We’re humbled, no fooling

Rick at The Motley Fool writes amazing columns about the amusement industry.

Of course, as a Fool, he writes nearly exclusively about publicly traded, corporate parks.

Yet somehow, we get a mention every once in a while.

Before we shot our YouTube announcement video on Wednesday, we were all giddy in anticipation and nervousness.

"Let's just try not to make fools out of ourselves," was the rallying cry.

But maybe that's not such a bad thing after all.

Leftovers

It’s that time of year when leftovers aren’t a burden. They’re appreciated. Cherished, even.

So I knew you wouldn’t mind a leftover story from this summer.

It was when “Deal or No Deal” came back to town.

More than a year ago, the GM over at Santa’s Lodge was chosen to be a contestant. Surprise! It was to air on Christmas day.

Skip is normally a pretty quiet guy. Pleasant, but not someone who seems to crave attention.

Until he’s under the kliegs. Then he comes alive.

Skip won a heap of money, but he couldn’t tell us till the show aired. (He’s on the County Tourism Commission with me; we all noted he was wearing a nice leather jacket the week after he taped the show and nodded at one another knowingly.)

But that was 2006 and this is 2007.

Well, back during the season a crew from “Deal” came back to town. It seems our Skip is one of their most popular contestants ever, so they wanted to shoot an update of Skip here in the town of Santa Claus.

So he brought them to Holiday World.

Deal or No Deal
That’s John on the left. He works for the show. You know the guy in the middle. That’s Skip on the right.

And then it was off to ride some rides.

Skip “whoo-hooed” his way through the day. It was unbelievable the energy he put into this shoot.

Waving. Laughing. Shouting. Whoo-hooing.

It was exhausting.

Skip on Lewis & Clark
Uh, sir … please keep you arms, legs, hat, and enthusiasm inside the ride at all times.

Next, over to Raging Rapids.

Skip was still full of pep.

And he got the entire family, plus John, in on the act.

As the boat headed off toward the rapids, guess who was still whoo-hooing?

Skip on Raging Rapids

“Who is that?” I was asked over and over.

People were amazed when I told them it was the GM from Santa’s Lodge.

“We’ve been there for three nights and haven’t heard a single whoo-hoo.”

That’s probably because he was saving himself. By the end of the day ol’ Skip was getting mighty hoarse.

Too many candy canes, maybe?

I whispered to John and Josh several times that I’d be glad to take them all to lunch. A nice grilled-chicken salad would have hit the spot by mid afternoon.

But we pressed on.

When Skip finally ran out of steam, we stopped for a snack. Four orders of deep-fried Oreos.

And then we were off and running again.

Santa had agreed to join Skip on The Voyage.

Skip on The Voyage
And all these months later?

John and Josh finished their road trip and got to work editing.

Just this week, they posted their video on Deal or No Deal’s website. Click here if you’d like to watch their high-energy report.

Announcement … for 2009

So, am I getting on your nerves yet?

For weeks and weeks a barrage of emails has overloaded my Inbox.

And everyone's asked the same thing: We know about Kima Bay, but you promised more.

When will you tell us?

And now, we start talking about 2009.

Is this a typo … or something far more sinister?

Actually, this isn't the promised announcement. That will come soon. (Promise. Really. No, really.)

This is about an entirely different project. Something just down the road.

An amphitheatre. With 1,500 seats. And a roof.

It's a beautiful facility, located in Lincoln State Park.

Will is heading up the non-profit organization whose mission it is to produce a play about Abraham Lincoln. After all, he grew up here.

All those stories you've heard about his tough childhood? Happened right here.

Remember the one about how he borrowed a book and it got damaged in the rain? Abraham worked for days to pay off the damage…

Yup. Happened here in southern Indiana. His beloved mother is buried here, as is his only sister.

Who knew?

Well, if we do things right, the world will know. Abraham truly grew up here, from the time he was seven until he was 21. Think about it: those are the main years of a child's education; that's when a person's character is formed.

And that's our story.

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809, so in just two years it will be the bicentennial of his birth. So that's the plan for 2009: get the play open and fill up that theater.

Here's where you come in: In any given month, upwards of 40,000 folks click on and presumably read the HoliBlog (thanks, by the way). Surely some of you know someone who is interested in theatre–or maybe they will know someone who fits the bill. And eventually, we'll find our playwright and general manager. If you would be so kind, send them here for more information. And here's a nice article, too.

Then I can get back to work preparing for us to announce that rest of what's being added to Holiday World in 2008.

That will come soon. (Promise. Really. No, really.)

Trip report: Final IV

Okay, to start this last segment, we have to get back on the plane and up in the air again.

We're high in the sky and I have to pull the shade since it's so sunny.

John is suddenly more animated than usual.

"Oh, boy! Here comes the cart!"

The cart?

Yes, the beverage wagon the poor flight attendants have to ram down the aisle inch by inch.

John was craning his neck, hanging over in the narrow aisleway. Looking, looking.

"I think we get … yes! Cookies!"

Ah, the childlike wonderment of a grown man getting excited over cookies. Prepackaged airline cookies.

John, you can have mine.

"No! I wouldn't think of it! These cookies are great!"

No, really … they obviously mean something special to you. You're welcome to mine.

"But just think about it for a minute. If you don't want them, bring them home to James as a gift. I've done that for years — my girls just love it."

At this point, he was trying to shove some in my purse.

"Trust me. They make great gifts!"

I can't begin to imagine what it looks like under John's tree on Christmas morn.

"Oh, Daddy. thanks! I love my shower cap! Oh, and Mommy got a shoe-shine-kit-in-a-bottle! You're the best!"

To make matters worse, John struck up a conversation with the flight attendant. He wanted to know about additional inventory.

She admitted to stashing some cheese crackers and promised to bring some back later.

Once off the plane, we and our stash of snacks headed over to the convention center.

First stop was to search for my presentation room, since IAAPA had asked me to speak about communications.

Up on the third floor, a bit more lost than we'd have ever admitted to each other, I let out a tiny scream.

Coming toward us was a lady on stilts.

Really, really high stilts.

We were on this kind of balcony thing and she was way far away from the edge, but it still made me woozy.

The stilted lady was in a Mardi Gras outfit.

And we were the only other people around.

Although she was fairly far away from us, it only took a few steps for her to be, well, in our faces.

Her knees, anyway.

She asked us if we were going to an awards event that evening.

I was about to thank her for the invitation and explain we already had plans, but John jumped in, "Well, why don't you tell me more about the event?"

That's the big difference between the two of us. I say "no thanks" and move on; he likes to talk for half an hour and make sure an exchange of business cards takes place.

I guess they call that networking.

I wandered away, calling behind me, "John I'm going to look over here for the room…"

Wait! They have beads! What color do you want?

He was suddenly ecstatic again. Free beads. All sorts of pretty colors.

Stocking stuffers.

"No thanks," I said, forcing a weak smile.

When John caught up with me, I detected a slight hint of admiration in his voice.

Wow. It's sort of impressive that you can be this grouchy a thousand miles from home.

Later on, I caught up with Matt in the vast convention hall. He was shopping for scooters, on behalf of Vanessa. I tried to stay out of range, but a second sales guy approached me, pitching a new style of strollers.

When he found out I wasn't there to buy, he quipped: "Well, maybe Matt can buy some and then you can write a news release about it."

Okay then.

Happily, soon after we ran into Will and Mrs. Koch.

He'd done it again. Stopped by looking for Mr. Bigfoot, but to no avail.

"They told me to come back tomorrow. They say he works all night and sleeps all day, so he doesn't show up until late afternoon."

Will was stoked.

When I asked him this week if he'd ever found Sasquatch's creator, Will's face fell.

"No, and I stopped by their booth three times."

Ah well, there's always next year.

Trip report, Part C

Okay, so this is even more embarrassing than the mascara incident.

John and I sat behind the cutest pair of grandparents and grandchildren. A ducky little boy and girl who behaved perfectly on the long plane ride.

As we stood in the aisle ready to get off the plane, I couldn't resist.

Are you going to see Mickey?

"Oh yes!" the darling children chirped in unison.

That's wonderful! I'm sure you'll have lots of fun! …and maybe next summer, Grandma and Grandpa will take you to visit us at Holiday World.

Be honest. Was that tacky of me?

Mrs. Koch told us today she was recognized in the Orlando airport, "Hey, Mrs. Koch! Is it really you?"

And Matt stayed behind in Florida a few extra days with his lovely wife. In the Mission: Space queue, a family sported Colts Football shirts, so he started up a conversation with them.

"Sure, we love Holiday World! In fact, the kids just said yesterday they would rather have spent four days at Holiday World instead of here in Orlando."

Wow.

The love-fest, sadly, did not extend to my feeble outreach program.

Grandpa turned with a pleasant, yet quizzical, look on his face.

"Holiday World? Never heard of it!"

I quickly surmised they must have stopped in Louisville en route from some foreign land.

Yes, of course, that must be it.

Oh, sorry. So you're not from Louisville?

"Sure, we used to live there. Now we live in Florence."

Judging by his accent, I really don't think he meant Italy.

"Now, where is that park?"

Okay, by now it was getting embarrassing. And John was right behind me, snickering.

Oh, we're in the town of Santa Claus, Indiana — isn't that fun?

Grandpa smiled kindly and nodded, then turned to follow the rest of his family off the plane.

After all, Mickey was waiting.

Trip report: Part 2

The subhead for this post should perhaps be:

Lesson learned: Don't travel on the same day as the President

Although a number of us attended the IAAPA Convention this week, we all seemed to have different schedules. By Tuesday, Will, Mrs. Koch, Eric and Wayne had already gotten a start on their week.

Matt flew out earlier that morning; John and I had a very reasonable flight time out of Louisville: 10:30 am EST.

So we're flying out of Louisville Tuesday morning … remember who was flying in that same day?

(Cue: Hail to the Chief music.)

That's right, Mr. Bush had a speech to give in nearby New Albany.

The gate crew was all a-twitter.

They told us they hoped we could get out ahead of Air Force One's approach, but if we didn't make it, the entire airport–including our flight–would shut down for about 15 minutes. (I later heard her say 30 minutes; it was 45.)

John was all excited to see Air Force One land. I think he'd already had too much coffee, as he couldn't sit still.

"Is that it? Is it landing over there? I can't wait to see it again!"

Again?

It suddenly hit me I hadn't put on mascara yet, so I dug it out of my purse.

The nice gate lady came by to put a pink tag on my carry-on luggage.

"You got that by Security?"

Huh?

"Security let you through with that?"

I looked around and realized she really was addressing me with her question.

This? Mascara?

"Yes, it's a liquid."

A liquid? It's goop!

"Well, maybe it's a gel then."

No…it's more like tar. What kind of threat is mascara?

I foolishly pointed the wand in her direction and joked, Am I going to poke someone in the eye?

That really wasn't smart of me; since she wasn't a Security Agent I didn't get in trouble. The nice lady left me in peace and moved on to tag someone else's bag.

John was quaking with laughter. My dangerous mascara became the theme of the trip.

We settled back, waiting to hear if we'd get to board our plane before the president arrived.

It was not meant to be.

I was checking emails on my cell (we don't have Blackberries; I call mine a Hollyberry, given the location of our park).

Suddenly, the screen went blank. Then, in place of the email, up popped two words in unusually large type: ACCESS DENIED.

Access denied? What the…? How did John get me fired over the mascara incident so quickly?

We later figured out that when Air Force One is approaching, all wireless communications are halted. Makes sense. Good idea.

Once onboard, we had another delay. Ten minutes later, though, the pilot got on the horn:

"Ladies and gentlemen, Dub-ya has left the premises."

So we got to taxi past Air Force One.

"Nice paint job!" John commented, admiringly. "Can you see it? Look! You don't want to miss it! Isn't it something?!"

Yes, yes, I see it. Very nice. Ugh. You are such a guy.

"At least I don't smuggle make-up past the security guards. I don't think I want to travel with you again. You're a loose cannon."

I started digging in my purse; maybe I could do some damage with that stick of L'Oreal goop after all.

Trip report: Part 1

We always get such a kick out of receiving "trip reports" from our guests; thought maybe you'd enjoy hearing about a trip some of us just took.

Coming back from a business trip and back to the office, it's always hectic "catch up" time, so this report will come in several chunks.

The trip was to the huge IAAPA convention, conveniently located in sunny Orlando this year.

The night before I left, I told my youngest son, eight-year-old James:

Me: James, honey, I will be gone the next several days on a business trip.

James: Where are you going?

Me: My trip is to Florida. I'll be at a convention in Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday.

James (suddenly very concerned): Mom… be very, very careful. O.J. lives there.

(Note: he wasn't expressing an aversion to the freshly squeezed breakfast beverage.)

Later on, James wanted to know more.

James: What's a convention?

Me: It's a big meeting. People from all over the world who work at theme parks and water parks and zoos and aquariums get together to talk and learn.

James: Is there cake?

Coming soon

As a public service, we offer the follow rather startling information:

Thanksgiving is two weeks from today.

How did that happen?

Actually, it's the earliest that Thanksgiving comes. It's always on the fourth Thursday of November, and since this month started on a Thursday, it moves the holiday up as early in the month as possible.

The calendar finally caught my attention on Tuesday.

I screamed.

"Augh! Thanksgiving is two weeks and two days away!"

Rachel and Lisa looked concerned. I never did figure out if they too were caught unaware–or, perhaps more likely, if they were wondering how in the world it took me this long to notice the gigantic wall calendar located mere inches from my desk.

I quickly called my husband so that he could invite his older sister and her husband to our house for the annual feast.

Gary reported back that Sharon said she'd let us know, that there was plenty of time for making plans.

"…and then I told her, Thanksgiving is in two weeks

…and then she screamed."

I'll be sure to set two extra places at the table.

James already brought home a Thanksgiving theme paper this week. Bless him, he filled a page with his gratefulness.

In particular, he's thankful for the sense of smell, "…so I can smell cow manure and wet dogs."

He's an eight-year-old boy.

Thankfully, girls still smell like cooties to him.

It will be shortly after Thanksgiving when we finally fill in the rest of the blanks here at the park. As you surely remember, Kima Bay may be at the top of the list, but it's just the beginning of our plans for 2008.

Now, excuse me … I've got a menu to plan.

Monkey see, monkey do

It’s that time of the year when there are a lot of park-related conventions.

IAAPA will host a huge one in Orlando in a few weeks.

The World Waterpark Association held theirs last month in California.

Jennifer and Lori were delighted to run across a few familiar faces.

Kima Bay Monkeys

Yes, it was a last fling for those imps before they head for their new home at Kima Bay.

It appears this was a typical convention.

Tsk. Tsk.

Just look at the expression of guilt on Mr. Hear-No-Evil.

Monkey