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.

Heartwarming.

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 lifthill 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, Negative-G.com. 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.

Hmmm.

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

Ninety-five candles

Those pretty flowers throughout Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari?

We have Frieda to thank.

And today’s her birthday.

She’s 95.

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!

More Voyage pics

 

Good grief!

Where did the day go?

I 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.

And here’s a look at the first drop.

The angle of decent 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.)

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

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!

And this photo is taken 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.

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.

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

It’s considered just about an art form in the industry; 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!)

We’ll be sure to take more pictures.

90 degrees is more than just today’s temperature

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

Straight up.

Perpendicular.

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…

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.

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

More photos tomorrow…

Anyone know these beauties?

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

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.

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.

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 some day. We have lots and lots of old photos. And for some reason, every single face looks familiar.

We’re going to need a taller crane!

Actually, one is on the way.

Because that lifthill is mighty tall.

Here’s a look from Highway 162, to the north of the site.

See, there’s the “Welcome to Santa Claus” sign on the right, then the Yellig Park sign.

Off in the distance, in the middle, is The Legend.

Look slightly to the right of The Legend and you’ll see The Voyage, well above the tree tops.

I took this shot from our Employee Parking lot.

It’s actually rather startling to look over and see the structure up so high.

Will tells me it won’t be long before the crews “top off” the big hill.

We’ll have to plan a little something special that day, as it’s a milestone in the construction of any coaster. (Brandon wants cake. He never fails to ask for cake when we have something to celebrate. He has a miracle metabolism and can get away with consuming multiple large pieces, the bum.)

This next photo is from over toward Holidog’s FunTown.

That’s the Employee Parking Lot again in the foreground.

And finally, the foundations are still being poured elsewhere on the coaster.

Take a look at the first photo in this HoliBlog post from back in July.

This is what it looks like now:

We’ll keep you posted about the “topping off” ceremony, as you may want to join us via our webcam.

…and you’ll want to be sure to have plenty of celebratory cake on hand.

We Three Drop Cloths

Well … two.

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

All sort of things…

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.)

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

What people?

“You know, Mary, Joseph…the people.”

Site unseen

An email like this always gives us pause.

To know that a young fellow has been wanting to visit us for a decade (do the math — this has been going on since he was five, and probably not nearly tall enough to ride The Raven) is rather amazing. Especially when you realize the kid’s from Florida!

Emails like this remind us that each family has a story. And that each family deserves the very best visit we can provide. Because for some, the journey has been long in miles and time.

Anyway, Michael T. is from Fort Myers; he said it was okay to HoliBlog him.

My name is Mike and I live in Fort Myers, Florida. Yes, I am a huge coaster enthusiast and I plan on installing your coasters in the future. Although I have never been to your park, I just wanted to comment on something.

It has been a tradition in my family to take a trip to Cedar Point every year since before I was born (June 11, 1990). And every year we pack up the cars and head to the park with all of my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents (who are from the Detroit area). I will admit that Cedar Point never gets old, and there is a reason why it was voted the best park in the world by Amusement Today. But after this year, my preferences have switched a little.

You see, I have been wanting to come to your park ever since the introduction of The Raven, but I haven’t been able to make it yet. I consistently nag my folks about how your park has a charm like no other, and all I get in return is, “But Cedar Point has big roller coasters and Holiday World only has two.”

But you see that has now changed with you addition of The Voyage. I have been hyping your park for YEARS and I think it will all pay off in 2006. I tell my family about how your park offers free parking, suntan lotion, and Pepsi products (or is it Coke?) and they are amazed. And quite frankly, I am too. They now adore the fact that your park is run by a family and is so generous and welcome to its guests.

Every time I talk to them, I always mention Holiday World, and I get them wanting to visit more and more. Your array of World class wooden roller coasters is just the icing on the cake too! Because I am a coaster enthusiast, I have ridden many rollers coasters, more wooden than steel. My all time favorite is Shivering Timbers (which is an airtime monster) and has been ever since it opened in 1998. My father knew the Jourdans (the owners of the park at the time) and I got to tell them what a fantastic creation the ride was. I love that ride and am a Hard Core, Die Hard fan of it. But that might change with the addition of the Voyage. Ever since the announcement on July 13th 2005, I have been gushing over it. With the most airtime in the world, this thing is almost guaranteed to be a fantastic coaster.

My #1 wooden coaster spot might change come the summer of 2006. It really shows that Holiday World knows how to put together a great coaster. From the Shivering Timbers inspired hills, to the 90 degree banking, to the most tunnels in the world, you guys have done it again. I am truly excited as can be to visit your park in 2006. I’m sure it will be the time of my life, and of my family’s too!

Your park is a work of art and is like nothing else on the planet. I love the fact that Holiday World is so “low key” and not industrial like Cedar Point or Disney World. And even though I have never been to your park, from all of the reviews that I have heard, Holiday World should be considered the best park in the world. If I had a choice as of right now, where I would want to spend my vacation, I would definitely pick your park. Holiday World’s slogan should be billed “The Amazement Park.”

A Voyage verse

Lots of lumber, neatly stacked.

Working hard, that’s a fact.

Adding structure, piece by piece.

Ready to ride? Bring some grease!

Twisted track, to the right.

That hill on the left will double in height!

Using your imagination…

There on the right…the Voyage station!