Last year, Lauren, Michael, and I went to the Golden Ticket Awards for the first time ever. (Well, with the exception of the times Holiday World hosted the event.)
As we were packing our suitcases, we realized we knew next to nothing about these awards.
Okay, so that was a bit dramatic.
We knew a couple facts:
- Mom and Dad always came back from the awards with swag. (By the time the awards were getting big enough that swag was involved, we were too old to call dibs on all of the cool stuff—Mom and Dad got to keep it— but we generally walked away with some Frisbees and pens.) Therefore, we knew we were going to get swag.
- There was a ceremony for presenting the awards. Dad got to come home with a suitcase lined with Lucite.
Now that we have a few of these ceremonies under our belts, I can report what actually happens at the awards:
- Swag. I was right about that.
- There is a ceremony.
- TONS OF COOL STUFF!
But seriously, there are so many activities!
There tend to be some really cool tours and experiences. And more hors d’oeuvres than I should admit to. Let’s be real — if it has “crab-stuffed” somewhere in the title, I’m eating at least six.
Now that I’ve completed my second Golden Ticket Awards experience, I’ve found a certain routine in the craziness of it all.
Obviously we show up based on the schedule and go on every possible tour, and we try to explore the host park as much as possible during the day of the awards. We also tend to max out any ERT (Exclusive Ride Time) we can get.
In the evening, there’s a reception, then dinner, then awards. We always return to the hotel before the real festivities begin.
By the time we get to awards, we’ve exhausted ourselves. This year was no exception. We spent a day in the sun at SeaWorld (and I took home a lovely sunburn as a souvenir — sometimes I take our free sunscreen for granted).
We got to meet dolphins and see the whales and look at sharks. We also had the dead skin eaten off of our hands by what I call “pedicure fish.”
The ceremony is always fun, and we get to celebrate our Cleanliness as well as the awesomeness that is the Wildebeest.
We’re always happy for the other parks’ successes (Except maybe Dollywood — you’re a fierce competitor, Dollywood! Watch out, friends, we’re coming for you!)
This year, though, we had a new category to celebrate. We didn’t win, but we were ranked the #10 park in the world. Splashin’ Safari is (again) the #2 water park on the planet.
— Holiday World (@HolidayWorld) September 7, 2014
I can’t even begin to describe the pride of seeing our name among Disney parks, Cedar Point, Europa-Park (congratulations for snagging top honors, by the way!), and so many other world-class parks. Along with that swelling pride comes the realization that there are many huge and remarkable parks don’t make that top ten list.
Honestly, I pinch myself a little bit every year we win the Cleanest Park award and then Wildebeest wins #1 Waterpark Attraction. When I see our water park ranked second to Schlitterbahn, I continue to pinch myself. We beat out Disney’s incredible water parks. More pinching; I’m getting bruised …
A part of my personal routine for the Golden Ticket Awards now is to take a moment to let myself be impressed by what my family built, and that I get to be lucky enough to get to continue to be a part of it all.
After the ceremony and the reception following (and after we text Paula our wooden coaster rankings — don’t ask about The Legend, I’m not ready to talk about it yet), we start my favorite part of our routine.
Matt, Mom, Lauren, Michael, and I start analyzing. We start trying to figure out what we can do to win the title of Friendliest Park back (we’re #2). We start talking about our ideas for our master plan, and how each piece of our plan can move us closer to other awards.
The conversation moves past the awards quickly, though, and ends in a conversation about how we’re going to challenge ourselves to be better each year.
So what if you were sitting around the table with us – what would you suggest? Please post below – we’re always interested in your feedback!