It’s a Wonderful Budget

No one looks forward to capital budget time.

Some departments get what they want; others need to try again next year.

Just like Christmas, it’s rare to get everything you wanted.

We announced our 2006 capital budget early this year: $13.5 million. …but that doesn’t mean everything was set in stone. When push comes to shove, we still need to work out the specifics and make it all balance out.

On Monday, Will looked…well, in pain.

He gently told his assembled staff of directors that some hard decisions needed to be made in order to finalize the budget for 2006. Even though the $13.5 million budget is more than twice the amount of our previous record capital budget, we were still–on paper–way over.

So something had to go. (No, not The Voyage. Calm down!)

Will presented three options that would get us back on budget. Several directors groaned. A few others blanched. We talked through the options carefully, cautiously.

Will looked sick to his stomach.

Then Joe, who has worked here all but one of the years since we opened in 1946, suggested Option #4: Will, I could wait another year for my department to move to new offices.

It was very quiet in the room.

Then Wayne spoke up. He could do without some of the food-service extras that were on the list. April offered she could wait another year for new warehouse shelving. And Vanessa suggested dropping her new storage building from the list.

One by one, each director came forward until the budget was where it needed to be.

It was amazing.


Sort of like a Jimmy Stewart movie.

A coaster nut, nearly cracked

Spending all of Friday with the crew from National Geographic Channel was great fun.

Incredibly hot, though. It was around 90 degrees and quite humid.

Poor Quinn, the associate producer. She’d packed clothes based on normal late-September Midwestern temperatures. (Most of the crew hailed from California.)

I took a bunch of photos and will put those up on another post within a few days.

First, I want to tell you about Saturday.

We had a second TV crew scheduled for an all-day shoot. This was a location-scouting expedition, so we won’t mention the name of the satellite/cable network until we know for sure that it’s a “go.”

But it’s a big ‘un.

We started out walking through the park with Will and Chad, down to the Voyage construction site.

The producer … I’ll call her, um, Liz … asked me to tell her more about coaster enthusiasts.

I regaled her with a few stories and she asked if there was any way she could meet one of these interesting creatures.

As a matter of fact, there’s a fellow here in town who moved his family to Santa Claus so he could live close to the park.

Liz started laughing. Really hard.

In her delightful British-accented voice she asked, “Could we possibly pop by his house? We’ve got to meet him!”

I quickly offered to call Paul and invite him to join us on the construction-site tour.

As much as I knew Paul would be thrilled to be included in the construction tour, my primary purpose was to stay on his wife’s good side.

Carrie would have my head on a platter if she knew I’d facilitated an unscheduled “pop in” to her flat. (It’s hard not to pick up that English way of talking.)

And I wouldn’t blame Carrie a bit either. We both have Kindergarteners who tend to take over our houses with their many projects. Wouldn’t have it any other way, but it’s not exactly the showcase-environment you’d like to show a TV camera.

Will et al cracked up at how quickly Paul scurried over here.

He was stoked

Camera in hand.

Heart pounding (or so he told me).

My heart was pounding, too, by the time we got to the place on the Snowy White Gravel Road from which you can see where the turnaround portion of our new coaster will be.

Contrary to most out-and-back layouts, we’re actually going uphill in the first half of this 1.2-mile layout.

So instead of giving Mr. Physics the opportunity to gain speed using the topography along the way, we’re requiring a 100-foot climb in the “out” part of the ride.

And it gets really steep there near the end.

After the tour, I coyly suggested that Paul probably needed to head home.

Why don’t we just pop in to see your family this evening?

The terror in Paul’s eyes was worth the price of admission.

“Um…well…I’d have to check with my wife. I have a feeling she wouldn’t be quite ready for company.”

I noticed he walked out of earshot to call poor Carrie.

In a moment, he was back: “Hey! Great news! I can stay here longer. So you can just interview me here!”

Ah, the power we wives wield

We climbed another hill so that Liz could interview Paul. This time, it was right next to the lift hill at The Legend.

Somehow, without my reading glasses, I was able to figure out Paul’s camera and snap off a few.


While the interview went on and on (Paul has many opinions, ideas and recollections), I retreated back down the hill.

Families floating by on Frightful Falls started waving at me, so we amused each other with that for a while.

And then it was really time for Paul to head home.

By the next day, he’d already posted page upon page of photos on his website, Here’s the direct link to his report.

I first got to know Paul early in 2000 when we were getting ready to premiere The Legend.

And Carrie was getting ready to give birth to their son.

The “due dates” were alarmingly close.

Paul’s determination to be present for both births (he lived three hours away from the park at that time) gave me a new understanding for “coaster crazy.”

Somehow, he worked it all out.

Celebrated the birth of his son.

Rode on one of the first trains out of The Legend.

Found a new job.

Moved his family to Santa Claus.


If Liz ends up doing an hour-long documentary about Paul, I guess I’ll understand.
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Ninety-five candles

Frieda Foertsch

Those pretty flowers throughout Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari?

We have Frieda to thank.

And today’s her birthday.

She’s 95.

Frieda Foertsch

Frieda has worked in just about every department over the years. Front gate, food services, the Betsy Ross Doll Museum.

Since she “retired,” she’s been in charge of our greenhouse.

Our “plant manager,” if you happen to like puns.

She was interviewed for a newspaper article a number of years ago. I just loved her proud statement: There’s not a rocking chair that’s been built that would hold me!

My favorite Frieda story is from 1993, the year she turned 83.

That was the year Splashin’ Safari opened.

A local senior citizens group called in the early spring and asked for a “sneak peek” for their members. The water park wouldn’t be open for another few months, but they were curious. Plus it was lovely weather for a heart-healthy walk-about.

We started out from the front gate and strolled down to the entrance to Splashin’ Safari. From there, we could see the nearly-completed water park. (The first year, the water attractions included the AmaZOOM, Bamboo Chute, Congo River and Crocodile Isle.)

Then we circled back up through the 4th of July section.

As we walked by the Avenue of Flags, past what is now The Alamo (I think it was Tank Tag back then), the grumbles started.

“How much farther?”

“Can’t we sit down somewhere?”

“Young lady, you really need to provide transportation for these tours!”

These tours? Silly me, I thought I was doing them a favor…

Suddenly, everything changed in the blink of an eye.

Or, rather, the slam of a hoe.

We couldn’t see her yet, but we sure could hear Frieda.

She was up the hill, by the bumper boats.

There was a clump of stubborn weeds underneath the weeping willow.

And Frieda was determined to win the battle of wills … or rather, roots.

I kid you not! As we crested the hill there was Frieda, hard at work. Swinging that old hoe over her head and slamming it down into the roots.

Not little refined nudges to move the weeds. Big, huge, vigorous, full-body chops.

The senior group came alive

They called out to each other and hurried up the hill en masse.

They eagerly surrounded Frieda and talked about flowers and trees with great animation.

The tour was a success. (No thanks to me.)

Many happy returns, Frieda!
(Sadly, Frieda passed away in 2011. She lived to be 100 and will forever be remembered here.)
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More Voyage construction photos

Voyage construction

We promised yesterday to post more Voyage construction photos, so I’d better get to it.

This photo is the beginning of the final tunnel.

It’s actually back on the other side of the station. That’s the beginning of the station there on the left.

Voyage construction

And here’s a look at the first drop

The angle of descent is 66 degrees, which is the steepest on any wooden coaster in the U.S.

Can you imagine what it will look like when you’re sitting in the very front seat?

(Just don’t ride there with me–unless you first stuff your ears with cotton balls.)

Voyage construction

Now let’s walk over to the other side of the lift hill.

The height of the structure in this photo is approximately 100 feet.

So what we’re seeing is just over half-way up. Only 63 feet more to go!

Voyage construction

We took this photo from up the hill, back in the 4th of July section.

The water in the foreground is the pool at the end of Raging Rapids.

Voyage construction

Although The Voyage has a steel structure, it’s definitely a wooden coaster.

Take a look at all the layers of wood on the track

Look all the way up at the top of the picture and you can see the many layers.

Voyage construction

The people who put those layers of wooden coaster track down so precisely are called, oddly enough, trackers.

In this industry, tracking is considered to be an art form; there aren’t all that many trackers out there.

That’s Luis on the right. He’s our tracker for The Voyage.

He gets to be interviewed by the National Geographic Channel tomorrow morning.

And he’s really looking forward to it. (Not!)

Voyage construction

We’ll be sure to take more Voyage construction photos soon.
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90 degrees is more than just today’s temperature

Voyage construction

You remember 90-degree angles from math class, right?

Straight up.


When you bank a curve at 90 degrees, it takes on an interesting look.

And a little voice in your head whines, “How will the train stay on the track?”

Then a smarter, more logical voice reminds you of the laws of physics.

But it still looks … well, scary.

Rachel and I took a nice walk this warm afternoon.

We’re hosting a crew from the National Geographic Channel on Friday, so we wanted to be sure we were familiar with the latest construction efforts.

We rounded a corner.

Is that it?

No, that’s not 90 degrees.

It looks close though, doesn’t it?

Close enough for me …

Voyage construction


But, no.

The banked curve was fine for a photo.

But that banking wasn’t fully vertical.

Not nearly.

Maybe we’ll find it if we keep walking.

As we rounded a curve in the road, just a few yards ahead, I must admit I screamed.

It was so startling to see track completely on its side.

On purpose.

Voyage construction

And that’s one of two curves banked that way on The Voyage.

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Anyone know these beauties?

We were sorting through some archival photos the other day and wondered about this photo:

Bathing beauties at Santa Claus Land

Goodness! Is that Marilyn?

And what’s with those high heels?

Must be beauty queens. (If so, where are their sashes? Their tiaras? Didn’t they have tiaras back then? What good is it being a beauty queen if you don’t get to wear a tiara…)

If you’re wondering where this was taken, it was back when the Santa statue was located in front of Santa Claus Land’s main buildings (this area is now “back of the house”). Santa was elevated somewhat, and there were steps to get up on the same level with him.

Anyone recognize these ladies? If so, please be sure to email me so we can share the story.

(The above blog entry was first posted on 9/8/05 and by the next week, we had some “answers.” Here’s the second HoliBlog post:)

Where are they now?

Remember those mystery ladies from one of last week’s posts? We’ve identified them all!

Thanks to a series of emails from interested parties (actually, they were all from my Cousin Jeff in St. Louis), we now know that those beauties all went on to find successful careers in the public eye.

Again, this is a photo from our Santa Claus Land archives. No scribbled notes on the back. No date.

Marilyn?But don’t you think this might be Marilyn?

Just take a quick look and you’ll probably agree.

Don’t stare, though.

That’s rude.



And couldn’t this possibly be Jackie?

You know…Jackie O. …back when she was Jackie B.


After identifying the most famous beauties, I was stuck.

Cousin Jeff came to the rescue within hours via email.

Lucy's friend?

This beauty next to “Jackie” looks like Lucy’s friend (not Ethel … her other friend) but I’m drawing a blank.

Hmm … let’s Google that

Oh yes – Betty Ramsey! (The actress’s name was Mary Jane Croft. She hailed from Muncie, Indiana. )


And Jeff says this next bathing beauty must be Andrea Martin.

By golly, she does look familiar, but I’m not sure if the ages synch up.

Close enough.

We’re almost done!

But this one (no offense, Jeff!), I really do question.


According to Jeff, “The final beauty is now a grandma. Why, that’s Lindsay Lohan’s grandmother Bertie Lohan. Her friends just called her “Bert.”

Maybe we’ll try this again someday. We have lots and lots of old photos. And for some reason, every single face looks familiar.

We Three Drop Cloths

Well … two drop cloths, anyway.

People are always fascinated to know what we do on the days the park isn’t open.

All sort of things.

painting the Nativity

That’s Don on the roof and Kyle on the smaller ladder.

It’s been bugging them for a while that the Nativity Scene needs a fresh coat of paint.

So they’re painting the manger.

It’s stable work, after all.

There’s something a bit odd about seeing two of the three Wise Men protected by paint-speckled drop cloths. (The third King is far enough away that even Don won’t mistakenly drip on him.)

painting the Nativity

“Those people need some paint, too,” said Don.

What people?

“You know, Mary, Joseph … the people.”
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A Voyage verse

These photos inspired us to compose the following  Voyage verse. 

Lots of lumber, neatly stacked.

Voyage construction

Working hard, now that’s a fact.

Voyage construction

Adding structure, piece by piece.

Voyage construction

Ready to ride? Bring some grease!

Voyage construction

Twisted track, to the right.

Voyage construction

That hill on the left will double in height!

Voyage construction

Using your imagination…

Voyage construction

There on the right … the Voyage station!
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Some dark details

Gobbler Getaway plans

Everyone knows what a roller coaster is.

But not everyone is all that sure about the term “dark ride.”

Here’s a primer:

  • It’s in the dark
  • You ride in a multi-passenger car
  • It’s indoors
  • You will ride in air-conditioned comfort

If you’re not already sold, how about this: as you move from room to room, you’ll follow a story and see lots of fun settings.

All of this themed, of course.

And ours will be in the Thanksgiving section.

There’s an added component: it’s interactive.

So while you’re riding through the dark, cool scenes, you’ll compete with others in your car.

And what will the competition be all about?

We turned to the top “dark ride” company for ideas, and they put on their thinking caps.

It turns out those hats included a few turkey feathers.

Here’s what those bird brains at Sally Corporation came up with:

Gobbler Getaway plans

We’re not going to give away too many details ahead of time, of course.

But before anyone starts getting worked up about the type of, um … instrument that will be used to, er … capture the fowl critters, take a gander:

Gobbler Getaway plans

A Turkey Caller!

Families will search for turkeys throughout Gobbler Getaway and individuals will gather up the largest flock possible.

Remember, the goal is to “Save Thanksgiving.”

I wish I could remember all the different ideas the Sally crew came up with before the Turkey Call was triumphantly plucked from thin air. I do recall that Jim wanted everyone to use turkey basters; Drew is probably still making fun of that idea. (Quite jovial fellows, they are. One never hesitates to roast the other when an idea doesn’t take flight.)

Here’s another look at the Turkey Caller device:

Gobbler Getaway plans

That’s all the “dark ride” information for now. 

Will asked me the other day if I thought we could come up with enough HoliBlog ideas for the off-season.

Somehow, I think we’ll do just fine.
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Coaster Car colors

Months ago, when The Gravity Group was creating the virtual ride for The Voyage, they asked us about the coaster car colors.

We weren’t quite ready to make that decision yet. It’s not just a matter of “what’s your favorite color?” There was a bit of research to be done and opinions to be gathered.

That has now been accomplished.

We’ve determined the color for The Voyage’s three trains:

Voyage car design

Do you like our coaster car colors?

The trains will have seven cars each (The Raven and The Legend have six-car trains).

Each coaster car will seat four riders.

Here’s a side view of one of the cars: 

Voyage car design

If you check out our webcam, you’ll see a portion of the structure is tall enough to stick up above the trees.

What must the squirrels be thinking?
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