Prepping for Colbert

You'd think Will was getting ready to run the marathon.

Just picture him, slightly out of breath, towel around his neck, dashing about … soaking in everyone's advice.

"Will! Tell him you hate bears!"

Change the name of Eagle's Flight to "Steagle's Flight"!

"Tell Colbert your next coaster will be made out of Lincoln Logs."

Don't get added to the "On Notice" board …

"What if he asks you why you pronounce your last name that way?"

Dad, can you get an autographed photo for my History teacher?

But I'm not worried. Will is quick on his feet. Good sense of humor. Infectious laugh.

He'll do fine.

Just as long as his head doesn't explode in the next 22 hours.

Bakuli bits

Good grief.

Haven’t even posted links to the articles that came about following last week’s announcement, and bits o’ Bakuli start showing up already.

These pieces are for the bakuli.

You know, of course, that bakuli is the Swahili word for “bowl.”

And that bowl is a big’un.

Sixty feet across, that bowl.

Heaved up onto its side, that would be about six stories tall.

Don’t know that we have a six-story building here in Santa Claus.

Well, yes I do know.

There was something about these colors that made me a bit uneasy. I like how they look together, but there’s something unsettling about them.

I finally figured it out.

Back in the 1980s, I had a suit with these colors in it.

Excuse me while I head for home to make sure it’s not still in the back of my closet.

“We could use a park like yours in Nashville!”

I visited Holiday World for the first time since I was a kid (25+ years ago), when it was called Santa Claus Land.

I wanted to convey to you that I was pleasantly surprised.

The park was clean, wholesome, and economical. The family orientation and Christian values presented in the park are obvious in both the aesthetics and the employees throughout the park.

I felt comfortable and relaxed the entire time.

We only had a chance to watch one show, which was the diving show, and it was great.

The only negative is that Holiday World is three hours away from Nashville. We could use a park like yours here!

Thank you for a great experience!

John B.
Nashville, Tennessee

My kids would go to your park first

My family went to your park on August 8 and 9.

We loved it!!

It started out raining both days so wait time was minimal. The Voyage was the best ride I have ever been on!!

We came with nine people.

The staff was super friendly and it exceeded my expectations. If you knew my love of amusement parks that is hard to do!! My kids have been to Disney World (Magic Kingdom and MGM), Universal (Studio and Islands of Adventure), Kings Island, Great America, Busch Gardens, Sea World.

If you asked them they would come to your park first.

My son would like to suggest a steel coaster, he wants to name it Santa’s Sleigh!!

Thank you so much,

Bob B.
Kalamazoo, Michigan

Golden memories

Hosting the Golden Ticket Awards was a blast.

It was well over a year ago that we started bugging Amusement Today publisher Gary Slade that we wanted to host the Golden Ticket Awards again. Turns out he already had us in mind. (Surely it had nothing to do with him wanting to ride this new coaster of ours…)

We hosted the first awards program five years ago. Prior to that, it was an announcement that was publicized via a news release from the Amusement Today offices in Texas. In 2001, we talked Gary into holding a news conference here for that announcement.

One other park attended back then. Our friend Jeff from Kings Island.

My what a difference five years makes! Jeff was back again, this time in his new position with Schlitterbahn water park. And a whole bunch of other parks were represented as well, Dollywood, Kings Island, Busch Gardens, Cedar Point, Sea World, and more.

So we made a weekend out of it.

Before we go much farther, let’s talk about Janice.

She was my partner in crime in planning the awards show. After a wonderful career in PR at Cedar Point, Janice retired to care for her cute little son, Matthew, and has picked up some freelance work with Amusement Today.

Last weekend was a homecoming of sorts for Janice.

You see, Janice is originally from Santa Claus, Indiana. She grew up working at Santa Claus Land and then Holiday World. She had an internship at Opryland and then went on to Cedar Point.

I asked her for a photo from way-back-when.

Apparently Janice has the home version of PhotoShop.

Can’t help but wonder whom Janice cropped out of this photo.

Maybe someone in the Witness Protection Program?

Janice is thoughtful that way.

So thoughtful, in fact, that she had to be moved out of our Games Department long ago.

It seems her heart would melt when a child didn’t win, so she’d say, “Close enough!” and would hand over that season’s prize.

Eventually, when it became obvious she was giving away the prizes; Janice was moved to a less budget-sensitive department.

Holidog gives away hugs, so that was a safe place to send her.

That was in the mid-’80s, during Holidog’s more slender years. During his disco phase.

What’s not to love?

Now it’s Janice’s mom who works at Holiday World, at the Front Gate.

Janice, Brian, and little Matthew like visiting her old stomping ground. Matthew’s already figured out who should get his attention.

Each park that hosts the Golden Ticket Awards program has added its own twist. It’s not really a competition, but it’s nice to leave your mark.

So Will, Mrs. Koch, Chris, John and I met back in the winter to start scheming.

One of our suggestions was to continue to take the announcements into the arena of becoming an awards “show.”

Step One was to line up “presenters.”

Janice and Gary liked our suggestions and tweaked the list to reflect folks from throughout the industry.

Here they are, after the festivities:

In the back row, from the left, are Chris Gray from Great Coasters, International (GCI) … Nick Laskaris from Mount Olympus Water & Theme Park (his Hades wooden coaster won Best New Ride last year … so he presented in that category this year), Jeff Pike from GCI (I hope I didn’t get Chris and Jeff backwards; I’ve no doubt they’ll straighten me out if I goofed). Next is The Gravity Group‘s Mike Graham and then David Blazer from SRO Associates, a show production company in Texas. David brought the house down when he announced that the park that had won in his category wasn’t present to pick up their award, so he’d have it up on eBay within a few hours. Happily, only two parks were “no shows”; most parks sent multiple representatives to take part in the weekend’s events.

Next to David is Rick Root, the president of the World Waterpark Association. Not sure what happened to Charlie Bray, the president of IAAPA (the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions) but he was also a speaker and presenter.

In the front row, that’s Janice on the left. She presented the Best Landscaping Awards along with our own Frieda Foertsch. At 95 years old, Frieda still drives a stick-shift to work. And when she came on stage, the audience gave her a standing ovation. It was so touching when the Busch Gardens Europe communications director (who admitted to not being able to even “grow a weed”) accepted her Golden Ticket and kissed Frieda tenderly on the cheek. And when it was time to announce the Best Landscaping in a Waterpark, Frieda was delighted: “Oh, a good German name–Schlitterbahn!”

Next to Janice is Mark Rosenzweig from Zamperla (creator of the Howler roller coaster and HallowSwings to name just a few), Tim Baldwin from Amusement Today, and Carole Sanderson, the president of the American Coaster Enthusiasts.

Back to the planning stages, we wanted to come up with a way to make the show our own. To do something that no other park would do (sort of along the lines of the “Free Unlimited Soft Drinks” concept).

Let’s see … surely, we reasoned, no other park would be willing to humiliate themselves.

So we put together a little ditty to sing to the crowd.

No, we didn’t rely on our talented park performers; we assembled the “B Team”: Will, Mrs. Koch, Will’s wife Lori, Matt and me.

Matt is our controller. Who knew an accountant could carry anything but beans in a bucket?

It was gratifying to see that so many folks from out in the park wanted to watch. They added great enthusiasm and a lot of body heat to the Holiday Theater.

Beth, from Dayton, Ohio, was in the audience. She emailed me to give me the grand news she’d captured the opening song on video and posted it at

Thanks, Beth. Nice to know our great oeuvre will live on via the Internet. Mighty thoughtful of you…

As we moved into the various award categories, it was fun to witness the charm, humility, pride and excitement of the different park representatives.

Later, many of the winners posed together for photos.

Can’t resisting posting this photo as well.

Mrs. Koch is clowning around as the winners get into place.

That’s Cedar Point’s general manager, John Hildebrandt, in the yellow shirt, looking on. Wonder what’s going through his mind?

Toward the end of the show, Will’s wife, Lori, came back on stage to sing the following lyrics to the tune of Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance”:

I Hope You Ride

I hope you never lose your childlike wonder
You get a thrill as coasters fly by
Loud as thunder
May you never take one single Guest for granted
Not even the one who just now raved and ranted

I hope you feel great pride
Knowing you entertain a nation
Whenever one train leaves, bring another in the station
Every menu item’s got to be deep-fried
And when you get the choice to sit it out or ride
I hope you ride
I hope you ride

I hope you never fail to hear the happy laughter
And know those memories are treasured ever after
Even though the work is hard … the hours long
You know after just one season … you belong.

Don’t let line-jumping cretins
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
When we say we’re one big family
Love’’s implied
And when you get the choice to sit it out or ride
I hope you ride
I hope you ride
I hope you ride
I hope you ride

I hope you feel great pride
Knowing you entertain a nation
Whenever one train leaves, bring another in the station
Every menu item’s got to be deep-fried
And when you get the choice to sit it out or ride
I hope you ride
I hope you ride
I hope you ride

And to close the ceremony, Will presented Gary Slade with a framed plate.

That’s right, a plate.

A plate from the Christmas Room at Santa Claus Land.

We didn’t realize till later that Gary collects old plates … so he got sort of choked up.

So much so, he didn’t notice the little washerwoman (a la Carol Burnett) who came in the front door with her mop and bucket to clean up the theater.

Gary kept talking and the audience, who could clearly see it was Mrs. Koch under the apron and mob cap, started giggling.

It wasn’t till Mrs. Koch came up on the stage with her mop that Gary was reduced to a stunned silence.

And then, she sang.

I’m so glad we’ve had this time together…

The little song didn’t end with a tug on the ear, though. The Queen of Clean blew a kiss.

And the audience cheered.

Top drawers

What an alarming newspaper headline to greet you first thing on a Saturday morning: “Holiday World visitor suffers humiliating loss.”

Now what?

Must be something about a ride we used to have. We hear all summer long from folks who want us to know how scarred their families are since we removed the Banshee four years ago. They really do get emotional about it.

One poor guy emailed to check about whether we still had the Virginia Reel tilt-a-whirl. It seems he and his now-wife had shared their first kiss on it. He was worried about keeping her busy during their visit so she wouldn’t realize it was gone, too.

And two days ago, an emailer lamented the disappearance of the ’70s-era piano-playing chicken.

But only one person mourns the loss of Tank Tag.

The Lost Parents/Height Measurement Station located next to the Alamo used to be the building for Tank Tag, a life-sized game built in 1992 with, you guessed it, tanks. Tori, our rides director, insists on still calling that little building Tank Tag, despite my frequent protests.

On the two-way radio: “We need more Phone Find wristbands at Tank Tag!”


Using logic to appeal to Tori does no good. The Alamo replaced Tank Tag back in 1997. That means Tank Tag disappeared a full decade ago, long before many of our seasonal employees started working here.

Tori doesn’t care. Tank Tag is Tank Tag and it delights her that the rest of us grumble at the mention.

Back to that headline. The article turned out to be a “column.” One of those opinion pieces.

The author’s humiliation was the loss of his undies in Splashin’ Safari.

Not the first time this has happened.

It’s interesting to read the comments posted following the column. The subject of underwear seems to bring out very strong opinions. Some found the story cute and amusing while others were offended or annoyed.

Another rather personal item was left behind earlier in the season.

See it there? Hanging on the steel support…

A hairpiece.

We don’t allow cameras onboard The Voyage.

We don’t allow fanny packs (sorry Liz) onboard The Voyage.

We don’t allow cell phones onboard The Voyage.

But no one ever thought to mention…

Scream your hair off?

At the time, I was escorting a German journalist on a photo walkback of The Voyage.

(Anyone know the German word for wig? How about Tank Tag?)

Jochen was kind enough to forward the wig photos last month, knowing they were excellent fodder for blogging.

And yes, even though we don’t hang onto scivvies, the hairpiece was turned in at Lost & Found. (I cleverly stopped by Voyage Photos & Gifts and snagged a bag. Didn’t want to have to walk through the park holding someone’s hair, after all.)

Just think if the columnist had been the one to lose the hairpiece. Oh, the possibilities for headlines:

“Trip highlight: Voyage rider and hairpiece part company”

“Holiday World promises to comb park for wig”

“Loss of hair on coaster causes brush with embarrassment”

Ah, these hair puns really grow on you … in a permanent sort of way.