like “country girls” (remember how Nellie used to sneer at Laura and Mary?) we headed over to the shoe store.

We were chatting happily, heading down the aisle toward new footwear. All of a sudden, I realized I was alone. Where did everyone else go? Hrrumph! Over in the aisle for Size 5 and Size 6. Good grief, I’d never noticed these women had such tiny appendages. How did they manage to balance themselves in even a gentle breeze?

I survived their teasing that evening, but never did find a suitable pair of clown shoes for my freakishly large feet.

Two days later, we checked into our hotel in Little Tokyo. It was a bit of a cab ride from the convention center, but we were lucky to find rooms at all.

Imagine my delight when I saw there was a shoe store right across the street. Surely in L.A. they would have some stylish shoes for me. I dropped off my luggage and headed over for a look. Only window shopping, as the store was closed for the evening, but it would reopen about 30 minutes before we were scheduled to leave in the morning. And there, in the window, was just what I wanted.

After a lovely stroll through Little Tokyo and a good night’s sleep, I was ready to go. I waited patiently outside the shop’s door while the owner hustled down the sidewalk to greet his first customer of the day.

“Good morning!”

“Good morning, sir! Am I ever glad to see you! Those navy blue pumps in the front window are exactly what I need. If I could just slip into a size 8½ I’ll pay you and be on my way.”

The store owner glanced up at me with a look of momentary confusion. A split second later, I had my answer:

“No, no, no! Nothing that big! Too big! Too big! Maybe four, maybe five — that’s all. Nothing so big!”

This is a family blog, so I won’t tell you my usual closing line to this story.

Suffice to say, the food show was a great experience. And despite tromping around all day in a huge convention center, my tootsies remained fairly happy in my not-quite-new, purchased-in-Indiana, comfortable, broken-in shoes.

Woodn’t you like to know?

Will Koch does not like to cut down trees.

Let me rephrase that: Will Koch does not like to cut down tree.

It’s against his nature. He wants as much shade as possible in the park. And the beauty of the old hardwoods is part of his family’s heritage. He’s the third generation to run this lovely playground and he doesn’t want to be the one to mess it up.

The popular “S curve” at the bottom of the last drop on The Raven actually came about because Will didn’t want to lose any more precious trees. The initial design skimmed along the edge of the forest, creating the need to cut down an entire row.

“Can’t we zig-zag it into the woods and save some trees?” he asked.

They made it work.

Whenever we do have to take out a tree, I think about that wonderful old Keep America Beautiful ad. Remember it? The one with the Native American sadly looking out over the polluted, trashed river? With that single tear slowly sliding down his weathered face.

I picture Will that same way.

Well, when I saw this on my way to work this morning, I felt compelled to run by the store to pick up a box of those man-sized tissues for Will:

What’s going on? Who would do this? Does Will know about this?

To give you a bit of perspective, gentle readers, I risked life and limb and stood along Highway 162 to take this photo from up near Holidog’s FunTown:

I can’t tell exactly where on the property the trees originated. It’s certainly not a clear-cut operation, as the forested area beyond Splashin’ Safari is still there.

It looks as if the trees have been removed very precisely. One by one. As few as possible. Making room for … could be just about anything!

Well, whatever it is, it’s big.

Really big.

Even the skulls are smiling!

A friend from Massachusetts emailed me this morning to tell me about his young daughter.

Ella just turned six and is a darling little girl. As the mother of three sons (no daughters) and the sister to three brothers, I do have an affinity for stories about daughters.

They watched one of the Harry Potter movies the other night and now Ella wrestles with “bad thoughts” as she tries to go to sleep at night.

Her daddy used the age-old “let’s think about something else” trick. He cleverly turned her throughts to their upcoming trip to Holiday World. They’ve not been here before, so they couldn’t rely on memories but instead turned to their imaginations to dream up ideas about what might be here.

One of Ella’s ideas was, “There should be big snowflakes that you swing back and forth on!” She was on the right track, happily drifting toward dreamland.

This all screeched to a halt when she remembered we also have a Halloween section.

Uh-oh.

The Halloween holiday can be scary.

Spooky stuff.

My mom always loved the creepy side of Halloween; she used to take my brothers and me on nightly “Witch Walks” each October. At dusk we’d skulk about our neighborhood, telling ghost stories. We’d dash from lightpost to behind trees to keep the “witch” from catching us. My brothers reveled in the thrill. Scared me half to death. So, I’m with you, Ella!

And to quell your fears a bit, take a look here at HallowSwings, which we added a few years ago.

When our graphic artist and our marketing department were working on the graphic design for this ride, Mrs. Koch brought up an interesting question: “Will the design be scary-scary or friendly-scary? I don’t think we should terrify the smaller children.”

The resulting design makes me laugh every time I walk by HallowSwings …

Don’t worry, Ella. At Holiday World, even the skulls are happy!