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Posts tagged “amusement parks

On This 9/11 Anniversary…

There’s a very important reason I’ve chosen “Great American Thrills” as the name for this show concept – It’s because I love my country.

The name and logo were no accident, they just perfectly fit with what I hope to do with this show concept – to entertain and inform people about the amazing ways you can still have fun at the quintessential, American amusement park.

Yes, there are some amazing parks being built in China (allegedly) and many of the theme parks in Europe are quite stunning…but where do you think they learned it all from? That’s right – they learned it from us…in the United States.

And so, on this anniversary of the worst attack on our nation’s soil, let us remember the brave men and women who fight everyday, both here at home and overseas, so that we might be able to live our normal lives – and go out to parks to have fun with our friends and families. And that’s the greatest “thrill” of “Great American Thrills” – to have fun with those closest to us. That’s what this show concept (and our country) are all about.

And I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else because of it.

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#Hashtag Etiquette – Social Media and Your Amusement Park

#Hashtags – arguably one of the more confusing elements of social media.

For many, they’re seen as useless – for others, they’re invaluable tools for social media. So which one are they for social media and the amusement industry?

They’re actually both.

In laments terms – a hashtag is like a folder on your computer – it’s a depository for anything that uses that phrase of tag. So, if you’ve just opened up a new coaster called, let’s say Iron Rattler for example, the logical hashtag you’d want to promote is: #ironrattler. Got a halloween event coming up? Why not use #HauntCGA (If it’s Great America for instance) or #KnottsHaunt for the Knott’s Berry Farm’s event.

The whole idea behind hashtags is to get people’s attention, quickly – as well as help people discover content they’re interested in.  That’s what keeps the user engaged and ultimately through your turnstiles. Because so many social networks are adopting this #hashtag feature, it behooves you to understand what they are and how to use them properly for you amusement park:

1.) Keep it simple!

The longer a hashtag, the more often it will be misspelled. In addition, the harder it will be for people to remember. Say you want to promote a specific ride one day. Your park can post “Have you ridden #theplunge today? One lucky rider will receive a backdoor pass after their ride! #YOURPARKNAMEHERE

Then, you can watch the #theplunge tags, even if you don’t have social media management software (which you SHOULD be using, if you’ve read my previous posts HERE).

2.) Make it unique, but relevant!

Say you’ve just opened up a new coaster called, let’s say Iron Rattler. The logical hashtag you’d want to promote is: #ironrattler. Got a halloween event coming up? Why not use #HauntCGA (If it’s Great America for instance) or #KnottsHaunt for the Knott’s Berry Farm’s event. You wouldn’t want someone else to be getting web traffic because of your event / advertising campaign, would you?

Not to be a shameless plug here, but whenever we shoot our “Lost Parks of Northern California” series – we always send out social media updates using the hashtag: #lostparks. Not only is it easy to remember, but it’s also unique in that it wasn’t being used before – therefore all the content using that hashtag is ours.

A logical, simple and relevant hashtag makes search engines (and users) easier to capture.

A logical, simple and relevant hashtag makes search engines (and users) easier to capture.

3.) Do NOT make it long!

Remember that some social networks, such as Twitter – give the user only 140 characters to get your message out. A hashtag like #welcomebackspaceexplorers probably isn’t the best bet. But, breaking them up into two smaller hashtags is a better alternative, say #spacemountain #disneyland for instance.

Stick to these guidelines, and you’ll find your SEO increase as well as your interaction via your social media pages. Just be prepared to actually interact with your users – it is SOCIAL media, after all!

In my next post, I’ll discuss the top ten post ideas you SHOULD be doing at your amusement park, regardless of size.

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Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He has curated social media accounts for several companies, totaling over 450,000 followers across multiple social channels. In addition, he is working on his latest video project: “The Lost Parks of Northern California”

Check out my other postings about Social Media and the Amusement Park HERE.


Social Media and the Amusement Park: Don’t Take Yelp Lightly

Despite your personal opinion of the site, Yelp.com has become the de facto review source for many users on the internet. The site says that it’s “Real People, Real Reviews,” and with your amusement park being a major business in the area, chances are someone has already reviewed you and / or created a page for your park. So, how do you monitor and work Yelp to your needs? Read on:

1.) Create an officially moderated Yelp business page, then have it verified:

Multiple pages created by guests will only add to the confusion. Clean these up by creating an officially moderated page and contacting Yelp about removing the other ones.

Multiple pages created by guests only add to confusion in search results and SEO. Plus, misinformation will spread faster.

When searching “Six Flags” in the Bay Area, these are the top four results. Note how there’s seemingly multiple accounts for the park, with reviews about the park in each one. This only makes people confused when they’re trying to find you online. True, the more of you out there, the better for SEO – but not in this case.

By creating an official, park moderated page, Yelp will be more inclined to remove errant listings, making it easier for people to find and review you. Plus, it makes it far easier to respond to guests when there’s only one place to go.

2.) Monitor, monitor, MONITOR!

Is this really an accurate review?

Is this really an accurate review? Hardly – so why allow it to sit for others to view?

It should go without saying, but Yelp is yet another place that you need to be monitoring your image online. Just like your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts, Yelp should be monitored closely to make sure that any reviews placed on it are fair, accurate and not derogatory towards your business.

For example, the posting above – is it really an accurate portrayal of the park? Absolutely NOT! So why then would you allow it to stay up, for others to view 24/7? Yelp also gives you the ability to flag reviews for abuse – which is what this one should have done to it.

At the very least – a post like this should be responded to from the park’s official account with accurate information. 95% of angry guests will be quelled once they see the park responding directly to them. Don’t think of it as damage control – think of it more as an opportunity to make a new sale by bringing a guest back. Who knows – they just might upgrade to a season pass…

3.) When you’re wrong – admit it.

Would you eat at a "C" graded restaurant? How people portray you on Yelp has a major impact on decisions to visit.

Would you eat at a “C” graded restaurant? How people portray you on Yelp has a major impact on decisions to visit.

Look, we’re all human, so we’re not perfect. Mistakes sometimes happen, so it’s up to you to recognize these and make them right wherever possible. But completely ignoring your internet footprint (especially on Yelp) isn’t going to make bad reviews go away.

If a bad review comes in, try to contact the guest first, off of Yelp. Get more information, and then proceed to see what can be done to correct it in the future. Remember that the sooner you contact an angry guest, the better the park looks in their eyes for wanting to assist.

4.) When all else fails, pay Yelp.

Ever wonder why some companies NEVER have a bad review on Yelp? Is it because of the service or business? Maybe. Mot likely, it’s because they pay for those reviews.

You heard right. What most people don’t know, is that companies can actually PAY to look better on Yelp. Yes, call it a shakedown, call it what you will. But the good news – you don’t have to give money to Yelp.

Just by monitoring and responding to reviews through your own company, much as you would with a customer service agent over the phone, or guest service manager would in the park – you’ll see your numbers trend upwards. At the very least, you’ll start getting a better pulse about what your guests are having issues with, and can adapt your business model around it.

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®


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Luna Park Video Continues to Amaze!

I had the fortune of meeting with Greg Baumann, Editor-in-Chief of the Silicon Valley Business Journal recently – and it turns out he loves learning about Silicon Valley’s history, too!

Thanks Silicon Valley Biz Journal

Let’s hope he enjoys all 23 of the other Northern California lost parks we’re aiming to cover – thanks, Greg!

If you haven’t already checked it out, view our complete “Lost Parks of Northern California” series here: www.greatamericanthrills.net/lostparks


Reaching for the Brass Ring

Odds are, you’ve heard the phrase, “reach for the brass ring” at least a few times in your life. Heck, there’s even a website with the same theme.

But, I’m willing to bet a Fast Pass that you probably don’t know where the phrase originated – turns out, it’s amusement park related and it’s also one of the greatest pieces of nearly lost Americana.

In fact, according to the National Carousel Museum, there are only 12 places left in the United States where you can still, “reach for the brass ring.”

A carousel brass ring machine is similar to a lottery – catch the lucky ring on your ride, and you usually got a free re-ride. Only come up with a steel or iron ring? Just toss it into the (insert open mouth item here).

Reaching for the brass ring at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Reaching for the brass ring at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Once a staple of every carousel (just like a live band organ), the ring machine slowly feel out of favor with most parks.

Ring machines are generally a pain – literally. Anyone caught not paying attention could be in for a nasty surprise if they leaned outward at the wrong time. Plus, there’s the toll the rings take on the horses, themselves. Ring throwers aren’t always the most accurate – and ricochets also take their toll on the wooden carvings.

In addition, while brass is certainly beautiful, it has one minor flaw – it’s incredibly malleable. (Easy to bend and shape). So, while it’s great for making rings, it’s even better at jamming ring machines when they eventually deform from wear and tear.

With higher insurance premiums, threats of litigation and soaring maintenance costs – most parks opted to remove the finicky machines in order to cut costs.

Even the Santa Cruz Boardwalk , seen today as a champion for amusement history and preservation, removed its ring machine back in the 1970’s. As a result, ridership plummeted 50%.  Needless to say, the ring machine was back up faster than you could say, “Welcome back, riders.”

But, for the parks that have kept this great tradition alive – it’s worth the sacrifice. For the riders, it’s just another reason to visit these traditional parks.


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Thank you to the San Jose City Council, District Three!

It’s an honor to be featured in this month’s “Community Spotlight” section of the City of San Jose’s, District 3 Newsletter!

It turns out – quite a few people didn’t know about the origins of Luna Park, including the City Council!

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Full text, here:

Kris Rowberry: The Lost Park of San Jose

Great American Thrills” is a web video series that follows amusement park connoisseur, Kris Rowberry, as he hunts down the original sites and memories of Northern California’s 24 bygone amusement parks.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the history of the amusement parks I’ve visited,” said Rowberry. “This series is truly a journey back in time.”

Joining Rowberry on his journey is the Assistant Regional Representative for the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) Northern California, Nicholas Laschkewitsch. He also serves as the show’s cameraman and producer.

“One of ACE’s missions is to promote the importance of preservation of both roller coasters and amusement parks,” said Laschkewitsch. “I hope the ‘Lost Parks’ series will do just that.”

Through their research, done mostly the old fashioned way in the King Library, both Rowberry and Laschkewitsch have stumbled upon countless, incredible stories about Luna Park.

“To find out that San Jose, not San Francisco, had the first pro baseball team in the Bay Area was a real shock,” said Rowberry. “Luna was built as an entertainment complex – amusement park and baseball stadium. It puts the whole territorial rights issue today in a whole new light. Plus, from the descriptions, it sounds like it was theplace to be for fireworks on the 4th of July.”

So how did he come across such an obscure piece of San Jose’s history?

“It honestly just came as inspiration driving through the Luna Park Business District and seeing all the banners,” said Rowberry. When I saw the carousel horse on one of them, I knew there had to be an amusement park here at some point. That’s the real impetus for wanting to highlight this park – well that and I lived in San Jose for nearly 26 years and never knew about it.”

Thank you Kris for bringing back the memory of Luna Park and a piece San Jose history!

Learn about Luna Park for yourself, here:


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Lost Parks Episode 2 Debuts This Friday!

If you haven’t already, check out our preview for the second installment of the “Lost Parks of Northern California.”

Do you know the way to San Jose – and it’s first amusement park?


Gold Striker Closed Only Temporarily for Modifications

After two weeks of soft testing, a lavish grand opening ceremony and over a month of regular operation, the Gold Striker wooden roller coaster at California’s Great America is closed temporarily to allow for additional sound mitigation to be placed on the ride. But don’t hit your panic buttons – published news reports say the ride is expected to be back up and running by the July 4th holiday – NOT an extended, unknown period.

According to the City of Santa Clara’s “Smart Permit” website, Gold Striker had several criteria to meet in order for it to open permanently, the biggest of which states: “Should the additional testing reveal that the coaster is not in compliance with Condition 23 (amount of sound coming from the ride) or any applicable City ordinances, Cedar Fair shall undertake Remedial Measures, as defined in the Settlement Agt Agreement.” Apparently, the ride was just shy of making all those criteria.

Many industry watchers and local boosters see this addition to the park (and the subsequent work to ensure everyone is satisfied) as a serious commitment from corporate owner Cedar Fair, LP to both the park and the local economy.

“Cedar Fair elected to close the ride to install additional sound mitigation upgrades,” said Santa Clara Mayor, Jamie Matthews. “Those upgrades should bring the ride into full compliance with the previous settlement. I’m hoping to see it open here for the 4th of July.”

He added, “I am very happy with the way this is situation is working out – it shows responsible citizenship – that we can all work together and come to a solution.”

Noise Tests at California's Great America. Photo (C) 2013, Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills. All rights reserved.

A man with recording equipment and headphones monitors the noise coming from Gold Striker from one of Prudential’s buildings.

Since “soft-opening” in May, Gold Striker has seen major additions, most notably the addition of plywood walls and white foam along the sides and underside of the track. By coincidence, these spots pass closest to or face the buildings located on Great America Parkway. During initial construction, the park added what was dubbed an, “initial descent tunnel” onto the first drop of the ride. This feature was presumably added to mitigate the sound from the first drop of the ride.

Trying to build this ride has been quite the roller coaster ride in and of itself – the plans go back to 2007, when the park first began the permitting process. In addition to the standard permits, three hearings were held on potential noise levels – all of which were initiated by appeals from the owners of the buildings closest to the proposed ride.

Billy D’Anjou, a local roller coaster enthusiast, has logged 80 circuits on the coaster since it opened in May and is hoping to hit his 100th ride in July.

“I personally don’t mind more enhancements (to the ride) but I think the whole noise mitigation issue has gotten out out of control,” he said. “In the end it makes me worry what limitations Great America will have in the future. (Prudential) should expect noise from a theme park. It’s not a library or fine art museum.”

Gold Striker at California's Great America. Photo (C) 2013 Kris Rowberry & Great American Thrills. All rights reserved.

Gold Striker thrills riders on a recent operating day.

Gold Striker is the first wooden roller coaster built in Northern California since 1999. It boasts the tallest and fastest drop in Northern California and is the largest capital investment in the park in over a decade. The ride was built partially on the footprint of another ride, Willard’s Whizzer – a steel coaster that operated from 1976 to 1988.

The land that Prudential’s buildings sit on was originally an auxiliary parking lot for Great America. The land was sold in the late 90’s during the dot com boom. Prudential acquired the buildings in early 2002, according to a press release on their website.

Marriott’s Great America opened in 1976, as a celebration of America’s bi-centennial. The concept was to create a chain of parks to become an answer to Disney’s theme park empire.


Illegal POV Filming – When Will They Learn?

I hate to be a broken record – but if you’ve been reading my writings on illegal, handheld POV filming on rides – then watching this video should come as no surprise to you.

If you think filming on rides is harmless behavior – how would YOU like to be hit with a GoPro Hero3 at 55mph?

Thankfully, no one was apparently injured in this situation.

Here’s the kicker – while the ride starts well after the train has been dispatched and out of the eyesight of ride employees – the lift has not one, but TWO cameras on it. There’s got to be a better way of preventing this – and there is!


Advertising in an Amusement Park – Practice what you Preach!

This large, banner ad is currently up at Six Flags Over Texas, hanging on the outside of the “La Vibora” bobsled coaster station. It’s promoting MetroPCS – but the cute green Android figures aren’t what caught my eye…it’s the fact that the ad is encouraging people to have their phones out on rides:

Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

It’s okay to film and photograph on rides with your phone, according to this ad – but not according to park rules and announcements.

Don’t believe me? Check out the figure with the “M” on their shirt. Yup. They’re snapping a photo while the ride is going. What’s even more troubling – they’re snapping a photo on what appears to be a swing ride – an attraction that had just debuted when I visited this year (2013); in fact, it’s the tallest in the world at 400 feet.

It also happens to be located next to the main roadway entrance to the park. Boy, that be a heck of a way to start your day when you’re driving into the park and your windshield shatters from a loose cell phone, don’t you think?

If you’ve read my previous post on this topic, this epidemic of cell phone filming is only going to become worse as the Millennial generation becomes of the age to own a cell phone. Showing ads like this, then telling them to not have loose articles aboard the ride? It just wreaks of, “What were they thinking?!?” and it’s just plain DUMB in my opinion.

Seriously – how did this ad proof get by both the corporate offices AND the local marketing officials?!?

“But loose cell phones never hit people or fall out of hands! They’re not as big of a threat as you make them out to be!”

I probably would have confided to you that I’ve never seen an injury as a result of a phone getting loose and hitting someone…though I do have proof that phones are coming loose:

Cell Phone carnage at Six Flags St. Louis. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Cell phone carnage under Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast at Six Flags St. Louis.

That was before this past weekend, however. That’s when I DID witness several people get injured by a loose cell phone at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The guest whipped out their cell phone after concealing it on the “Double Shot” freefall tower attraction just as it launched – and wouldn’t you know it – the phone got loose, fell 125 feet and promptly smashed into guests waiting in line.

This madness simply has to stop – before someone else is either injured or outright KILLED by a flying, loose article. Ads like this aren’t doing the parks any favors. They’re literally shooting themselves in the proverbial foot.

“I think you’re reading into this ad a little too much – people don’t get encouraged by ads or do what they say…”

You sure about that? Because I’m lovin’ it.

You thought of McDonald’s just now, didn’t you? Feeling a bit hungry all of a sudden? As much as we don’ t like to think it, advertising is a very powerful tool to control behavior – so to encourage the very behavior you’re trying to eliminate in your safety spiels and park map rules is well – not the smartest move in my book.

My point is this – advertise all you want to your guests, but at the very least, practice what you preach!

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®


How Much Posting is TOO Much on Social Media?

Continuing my series on how social media can be used more effectively at amusement parks / FEC’s – just how many times should you be posting to your social media accounts on a daily basis?

Some experts feel that the higher quality the post, the less often you have to post it, while others feel that with all the filtering being done online, the more often you post, the better chances you have of actually being seen and / or heard.

The New York Times – arguably the most respected news source in the country – posts on average, seven to eight times per day. As much as you’d like to think your attraction has that much to tell the world – it simply doesn’t.*

Posting even HALF that often is enough to turn off your potential viewers. Yes, you are being filtered by Facebook and the new algorithm – but it’s not worth over-posting if most of your “likes” are going to mute your posts or worse, mark them all as spam.

If RollerCoasterTycoon had a social media option, I’d be posting a maximum of three times a day while open, once a day when closed.

Post #1: Morning, Before Opening

Post #2: Midday

Post #3: End of Operating Day

Rotate the timing of each of these posts (i.e. Don’t post a funny / cool photo each day at 3:00pm, spice it up a little).

It should go without saying, but you simply MUST be scheduling posts – to try and keep up with each post each day will ultimately drive you nuts. To assist in keeping your sanity, a scheduling software solution, such as TweetDeck or HootSuite is an absolute must! (I’ll be going into more detail on how to use HootSuite with my #Hashtag post soon)

hootsuite

Also to help with keeping up with your quota – consider “banking” photos over your operating season, as well – if you can’t find anything interesting to post about one day, use one of those banked photos.

Remember that while rides are fun, most people visit parks to enjoy the fun WITH OTHERS. Highlighting unique groups in your attraction, big game winners and specific attractions is sure to bring in more views (plus more turnstiles rotating).

Fan submitted photos are also a great (and often overlooked) way to have your social media content create itself. But, as I said in my first posting on this series – never forget that the entire purpose of social media is NOT to sell to your followers directly – it’s to start a conversation and interact with them.

Once you throw up an update, be prepared to interact with people. “Like Bait,” as it’s known, has a place on Facebook, but it will never convert those eyeballs to your turnstiles unless they can feel a connection to your attraction. For instance, posting a cool photo of your roller coaster may get 1,000 likes, but people will also ask questions, too. Each one of those questions is an opportunity to connect (and THEN sell your product to them AND all their friends).

If you’re a seasonal park, take advantage of the off-season to show all the transformative work going on behind-the-scenes. Just be aware that trying to sell a season pass in the middle of the winter with a photo of a dry waterslide probably isn’t going to go very viral. However, a video of employees sliding down said slide in a bathing suit – in the snow, now THAT’S different!)

If you’re shooting your own photos to post on Facebook, Twitter and / or Google+ (and you should be) and you’re using a DSLR (i.e. NOT a cell phone camera) adding a watermark with your website or hashtag is absolutely necessary. People will inevitably share quality or memorable photos – and with watermarked information on them, your logo and website will be sitting right there in front of all those shares for consumption.

wologo wlogo

Which one of these social media update photos would YOU want to be saved as a follower’s new computer background? (Airship Ventures, 2007 – 2012)

So, don’t fill guests (or potential guests) feeds, walls or updates with tons of info, photos and sales pitches – just nurture them. There’s no reason to go crazy and post 15 Instagram shots of your newest ride. You’ll see your following grow and ultimately see more butts through the turnstiles.

In my next article, I’ll be talking about #hashtags – what are they? How can you use them to promote your attraction / FEC?

*The only exception to this rule is when your attraction is facing a crisis situation or dangerous weather conditions.

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®


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Gold Striker Video – Rider Reactions

With Gold Striker now officially open to the public at California’s Great America – enjoy this on-ride video of myself and “Lost Parks” Producer, Nicholas Laschkewitsch (who is also the ACE NorCal Asst. Regional Rep) taking in a ride.


Gold Striker NOW OPEN at California’s Great America

Yes, it’s official. As of this afternoon, the Gold Rush has officially met your adrenaline rush – GOLD STRIKER at California’s Great America is now offically OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

Look for a full media review in the next few days – but for now, get out and enjoy Gold Striker at California’s Great America!

Gold Striker at California's Great America

Gold Striker is officially open to the public!

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Social Media and Your Amusement Park

Arguably, the biggest change in terms of marketing in the past decade has to be the meteoric rise of social media.

In the past (referred to as web 1.0), parks and attractions had fan pages or message boards that covered daily events or changes. In some cases, these outlets also promoted the park in a positive light, but that wasn’t always guaranteed.

Today (in web 2.0), parks now have the ability to schedule and control messages to potential and repeat customers on an ongoing, daily basis. Even the best television campaign could not reach such a targeted audience.

But, being relatively new to the game, many parks don’t quite understand how to use social media properly to benefit them. Sadly, in many cases, parks are shooting themselves in the digital foot.

So how then can your park or attraction avoid the most common pitfalls of social media?

1.)    Social media means just that – BE SOCIAL!

The point of social media is to start (or maintain) a conversation. Whether it’s between you and your customers, or your customers and potential customers – once a story or idea starts online it can quickly lead to revenue, if it gains enough traction and virality.

However, simply throwing up a daily update on something cool about the park is not going to reach most of your audience. Just because you have 50,000 likes on Facebook, does not mean all 50,000 are seeing your post.

Not everyone enjoys pretty pictures – some are more engaged with a “What’s this Part” or “Flashback Friday” post. Create a weekly checklist of specific post types so that you can reach a greater majority of your online audience.

2.)    Always promoting an item or product is social media poison.

Yes, we’re all looking for a quick return on investment, but consider this: If you throw away junk mail whenever it comes in your mailbox at home, why wouldn’t you do the same if presented with the same situation on your social media channels?

While a thinly veiled call to action is okay every now and then, it’s not good to fill your feed up with “BUY THIS!” in each and every post you put out. Simply put, lose the 1960’s “Mad Men” advertising jargon that we all have had been beaten into our heads over our lives, and be more, “real.”

That being said, don’t forget that your social media posts are a major (and instant) public-facing outlet that has the potential to reach millions if something goes awry.

Simply put, social media is not something you assign your seasonal marketing intern as a fun project. It should be a full-time position, as it can actually keep your audience engaged (and spending money) even in the off-seasons.

3.)    While your park or attraction may close for the night, your social media feeds don’t.

Remember that the internet is on 24/7/365. While a majority of posts are made between 8:00am and 8:00pm, that can change depending on your audience and operating hours. Responding to posts, both good and bad, in a timely manner can mean the difference between closing a sale and losing a customer for life.

In addition, the larger your social media audience becomes, the more susceptible you become to nefarious postings, such as links to pornography on your public facing wall or feed. The faster you can pull them down, the less people will have seen it.

4.)    Negative feedback on your social media feed is an opportunity, not blight.

The absolute, worst behavior a park could do when managing negative feedback on social media is to simply ignore it. There are very limited circumstances where a deleted comment or all-out ban from the page could be necessary, but if managed properly, these situations are rare.

Nothing will make an angry guest feel better than to know that someone is listening or trying to rectify the situation. Even if it’s simply re-iterating a policy that the guest does not agree with, it’s still better to show the effort to others on the feed than to delete it or worse, ignore it altogether.

5.)    Stir (and track) conversation with park centric hash tags, but don’t make it too complicated

Remember the old “Kodak Photo Spot” in your park? Hash tags are the new photo spot. Create a simple one to see what people are doing and saying in your park, along with mentions of things that people may talk about, such as new attractions.

Because you’ll be tracking mentions and hash tags, you’ll quickly discover that a good majority of your social media content literally writes or creates itself. You can share guest photos, positive experiences and interact directly with them. I guarantee they’ll want to share with all their friends and family that, “…’So and So Park’ re-tweeted my pic!” That’s social media at work.

6.)    Use cell phone photos only when absolutely necessary – have a DSLR with you.

Cell phone cameras are convenient, yes – but they have limitations in terms of quality. While it’s easy to post an update from inside your park via phone, try to resist. A higher quality photo – from a SLR style camera – will allow you to add logo watermarks back in the office. A higher quality photo will also encourage people to save it on their desktop or share it with others – where it will always be in front of them at work, home or their mobile device. And your logo is right there next to it.

Shares and re-tweets, however can be cell phone shots – as these are directly from guests. A higher quality photo automatically sets the parks’ content above the guests, so it becomes more recognizable.

7.)    Use the outlets that work the best for your skill and for your park.

While it’s not a bad idea to get your feet in the water on as many of the popular social networks as possible – beware that they all have different audiences and content requirements. Google+ tends to be a more educated, affluent crowd. Instagram requires only photos, while Pinterest is weighted heavily towards women.

Don’t try to overreach when you first start off – go with the outlets that make most sense to you and your audience. Once you’re comfortable, slowly begin to expand. Sometimes too much of a good thing is well, too much!

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®


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Photo of the Day: Giant Dipper Flash-Lapse

In honor of the Coaster Guy visiting Santa Cruz, I dug through the archives to find an awesome boardwalk shot…

They say going to visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is like stepping back in time. With the effect that I captured with this photo, it almost looks like the Morgan trains ARE going back in time, a la “Back to the Future.”

Now, if only the idiot didn’t have his cell phone out, it would have been perfect. I’ll definitely be going back this summer again – but with a tripod!

Giant Dipper roller coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Photo (c) copyright 2013 - Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

As always, a big thanks to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: Looff Carousel Ring Machine

As the last of the great seaside amusement parks, visiting the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is like literally stepping back in time. It is home to not one, but TWO national historic landmarks (The 1911 Looff Carousel and 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster.) Both of these federal landmarks are unique, in that people can actually ride them, rather than admire them from a distance.

This shot was one of my first forays with the stunning Canon 5D Mark III – and the results were simply spectacular. Look for the cut on the finger from the previous pass at the ring machine…now THAT’S dedication!

Looff Carousel at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Photo (c) copyright 2013 - Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

The 1911 Looff Carousel at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of only 5 left in the world with an operating ring machine.

As always, a big thanks to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanThrills

Tweet me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/krowberry

+1 me on Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/1/115502587437263155125/posts

Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/krowberry


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Photo of the Day: Carousel Columbia at “Blue Hour”

Carousel Columbia at California's Great America. Photo (c) copyright 2013 - Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Quite simply, this is one of the best long exposures I’ve ever taken. Done with a Nikon D7100, 24-70mm lens and NO tripod – just stayed as still as possible. Columbia is still the World’s Tallest Carousel as recognized by Guinness World Records at just over 101 feet tall.

Carousel Columbia at California's Great America. Photo (c) copyright 2013 - Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Still the tallest carousel in the world, Carousel Columbia makes for a stunning subject at night. Now, if only all the accent lighting were working…

As always, a big thanks to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanThrills

Tweet me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/krowberry

+1 me on Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/1/115502587437263155125/posts

Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/krowberry


Top Five Most Terrifying Amusement Park Mishaps of All Time

You see it all the time come the summer months, “Killer ride injures passengers,” “Man dies after roller coaster ride.” Heck, search, “roller coaster accident” on YouTube, and you’ll find no shortage of videos – mostly of rides undergoing a “safety cut out” where all trains simply stop where ever they are in the circuit.

While these “stories” are mostly media spin, incidents have and still do occur – however many are a direct result of disobeying park rules and regulations. With that being said, here now are the five most terrifying (actual) amusement park mishaps:

5. Happiest Place on Earth?

Monorail track is not an alternative to the front gate.

Monorail track is not an alternative to the front gate.

Disneyland has certainly seen it’s fair share of problems over the years. Nine people have been killed in the park (although officially they all died ‘on the way to the hospital, as no one ever dies in Disneyland‘).

Seven of the nine deaths can be directly attributed to disobeying park rules or trespassing. Two have drowned in the Rivers of America. An employee who wasn’t aware of her surroundings was crushed in the “America Sings” Theater.

But the one we’ll focus on is the story of Thomas Guy Cleveland, who at 19 years old, had the brilliant idea of getting into the park via the monorail track.

Amazingly, he scaled the 15 foot track, avoided the 240V power line and began his trek to get into Disneyland immortality.

When security spotted him – naturally he began to run down the beam to avoid them. What he didn’t realize, was that they were trying to warn him that a monorail was approaching and that he should jump off the beam.

He didn’t jump off – and he didn’t get into the park for free, either.

This is certainly not the first time that someone has been killed jumping fences or at least trying to at an amusement park. This kid is lucky he still has life after diving into Jurassic Park: The Ride to retrieve his lost hat – while the ride was running. Not the brightest bulb in the set. Even if you’re not a fan of amusement parks – this video will make you cringe.

It just proves – you can’t stop stupid – no matter how many fences, gates and signs you put up.

4. Perilous Plunge – Knott’s Berry Farm, CA (2000-2012)

Perilous Plunge was plagued with delays, malfunctions and modifications in its' 12 year run.

Perilous Plunge was plagued with delays, malfunctions and modifications in its’ 12 year run. (Photo by Knott’s Berry Farm.)

When it opened in 2000, Perilous Plunge was the tallest, fastest, steepest (and wettest) flume ride in the world.

It was also the most temperamental advanced water ride of its’ time, requiring complete computer control and even a magnetic braking system built into the base of the ride to stop it in the limited space available for a splashdown pool.

During a special event at the park, a woman somehow slipped out of the ride’s lap bar restraint system on the drop, killing her instantly. Investigators believed that because she was so overweight, her mass shifted violently in the steep drop, causing her to fall out.

The boats on the ride were later modified with 5-point racing harnesses as additional restraints – then converted to standard, over the shoulder “horse collar” restraints. The entire attraction was scrapped in late 2012 for future expansion.

3. Crystal Beach Cyclone – Ontario, CN (1927-1946)

Traver's most successful of his "terrifying triplets."

Traver’s most successful of his “terrifying triplets.”

The most famous of Harry Traver’s designs, the Cyclone was and still is considered to be the most intense roller coaster ever built. With speeds approaching 55 mph and g forces in excess of +5, there aren’t many steel coasters today that can pull that off. (And the Cyclone was wood, with a steel lattice structure.)

Considering the ride ran for nearly 20 years with only a single fatality was mind boggling – how it happened is even more head turning (Literally).

Turns out in 1938 – on opening day of the season, no less – Amos Wiedrich allegedly stood up to take his coat off, after the ride had begun. Because he was out of his seat on the first drop, he simply fell out from the forces. To ad insult to injury, he was hit seconds later by the train he had been riding in when it came back around through the circuit.

Oh, did we mention this was the only roller coaster in history to have a Nurse’s Station at the exit? (Apparently it was all for show, but considering the damage this ride could have done, it may have been a worthy investment to keep the insurance down!)

2. Action Park “Cannonball Run” – Vernon, NJ (1985-sporadically into 1996)

Someone apparently thought this was a good idea.

Someone apparently thought this was a good idea.

Yes, you heard me right, looping water slide. Long before parks were marketing 45 degree pitched slides as “looping” Action Park in New Jersey had them beat with a bona fide vertical looping water slide.

According to most reports, the ride was open for one month in the summer of 1985, then was opened sporadically through 1996, when it was eventually torn down.

By principle, it *should* have worked – but that wasn’t the case…ever.

Concussions, abrasions and the possibility of being stuck in the slide were all risks people were willing to take to get on this ride – well, that and allegedly $100 bills that park management bribed them with to try it.

You can read a first hand account of the ride from someone who actually experienced it here.

On a related side note – Action Park (and many of it’s “groundbreaking, people breaking” attractions) was closed in 1996, and re-opened as Mountain Creek Resort in 1997. All of the non-conforming (i.e. unsafe) rides, including the looping waterslide were destroyed – with newer, safer ones replacing them (Though, that’s up for debate).

1. Lightning – Revere Beach, MA (1927-1933)

Revere Beach's "Lightning"

Revere Beach’s “Lightning”

The last of Harry Traver’s infamous “Terrifying Triplets” – Lightning was so twisted, most riders could not handle the brutal forces exerted on them.

On the second day of operation, a young girl was somehow ejected from the ride and died after hitting the track below. According to lore, the ride was shut down for 20 minutes, “…so they could remove the body.”

That’s right – the ride was back up and running after only 20 minutes. Odds are, the line increased quite a bit, too.

Back in the 1920’s it wasn’t unheard of for a ride to become more popular after it killed someone. Today, we have a bit higher standards and regards for our personal safety, thankfully.

Roar! at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA

Roar! at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA

Sharp eyed coaster fans will notice that both the Lighting and Cyclone first drops have a modern counterpart. Both the “Roar” wooden coasters at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Six Flags America share the similar first drop with Traver’s triplets.

So, will we ever see another Crystal Beach Cyclone, or looping water slide? At the rate safety technology is going – I certainly wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility. Just look at how far we’ve come in just the past 90 years!

And there you have it – ten of the most terrifying amusement park mishaps of all time.

It should be noted, that while awful and scary as some of these incidents are, they are also an infinitely tiny minority of the total rides taken over the course of history.

Many of these instances occurred before the advent of safety regulations, government oversight, understanding of g-forces or restraint technology.

The odds of you being injured at a modern amusement park are actually lower than when you are driving to the park itself. So be smart – obey the park rules and you’ll have a fun and safe time!


Man Allegedly Loses $2600 at Carnival Game

This "Rasta Banana" was worth so much to a man, that he blew his life savings trying to win it.

This “Rasta Banana” was worth so much to a man, that he blew his life savings trying to win it.

If there were a dumb guy Olympics, this dude just ran away with all the medals…

Henry Gribbohm claims that at a recent carnival he attended, he lost $2,600 playing a game called “Tubs of Fun.”

And you thought carnival barkers were good at stretching the truth.

In the game, contestants attempt to toss balls into a tub. Apparently, Gribbohm had been practicing the game at home for weeks before the fair – but when it was game time – the results weren’t so good.

Considering the game offers one of the largest prizes at the fair, it should have been fair warning that this wasn’t going to be a cake walk. Predictably, all of Gribbohm’s attempts failed.

But that didn’t stop him, no sir. According to Gribbohm, he kept trying to win back his money by going double or nothing, something that even a carnie wouldn’t dare try (Especially considering that’s gambling!) He also claimed that because he was causing such a large scene and drawing in people, the operator of the game, “…promised me a Xbox.”

Really?

“He dropped $300 in just a few minutes and said he went home to get $2,300 more and soon lost all of that as well,” according to a local TV station.

“It’s not possible that it wasn’t rigged,” he said. “For once in my life, I happened to become that sucker.”

Understatement of the century there. You think they just give these quality items away?

Apparently, Gribbohm went back the next day to complain and the man running the game gave him back $600 – which at least validated his claim that he did spend wayyy too much money on a giant banana.  Despite getting back $600 that he never should have, he still filed a report with the police.

Gribbohm said that he’s considering a lawsuit. I wonder if he realizes that he can’t win there, either.


Gold Striker *ACTUAL REVIEW* at California’s Great America

Gold Striker - www.greatamericanthrills.net

“Wow.”

That’s the word most people were saying after they got off Gold Striker this evening. While not open to the public yet, California’s Great America invited people, including yours truly, to come out and participate in a promo shoot for commercials and still advertising.

Gold Striker - www.greatamericanthrills.net

Gold Striker looms large over Carousel Plaza and the front entrance to the park.

Folks, this ride is the REAL DEAL and is setting up to be a real “sleeper hit” across the country. Most people know Great America as a park that seems to enjoy removing rides rather than building them. Gold Striker might just make you forgive them (maybe).

The fun starts before you get to the lift hill (that’s right, BEFORE you get to the lift hill!) Folks in the rear seats will appreciate the incredible whip of the turnaround out of the station, which could be the tightest I’ve ever seen taken at speed before on a woodie) and those in the front seat will appreciate the airtime (yes, I said AIRTIME) on the bunny hill before the lift.

After ascending the lift, riders enter the “initial descent tunnel” and that’s where all hell breaks loose. The ride is fast, noisy and the effect of blasting out fo the tunnel is impossible to describe.

From there the ride does a VERY close flyby of the station stairs, giving wonderful photo / video opportunities. A floater hill and a few head choppers later, the ride finds it’s speed…and keeps it until the brake run.

I don’t want to completely ruin the ride for you, but know that there are many “pops” of air on this ride, usually to set you up for another element. Call it a “tag team coaster” because they work perfectly together.

Coming into the final turn, you hit the magnetic (it’s Silicon Valley, gotta have some technology) and then back to the station. Pictorium fans will be saddened to learn that two of the entrances have been demolished, but the building itself still stands.

Gold Striker - www.greatamericanthrills.net

“Millennium Flyer” trains harken back to the “Golden Age” of coaster design. The trains are Gold / Red, Red Gold – in 49ers shades.

To quote my ride mate for this marathon session, “Airtime is back with GCI.”

We squeezed in nine (9) rides before the park shut down the line. Average wait times were 15 minutes, shrinking as more and more of the general public left. This ride is NOT EASY to marathon, but for all the RIGHT reasons. It is INTENSE, BREAKNECK PACED and to be quite honest, many of us in attendance were pinching ourselves, wondering how we got this ride to come here in the first place.

So, in conclusion…

This is a winner all-around for a park more recently known for REMOVING rides than ADDING them. Be prepared for sharp transitions, “set up” surprises and well-timed elements. The ride is smooth with little attitude. This is not an, “airtime machine” but it has well over 8-10 (I kept losing count) pop airtimes. There are moments when you’re riding only on up-stops.

Now, you can take your kids on Grizzly as a warm up and test their (and your) mettle on Gold Striker.

In my opinion, this coaster could EASILY take on El Toro in national polls and in many cases it should WIN.

The ONLY thing missing from this ride…is YOU!

To learn more about Gold Striker or to purchase tickets to the park, visit www.cagreatamerica.com

Gold Striker logo


Our Next Lost Park

It’s official – our next lost park has finally been chosen!

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“Do you know the way to San Jose…”

and the way to Luna Park?


Danke Shen, Deutchland! (Thank you, Germany!)

A big thanks to the folks over in Germany for watching the Lost Parks series in such high numbers! Check out the latest demographics on the YouTube channel!

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I knew working for a Zeppelin company would pay off at some point!

Sie sind ser schon!


Kim Jong Un – Amusement Park Expert?

This kid is a baller
This kid is a baller

Photo Credit: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) NOTE: State-run media.

Set your foam guns to “master blaster,” amusement park fanboys! Looks like you’ve got some new competition for stingiest park visitor. And this one plays for keeps, what, being a Dictator and all…

Yes, it’s everyone’s favorite twenty-something “threatening to nuke the U.S.” ruler, Kim Jong Un. From the sound of it, he knows quality amusement park traits.

Un was at a North Korean amusement park last year, where he took in the rides, the scenery and the crowds that were carefully staged to be there (probably at gunpoint).

But, he also lambasted the park for potential safety issues with their water slides, poorly maintained showering facilities, weeds growing out of the asphalt and even peeling paint on the rides.

First of all – who would have thought North Korea would even HAVE an amusement park. For most people living there, just getting food is a daily chore, let alone having FUN in the process.

Secondly – is this the first time we’ve seen a Head of State actually partaking in a thrill ride in front of the media? Who knows – maybe that’s why Mitt Romney lost the election – we didn’t see him on a coaster.

So, the inevitable question comes up – can we send Kim Jong Un to (INSERT ANY USA PARK HERE) to fix up some of our lesser maintained parks? Maybe we can call it a “goodwill” mission…


Shameless Plugs

As I continue to upgrade the brand and it’s overall presence, I’ve made a major move in terms of my photography.

In addition to now working with www.BorrowLenses.com as my sole provider of camera equipment (I also work FOR them, hence the partnership) I’ve moved most of my photo collection over to 500px.

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You can view my latest photos, download and even purchase them at: www.500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills