Ever wonder why the double corkscrew element on classic Arrow and Vekoma roller coasters are so pleasing to the eye? True, the entry and exit isn’t too pleasing to your neck, but there sure feels like there’s some artistry put in those curves.
Turns out, there’s a lot more math at work, too.
Whether it was done on purpose I can’t say, but the reason for their inherent beauty lies in the “Golden Spiral,” also known as the Fibonacci Sequence.
So what is it? Well, it’s a set of numbers discovered over 1,300 years ago by Italian mathematician, Leonardo de Pisa (aka Fibonacci). When plotted on a flat surface, it creates the “Golden Spiral” which occurs naturally in shells, flowers and apparently…roller coasters.
The “mask wars” of the COVID-19 pandemic have finally made it to the amusement park fan community.
Recently, several prominent ride / park fans have been hit with online criticism recently for posting updates of them without masks from parks and facilities across the country.
Putting aside the fact that the Centers for Disease Control (or CDC) as of 8/26/20 says, “Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19,” is the criticism over posting mask-less photos at parks warranted?
First, we should consider context. Someone could wear a mask all day inside a safely operating theme park, take it off for one moment and someone snaps a photo. From there, the internet (which is known for thoughtful, critical thinking) immediately piles on the update, saying, “How dare you not wear a mask!”
That being said, let us also remember that large reach and “influence” on people’s behavior, comes with a heightened sense of awareness. We are no longer anonymous, general park guests.
We certainly wouldn’t post a photo of us on a coaster with the restraints in an unsafe position – that would be irresponsible. Right now, the most responsible thing to do (if you’re outside your home) is to wear a mask and socially distance. As such, we should model that behavior to fans and to the general public.
Yes, this means we need to plan what we share even more carefully than before. And yes, it’s going to be more difficult to do. But these are inherently different times and much like the modified operations at the parks we enjoy, we too must adapt how we do things.
If someone’s not in a mask in a photo in a park – let’s opt to not use it or post it. Think of it like I do with empty seats in a photo…it just doesn’t look right.
The more we hammer home that none of this is normal, perhaps more people will take the pandemic and it’s effects more seriously. Only then will we be able to defeat this virus and return to a sense of normal. We owe it to the 190,000 of our fellow Americans who are no longer with us.
Look, 2020 has been one disaster after another, I get it. We are all still flying by the seat of our pants, trying to figure out what the path forward will be. Since there’s no way to stop snap judgments on the internet, let’s not give them the opportunity to make one.
TLDR: We’re probably gonna have to mask up…in every update. In every photo and video…until we beat this thing.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or on my social media channels!
Sometimes theme parks might make a decision that raises your eyebrow, at least for some of the most ardent of park fans. Some decide to make videos expressing their displeasure with certain parks, like this one:
While “Shock Wave Dan” notes in his description that some of his points are “jokes,” I couldn’t help but notice many of the items he brought up are actually common misconceptions across the country. In that vein, let’s debunk some common park fan misconceptions about my home park, Six Flags Over Texas!
“I don’t understand why the park doesn’t build bigger, better rides.”
I hate to break it to you, but the answer here is: they don’t need to.
As long as a park is maintaining or growing their financials consistently, there’s no reason to add a multi-million-dollar attraction to bring all those guests back. If you could keep people coming to your park and had a choice between spending $20 million or $5 million, and each would give you the same results – which one would you pick?
True, the rides at all of the Six Flags parks have been on the smaller side since the bankruptcy, but if you look at their financials (pre-2019) you’ll see the chain kept adding attendance overall. Plus, the stock price continued to rise, which looked good for the investors on Wall Street.
And while we’re at it – who’s to say these rides aren’t good? For a hardcore thrill seeker? Perhaps. But for the everyday person off the street? They could be the most exciting thrill they’ve ever experienced. It’s all about perspective.
Why doesn’t the park build more in the Tower section of the park?
This one is well talked about in online forums for Six Flags Over Texas. The answer is surprisingly simple: they don’t build in the area because it floods. A major rain event in September of 2018 sent a wall of water up to six feet deep through portions of the park, causing significant damage throughout the area.
While it was not the first time the park flooded, the City of Arlington re-zoned it as a, “…moderate risk for inundation from flood waters…subject to a 1% annual chance of flood…”
What, exactly does that mean? If you try to build anything new in the area, it’s expensive. Crazy expensive. Remember, the park wanted to build Lone Star Revolution (now El Diablo) in that area, but when the flood risk was changed, the Spain section proved to be a better location.
Why is the Cave / Yosemite Sam’s Gold River Adventure still closed?
Also specific to Six Flags Over Texas, the Cave was a dark ride with floating ride vehicles that unfortunately, sustained damage during the 2018 flood.
Now, if you’ve ever dealt with an insurance company, whether for your car, doctor or dentist, you know how difficult and painful it can be.
Now imagine trying to navigate the claim on a multi-million-dollar attraction from a large corporation. Add in new restrictions on construction on your property. You’ll also need to find a vendor who’s free to begin rebuilding the ride…and create contracts for it.
Oh, and since you weren’t planning on this expense, it’s not in the budget. Think of it like the last time you hit a nail with your car. You weren’t planning on paying for a new set of tires, but surprise! In this case, just add a whole lot more zeroes to the bill.
“This park deserves better!” / “Our park deserves better!” / “We deserve better!”
How can I argue with that? I can’t, really. Every park fan thinks their home park or favorite park should be treated better. Heck, even Cedar Point and Walt Disney World fans will find faults in their operations.
Considering the global pandemic we’re currently in, however – the fact that we can even visit a park right now is a miracle and should be treated as such.
Can things be better? Of course they can. But if you take one thing away from this editorial it should be this: parks don’t run like Planet Coaster or Roller Coaster Tycoon. And despite what you might want to think, these facilities were not built just for us, a small (but boisterous) minority of attendance.
What are some park myths you want busted? Let me know in the comments below or on my social media channels!
As we slip into yet another week of seemingly endless COVID-19 despair, lock downs and quarantines, our nerves just seem to get more frayed. We’re all snapping at one another more than ever, both online and in-person (myself included). The stress level we’re all under is perhaps only eclipsed by a nation at war.
Many amusement parks and ride vendors across the country have had to make significant furloughs or even layoffs just to survive though the end of the year. Anyone who depends on the amusement industry is worried sick about what the future holds. Our beloved hobby – the very thing we write, photograph and video for fun – needs us fans to help promote and support it more than ever.
So what can we do?
Simply put: 2021 needs to see a moratorium on theme park fans’ petty criticism. Both online and in person. Full stop. To put it another way: parks deserve a pass for the next 18 months.
Yes, it’s easy to highlight everything wrong at parks. I get it, I’m guilty of it myself on occasion. But let’s be frank: the very survival of the amusement industry, most notably the smaller parks and many vendors, is at stake.
Posts or stories about rotting wood, employees not smiling or long lines might have a place in our fandom, and those types of posts certainly drum up clicks and engagement. But, when the industry we purport to love so much is seeing it’s very foundation being eroded away, those types of posts can wait.
Outside of being positive, unpaid spokespeople for the industry we love so much, what else can we do? Well, we can put our money where our mouths are.
If your local park(s) are open, visit them! The vast majority who have re-opened have taken extraordinary steps to modify their operations, mitigating the risk far better than any restaurant ever could. My last visit to Six Flags Over Texas earlier this month was so well monitored by staff for masks and sanitation, that brought me a sense of normalcy I haven’t felt in half a year. That’s why we love parks so much: the feelings they give us.
If your local park(s) aren’t open, see if they are able to sell merchandise or other souvenirs online or over the phone. Or better still, get a season pass for 2021. Yes, it’s a drop in the bucket in what is sure to be a crippling financial year for most facilities.
But, it’s also something we CAN do, instead of sitting at home, moping about when everything goes back to being normal. Because if we do nothing, there may not be a “normal” or a park to return to.
These are unusual times. And unusual times call for unusual solutions. If you’re willing to fight for changes inside the park, it’s time to change your fight to help this industry survive.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below or on our social media channels!
It gives me no pleasure to write a piece about this, but I think it IS important to see what happens when societal paranoia meets the reality of our society.
On Saturday night, reports began to circulate online of a group of disruptive teenagers inside California’s Great America. As part of a strong-arm robbery attempt inside the park, someone began shouting “SHOOTER,” inciting mass panic among the attendees.
Guests began running for any exit they could find, including making their own by scaling large, barbed wire fences in backstage areas.
Police scanner traffic reported a few some minor to moderate injures, consistent with trampling crowds, but that no shooting had occurred. There was no word if the group responsible for the false shooting reports were taken into custody.
The park put out a statement about 30 minutes after police arrived, saying:
They concluded with, “The safety of our guests and associates is our highest priority.”
Now, growing up at this park, it is beyond heartbreaking to watch a place I had so much fun in, turn into a place of pure, unadulterated terror. In an era where we drill our students about mass shooters in school, is it much of a stretch to see theme / amusement parks as a soft target? Sadly, no.
That being said, the security to get into theme / amusement parks like Great America is very good. I’ve never felt unsafe at a park event, except for what no security checkpoint can detect: bad actors. A person or group of people who are determined to hurt others in order to make themselves feel better.
The physical damage to the park is repairable. However, the reputation damage to the park and mental damage to those who were in attendance (both guests and employees) is not as easily repaired.
Are there are lessons to be learned here? Absolutely. I imagine parks across the country will be taking a look at their emergency and crisis plans to ensure this never happens at their parks.
But truth be told, we (as a nation) cannot allow ourselves to be so paranoid – and yet, here we are. That being said, after seeing all of these videos over and over, if I were placed in their shoes, I ask myself, “What would I do?”
I finish this op / ed with a question for all of us: Is this the type of country we want to live in? A country in which one bad actor can incite a mass panic, over the generally unfounded fear of someone gunning us down?
Because as much as we want this to be an isolated incident – barring radical change in our society – I’m fearful that this sort of occurrence is only the tip of the iceberg.
As part of their National Roller Coaster Day festivities, California’s Great America commissioned arguably one of the best tongue-in-cheek social media videos this year: a celebration of their 1999 Miler Kiddie Coaster, Lucy’s Crabbie Cabbies.
Enjoy the hilarity (be sure to look at the titles) and well done, CGA!
Remember when blogging was just a fun hobby? When you could start a website (or visit one) that covered all the cool happenings going on at your favorite theme or amusement park?
Well, those days are numbered – in the name of clicks and likes.
Over the past few years – and especially the past few weeks – amusement park fans online have been bombarded with fake stories, new ride announcements spoiled through “investigations” and general bad behavior.
And it’s ruining our entire community.
Let’s get one thing straight: just because you cover a park, it does not make you a journalist. All true journalists are bound by a code of ethics with the constant threat of losing their jobs if they get something wrong.
Theme park “journalists” have no such code and as such, can (and do) post malicious, false or confidential information, generally with little to no ramifications. Take it from a guy who’s worked both sides of this story: Fan journalism is rapidly running out of style at parks across the country.
Can you blame them? Investigating and “breaking” news like shipping documents or permits showing what new ride is coming next season…what fun is that? It’s akin to searching for (and finding) your Christmas presents hidden in the closet.
Not to mention all the hard work and planning that goes into these announcements from the park side. True, the general public will most likely never visit these sites, but don’t you want to be surprised on announcement day like them?
For all the good bloggers out there, all it takes is one bad apple to spoil the bunch. Some parks have even removed bloggers entirely from the equation, simply because of perceived issues with the greater community.
So what can we – as a community – do to stop it?
In so many cases, we cannot remove these people from our community – but we can take away from them the one thing they want: attention. Flag false stories. Don’t engage on tabloid-style stories. Basically, take back the community we worked so hard to create.
On the park side, actions must have consequences. Share problem bloggers with others in the industry and let them know (in no uncertain terms) why they’re not being invited to events anymore. Give them a road map to success and if they stray – it’s on them, not you.
These bad actors cannot be allowed to represent us as a whole, otherwise our community is doomed to toxicity (and irrelevancy) for eternity.
It seemed like virtual reality (VR) on roller coasters was about to be the “next big thing” in the amusement industry. Many parks / chains figured they could breathe new life into older attractions with a VR update. So why are we seeing less and less of them all of a sudden?
Slow Operations / Long Lines
The first thing folks noticed about VR coasters was their wait times – and it wasn’t because they had become instantly more popular. Ride dispatches, even on small trains could average up to 10 minutes+ making ride capacities plummet and wait times soar.
Plus, in many cases, there wasn’t a separate line for non-VR seats. Guests would have to wait the exact same amount of time to NOT experience VR as they did if they wanted to.
Galactic Attack was the “second generation” of VR on coasters for Six Flags. However, the long waits and malfunctioning headsets disappointed many guests.
The Experience Wasn’t Seamless
During my many experiences with VR coasters, the ride didn’t sync properly with the timing of the train or shut off completely, which led to queasy guests. Other times, the VR required people to do an action, like shoot space aliens – leaving their hands unable to brace themselves into corners and brakes.
Did it make the ride better?
But for me, the biggest downfall of virtual reality coasters is that they don’t make the coaster they go on any better. In fact, in the case of Ninja at Six Flags St. Louis, it made the ride WORSE. I couldn’t brace for the “transitions” and the ride ended up being very painful.
There’s Promise on the Horizon…
Where VR coasters appear to have failed, there seems increasing promise in VR drop towers. Parks with multiple towers or vehicles seem like they could benefit the most.
To me, these experiences are a vastly superior VR experience: smoother, one plane of travel and decreased forces, coupled with not slowing down the other towers or vehicles.
VR on drop towers has promise, but if it lowers capacity it may not be worth all the effort from a guest perspective.
So, to sum up, the VR experience is a novel concept but it’s not quite ready for prime time, at least with it’s current implementation here in the United States. If parks can ultimately work out the capacity and reliability issues with the headsets, it might be a novel way to breathe new life into older rides.
Otherwise, virtual reality coasters should be relegated to an up-charge attraction that only runs certain times of the year or specific hours of the operating day.
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What do you think? Do you enjoy VR on roller coasters, drop rides, or neither? Let me know in the comments below – and be sure to check us out on social media!
It’s that time of year again – time for park fans to begin serious speculation about what may (or may not) be coming to their favorite parks in 2020.
With SeaWorld Parks already making announcements (or teasing them) for all of their parks, Cedar Fair and Six Flags are up next to reveal what’s in the works for next season.
All of the SeaWorld parks are expecting major, new additions to their facilities in 2020, including Mako at the original SeaWorld in San Diego, CA.
There seems to be two trains of thought on how to best make these announcements: by individual park or as a complete chain.
At Cedar Fair it appears the chain spreads out their announcements, usually over a two week period, so that each park receives their “day in the sun” with media coverage in their local markets.
Meanwhile at Six Flags, the chain has made it a tradition to announce every park’s newest addition in a single video, with each park sending out a release to their local media. The idea is that the single announcement carries more weight on a national level, which should translate into more traction with the national media.
But this “one day fits all” strategy does have a potential flaw: what if a park hasn’t opened their new ride from 2019? Wouldn’t that potentially kill the buzz for both?
Since their “new for 2019” attraction, West Coast Racers, isn’t even finished being built, it’s highly likely the park will be forced to announce another new ride, without even finishing the last one they announced.
Despite being announced in late August of 2018, West Coast Racers is still far from being complete.
Personally, I’m a fan of the spread out approach. The collective anticipation continues to build throughout the week or two you keep dropping announcements. Plus, there’s a smaller probability that your least-visited parks or smaller investments won’t be lost in the giant, one day announcement.
And if a situation like Magic Mountain’s sets up, there’s flexibility built into it to delay an announcement.
No matter the way you announce it, 2020 is setting up to be a record year for new capital investment. Let the speculation and intrigue begin!
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What do you think? Are you a fan of a “one day” or “spread out” announcement style for new rides and attractions? Let me know in the comment section below – and be sure to check us out on social media as well!
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a company puts out a call to its fans online, asking if they have any photos or videos of their product they might be able to use at upcoming trade shows.
The fans get the satisfaction of helping their favorite company. Sometimes, they get recognition for the project and some company swag.
Meanwhile, the company gets a life-long license to market and use that image or video to help sell their product(s), which can easily cost in the millions of dollars.
How is that fair?
As a whole, our industry has become too reliant on the kindness of our fans. Asking for free marketing material is reckless, outdated and insulting to professionals in the field.
Were all the subjects in the photo aware they were being photographed commercially? Was everything properly permitted? Were there any releases signed for the photos or video?
If the answer is no to any of these, it could cost you hundreds of lost man-hours in the office and potentially thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees.
And who’s to say the work you get back is any good? If they aren’t being paid, what motivation is there to give you their best material?
15-20 years ago, there might have been the argument that allowing a company to use a work, “with attribution” in order to gain exposure would be a good idea.
But with the advent of social media, that model has fundamentally changed. Fans don’t need companies to get famous – they can do it on their own, now.
You would not build a ride for free if someone asked, right? So why then would you ask someone to give you something they worked hard on?
For the cost of one or two Allen Bradley Safety Relays, you can ensure that your company will have powerful and flexible marketing materials for years to come.
Yours truly in front of a photo taken for GCI that was properly executed and compensated.
Bottom line: fans are a wonderful resource for parks and vendors, but their fandom should never be exploited by the very companies they love the most.
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What do you think? Should companies stop asking fans for free stuff? Or do you think it’s harmless interaction with their fans? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to follow us on our social networks!
Hey everyone! It’s been awhile since we last talked. Two and a half years, to be precise.
No, it wasn’t you – it was me. A necessary hiatus what with me taking a position in the Communications Department of a major theme park here in the south.
But as of this week, that restriction have been lifted, so you’ll be able to expect hearing from me on a semi-regular basis once again.
I’m so sorry.
You’ll also be seeing some changes to the site over the next few months, with some new features as well as a new look. I’ll be sure to keep you all up to speed as we transition back into regular programming.
It’s been a long two and a half years – we’ve got a lot to catch up on.
But, just to be safe, let’s not wait that long to talk to one another ever again – okay?
It is rare in the amusement industry to meet expectations, especially for hardcore park fans. It is an even rarer event to exceed those expectations.
After I experienced Winterfest at California’s Great America this past Friday, I am happy to report that my expectations for this park have been forever shattered, in the most wonderful of ways.
Star Tower has been magically transformed into the North Pole, complete with decorations and a new on-board spiel.
With a little help from local figure skating Olympian Polina Edmunds and Snoopy, the park lit it’s impressive 60 foot tall tree:
Now, if you live in Santa Clara and find it difficult to get a Christmas Tree in Santa Clara – blame this park – as hundreds of Douglas Firs are spread throughout it. They’re used both as ambiance as well as effective barriers to closed-off sections of the park. The result is quite striking: not only does it look like Christmas, it SMELLS like it, too.
Arguably the most striking feature of Winterfest, this honest-to-goodness ice rink is in the middle of Carousel Columbia’s reflection pond.
If you intend on going skating, check-in first at the Stroller Rental. That’s where you’ll have to fill out the waiver (thanks, California) and if you’re under 18, you’ll need a parental signature to hit the rink. When we first arrived, it was unclear where we had to go to first, so we lost skating time as a result.
Also, you CAN bring your own skates, but the additional fee to skate still applies (I.E. no discount). Just be prepared to get a locker to keep them safe, unless you want to lug them around the park the rest of the evening.
Finally, if you happen to be late for your scheduled ice skating time (it’s given in blocks of 30 minutes) you’ll be given the final skate of the night by default.
Sitting on the site of the much-beloved “Triple Play” Huss Troika, the reindeer paddock saw consistent crowds all evening long. If you’ve never seen a real one up-close, it’s quite a treat. Listen for the snapping from their hoof tendons as they prance around. The site also provides unique (albeit dark) photo opportunities for the Patriot coaster (nee Vortex) due to open in 2017.
Entertainment / Shows:
Under the brilliant management of Entertainment Director, Clayton Lawrence, the quality of shows in the park and overall experiences available to guests during Winterfest has met or exceeded those of the Marriott-era.
Yes, I said it. Because it’s true.
As during “Taste of Orleans” – there were characters everywhere – happy to interact with you and your family. There was always a show you could go and see, all with high production value and jaw-dropping visuals. The decorations and lighting around the park brought it to life in a away none of us have seen before. When Santa appeared at the end of the show, the kids in the audience legitimately GEEKED OUT. It was fully immersive entertainment – my God it was a THEME park again.
Be sure to get to the shows you wish to see early, as the best seats go fast. Both theatres saw STANDING ROOM ONLY crowds – and that was on a Friday night. Just imagine how packed it could be once the word gets out!
“It’s Christmas, Snoopy” was so good – after Linus’ famous speech on the true meaning of Christmas…people applauded. That tells you a LOT. And to ensure complete inclusion in this holiday event – in addition to a nativity scene, there’s a Hanukkah menorah and Kwanzaa kinara in the park itself.
I have made it no secret my disdain for the merchandise offerings from corporate parks (The 8-car Demon shirt, the California’s Great Adventure Gold Striker shirts) but, I’m willing to forgive my home park for ALL OF THAT, when I saw this:
THIS is what fans want to see in their local amusement park!
And finally, this:
Ladies and gentlemen, that is park-specific merchandise (which is increasingly rare in the corporate park world). It took effort to create and it can only be sold in one park in the chain.
I bought the ornament immediately and look forward to it gracing my tree for decades to come.
Want to make a park fan happy? Just keep making merchandise like this. Don’t keep pushing generic “I ride with Him / Her” shirts. I’ll never buy one of those. But I sure as hell will grab unique pieces like this – and happily hand over my credit card.
Coal in the Stocking:
But, much like Christmas morning, sometimes you don’t always get everything you want. For instance, with all the glitz and lighting around it, Carousel Columbia wasn’t very well lit or distinguishable once the sun set. Just leaving the regular white up-lights with those blue highlights would vastly improve everyone’s front entrance photos and ice-selfies.
Jaw dropping from Star Tower, but remarkably touch to spot from the ground, Carousel Columbia could use some more lights on the front to stand out better.
Speaking of Columbia, all of the park maps (paper, online and in-park poster) have three errors on them, including the misspelling of the iconic carousel (it’s misspelled “COLOMBIA,” like the country). It’s hard for die-hard park fans to ignore when someone misspells your signature attraction:
Insert head-slap here.
Gold Striker and Flight Deck are both on single train operation – which is understandable – given the three and-a-half weeks the park’s maintenance staff has had to do a complete winter rehabilitation (it’s usually several months). But, if you choose to go to Winterfest just to ride either of these e-tickets, expect longer than average wait times (you really shouldn’t be going for the rides, anyway).
Lines for food also seemed to be longer than usual. I’m chalking it up to having the main food service area (County Fair’s Food Festival) not open as part of the festivities. Also, because that and half of Planet Snoopy aren’t open for Winterfest (you’ll walk along a decorated part of the service road instead), the park can feel more crowded than usual, so just be sure to bring plenty of Christmas cheer on crowded nights.
Despite these bits of coal, Winterfest isn’t just worth your time or money – it should be mandatory that every family in the greater Bay Area check it out sometime this holiday season. Winterfest combines everything that other holiday events do in the area (plus coasters and rides) in just one location. It’s worthy of “tradition” status and did I mention there’s a 100% chance of snow?
Looking through some theme park fan message boards around September, you get a common theme: people ask about / want to go to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) expo in Orlando, mostly because, “it looks like fun.”
Still others post that, “It looks like Disney’s D23, only for the whole industry,” while others say, “…the website is written in business-speak…”
Let me clear up a few things for you all. First, IAAPA isn’t held for park fans. Don’t be confused by some of the coverage you see on some of those other park blogs – IAAPA is about just three things: buying goods, selling goods and networking for jobs.
Millions upon millions of dollars are transferred in the four days this show is held. There’s a literal ton of business being done on the floor – so – if you do decide to attend this expo as a park fan, you have to know “the code.”
Attending as a park or ride fan and just barreling up to the B&M or RMC booth to swoon over Walter, Fred or Alan – especially while they’re trying to talk to potential buyers – is a massive faux paux. In some cases, a company’s livelihood can depend on the meetings they have at this expo.
Also, snapping photos or video without permission is a HUGE no-no. ALWAYS ask booth vendors if it’s okay to take a photo or record part of their booth the booth for a video.
If you’ve got actual business to discuss (such as inquiring about a job or internship) then feel free to speak to them…when they’re free. If you’re a fan and just taking in the convention for fun, it’s best to just grab some literature and move on. Speaking of discussing business…
Standing next to one of my photos in the Great Coasters booth.
The amusement industry – despite being worldwide – is a very tight knit group of individuals. Everyone knows everyone and word gets around…fast. That’s why IAAPA is the perfect event to go to if you’re looking to get a job in the industry. This expo gives you the rare opportunity to meet and network with prospective employers face to face, as well as the opportunity to give them a copy of your resume and cover letter.
Take it from me – I’ve been hired because of connections I made at this expo in the past, as have several of my friends!
Now, despite what you might think from some of the other bloggers out there – the way you dress says a LOT about your purpose. Shorts and a t-shirt emblazoned with your blog’s logo are not commonplace nor looked upon well by vendors. If you want to make a good impression, stand out from the other “schlubs” and come in a suit and tie.
If your registration permits it, one of the least talked about (but best parts) of the expo are the educational seminars they hold. From learning about the business from Disney legends, to how to properly curate social media for your brand, to symposiums on laser tag – these “edu-sessions” give attendees tons of insight, but tend to not get the fanfare that the show floor does.
Speaking of the show floor – yes, it’s true – there ARE a few rides and attractions you can go on at the show. It’s just like purchasing a new car. Just remember that those vendors are there to sell that ride – not entertain you with a day-long ERT session.
If you truly love this industry and want to make it part of your career, I would make it a point to someday visit the annual IAAPA Expo in Orlando. However, if you’re looking for a place to nerd out with other theme park fans, save your money and stick with D23. You’ll end up having more fun there, anyway.
Traditionally, the final day of operations at California’s Great America occurs in the last weekend of October (or on rare occasions, the first day of November). But this year will be different – markedly different. Details are now being released on the park’s first-annual “WinterFest” – only the second time in it’s history the park will remain open past the first weekend in November. And if there was any doubt as to whether or not the park would go “all-in” the first year of the event – those questions have been quickly answered. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:
This is shaping up to be the “signature” attraction of the event – and for good reason. The reflection pond in front of Carousel Columbia will be frozen over (real ice from what our park contacts say, not plastic faux-ice) to create arguably the Bay Area’s most beautiful skating rink. No word if S.J. Sharkie or Santa Clara native, (and Olympian) Polina Edmunds will make an appearance, but I’m sure as heck sharpening my skates for this.
As part of the entertainment, there will be an Snoopy-themed Ice show, several holiday themed shows, a min-trolley filled with carolers and a nightly tree lighting ceremony behind Carousel Columbia. Aren’t you glad you upgraded to a Gold or Platinum Pass so you can take it all in over a few weekends?
After a test-run with the “Taste of Orleans” food festival earlier this summer, the “lighting competition” that will be staged inside Orleans Place should blow away park-goers. I’m thinking that it’ll rival Gilroy Gardens’ spectacular nighttime event, “Lumination.”
In Hometown Square, you’ll be able to see it snow – meet real reindeer and even browse the famous Christmas tree lot to find your own fern that “just needs a little love.” It also appears many of the food locations will be re-tolled and re-themed to reflect the holidays.
I’m also very happy to see the park create and use it’s OWN photos for the promotion of the event. By that, I mean most collateral in park chains is re-used (I.E. even though it’s Great America’s TV commercial – you’re looking at a ride from Knott’s). That is not the case with WinterFest – because that’s most certainly Maggie Brown’s behind the trolley. And who else is excited that the trolley is (sort of) coming back?!?
Little rough on the ISO – but beautiful to see nonetheless! Photo credit: California’s Great America
It should be noted that the entire park will not be open as part of WinterFest. Everything from just about Planet Snoopy over to Hometown Square will be – but don’t expect to challenge the Demon, Drop Zone, Psycho Mouse or the rest of County Fair this winter. Also, some of these activities will require an additional fee to participate (mostly out of capacity concerns, I imagine).
There are two major challenges the park faces in order to make this event an annual tradition: the weather and 39 years of learned, guest behavior. First, let’s talk about rain. It’s always a threat here in Northern California (except the past 5 years thanks to drought) so hold off your rain dances on the weekend – otherwise the event could be a complete wash.
Coasters generally do not run as well in the cold, at least B&M’s tend to be like this. If temps are around 45 or so, I’d expect to see fairly short lines for most of the park’s bigger attractions.
The other big challenge the park must overcome is the public itself. Not since opening season in 1976 have guests been able to enjoy the park after October (and even then it was rained out most of the time and never re-attempted). In addition, the nearly four week closure (needed to move things around and set them up) between Haunt closing and WinterFest starting up will be crucial to keeping the park “front of mind” with guests. Remember, most people throw away their old passes after the last day – and many might still think that’s October 30th.
Also, the Bay Area is also a very crowded market when it comes to holiday events, with several very established events in the South Bay. The park will have to do a masterful job of building the awareness that they’re still open and ready for fun nearly all the way to the New Year. (Both the Boardwalk and Six Flags have already established
So, who’s ready for a little winter cheer in Santa Clara next month? Let me know what you think in the comments section below:
Hidden in plain sight above Bourbon Street in Orleans Place, lies a little bit of Disney magic inside the confines California’s Great America:
The balcony of the Consulate as seen during the Taste of Orleans festival.
Known as “The Consulate” – it’s primary function is a meeting room, where some of the biggest decisions about the park have gone down.
Some of the biggest deals in the park’s history have been signed at this table. Photo courtesy of The Coaster Guy – used with permission.
But that wasn’t always the intended purpose. In fact, it was originally built with the idea that the Marriott’s would use the space to stay during trips, a la the apartment above the firehouse at Disneyland. That is, until the Marriott’s realized they had nice hotels already near their properties with concierge service and a lack of crowds.
So while the Consulate is still used today for business – what if it’s wrought iron gates were opened to a select few park-goers as a VIP lounge? And what if you could upgrade your Platinum Pass to a “Consulate Pass?”
Photo courtesy of The Coaster Guy – used with permission.
The idea isn’t that far fetched – several parks have hosted hospitality centers for bloggers and other influencers, where they could store items and get free refills and snacks, all away from the crowds. Why not give guests the opportunity to pay for that same, sweet access?
Plus, the pass could add a few other perks, maybe higher discounts for food and merchandise – or even a single fast lane per visit. It’s a Platinum, Platinum Pass.
Since upgrading to a Platinum Pass isn’t worth the cost for most Bay Area folks, with the exception of those who want to go to Knott’s (and I’ve covered that in a previous article) and considering an upgrade from a Gold Pass to a Platinum Pass doesn’t add any more value to a visit at CGA, maybe this benefit might be the incentive people need to pony up those extra bucks. And since we’re here in Silicon Valley, receiving that “premium” experience is not a hard sell.
The Consulate seems frozen in time. Photo courtesy of The Coaster Guy – used with permission
Should it be by invite only? Probably to start. Parks tend to (or should) know their heaviest users and could easily identify probable candidates from common knowledge – or just looking at pass usage data.
What do you think? Would you pay up to get access to the Consulate? How much would you be willing to shell out to step up to the second floor? Let me know in the comments below.
Again, special thanks to Kurt (The Coaster Guy) for permission to use his photos of the Consulate during ACE’s Coaster Con XXXVII!
It seems like every week this summer, the news has stories of horrific injuries or deaths at an amusement park. With that, comes the predictable “I knew that ride wasn’t safe. They should have never opened it,” chatter online.
But, as hard to believe as it is: Amusement parks are not trying to hurt or kill you.
Around the turn of the century, things were different. Rides were a new concept and safety systems were, well – non-existent. In fact, a ride with a “killer” reputation was actually MORE popular, as people were willing to test their mettle against the machine.
The Revere Beach Lightning was one of Harry Traver’s “Terrifying Triplets” and it earned that moniker by killing a rider on the first day of operation.
But as the industry matured, so also did it’s guests – and the demand went from a killer coaster to a safer one. Manufacturers responded with the lap bar, seat belt and over the shoulder restraint.
It’s no longer in the best interest of a park to have a ride that’s not safe – and that’s been the case since the 1920’s. Coasters and flat rides can be millions of dollars of investment – and one accident could turn that investment into a fancy lawn ornament.
Yeah, there’s always the exceptions to the rule, but thankfully in this industry – they tend to be easy to spot. If a ride doesn’t “look” right – it probably isn’t. And if you don’t like the way it looks, you don’t have to ride.
So, with this rash of incidents across the country – could better oversight lead to safer rides? I’m not sure. Currently, the states regulate amusement rides, to varying degrees depending on location. Could a uniform standard be better? Maybe. But uniform rules have their drawbacks, too.
It’s hard to create a “one size fits all” methodology for the entire United States. If we can’t agree on anything in Washington, it would be tough to push through legislation that would work fairly for everyone.
I repeat this stat often, because it’s worth repeating: You have better odds of being injured driving to an amusement park than you do while inside. You may hear about a deadly crash on the freeway, only mentioned as a “Sig Alert” in a traffic update. A death on a coaster, however will cause the news choppers to be summoned to the scene.
So go to your local amusement or theme park with confidence – just follow the safety rules. A park doesn’t want to hurt or kill you, despite what the internet says. Because if they did – you wouldn’t be able to go back and spend more money there…
Social media use has exploded over the past decade. Its presence is so big, many companies are hiring people solely based on their experience with these new, direct marketing channels.
But while a “like” can be earned quickly, those bonds can also be lost just as fast if the user has a poor experience with it.
So, if you follow these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to having a superior social media experience for your guests, which will lead to more of those turnstiles rotating:
STEP ONE: KEEP IT UPDATED!
I can’t tell you the number of parks that leave their social media without updated content for weeks, even months on end. Common errors here can include outdated cover photos, profile photos and information. While one of the easiest to fix, this is also one of the most common mistakes many parks and FEC’s make on social media.
Keeping your content fresh on the landing page will encourage visitors to return to see what’s new and stay engaged with your company or property.
STEP TWO: STOP POSTING CRAP UPDATES!
Treating social media like a direct billboard or commercial to the fans of your park is instant poison for your social media. Consider a park with 400,000 fans, yet only receives 100 likes on average on their posts. Something’s wrong there – and it’s the content.
Mask the ad for your park or event in great content – make a cool video or post a beautiful photo that’s sure to be shared. Direct calls to action will turn off park visitors faster than an hour long wait in an un-shaded queue.
And don’t forget about video – it’s the best way to tell a story – and one of the most underutilized mediums on social media.
Video is good – but when you can see the cell phone being used to capture said video in a reflection – that’s not good enough anymore for social audiences.
STEP THREE: INTERACT WITH YOUR FANS!
It should go without saying, but many parks neglect the “social” part of social media – that is, they post something to their account – and simply leave it there. That’s akin in the digital age of throwing crap on a wall and seeing if it sticks.
Social media allows guests to experience things they may have missed on their last trip, post about how much fun they had – or in some cases – complain about a negative experience they had while at your facility.
Not responding or interacting with guests on social media is no longer an acceptable practice. It never was acceptable, period. One can easily gain back a potential repeat customer simply by interacting with them, acknowledging their concerns or eventually resolving them.
Dollywood was notably absent from social media; not answering questions of people who were led to believe their latest ride was going to open on time. It was not well received.
Yes, it IS a lot of work and yes, it CAN be frustrating at times with a never-ending deluge of comments – but that’s the world we live in. Consider it “job security.”
Plus, when a park or facility responds to a guest, they guest feels important – because they ARE! Remember who pays for the bills, folks…
By answering questions on social media, you’re also contributing to a higher engagement rating on many of the mathematical algorithms which dictate who sees what. Translation: responding on social media means more people see your post FOR FREE.
So, if you follow these simple steps, your amusement park or family entertainment center should see a nice bump in social media metrics – which should lead to more butts through those gates.
Got any other good suggestions? Leave a comment below or post on our social media channels. Don’t worry, we’ll actually interact with you!
Never has a wooden roller coaster closure announcement been more gleefully celebrated by the ride enthusiast community…
On Monday, Cedar Point announced that they would be “giving the axe” to their once record-breaking wooden roller coaster, Mean Streak. There was no blowback; no online petitions; no hashtag activists. Quite simply, people were ready to let Mean Streak go. But why? Aren’t we supposed to celebrate and try to preserve the wooden coaster in America? After all, we invented them back in 1884 at Coney Island.
Photo credit: Cedar Point
Mean Streak was part of a trio of massive wooden roller coasters built in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s. They were designed and built by Charles Dinn of Ohio and each (Hercules at Dorney Park, The Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas and Mean Streak at Cedar Point) were record breakers.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
They were also neck breakers. While the rides were massively popular their first year, the parks they sat in simply could not allocate enough man-hours or maintenance time to keep them running as smooth as when they opened. They quickly fell out of favor with not only ride enthusiasts, but also the general public due to their rough rides.
Of the 11 wooden coasters that Dinn designed and built – four have been demolished, one has been renovated into a steel coaster and now we await the eventual fate of Mean Streak.
The other massive woodies of the era (not built by Dinn) did not fare well, either. The Rattler at Fiesta Texas was renovated into a steel coaster in 2013 while Son of Beast at Kings Island was eventually torn down.
The Texas Giant (one of Dinn’s designs) was converted into a steel coaster by Rocky Mountain Construction in 2011.
The closure of Mean Streak is a bookend to a unique era in the amusement industry, where we discovered there is an upper limit to what wooden coasters can do, bigger was not always better and sacrificing ride quality for records does not make for a good, long-term investment. Let us hope that we never see an era like it again.
There are four things every public relations person at an amusement /theme park should do in preparation for a big ride announcement:
1.) Think to yourself, “What would Jeffrey Siebert at Six Flags Fiesta Texas do?”
2.) Release computer animated point of view video (POV)
3.) Tease a unique, mystery element in the ride
4.) Have ride merchandise hidden and ready to be purchased, just moments after the official announcement is made.
Kings Island in Ohio hit all of those on Thursday evening, even with major online streaming issues, when they officially announced Mystic Timbers – their record-setting 5th wooden coaster.
Not only did the park release the official animated POV (which has already been stolen and monetized by multiple “coaster media outlets” – the park also teases at something else…
You see, the POV wasn’t complete – there’s a little section at the end that they purposely omitted – only to show yet another hashtag: #WhatsInTheShed.
The coaster community online LOST IT’S DAMN MIND – and loved every bit of it:
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you keep the coaster enthusiasts satisfied, curious and talking up a ride that isn’t even built for another 10 months on this project. We’ll all find out what’s in that shed come the 2017 season.
But for now, this is truly one of the best times of the year for park fans!
Are YOU excited for the 2017 season? What’s your most anticipated coaster or park announcement?
Over the past several years, many parks around the world have decided to remove their flume rides.
But I’m here today to come to the defense of the lowly log flume, even though they rarely defend me from their chlorinated waters.
Much like the roller coaster, the log flume has become an integral part of any amusement or theme park. Invented by Karl Bacon and Ed Morgan of Arrow Development in the 1963, the flume came about after hearing of stories of loggers riding trunks as they traversed the narrow, fast troughs of water.
Photo credit: Nancy Bacon-Francks. Used with permission.
But with the rise of water parks, many companies are making the choice to eliminate the flume – because of on-going maintenance and operating costs.
Here’s why they should reconsider:
Flumes are still very popular; this is an hour-long wait for Logger’s Run at California’s Great America.
Flumes are multi-purpose:
Any good amusement park should have three different types of water rides: A spillwater, white water rapid and a flume. Two of the three are just about guaranteed to get you soaked.
But a flume is different.
Don’t want to be soaked but want to cool down? Then you go on the flume.
It’s also a great ride EVERYONE can enjoy in the family. From the kids to grandma and grandpa, you can share the experience of a log ride. You can’t do that with a water park.
Flumes aren’t water parks:
Unlike a water park, you don’t need to change clothes to go to and from a log flume. There’s no need for a locker and they have wonderful capacity compared to a waterslide.
Guests get more bang for their buck, too – as flumes tend to be one of the longest length attractions in most parks.
Flumes are heritage:
They were invented here, in America. In fact, they were invented less than 10 miles from where I currently type. The first one was so popular at Six Flags Over Texas, they built a second one to handle the crowds.
They suck in tons of people on hot days and provide some of the best photo opportunities for any park photographer.
There is no better place to snap a funny photo than the log flume…
Most importantly, they are part of the fabric that keeps parks together. Removing a flume is like removing a coaster these day – and every one that has been removed has been sorely missed.
Simply put, the flume deserves to be preserved – and revered.
What do you think – are the days of the log flume numbered? Tell me in the comments section or on my social media links!
How long have we heard that California’s Great America doesn’t have anywhere to expand? “The park is landlocked – there’s nowhere for them to go.” And what about, “Cedar Fair doesn’t care about this park – they want to sell it.”
Well, this aught to shut up the naysayers…
In an unprecedented announcement on Wednesday, the park announced that it has applied for a rezoning from the City of Santa Clara, which will allow it to add significantly more attractions with less red tape, intends on purchasing the land on which the park sits on and will build a massive retail and entertainment complex near the front gate of the park.
To think this was a park that looked like it was about to close just a few years ago – now look at all the new stuff that’s planned and proposed…
The official notice from the City of Santa Clara, announcing the proposed change in zoning
There’s a lot of verbiage to get through, but here’s the most important part (in my opinion). Long time fans of this park may recall the proposed “Front Gate” project during the Paramount era, before the land was converted into two office towers. Well, long time fans, your patience has finally paid off:
This gives the park a major, strategic advantage over it’s competitors – no other park in Northern California offers this sort of experience. If it reminds you of Knott’s Marketplace, Universal CityWalk or Downtown Disney – that’s no mistake.
And for fans of the park itself, they didn’t forget about you, either. The rezoning will allow the park far more flexibility in building new attractions – and it’s all spelled out, here:
You read that right – 6 MORE attractions proposed OVER 200 feet tall. Is your jaw on the floor, yet?
Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet also told those in attendance that any change in the use of land would have to first be approved by the City of Santa Clara AND Cedar Fair – which all but ensures the park will be around through 2074.
So, CGA fans – who’s ready to watch their park transform into an entertainment destination? Tell us in the comments section below or on our social media links!
There’s a great dichotomy in the coaster enthusiast world…
We love rides, that much is certain. But sometimes, that love can go a little too far. We say that we respect the companies that create these incredible attractions, yet we can’t wait to spill the beans on new attractions. In years past, this has meant going as far as perusing company servers to find out the latest rumor or detail.
The latest case to develop on this comes from the Great Smokey Mountains, and Dollywood. Certainly one of the most anticipated new coasters to open this year is Lightning Rod – the world’s first launched wooden coaster.
But when I see posts like this – from Instagram – it makes me wonder if these people truly LOVE this industry – or are so obsessed with it, they can no longer think straight:
Now, I’ve blurred the image out of respect for Rocky Mountain Construction. But it’s the principal that matters, here.
Just because an image is online, does NOT mean it’s okay to re-share it. Would you share leaked photos of a naked selfie of a person you knew? Of course not – because you’re not a douchebag. So how can you say you love this industry, when you do everything against what the industry JUST asked you do to?
In this case, it was an easy task – JUST WAIT.
The fact of the matter is, if you’re reminded that the park or company EXPRESSLY ASKED that nothing be shared – and then you share it anyway – you’re not a true enthusiast – you’re a selfish jerk.
You’d rather share a photo than simply listen to the request of a park and / or manufacturing company you supposedly love and respect.
Doing things like this is counter-intuitive to the enthusiast mentality. Why are you hurting the very thing you purport to love? When cool perks like backstage tours or construction walk-backs start to dry up…it will be you who will ultimately be blamed.
There are several names synonymous in the roller coaster and theme park community: Karl Bacon, Ed & Dana Morgan, Anton Schwarzkopf, Walter Bolliger & Claude Mabillard and Walt Disney, among many others.
But one in particular seems to have fallen by the wayside – Eric Laithwaite. And yet every enthusiast who’s ever enjoyed a modern, launched roller coaster owes those very thrills to him, because he is “the father of linear induction.”
Laithwaite’s most famous work centered around using magnetism to provide frictionless travel, on maglev trains. He had figured out that if you uncoiled a standard, electrical motor, an object could simply glide over it on an electromagnetic wave – and it would stay on course with the attraction and resistance already natural to those magnets.
Perhaps his most famous work of the time was the magnetic river from “The Spy Who Loved Me”
But for parks, chain lifts were just fine modes of gaining potential energy – and the technology wasn’t seen for amusement purposes until 1975, with the debut of Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland Transit Authority. While it kept a consistent pace to the ride – it’s hardly a thrill ride, too.
People at the time did not see the true potential of the futuristic, potential acceleration system. Computer control systems were still rudimentary by today’s standards – plus the weight drop and flywheel launches of Schwarzkopf and Arrow were doing the job just fine.
It would take over two decades before amusement ride manufacturers would take the technology to it’s full potential, with the debut of Premier Rides’ “Flight of Fear” indoor coasters at (then) Paramount’s Kings Island and Kings Dominion in 1996.
And, after a year of technical issues, the technology would reach it’s top speed, with the debut of Intamin’s spectacular Superman: The Escape at Six Flags Magic Mountain. It still holds the record for fastest linear launched coaster on Earth at 100 mph (on a good day).
With the explosion in launched coasters over the past two decades, just remember to add the name Eric Laithwaite to your coaster lexicon. Because without him – you would literally be going nowhere, fast.