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.
What is it?
A 1,400-pound sprocket. Normally, it’s located just past the top of the lift hill. The lift chain wraps around it.
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 …
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:
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 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).
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?
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
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!)
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
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
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?
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).
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.
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.
When you work at a theme park, job titles and job descriptions can change rapidly on any given day. Normally, my title is Communications Coordinator, but last Saturday it was “Artist Runner” during our annual Rock the World event.
When I agreed to be an artist runner earlier this month, I was told my job would be to run errands for the artists and their crews throughout the day.
So basically my day would include:
Driving artists and their crews
Enjoying the Rock the World Main Stage Concerts
And having access to the catering tent throughout the day
Sounded like a great day to me! And my initial thought was not wrong ….
My morning consisted of running the bus drivers, who had been driving through the night, to their hotels so they could get some rest. Nothing too crazy.
The real excitement began just as the storm started to move in late in the afternoon. Along with one of my fellow artist runners, Scott, I was given the task to take TobyMac and a couple of his band members to Kringle’s Banquet Hall for his Meet & Greet session.
They just managed to hop in the Jeep right as the rain decided to let loose. From the moment he got in the car, Toby chatted with us about his son’s football game which he had attended earlier in the day. I could tell immediately he was quite the Proud Poppa … especially when he told everyone in the car his son’s team had won.
My favorite moment of this short trip came right before we dropped him off at the door to the Meet & Greet. Of course, talking about his son’s football game led the discussion further into favorite NFL teams. Being from Nashville, he is Titans fan (rivals of the Indianapolis Colts – our favorite team). And as he got out of the Jeep, he ended our discussion with a funny crack at us being Colts fans.
Look at that grin – he’s probably still chuckling about his joke!
I guess all that talk about football worked up an appetite for him and his crew because shortly after we returned from the Meet & Greet, I received a message that two of us needed to deliver some pizza to TobyMac and his crew.
When we picked up the order, I was amazed when we were handed nine huge pizzas plus an order of hot wings – enough food to feed 80 people. Boy, those crew members sure can eat!
Guess it gave them the extra boost of energy they needed to rock the show!
The best part of my day came during TobyMac’s last song of the night when a couple dozen park employees were asked to go up on stage and toss glow-in-the-dark beach balls into the crowd.
When it came time for me to throw my ball into the crowd, I moved to the front of the stage and gave it my best volleyball serve.
As I turned to move back, TobyMac stuck his arm out for me to take and we did a dance around the stage. It was definitely the highlight of my “artist running” experience!
What an amazing day!
Together, all of us Rocked the World!
Do you have suggestions for which Christian Rock artists you’d like to see headline our Rock the World main stage on August 22, 2015? Please provide your ideas and feedback by completing our quick Rock the World survey by September 10. Thanks!
Oh, my. Time to crop that photo – but we had to poke a little fun at ourselves first.
Thanks to all who entered – and congratulations to Nathan, who receives two one-day tickets for this season.
Well, maybe it’s not all that simply, but here goes: “How is Holiday World like Downton Abbey?”
The answer is somewhere here on our website. Simply post your answer as a comment to this HoliBlog post and you could win a pair of tickets.
A few rules:
You must be at least 18 years old to enter.
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari employees (and the immediate family members of employees) are not eligible to enter.
Have you won tickets from us in the past six months? Please wait half a year before entering again – let’s give others a chance to win, too.
There is one very specific correct answer to this question (hint: it’s not in a news release or in any other textual content). You’re welcome to enter more than once.
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How to enter? Click on “Leave a comment,” below, and post the correct (and specific) answer plus the page of our website that provided you with the answer. The first person to correctly answer wins a pair of one-day tickets to use in 2014. (Please don’t include any personal information, we’ll email you if you win.)
By the way, our blog comments are moderated – but as long as your guess is HoliFriendly, it will appear soon.
… and, we’ll add a hint each day until someone wins.