A gloomy day

When the November forecast calls for rain – all-day rain – it’s awfully hard to even think about getting out of bed in the morning.

But sometimes, between the raindrops, there’s beauty.

Halloween Week 2011

Thanks to Nathan for taking this photo.

Travel tales

November is IAAPA Expo time around here.

Several of us head to Orlando as speakers, committee chairs, or buyers.

It’s an incredible trade show.

Here’s a series of HoliBlog posts from November 2007’s trip to the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions Expo:

Destination: Orlando. 

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?

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, and Eric had already gotten a start on their week. Matt flew out earlier that morning; Marketing Director 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 else 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!"


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?"


"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 communication is 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…

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?

(It’s okay; I know the answer.)

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."


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.

For this last story, 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 as we head south.

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 only 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 then 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 crumble 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.

A peek behind the (shower) curtain

Warm, fuzzy moments happen around here all the time.

And when one of the men on staff tells the story, it’s all the sweeter.

So when the new guy (Tony…our Director of Maintenance) emailed this to our staff of directors, it seemed a pity not to post it here:

Tony PerkinsWhen I was at the Bahari Snacks window today, a young man came up to the window with a receipt and some money. He waited patiently. When he got to the window, he said that his change was wrong. He got back $5 too much!

I asked him if he liked Icees. He said yes so I bought him one. He asked me why I was doing that and I told him that most people aren’t that honest and I thought that was pretty cool.

That boy made my day.

Tony’s last name, by the way, is Perkins.

When it was announced at staff meeting months ago that our new maintenance director was Tony Perkins I immediately formulated a plan to remove his office door and replace it with a shower curtain for his first day at work.

The younger directors looked at me like I was some kind of psycho.

I guess they didn’t catch the meaning of the “eee! eeee! eeee!” screeching sound I made either.

Do me this favor, won’t you? The next time you’re in our Halloween section and the theme from that movie comes on, whisper in a slightly macabre way: Oh, Tony…they’re playing your song. (Originally posted 6/3/08)

Edgar Allan Poe(Added 10/29/11) While blogging about how we named our Raven roller coaster back in 1994, this photo popped up in a Google search.

This is Edgar Allan Poe.

He wrote “Once upon a midnight dreary … ” and the rest of the incredible poem we know as The Raven.

Truth be told, Raven (the poem) was published 150 years before Raven (the coaster) debuted in our Halloween section.

Perhaps I’m a bit too hopped up on Halloween candy to make a fair judgment, but do you notice any similarity between these two dashing gentlemen?

A Halloween tale

Raven Pin | HoliShop

Back in 1994, it was such a thrill to take part in naming our first big roller coaster. We knew it was going to be built in our Halloween section, so there were nearly endless theming ideas.

It turned out to be a rather creepy experience.

The first shivery chill occurred on a very hot day

Will had invited Tim O’Brien to visit during August of 1994 so he could walk the future coaster site with us. Tim was an editor with the now-defunct Amusement Business, so giving him an off-the-record tour and a peek at the design plans was pretty exciting.

Fun, too. Tim’s love of the industry and affection for family-owned parks kept him grinning all day.

As we walked together down the paved path that used to be home of the Santa Claus Land “tour tram,” Will pointed to our left and described in great detail the planned lift hill and first drop to Tim.

My mind wandered a bit as those two geeked out over angles of descent and rates of acceleration.

What in the world will we call this thing? I wondered to myself, grateful for the old-growth trees and the shade they offered.

The Raven's first drop My first thought – I swear – was “The Raven.” Swooping through the thick woods, with a nod to Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem, The Raven would be a simple, memorable name.

I snapped out of my fog when I heard Tim ask Will,

“Have you thought about names yet?”

“Not yet,” he replied. “Any ideas?”

Without missing a beat, Tim offered: “The Raven. There’s no other coaster with that name. It would be a great fit.”

When Will headed back to his office to work on some of Tim’s other suggestions (such as to have the track hug the ground at the bottom of the fifth drop – thanks, Tim!), I grabbed his arm. “Yes! I love the name Raven!”

Back in the mid-’90s, research was a bit more of a grueling process than it is today. I made a trip to the Lincoln Heritage Public Library in Dale (birthplace of Florence Henderson) to get to know Poe a bit more.

Interesting: Abraham Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe were born just a week apart, in February of 1809.

Also of interest, Edgar shares a birthday with Will’s wife, Lori. January 19 is Tim’s birthday, too.

Once settled in at the library, surrounded by stacks of research books, the air took on a sudden chill.

By the time I left the library, I was convinced we shouldn’t dare to name our coaster anything but Raven.

Here’s what I found:

  • The poem “The Raven” was first published in 1845; our coaster by the same name would premiere 150 years later, in 1995.
  • Ravens used to thrive in Indiana. The last sighting of ravens nesting in southern Indiana was in 1894. This was exactly 100 years before construction of The Raven began.
  • The decision to name “The Raven” after the famous poem was exactly 145 years to the day following the death of Edgar Allan Poe.

On May 6, 1995, when we premiered The Raven, little Leah Koch (only five years old at the time) opted out of riding in the very first train at the last minute. As scores of coaster enthusiasts looked hungrily toward that empty seat and then pleadingly toward me, the decision regarding who would fill the empty seat was simple to make.

“This seat is for the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe.”

As the train left the station and climbed the lift hill for the first time … clicking, clicking … we all knew it would thrill riders.



Raven on Media Day 1995

Tim O’Brien, who named Raven, is seated in the very back seat of this first train in the above photo (he’s on the left, wearing sunglasses).

And below is the front of the train for Raven’s First Flight on May 6, 1995. Holiday World’s president Will Koch is in the front seat with Denise Dinn Larrick, the president of the ride’s designer, Custom Coasters (which is no longer in business).

Front of Raven's first train

“The moose at the front gate should have told you…”

You might think that once the front gates close at the end of the season, we don’t see another Guest until the next summer.

Taking a walk through the (mostly) still and silent park will tell you a completely different story though.

During the off-season, we play host to Guests of a different kind.

Often they have four legs instead of two and are quite furry. Some even come with antlers or horns.

Sure, there are the usual rabbits and squirrels that seemingly appear out of every nook and cranny as soon as the human Guests exit. Wait just a few days more, though, and some much larger Guests begin to drop in.

Deer checking out the off-season activity.

Much to my surprise this morning, a golf car ride to the back of the park to photograph Mammoth construction put me smack dab in the middle of a herd of deer.

I was making quite a racket with my gas-powered car sputtering down one of our crunchy gravel service roads. Seeing a fall-leaves photo opportunity I just couldn’t pass up, I came to a stop to get some shots. After a couple clicks of the shutter, I heard some movement in the brambles on the other side of my car.

Well, hello there...As I turned to look, I realized staring right back at me was a pair of big brown eyes and a little set of antlers. 

Was this some kind of joke? Did we get a delivery of Wildebeest look-a-likes to stage around the World’s Longest Water Coaster and somebody set them in the woods as a prank? After a brief pause, locking eye to eye, my friend darted out of the brambles and up the hill toward the Wildebeest.

Nope, definitely not a mascot. Now I realized there were two of them; then two deer quickly doubled to four, and soon this small herd was trying to formulate an exit strategy to get away from me.

With their heads quickly turning left to right and back again it looked like there was an invisible tennis match going on behind me. Finally, my deer friends made their decision and dashed toward the Mammoth construction site.

They must have noticed the "Hard Hats Required" sign because they quickly side-stepped a parked forklift and pranced their way up the road before disappearing into the woods again.

"Oh, deer ... how did we get here?"

It was fun coming face to face with today’s Guests. I only wish they would have stopped long enough for me to i nform them their long-lost relatives no longer lived at the park. – Nathan Ryder, Communications Manager

…Nathan's story about meeting up with these deer reminded me of a story Bill Koch told me long ago.

In the very first years of Santa Claus Land, the park added a Deer Farm. Much hullabaloo was made about the deer's upcoming arrival. Word came at the last minute that the deer would be a few days late; there was no time (this was long before websites, Facebook and Twitter) to advise visitors ahead of time.

Mr. Koch printed flyers that stated, "Oh, dear – No deer!" and handed them out at the entrance, inviting visitors to return on the day of their choice to view the deer free of charge.

The Deer Farm at Santa Claus Land

The first deer to arrive were named Donner, Blitzen, Comet and Cupid. This was in 1948, when the park was just two years old. Eventually there were 14 European white fallow deer.

That's Mrs. Koch's dad, Santa Jim, in the photo. Did you know we have a Facebook page for Santa Jim? We also have a Santa Claus Land page and there's one for the Santa Claus Museum, too. We hope you enjoy these stories and photos as much as we do.

We hold them … um … near and deer to our hearts. – Paula Werne, Director of Communications


Aww … fu-u-u-u-udge!

No, we're not sharing our favorite lines from A Christmas Story

We're hard at work making decisions for 2012.

Pumpkin Pie fudge? Why not?!Um, really.

Yesterday's critical topic of debate was which fudge flavors to add to our line-up for the 2012 introduction of Happy Halloween Weekends.

We take our fudge flavors quite seriously, you see. Lots of research goes into even the tiniest decision.

Pumpkin Pie? Apple Pie? Hmmmm … better take another nibble. Or two.

… plus we can't resist the opportunity to give our staff a little sugar.

Nathan brought a video camera along to the tasting and put together this sweet little video:

Your turn now – what other fudge flavors would be good for next year's Halloween event? I promise to pass along your ideas …

My coaster-crazy kid

It was getting close to bedtime for James last night. My second grader had grabbed a good book and made himself comfortable on Daddy’s side of the bed. (Stories from the good book, actually.)

It seemed a good time to sneak in for a cuddle, so I slipped in on my side and got ready for the uphill climb.

We have one of those “sleep number” beds. My husband, Gary, would be happy sleeping on a rock, so his side is set at 100 (“You sure it won’t go any higher?” he asks me all the time). I prefer a more moderate 45 or 55, so it was a bit of a heave-ho to make it over to James’s side.

I smoothly slid one of my arms under the lad’s head and the other I placed lightly across his belly. Not lightly enough, it turns out.

“Mom…the lapbar is too tight.”

Originally posted 8/20/07
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A “Q” for the loo?

Not true! Not true!

A queue for Sue?

A queue for Drew?

Painting a queue A queue for who?

(Note: that last word really should be "whom," but it doesn’t rhyme. Poetic license.)

A shuttle queue.

For campers who … … (ugh!) whose day is through.

Back to Lake Rudolph, whether RV, cabin or tent.

They’ll line up here, their energy spent.

One last queue after riding all day.

Then hop on the shuttle and drive away.

Originally posted 8/30/07

Procrastination Polka

Okay, so that’s about as dumb a subject line as I’ve ever conjured up …

But if you’ve been dancing around putting off ordering your 2012 Season Passes, yet you want to purchase them at the lowest possible rate … you’ve got till Sunday night to do it.

Sunday night, as in October 9, at 11:59 pm CDT.

The rest of this was first posted on 10/13/07

Once the second hand clicks to Monday, the prices go up.

Bettye, whom you may have met if you’ve stopped by Holiday Foods here in town, already has hers.

She asked me about when they would go on sale a number of weeks ago and I promised (and actually remembered!) to have a flyer mailed to her.

The next time I stopped by for groceries, Bettye happily proclaimed she’d already received her vouchers in the mail.

We ended up laughing so hard, we sort of held up the check-out line

You see, Bettye buys season passes for her family as Christmas presents every year. She told me she’d informed her daughter, "If anything happens to me — the season pass vouchers for you and the grandkids are in the bottom drawer of my nightstand."

Her daughter, of course, was horrified.

"Mom! What do you mean, if anything would happen to you?"

Bettye and I cackled like a couple of hens at the thought of being on our deathbeds and drawing our loved ones near for one final, loving conversation: My darlings, be good to one another and know that I love you. And don’t forget, your season pass vouchers are in the bottom drawer.

A photogenic ‘beest

By any chance were you here on Labor Day Monday?

And did you dare to try to tame the Wildebeest on such a chilly day?

In that case, you just might see (or hear) yourself in this new video, produced for the folks who created Wildebeest – our friends at ProSlide: