The Legend of the Thunderbird

After the most amazing new-ride announcement we could have asked for, some people are a bit confused. They like the fact that we’re getting a steel coaster, but they don’t get how Thunderbird belongs in Holiday World. Especially in our Thanksgiving section.

The Voyage is easily the best name. It’s simple. It tells a story in a word.

But that name was already taken.

So we had to start getting creative. Really creative.

When I first heard the name Thunderbird, like some others, I cringed a bit. I didn’t see the fit.

But I started researching. And researching. And it began to make perfect sense.

Did you know that Thunderbird is a part of Native American lore? I find it fascinating that across North America, many Native American tribes believed in the Thunderbird, but had different names for it.

Did you know that there have been sightings of the mysterious bird as recently as last October in Iowa? There apparently was a picture of one, stretched on a barn door in the 1960s, but no one can locate it.

We now embrace the name. We call Thunderbird the “Sasquatch of the Sky.” (Another fun fact: my dad loved my mom’s Toyota Sequoia because he thought it was such a powerful name. “Kinda like Sasquatch,” he used to say. He always wanted an SUV named Sasquatch, but I think he’d like this secretive little tribute as well.)

According to legend, Thunderbird has a wingspan of approximately 20 feet. The bird flaps its wings to create thunder and shoots lightning out of its eyes.

Paula already knew that the Pilgrims had endured terrible storms at the end of their journey, and we began to wonder.

What if the storms would have knocked the Pilgrims off course? What if they never made it? What if they were never intended to land where they planned? What if those storms were actually somehow what ensured the Pilgrims arrived at the New World? What if the Thunderbird saved them?

What if the Thunderbird, after hundreds of years in hiding, came to Holiday World?

We began to develop the story. If our coaster is the Thunderbird, and the Thunderbird helped the Pilgrims, then couldn’t humans and Thunderbird coexist at some point?

Thunderbird stationWhy will you be in a barn that looks nothing like what the Pilgrims would have built? (Other than the fact that we wanted a beautiful station building and that architecture at the time was simple—even at its fanciest?)

The Thunderbird eventually found his way to southern Indiana, mystically connected with the 66 Days At Sea journal that had been lovingly preserved for centuries by the descendents of the Pilgrim mother who had kept daily account of her experience on board the Mayflower. One descendent, a farmer, was fascinated by Thunderbird’s power and grace and tried to harness him. But as you can see by the scorch marks and the holes in the barn, this majestic creature cannot be tamed.

We inherited the farmer’s barn and property, and only recently discovered a wooden box buried near The Voyage. It seems our farmer chose not to pass along the journal to the next generation in the hope of sparing his descendents the challenge of sharing the land with the unbridled energy of the Thunderbird. When we opened the wooden box and found the journal, we now realize we unleashed the powerful creature to rule the skies once again. Thunderbird nests in the barn and in our woods.

He is home here.

We’ll ride our new coaster on the wings of the Thunderbird, because he is now more familiar with humans and is willing to show us a glimpse into its world.

He will take you on an amazing journey. (Fascinating fact: According to legend, the Thunderbird was warned not to fly too close to the trees, as he would fly so fast, he wouldn’t be able to stop in time to avoid them. We’ll make sure that doesn’t happen!)

We hope you’ll come to love Thunderbird as much as we do.


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Park pals

One of the many excellent side benefits of working in the amusement industry is the friendships formed from park to park.

Those who don’t work in our industry often assume we have some sort of cutthroat thing going on, but that’s just not so. Sure, we’re competitors, but we also wish each other only the best and cheer for each other as we all grow.

Receiving well-wishes from Jeffrey at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Tony at Cedar Point, David at IAAPA and David at ACE was sweet icing on the cake yesterday. So when Tony teased us on Twitter, we sent some fun right back:

Emotions run high …

… when someone you don’t even know can bring tears to your eyes.

This was posted last night on ThemeParkReview, a forum for roller coaster enthusiasts:

I can’t believe it has been 66 days since this all started. Everyday but the past two hours have felt like forever and now those 66 days seem to have flown by. It’s wonderful to see so many guests and members viewing this thread for a “little park in the middle of a cornfield.”

I am very excited for tomorrow but it’s an odd excitement. Usually for Christmas, the feeling of excitement is pared with wondering if you got that new toy or gadget or if you got a few pairs of socks (again). This excitement isn’t like that at all. This excitement is not caring what’s under the tree but, instead, is an excitement where just getting something is the best part of all!

Seriously, it could be socks and I’d still want to wear holes in them.

All will be revealed this evening starting at 8:15pm CDT: Please join us!

A few final hints …

I woke up this morning nervous. It was kind of a combination of day-of-final-exams anxiety and Christmas morning excitement.

Announcement Day is [almost] here, and we can [almost] stop talking in hushed tones everywhere we go.


But I know that one more day for us means one more day of agony for the Holiday World lovers of the world. So, I’ve decided to be one of those “cool parents” who lets their kids open just a present or two before Christmas.

I’m giving you clues. More than ever. All in one post.

I asked every member of our executive management team to provide a clue (as well as some of my family members).

I had kind of been thinking one-or-two-sentence clues, but Matt would provide a short story instead of a few sentences.

President Matt says, “Master Planning is one of the super cool things about our job. Looking into the future and deciding what our Guests really want and actually delivering that makes our day. We have done that year after year. We also love to get suggestions from our folks here at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. For example, Paula Werne, our Director of Communications, for years wanted an attraction that we could name the Wildebeest. That was delivered in 2010. [Paula’s triumphant note: I wore ’em down!] Our Guests have long been asking for a Swinging Ship in Thanksgiving. The Mayflower set sail here in 2014. Eric Snow, our Vice President of Marketing is practically begging for a Birds of Prey show. Yeah, not happening. I think this year’s delivery will make him forget about his request.”

VP of Support Services Alison Montee says, “Bellyaching and moaning won’t get you any closer to announcement time” in her own inimitable style.

VP of Sales, Marketing, and Entertainment Eric Snow says, “Still wanting that birds of prey show.”

VP of Operations Chris Kearsing provided this nugget: “My clue was in the title. Try misspelling Bastille.”

Assistant VP of Operations (and former water park director) Lori Gogel told me to tell you that this will be, “One mammoth of an announcement.”

VP of Project Management James Olliver says, “I’ll get you a clue as soon as I finish up these 22 million other tasks on my list.”

My brother William says, “I always wanted a younger brother.”

Lauren and Leah at the 2013 Golden Ticket AwardsLauren and Leah at the 2013 Golden Ticket AwardsLauren and Leah at the 2013 Golden Ticket AwardsLauren and Leah at the 2013 Golden Ticket Awards

Lauren, my sister, provided this gem: “They usually keep me in the loop for this sort of thing … guess I need to catch up on reading my emails.”

My mom, Lori, added, “I’m too busy mocking the birds of prey show to think of a clue.”

My clue:  “Ich glaube, dass dieser Schlüssel auf deutsch sein soll. (Es tut mir Leid. Ich habe Deutsch leider nicht für ein Jahr gesprochen.)  Unsere Entwerfer entwarf unsere Projekt in einem deutschsprachigen Land. Leider gibt es viele gute Entwerfer in deutschsprachiges Ländern. Man soll erinnern, dass es groß ist. Sehr groß. Es ist auch einzigartig. Das ist alles! Haben Sie Spaß mit Google Translate!”

Please join us (or tune in to stream the announcement) shortly after 8:00pm Thursday for all the fun. After all, it’ll be Christmas Eve in July!

Servers, don’t fail us now!

We’ve been playfully teasing Hal at DBS>Interactive about making sure-sure-sure the servers are ready for tomorrow’s announcement.

… because a whole lotta folks will be tuning in to watch.

We like DBS for their exceptional web design work. We love them for their sense of humor:

Be sure to join us at 8:15pm CDT tomorrow/Thursday for the pre-announcement fun, including some real-time polls.

The announcement will follow at 8:30pm CDT. Here’s the direct link:

Thanks to everyone for playing along these past 66 Days – it’s been a shipload of fun!