P.A.S.S. me that extinguisher

Fire extinguisher training

Anyone driving by Holiday World at lunchtime today probably wondered what sort of tribal ritual we were performing.

A tall man with a flaming torch lit a fire a pan of gasoline and water in the Raven Parking Lot. And we were all lined up (in a circle, actually) so that one by one we could put the fire out with an extinguisher.

Fire extinguisher training

COOL!

It isn’t exactly on the top of my list of WhatIWantToAccomplishInMyLifeBeforeI’mEighty … but I must admit I’ve always wanted to try out a fire extinguisher.

How convenient to be able to do it without the requisite raging fire, scalding heat, and collapsing buildings.

I was always the obnoxious kid at school who volunteered to go first in Speech Class. So, why change now? (Plus it was starting to rain.)

The key, my friends, is P.A.S.S.:

P = Pull. Pull the pin out. (Don’t squeeze the handle yet, though.)
A = Aim. Easy enough. Aim at the base of the fire.
S = Squeeze. The squeezing part was much easier than I’d expected.
S = Sweep. No, they’re not telling you to sweep up the cinders; it’s the motion of your arm as you move the direction of the hose to quickly extinguish the fire.

Our controller, Matt, heckled me, “Hey, Paula! Is this HoliBloggable?”

Yes, Matt; it is. But please don’t ever say HoliBloggable again!
___
Would you like to receive HoliBlog notices – along with news releases and sweepstakes – by email? Sign up here and you can choose whether to receive the emails weekly or the same day the blog posts are published. Thank you!

Up, up and away!

Unpainted water tower

It’s noisier than usual this spring.

There’s a giant contraption being assembled right across the street in our Legend parking lot.

And it looks like a hot-air balloon:

Unpainted water tower

Actually, it’s a new water tower. Our very own.

That massive sphere will hold half a million gallons. That a lot of H-2-O!

Will Koch likes to refer to the water tower as our “insurance policy.” If a water main in the area would break, we would be able to use our own reserve. Wouldn’t have to close the park and hang up a “Sorry, No Water Today” sign.

This isn’t, of course, a new ride.

But we’re all still pretty excited about our water tower

Meanwhile, a special crew works daily at assembling that monstrosity. If you look closely, you’ll see a welder at work.

Once in a while, we hear a sudden “BOOM!” that has a movie-like echoing sound to it. Each time, I can’t help but glance out the window to make sure the orb-a-plenty hasn’t pulled loose of its moorings and is heading our way.

The pieces, over the next month, will be painted the happy Holiday World colors. Then two huge cranes will lift the “ball” into place.

I just may post from home that day.
___
Would you like to receive HoliBlog notices – along with news releases and sweepstakes – by email? Sign up here and you can choose whether to receive the emails weekly or the same day the blog posts are published. Thank you!

First flight

Second Raven train

The second train at The Raven is feeling right at home.

Second Raven train

You guessed it — Raven Red!

Originally (back in 1994), I was in favor of a black train, since ravens are that color. But the red is so stunning, especially once the trees leaf out; it was definitely the right choice.

Four more weeks till Opening Day.

For all of us, they’ll just fly by!
___
Would you like to receive HoliBlog notices – along with news releases and sweepstakes – by email? Sign up here and you can choose whether to receive the emails weekly or the same day the blog posts are published. Thank you!

Raven sighting

Just pulled into my parking space and saw, off in the woods, The Raven flying by. It’s roller-coaster testing time.

The train is empty, of course.

But still, what a glorious sight! And the click-click-click sound as the train ascends the lift hill is music to my ears!

We’re adding a second train to The Raven this season. I’m not sure if it’s here yet, but I’ll find out and will let you know.

With the addition of the second train, all sorts of safety contraptions have been added. That’s what they’re deep into roller-coaster testing. In a nutshell, there will always be a set of brakes between the trains. It’s a good system.

We had quite a discussion regarding whether the second train should be “Raven Red” or a different color.

I’ll wait to tell you until I can show you the new train.

 

You can hear it in St. Louis

The Raven Flag Set

Last summer, we got a call from a travel writer with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Tom and I had been in touch for several years and it was great to know he planned to drive the three hours to visit us.

Tom was particularly fun to walk with around the park. He was fascinated by Zinga and took lots of photos of those clover-leaf inner tubes plunging into the enormous pink and blue funnel.

When it came time to look at our coasters, I offered him a ride.

I’ll never forget his answer:

“I’ll ride them as long as you hold my hand”

Will Koch was with us and we had a good yuck. Will knows what a coward I am and that I’d be no comfort whatsoever to someone who was a bit nervous about riding a top-ranked coaster.

We decided to ride The Raven first, since it’s not as long or fast as The Legend. Tom deferred to me for advice when I asked where to sit. I like the front, because you get the best view. The back, though, provides the wildest ride. The back seat it was.

 

The Raven

As previously mentioned, I’m a chicken and a screamer. Doesn’t matter how many times I’ve ridden, I still render my riding partner temporarily hard of hearing. It’s downright humiliating.

Tom and I hooted and hollered over the hills of The Raven. He grinned as he wiped a few drops of sweat (or were they tears?) away. And we headed down the hill to The Legend. He talked me into grabbing another backseat ride. We screamed ourselves hoarse.

As we lurched into the brake run at the end of the ride, two teenage girls (with fabulous long, blond “coaster hair”—sorry I caught my hand in it, dear) sitting in front of us were still squealing.

One shouted to the other, “That was awful – let’s ride it again!”

Late last summer, the Post-Dispatch ran Tom’s inviting travel article about his trip to southern Indiana. And in case you’re wondering, he never did hold my hand.
___
Would you like to receive HoliBlog notices – along with news releases and sweepstakes – by email? Sign up here and you can choose whether to receive the emails weekly or the same day the blog posts are published. Thank you!

It always snows in April

Bradford pear trees

It’s a shame we’re not open this month.

Now that’s a dangerous statement to make 29 days before opening. Everyone is focused on getting rides ready to go, employees trained, new stuff publicized and advertised. Lots of painting and cleaning to do. Time is of the essence.

Tempus fugit.

Nerves can get frazzled.

Bradford pear trees

In April, the Bradford Pear trees are in bloom in the park. The dogwoods aren’t out yet, nor are the redbuds. The first sign that spring is really here is those pretty trees. (Thus ends my knowledge of trees. I think I could recognize a maple leaf and the bark off a birch tree, but that’s it. Heaven help me if we ever decide to open an Arbor Day section!)

All it will take is one blustery storm and the lovely white blossoms will swirl to the ground. Our last snow storm before opening. And blossoms don’t conveniently melt as snow does. It’s one more clean-up process.

Every spring, I think how it’s a shame our Guests don’t get to see our lovely Bradford Pear trees.

So here’s a look.

Springtime is in the air today … and our last snowfall is not far away.
___
Would you like to receive HoliBlog notices – along with news releases and sweepstakes – by email? Sign up here and you can choose whether to receive the emails weekly or the same day the blog posts are published. Thank you!

A friend from ’62

Wow. It’s not just my Mom reading this thing.

An email came in late yesterday afternoon from a lady asking about discounts. When I emailed her back with the information, she replied with this sweet story (I have her permission to post this and use her name):

I remember my Aunt Deanie (who had come home from California for a couple of weeks with her kids) reading about the “new park called Santa Claus Land.” She piled all of us kids in the car (she must have been crazy!) and we headed all the way down there. Long drive then, but less traffic, too.

So, I was 8 years old and we were there one of the first years it opened. I almost cried when I saw on your website showing the very first sign! I ran the video and I swear I saw myself, but everybody back then had ponytails and white blouses. Ha!

I would love to see some more old pix!!

Thanks! K. Flynn-Spires

Here’s a look at the video from our Santa Claus Land days:

___
Would you like to receive HoliBlog notices – along with news releases and sweepstakes – by email? Sign up here and you can choose whether to receive the emails weekly or the same day the blog posts are published. Thank you!

By the numbers

Just to put to rest any cynical suspicions that the HoliBlog is intended to be a sweet, puffy, sugary, cotton-candy cog in my magical PR spin machine…

I’m about to pull my hair out!

And it’s all about numbers.

Now, I’m not a math genius, but I can hold my own.

I balance my checkbook. I don’t go over my budget.

In fact, I can even count to 20 in French. (Vraiment!)

But when people are assigned specific numbers as part of their identity, and then all those numbers are changed … well, let’s just say it interrupts the smooth passage of my day.

When I was hired in 1991, I was assigned a 2-way radio number: Forty.

40.

Two score.

Four-zero.

Four-oh.

Fine.

Several years later we had added enough staff that it was time to organize the numbers to coordinate with departments. I became twenty-one. I was pleased. Sort of a compliment, don’t you think?

And this week, due to additional growth, we’ve moved on to three-digit numbers. I am now 160.

One-six-zero.

One-sixty. (Oh, excuse me, did you call for one-sixteen? My mistake!)

We’re a month from opening, so I’m not yet using my radio much, but it’s on in the background as the construction, maintenance and cleaning crews communicate out in the park.

They’re making a valiant effort, throwing all those big numbers around. Not everyone answers right away. Sometimes it takes two or three tries. And once in a while, a two-digit number sneaks through.

Even, in desperation, an occasional name

But far be it for me to be resistant to change! (The fact that I already lost my tiny cheat sheet out in the park, notwithstanding.) It’s time to start memorizing all those new numbers; chant them under my breath; put a face with a … number.

Mr. and Mrs. Koch in August 2001

Pat & Bill Koch in August 2001

For decades, we had just one person with a three-digit 2-way number. The rest of us existed happily with two digits, while Mr. Koch (Will’s dad) stood alone with three.

I loved to hear Mr. Koch on the 2-way as he identified himself: 007.

Double-oh-seven.

That dear man passed away in September of 2001 at the age of 86. At the start of the funeral mass, his wife, children, and grandchildren carried special objects to the altar. These objects represented many aspects of Bill Koch’s life: his family, the town of Santa Claus, his family’s theme and water parks, highway development, Lincoln’s boyhood home, and more. I had to grin when among all the gifts at the altar; a small placard caught my eye.

On it was printed three simple numbers: 007.

___
Would you like to receive HoliBlog notices – along with news releases and sweepstakes – by email? Sign up here and you can choose whether to receive the emails weekly or the same day the blog posts are published. Thank you!

Would you like to take a walk?

Mrs. Koch in front of tiki head

A lot of children (and some adults) think working at a theme park is the coolest job imaginable. Yes, making families happy for a living is an amazing career.

Permit me, however, to clear up a few possible misconceptions:

  • No, we don’t get to go on rides all day
  • No, we don’t take long lunches lingering by the wave pool
  • And, no, we don’t get free-unlimited funnel cakes!

One of the many things we do get (inherit, really) is a vast wealth of family tradition and small-park culture. We have an exciting future, certainly, but also a rich past.

And we’d like to share them with you

When we host a travel writer or similar VIP, we typically stroll together through the park. It’s not just to point out this coaster and that theater; it’s to provide “color commentary” on the 100 acres that have hosted millions of smiles and laughs over the past 59 years.

The stories range from a teasing tale about Will Koch’s childhood “job” as an elf to the history of how we went from being Santa Claus Land to Holiday World.

If Mrs. Koch joins us, she’ll laugh as she tells about the man who stopped her in the Christmas section a few seasons back and asked her, “Are you that woman in the commercials?”

Pleased, she responded, “Well, yes I am. I’m Pat Koch.”

“Well,” he snorted. “You look a heck of a lot older in person!”

(Only he didn’t say “heck.”)

Here she is, by the way, looking quite youthful with one of the Tiki faces for Bahari, our new themed wave pool.

Mrs. Koch in front of tiki head

The stories are different with each walk in the park. They seem to fascinate the writers and other V.I.P.s, and yet few, if any, of the stories end up in a news release.

That’s why we’re starting HoliBlog: A Walk in the Park

We’d like to share these stories with you.

Maybe we’ll hint about upcoming expansion projects. And once those new projects are under construction, we’ll show you photos and will let you know what’s going on.

And who is the actual blogger? Ideally, we’ll make this a group effort, with stories from all departments. But for the most part, these entries will be penned (can you even say “penned” anymore?) by PR Director Paula Werne.

Meanwhile, it’s April 7. We open for our 59th season on May 7. You do the math!
___
Would you like to receive HoliBlog notices – along with news releases and sweepstakes – by email? Sign up here and you can choose whether to receive the emails weekly or the same day the blog posts are published. Thank you!