I officially joined the team at Holiday World on the 12th.
Well, I suppose that statement needs a bit of clarification.
My first day in the Communications Department was on Monday, June 12th. My first day running rides in Rudolph’s Reindeer Ranch was on Saturday, August 12th.
After volunteering to help our Rides team, I had a one-on-one training with our Director of Attractions, Eric Rentz. As a long-time podcast listener, it’s still strange to talk to people that I feel like I know, even though I’ve only actually seen them in person a handful of times. Eric is one of those people. He walked me through everything I needed to know about safely running an attraction. I got my own copy of the Attractions Handbook, and we went through it start to finish. I learned all of the hand signals I would need to know, proper loading procedures on rides, checking restraints, and scanning my ride before and during operation. As a card-carrying coaster enthusiast, it was fascinating to learn all of the insider procedures.
After our training I’d mentioned that I might write a blog post about my experience, Eric said he’d like to read it. No pressure, right?
Just as we were winding down at Reindeer Games, the park gates opened for the day and the Ranch immediately sprang to life. Unlike most attractions in Holiday World, Rudolph’s Reindeer Ranch opens as soon as the front gates do. Our smallest Guests are clearly some of the most eager to ride! Matt stayed with me during the first few Reindeer-Games-with-Guests cycles. Any nervous energy I had immediately subsided.I came into the park at 8am on Saturday to finish up my training. A few cars were already in the parking lot, but the park itself was nearly empty. I made my way through the Christmas plaza and down the steps into the Ranch to meet up with one of our Rides Supervisors, Matt, who coached me on operating Rudolph’s Roundup and Reindeer Games.
Then it was my turn to take over.
I had a list of safety checks that had to be made each time before starting my ride – you quickly develop a rhythm. You can’t stay robotic when you’re face to face with a new set of kids every couple of minutes who are smiling from ear to ear, asking for help getting settled into their seat, and quickly making their way out the exit gate and right back in line to ride your attraction again. I felt like I had the most popular ride in the Ranch for a while! There was a crowd watching from both sides of the tower, with adults snapping pictures and listening to the small voices squeal as the ride bounced back to the ground. As I helped one little guy out of his seat, he looked at me and exclaimed “Best. Day. Ever.” He took his shoes and ran back to mom who was waiting just outside the exit gate.
Something I hadn’t thought of before-hand was my proximity to all those little swinging feet. From my coaster enthusiast days, I recall ride operators asking guests to not kick while they were checking restraints or standing further away than normal and leaning in to check restraints. Turns out a single kick from a kid isn’t something that’s immediately noticed or causes any pain. If you stack a handful of kicks every couple of minutes over the course of a few hours … Well. More on that in a minute.
Before I knew it, my time at Reindeer Games had come to an end. It was lunch time and when I came back, I would be heading over to Rudolph’s Roundup for the rest of the day.
Rudolph’s Roundup inherently caters to a younger crowd because of the height requirements and was perfect way to wind down the afternoon. The operations were a bit slower since I needed to help some kids get up into their sleighs. Some needed a little bit of help with their seat belts. Others were very independent and didn’t want any help. It was fun to watch some of them focus so intently on getting their own seat belts fastened before they’d let me check. With lines having calmed a bit in the afternoon, I also had the option to extend the ride time. With the push of a button on my control panel I could add about 15 seconds to the ride cycle. It might not seem like much, but since the kids seemed to be having a great time, it seemed like the least I could do. It was hard to watch them without smiling as they flew by me in their sleighs.
I want to end this blog post with a shout out to our Rides and Maintenance crews for the work they do day in and day out. I may have only helped for part of a single day, but it completely wiped me out. These crews keep Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari running all season long, in all kinds of temperatures. All the kicks from those little feet resulted in me needing to go home and kick my own feet up that evening. I had a newfound appreciation for my nice desk job on Monday when I came back to work. I didn’t get kicked a single time.