Service: more than a cornerstone

2017 Veterans

At Holiday World, we have four cornerstones: Safety, Service, Cleanliness, and Friendliness.

Today, we’re thinking about one of those cornerstones just a bit differently.

Service.

More specifically, we wanted to take a moment to honor those on our staff who have served in the military.

Continuing with a tradition here at the park, it was time to get a photo of our veterans to share. This year, I got to take that picture.

When I asked them to put their hands at their sides for the photo, at least one started searching for the seam on his jeans to properly stand at attention.

The Armed Forces are well-represented here. Our veterans have 35 years of service between them.

2017 Veterans

Our veterans from left to right:

  • Elmer, one of our Maintenance Technicians, served 3 years in the Army
  • Korey, one of our Painters, served 4 years in the Navy
  • Josh, one of our Roller Coaster Maintenance Technicians, served 4 years in the Marine Corp
  • John, our Director of Safety & Security, served 16 years in the Coast Guard
  • Billy (not pictured), one of our Maintenance Technicians, served 8 years in the Army.

Thank you to these – and all other veterans – for their service to our country.

A Frightful restoration

Frightful Falls Boat After Painting

Note: The title of this post refers to the name of the ride in question, not the quality of the work!

Yesterday, I found myself taking the short walk over to the Paint Shop to get an update on “boats.” Since it’s almost the middle of October, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

One of the logs from Frightful Falls is being restored.

I snapped a picture to serve as a “before” shot and returned this morning for the “after.”

Look at how much progress our painters made in just a few hours!

Before & After:

Frightful Falls Boat Before Painting
Frightful Falls Boat After Painting

The work isn’t quite finished; “boat restoration” can take up to four days.

Is Frightful Falls still open? Yes, as long as the temperature is at least in the 60s (which hasn’t been a problem this fall).

Only three weekends remain for Happy Halloween Weekends this year – we hope you can join us! Best ticket deals are online: Just $33.99 each for Saturday and $29.99 for Sunday and even less for Guests-under-54″ and Seniors (60+).

Get lost (on purpose!)

Holidog in Corn Maze

Check out this HoliDrone photo:

Holidog in Corn Maze

At first, I didn’t believe it was a real photo. It had an almost-too-perfect quality that made me think it was a computer-generated image.

The Activity Trail that’s been set up for Happy Halloween Weekends includes two corn mazes (both are available at no additional charge). I’d never been in one before, so I jumped at the chance to explore one. Full disclosure: I may have lost my way in the middle of the maze, but I still conquered it and would do it again.

First of all, let’s tell you how to get there: There are two different ways you can get to our corn mazes from Hyena Falls Plaza. We have a path set up between the plaza and the mazes, so you’re free to simply walk over to them. We also have a hay ride you can take. You’ll come across our hand-painted round hay bales on the trip. (Have you seen the time-lapse video of Kitty Claws being painted?)

Our mazes are scare-free as well, so the whole family can enjoy them.

You Corn Do It With These Tips!

Thank you to Lori, one of our Attractions Managers, for helping me put this list together to help solve our maize!

  1. Wear comfortable clothes. Our corn mazes cover 12 acres, so you’ll be walking quite a bit. Having comfortable shoes and a light sweater or jacket on a cooler day might not seem like a necessity at first, but you’ll be glad you have them if you’re in the maze for a while.
  1. Stay hydrated. We’re the park that’s known for having free drinks, so don’t pass that up right before you make your way into one of our mazes. We have cups of water available at the entrance. If you have a souvenir cup, you’re free to take that into the maze with you.
  1. Decide which maze is best. We have a large and a small maze. Take your pick! If you’ve never been in a corn maze before or you’re venturing in with children, our smaller maze might be best. If you’re in it for the long haul or already a corn maze pro, the larger maze is perfect for you.
  1. Holiday World logo in Corn MazePlan yourMazed and Confused Station escape route. One of the first things you’ll do in our large maze is come to a huge opening in the corn field. If you looked straight up and waved, a HoliDrone or a satellite image would show you standing right in the middle of the Holiday World logo (top photo). Take a minute to identify what one of our Mazed & Cornfused stations looks like (bottom photo), since you should immediately spot one (more on what those are in a minute) and plan your preferred escape route!
  1. Keep everyone together. Think navigating a corn maze is tricky enough on its own? Try tracking down a group member who got separated without losing your place. That being said, if you have a large group, you can always break into smaller groups and see which group solves the maze faster.
  1. Maintain your sense of adventure. Don’t let any defeat or backtracking get you down. You’ll probably get turned around at some point and not know where you are. I did. Try using references outside of the maze to get a sense of where you are. You can look (or listen) for Thunderbird to try to get yourself situated or use a high-point in the maze to look for the nearest Mazed & Cornfused station.
  1. Don’t panic! If you truly do feel like you’ve become disoriented or lost in the maze and want out, we have employees who will help. Find the nearest Mazed & Cornfused station and pull the rope on it to raise the flag. One of our employees will meet you shortly.

The Fastest Escape Route

Now that you know what it takes to become a corn-maze pro, here’s a time-lapse video showing you the fastest route through the maze from start to finish.

Thanks for getting lost with me – hope you’ll soon be outstanding in our field! (Best discounts are online, with Saturday tickets just $33.99 and Sunday’s only $29.99!)

 

Spot-on fun

Thunderbird Commercial Shoot

It wasn’t just those beautiful Thunderbird trains flying around the skies of Thanksgiving this week.

Thunderbird commercial shoot

That’s right. One of those new-fangled drones was hovering, equipped with a camera (plus two licensed/certified flyers).

Because it’s commercial-shooting time around here!

Thunderbird commerical shoot

Thunderbird was in fine form and Mother Nature cooperated most of the time.

And the riders had a blast.

The drone camera wasn’t the only video-collecting contraption on site. Back in Thunderbird’s station, it looked a little bit like a Hollywood sound stage.

Thunderbird commerical shoot

Our new TV commercial (or “spot” if you want to sound like you’re in the biz) will be on the air in just a few weeks.

In the meantime, here’s our current “Meet Thunderbird” spot:

Want to ride Thunderbird this weekend? Click here for e-tickets at a special discounted rate of just $28.99 each. Don’t be late for launch!

A very Brady coaster

There’s no denying, Thunderbird is getting a lot of love and attention this fall.

It’s the new coaster on the block, and there’s lots of interest in how construction is coming along. (Spoiler alert: it’s coming along really, really well – stay tuned for more next week. Maybe even watch the Thunderbird ConstructionCams. On Monday.)

And so, the “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” wail from Jan Brady echoes in my head.

Keeping in mind that we’re already planning two more Hard Hat Chronicles in the next two weeks – both about Thunderbird – we just had to first turn our attention (and cameras) over to our other favorite children.

Because we love them all equally.

The Voyage gets an early Christmas present, delivered by a crane.

The Voyage is thankful for this new sprocket

What is it?

A sprocket.

A 1,400-pound sprocket. Normally, it’s located just past the top of the lift hill. The lift chain wraps around it.

So it’s very important.

Out with the old; in with the new.

Voyage's new (and old) sprocket

The Legend gets some track work …

Track work on The Legend

And, The Raven scores some off-season maintenance, too (did you catch the pun? hint: Raven is 20 years old in 2015):

The Raven gets some track work, too

Want to know more? Of course you do … so here’s a Wooden Coaster Hard Hat Chronicles:

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Now more than ever, it’s a very special holiday for us all.

A hard-hat tour for 14News

Deanna from 14News in Evansville is an early riser.

She sort of has to be; it’s her job.

We met up with VP James at 5am to check out what goes on here during the off-season.

First in the Maintenance Shop …

James and Deanna in our Maintenance Shop

Our Turkey Whirl turkey sure looks happy to be on camera. Or maybe just to be inside and warm. (We had snow flurries last night. Already!)

Next we stopped by our Paint Shop …

How’s this for a unique setting? Deanna is swimming with the seahorses:

Deanna and the seahorses

At long last, the sun came up and we headed down the hill to the Thunderbird construction site for one last hit. (That’s TV talk.)

James and Deanna, with Kirk on camera and Thunderbird in the background

James told me earlier he’d been dreaming of heading up construction of a roller coaster since he was a wee lad of just eight years old. He wrote a letter to a designer – and received a reply! That letter is now framed and hanging in James’s office.

Not that he’s in his office all that often; James has too many fun things to attend to out in the park.

This morning, James revealed that approximately 75 percent of Thunderbird’s track is now in place. At last count, 57 of the 77 track elements were in place (that number may have increased over the past few hours).

Take a look here to see Deanna’s reports.

Here’s a reminder that Season Passes are at their best prices right now ($20/month with Easy Pay) through Saturday night at midnight. The big perk for 2015 (besides that whole thing about being able to visit every day we’re open to the public and all) is that we will hold a Season Passholders’ Thunderbird Preview Night – five full hours of rides – the night before we open to the public. Orange you glad we thought of that?

Carved for attention

When asked to carve a pumpkin this week, I was borderline inappropriately excited. It’s probably been ten years since my last pumpkin-carving, which is far too long.

Pumpkins carved by Will Koch

There’s nothing like carving a pumpkin to get you in the Halloween spirit. (This is coming from a girl who just spent the last six weekends dressing up in full costume and makeup to be a ghost)

And when I found out I was going to be carving my sister coaster’s logo, I was especially pumped.

As we gathered to begin carving, Lauren and I started on a trip down memory lane. Especially when Paula mentioned that Halloween used to be her most nervous time of the year … because of my father.

Lauren and Leah, ready to carve

Lauren and Leah, ready to carve

Dad had an unfortunate habit of cutting himself at some point in the carving process. Generally during the cutting-the-pumpkin-top phase (rarely while carving intricate designs).

Band-aids were just part of his fall “look.”

He even had to get stitches a few times.

Bottom line, though, Dad had a knack for carving one heck of a pumpkin.

As children, we used to pick out the stencils for him to carve. And we totally picked out the hardest ones we could find, just to see if he could do it.

He’d accept the challenge and we’d all get to work. My siblings and I worked on very simple ones (though as I got older I started to try my hand at the more advanced ones — and wasn’t half bad, if I do say so myself).

So, when we arrived to carve our pumpkins earlier this week, I had high hopes of honoring my father’s proud tradition.

Instead I was met with a challenge far beyond my skill set. (Seriously! Look at The Legend‘s logo! It’s got those tiny branches that didn’t happen, all kinds of squiggly letters, and the world’s tiniest jack-o-lantern head!)

Sorry, Dad.

Additionally, I’m really bad at anything crafty. Like Pinterest “Nailed It” bad. It’s just not my thing. Dancing? Photography? Playing instruments? Sure! Ask me to paint a picture, though, and I will simply laugh. The only way there will ever be a canvas filled with something beautiful of my own creation is if it’s a photo (and if it’s beautiful, it was probably sheer dumb luck).

Matt and Barbie, carving pumpkins

Matt and Barbie, carving pumpkins

So I walked into our carving session with Lauren and Barbie (both of whom are craft warriors), knowing that even though there was no judging, The Legend pumpkin would be the loser.

… which was especially difficult because I’m ridiculously competitive (a trait I got from my father).

Luckily, Matt did all the trash talking and I went about my carving which in the end received rave reviews such as:

It’s better than Matt’s!” General Consensus

It could have been worse!” Lauren Koch Crosby, Sister, Director of Theming, Pumpkin Carving Critic

It’s not as bad as you think!” Ashley Satterfield, Special Events Manager

I thought it said…. ‘Lasagna.’” –My cousin Kelli

Leah's Legend pumpkin

Leah’s Legend pumpkin

So tonight I may consider one more pumpkin-carving mission.

But it won’t be another Legend logo.

… and why do I get the feeling this will now be criteria for all new logo designs here at the park: Yes, but is it carvable on a pumpkin?

 

Into the woods with Thunderbird

So how is Thunderbird construction coming along?

We’re ready to go vertical!

Coasters of the Corn

Let’s take a closer look.

In this episode of the Hard Hat Chronicles, James takes us into the woods and explains one big commonality Thunderbird will have with its Holiday World siblings.

Do you have any questions for James to consider answering in an upcoming episodes? Please post them here and maybe he’ll give you a shout-out in the coming weeks and months.

The Secret: How we kept it

It’s been a little more than a month since our announcement for 2015, and I’m still in shock that we managed to keep this massive project under wraps. And I’m even more in shock that our fans just loved that we kept the secret.

Frankly, we were all braced for people to discover it two days out.

We decided if that happened, it would be okay. After all, we still had an awesome teaser video to reveal.

Two days out, though, a message popped up in Paula’s Facebook inbox: Someone had found our trademark application. He admitted it took him a long time to find. But he found it.

The jig was up.

Then he added something we didn’t expect: He didn’t want to spoil the secret. He just wanted to let us know he had uncovered it.

So when Announcement Day came, and almost everybody was still in the dark, we were bewildered, but proud. It was wonderful to see the fruits of our undercover labor pay off so well.

Now that everyone knows, they still can’t believe how we kept this secret.

So I thought I’d explain the many steps we took to keep the Thunderbird under the cover of night:

The Cone of Silence

We kept the secret on a need-to-know basis. And when the need to know came, we literally told each individual they were being brought “into the cone.”

I kind of wish I was kidding.

As a group, our full-time staff didn’t know until the morning of the announcement. Our seasonal employees found out along with the general public (with the exception of a select few in Warehouse who innocently opened a box of Thunderbird key chains, and then got a free lecture about keeping quiet).

We took no chances.

The workers on the construction site only knew their individual piece of the puzzle (meaning the folks pouring concrete knew where to pour concrete and how much, but did not know what was happening above those footers).

Leah's Inbox

This is what my inbox looked like for several months.

Code Name: BT

Nobody spoke the word Thunderbird out loud, except in hushed tones – and rarely – behind closed doors.

We also never uttered these words: steel, wing, launch, or coaster.

We did discuss in slightly less-hushed tones “Big Turkey” or “BT” or “BT-15” (Big Turkey was our placeholder name before we landed on Thunderbird).

This included contractors. VP James made it very clear that they were never to use the real name or ride type, only BT or BT-15.

Even the launch room became the lunch room (which became the jerky room – if you want to understand that jump, ask James).

Hiding in Plain Sight

We knew from experience (and watching other parks) that roller coaster enthusiasts would search for our trademark application. We considered applying for three or four different names, so no one would be quite sure which name would prevail. Ultimately, we decided that we needed to apply for the trademark under another company. Thus Croatan LLC was born in my name, with the address of our trademark lawyer’s office in Evansville (if you want to understand why I chose Croatan, look up the story of the lost colony of Roanoke—it’s fascinating). Croatan LLC almost flew under the radar (get it?).

Of course, now that I’ve shared this, we’ll have to be even sneakier next time.

B&M? What’s that?

Every box, every document, every label, every scrap of paper with those letters was shredded, hidden, and burned (not really) by VP James. He actually filled his car’s trunk with labels from the boxes when our anchor bolts arrived. He also stripped our documents of any trace of those two letters before submitting anything for permits.

I’m pretty sure his job became a lot easier on July 25.

From left: Tony, Eric, Alison, James, Steve, Leah, Lauren, Lori, Matt

Clermont’s Clever Codes

We got to visit Clermont Steel in Cincinnati to see our coaster being manufactured. They have their own system of coding, just in case some coaster enthusiasts wanted to go sneaking around after hours.

I wouldn’t dare share what our code was.

Clermont and B&M were great about keeping the secret.

VP Eric's selfie at Clermont Steel

Since we had pushed manufacturing up ahead of schedule, they ran out of room to store our steel, but they were very respectful of our secret and made do until we made our announcement.

On our visit back in May, VP Eric took tons of pictures, which he promptly put in a Dropbox folder which he shared with us, and immediately deleted from his phone.

I, on the other hand, took a few photos and set a code on my phone (which I never do) just in case it fell into the wrong hands.

VP James even took a selfie with another park’s coaster—next to the lift hill piece of course—just to cover his tracks (ha—get it?).

Immediately following the announcement (well, after the congratulations and interviews were over), I posted my coaster selfie and another track photo on my Facebook page. I was so excited to post at last!

Now that all is said and done, I hope I can soon start saying “Thunderbird” out loud without experiencing a small anxiety attack.