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Five Ways California’s Great America Can Make It’s 40th Anniversary Better

Photo by Steven Wilson

Can we talk?

California’s Great America is about to celebrate it’s 40th anniversary this year. And from the feeling I’m getting via their social media and press releases, it sure is starting to feel like the park is about to blow a major opportunity to celebrate it properly.

Yes, the park is getting a revamped 4D theater – but that’s all so far for their 40th season. A milestone season. A season many people didn’t think the park would ever get to the first place (if you know it’s history).

Maybe I’m nuts, but as a fan, here’s five things the park can easily do to make the 40th beyond just “good” – they’ll make it GREAT:

 

5.) Bring back the history museum:

One of the coolest parts of ACE’s Coaster Con for me two years ago was the opportunity to be involved in designing and curating the history museum at the park. It was hoped it would help the park do a better job of bragging about it’s history – and gave the park the excuse to dust off a WORKING model of their Flight Deck coaster.

Great America history museum

Photo © 2014, Kris Rowberry

Sadly, the very next day – it was closed to the public. All that work for less than 12 hours of total operation. If you’re going to celebrate your history – you better be prepared to be PROUD of it and COMMIT to it.

 

4.) Have roving, themed performers in the park:

Again, a highlight of Coaster Con a few years ago (for local park fans at least) was the apparent return of themed dancers and singers to Orleans Place. Even the general public stopped in awe. This piece of Marriott-era showmanship evoked Disney-like tones and really should be made permanent, rather than just used for one event and discarded.

Photo © 2014, Kris Rowberry

Photo © 2014, Kris Rowberry

 

3.) Bring back the Demon’s theming:

A sore spot with me for YEARS (Ha! It’s funny ’cause it’s an older Arrow coaster, get it?) I’ve got on at length about this before, so I’ll make it as clear as I can – the Demon MUST have it’s special effects brought back for the 40th anniversary. Bonus points if you re-create the “Turn of the Century” sign.

Demon Great America night

Photo © 2003, Kris Rowberry

Speaking of nostalgia…

 

2.) Retro merchandise in the gift shops:

Nothing is hotter right now than nostalgia – and theme parks tend to accumulate a ton of it in their lifetimes. Great America is no exception. If you’re looking for a perfect example of how to pull this off, take a gander at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, who’s most popular shirt this year – was for a ride that’s been gone for three seasons now (The Big Bad Wolf).

Busch Gardens retro shirts

Photo © 2015, Kris Rowberry

Admit it, you don’t just want a Sky Whirl, the Edge or Tidal Wave t-shirt now…

…you NEED one.

 

1.) Nix the fountains up front and bring back the swans:

Quick backstory: The fountains were added in 2001, to celebrate the park’s 25th anniversary. I think it’s time to revert the front pool to what it was originally intended as – a reflecting pool.

And what better way to class up the joint, than to bring back the elegant, trumpeter swans!

Photo by Steven Wilson

Photo credit: Steven Wilson collection, http://www.GreatAmericaParks.com

And yes, California’s Great America, I’m available for consulting – perhaps compensation via funnel cake is in order. Either way, you have my info…don’t keep me waiting.

What do you think? Are there any other things the park can do to help truly celebrate it’s 40th season? Leave me a comment below, or chat with me on your favorite social networks!

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The Most Celebrated Amusement Park Insider Experiences

It’s good to know people. But it’s even better to know there’s all sorts of things inside our favorite amusement and theme parks that can make your day that much more special, IF you know them! Here now is my top six most celebrated amusement and theme park “insider” experiences as parks open up for full time operation this week:

6.) Dole Whip:

Once reserved for trips to Disney Parks, this sweet treat has been popping up at more and more regional parks every year.

The Dole Whip is heaven in a plastic cup. Don’t believe me? Try it and tell me otherwise…

Once only reserved for visitors to Disney’s Tiki Rooms, this Polynesian frozen treat is slowly making its way out from the mouse and into regional parks, to the delight of pineapple fans everywhere. If you haven’t experienced one yet – hunt it down or request it be brought to your park.

5.) The Rollback:

We ain’t talking about WalMart here…an exclusive experience to Intamin cable-launched coasters, this delightful event occurs when the launch isn’t quite strong enough to get you over the first hill, resulting in screams of euphoria from enthusiasts – and shrieks of horror from the general public.

In reality, it’s all perfectly safe and for the lucky riders, it’s like getting 1.5 rides for the wait of just one!

4.) The Round-Trip Skyway Ride:

These clowns took too many round trips...

These guests took too many round trips…

Because nothing’s better than watching all those people in line scratch their head over why you’re not getting out of your sky bucket. But, with so many of these rides being removed in recent years, plus the increase in overall park attendance (which means longer lines for rides) this experience has become far more difficult to cross off your list.

3.) The Track Walk / Evacuation:

While a rare event, a lift walk is one of the coolest things you can experience.

While a rare event, a lift walk is one of the coolest things you can experience.

A very rare event that you don’t necessarily want to root for experiencing for yourself. Why? Because it most certainly means the ride will be down for at LEAST the rest of the operating day.

But the experiencing of walking a coaster lift is most certainly a memorable one.

2.) The Last Ride of the Night:

Something about no one standing behind you in line that's really special...

Something about no one standing behind you in line that’s really special…

There is something oddly cathartic about knowing you’re the last person to experience all that fun. Well, at least until the mechanics come in tomorrow morning to start checking on things. this fun. But, until then…

And the number one most celebrated amusement park insider experience?

1.) Exclusive Ride Time (ERT):

ERT is the best benefit to being a member of ACE!

ERT is the best benefit to being a member of ACE!

The only thing better than the last ride of the night, is having the ride all to yourself or the group you’re at the park with!

Just think about it – no line and fast operations. It doesn’t get any better than that. Heck, it’s one of the biggest reasons I joined ACE!

Did I miss an experience? Do you have one to add to the list? Tell me about it on my social media channels or leave a comment below!


Thanks for the Follow, Destination America!

It’s always great to receive new followers on social media – but some, such as the one I received last evening, are very special!

Destination America follows Great American Thrills

Thanks for the follow, Destination America – glad to have you along for the ride! This tweet brought to you by Verizon Wireless 4G LTE…

Destination America is a partner channel with Discovery Communications, and would be a WONDERFUL place to have Great American Thrills show just how amazing our amusement parks are – (wink wink, nod nod) after all…we invented them!

I look forward to sharing my passion of amusement and theme parks with you, Destination America – in addition to my extensive knowledge of Talkeetna, AK ; ) Have you ever tried their pancakes?

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We’re Presenting at the San Mateo County History Museum!

Great American Thrills is honored to announce that we’ve been selected as a presenter in the San Mateo County History Museum’s “Courthouse Docket” series, exploring the rich history of the region.

Come down on October 26th at 1:00pm and see “The Next Huell Howser” – aka Kris Rowberry – show you how you can still experience some of our bygone amusement parks…today!

Who knows, you just might learn something, too!


#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.

– – –

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.


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Photo of the Day: Gold Striker at California’s Great America

After many years of becoming a park known for REMOVING rides rather than ADDING them, California’s Great America in Santa Clara, CA made a major statement this year with the addition of Gold Striker. Billed as the tallest, fastest (and certainly most intense) coaster in Northern California, Gold Striker is easily one of the top five wooden coasters I’ve ever had the privilege of riding – and should be under consideration for the Top Ten in the United States.

Despite some minor setbacks and delays in opening, mostly due to ongoing noise abatement issues – the ride is now roaring every operating day, to delighted and packed crowds.

A winner all around, this coaster is seen by many as the catalyst for revival at California’s Great America – and fans are loving every moment of it. But don’t take my word for it – check out Westcoaster’s recent review.

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Big thanks goes out 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/sets

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

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Photo of the Day: Asiana Airlines Flight 214 Wreckage at SFO

Asiana 214 wreckage. Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

Now, I’m a big fan of all things aviation – but to take these photos yesterday was both a sobering and ethereal moment for me.

To think of what this aircraft and more importantly, it’s occupants had been through made this one of the more difficult subjects for me to shoot.

Nonetheless, it’s important to document – to think so many people WALKED AWAY from this wreckage is simply astounding.

Asiana 214 wreckage. Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

Big thanks goes out 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/sets

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