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.


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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.

A Day in the Life of an ‘Artist Runner’

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!

TobyMac Meet & Greet

 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!

TobyMac on Stage

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!

StageandAudWide
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!

Want to win tickets? Answer this simple question …

Congratulations to Nathan F. from Atlanta, Georgia, who both provided the correct answer and provided the link to the page on our website with our Downton Abbey-esque photo faux pas.

You see, a few weeks ago, Downton Abbey released some publicity photos and one in particular quickly hit the “bloopers” circuit, because a modern prop was included:

Downton Abbey blooper

Do you see the water bottle on the mantel? Oops.

And so, while updating the information on our website’s Happy Halloween Weekends page, this photo was oddly familiar:

Graveyard Smash at Happy Halloween Weekends

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.
  • Did you know you can subscribe to our HoliBlog so that you receive all of our posts (including contests) by email? If you’re using a desktop computer or tablet, look for the “Subscribe to Blog” sidebar at the top-right corner of this page. On a smartphone? Just scroll down a tiny bit more to find it.

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.

Good luck to all!

Someone’s in the kitchen with Santa

Have you checked out the new Mrs. Klaus’ Kitchen yet?

Holidog at Mrs. Klaus' Kitchen

Holidog is a big fan.

Holidog loves a treat!

… and so is Tabnie from Eyewitness News.

Tabnie and Tammy at Mrs. Klaus' Kitchen

Foods Manager Tammy was happy for the help on a recent morning and gleefully instructed Tabnie in the fine art of “freestyling” dough.

Tammy and Tabnie in Mrs. Klaus' Kitchen

After proofing the dough, it was time to add dots of raspberry and cream-cheese “ornaments” to the pastries.

Tabnie decorating pastries in Mrs. Klaus' Kitchen

Here’s their story, which ran this week on Eyewitness News:

“Sure wish we had smell-a-vision!”

Have you ever wished you could sneak into one of our kitchens to see exactly how we create the treats that make your visit extra special?

Tabnie from Eyewitness News did just that recently.

She and Brian got up close and personal with the staff of the Funnel Cake Factory in our 4th of July section.

Because … Tabnie had a hankering for a Red, White & Blueberry Funnel Cake!

Tabnie wants a funnel cake.

If I remember correctly, in the above photo she’s not giving a cue, she’s placing her order.

Take a look:

Yes, Tabnie, smell-a-vision is definitely an invention whose time has come!

Red, White & Blueberry Funnel CakeMeanwhile, Foods Manager Michael is pretty proud of this concoction, after spending many winter afternoons with our Food & Beverage staff perfecting the recipe. (We won’t even mention all the extra hours spent in the gym, working off all those necessary “tastings.”)

When you see Michael out in the park, please be sure to let him know what you think of this patriotic twist on the tradition funnel cake. We hope you’ll agree it’s a dandy!

Scaredy Cat confidential

Lauren, William, and Leah with the Cat in the Hat

Take a moment with me, and try to think of the most ironic things that could happen to the child of a theme park president.

What if you hated funnel cake or soft pretzels? It’d be a total waste of being born into such a cool circumstance, right?

Now imagine you were afraid of rides. All of the rides.

Crazy, right? It’s absolutely absurd!

Except I actually lived that.

My maiden flight on The Raven may have scarred me a bit. I was four (and tall) when The Raven opened, so I was allowed to ride, according to the design engineers. While riding with my dad, I got a bit spooked, and cowered down in my seat. He changed the height limit after that ride, which was okay by me because I had no desire ever to ride anything ever again. (So an apology to those kiddos just shy of the 48 inch mark: Sorry about ruining your chances to ride earlier in life—it’s for your safety.)

Leah and siblings visited lots of parks growing up.

William, Lauren and Leah (rockin’ that fanny pack!) with zombie friends at Islands of Adventure park.

Anyway, I spent probably five years of my life maxing out my time on the kiddie rides (though that time was up too soon for my liking), then playing Skeeball. If I could only convey the amount of money my parents “invested” in my Skeeball career …

Then one life-changing day when I was about six, my parents persuaded me to ride the Tower of Terror at Walt Disney World’s (then) MGM Studios.

I hated it.

With a deep and burning passion.

It took me forever to stop crying.

On the bright side, Mom got me a commemorative Tower of Terror t-shirt as a badge of honor. On the back it said “I suggest you take the stairs.”

I meant every word of that, and told my friends to take the stairs when they went (as though they were all heading over to Florida the very next week).

It wasn’t until somewhere around the age of ten years old that I finally broke my fear.

At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, I rode Ice on (then) Dueling Dragons (which is now part of the Dragon Challenge –I cannot express the joy when my first steel coaster ever was converted to be part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter—it was only a lifetime dream come true).

Non-scaredy-cats all.

Lauren, William and Leah with the Cat in the Hat. Not a Scaredy Cat in the bunch!

I loved it.

It’s hard to say what changed, but I was so proud of myself for overcoming that fear, and did it riding the outside, which my sister swears is way scarier because you know what’s coming (I thought it was less scary for the same reason).

It was also pretty fun to get to finally ride coasters with my family—and it prepared me for my first ride ever on The Legend with my dad.

So to all you scaredy-cats like me (or parents with scaredy-cat kids), hold on. It could be a bumpy ride getting there, but there’s hope.

I promise.

Probably.

Also, if you’re considering riding the Tower of Terror anytime soon, I no longer suggest you take the stairs.