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Posts tagged “social media

California’s Great America Celebrates National Roller Coaster Day with Tongue-in-Cheek Celebration of Kiddie Coaster

Warning: this is a really cute video.

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!


Fan Journalism has Officially Jumped the Shark

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?

“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.”

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.


No More Free Rides: Companies Need to Stop Asking for Free Marketing from Fans

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.

It’s Reckless:

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?

It’s Outdated:

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.

It’s Insulting:

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.

Kris Rowberry, Great Coasters International photo

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!


Disney Makes Unprecedented Statement Debunking Ride Removal Rumor from Internet

This week, a completely unverified rumor on the alleged fate of a ride at Walt Disney World grew so massive, the company took the unprecedented step of making a public statement saying that the rumor was completely baseless.

Let me repeat that: Disney. Had to make an official statement. About a rumor on the internet.

Just let that settle in for a moment.

With larger parks and chains, it’s become a cottage industry to report on park news and rumors, as if they were actual newsrooms, complete with reporters.

The only issue is, they aren’t.

These blogs and Twitter accounts can report on whatever they want, however they want, with no apparent recourse if what they report on is false or misleading. So why do we continue, time after time, to allow accounts like this to ruin the fun of our industry – and why do so many of the fans continue to believe them?

There is an elegantly simple solution, but it’s oh so difficult to implement: Stop giving them credibility. Not only as a fan, but also as a park / vendor / operator.

As park fans, just unfollow them. Don’t even let them know you haven’t forgotten about that one time they messed up. It’ll just give them better clicks and search results. We, as park fans, have an obligation to, as Ronald Reagan once told Gorbachev, “Trust, but verify.” Otherwise, we’re just as much a part of the problem.

Ronald Reagan portrait

The Gipper had it right when he said, “Trust, but verify.” We need to heed those words now more than ever.

If you are a park, a vendor or an operator, ask yourself, “Do these people get invited to media events or other special perks?”

If so, stop inviting them. Just because they have a lot of followers, that doesn’t give them the right to make your life as a Public Relations or Marketing Manager a living hell.

And to those who think I’m off my rocker, just remember this: Disney Parks have been around much longer without Walt at the helm than with him – so they must be doing something right.

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What do you think? Are bloggers and social media ruining the park fan experience? Or do you think it’s harmless interaction that doesn’t hurt anyone? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to follow us on our social networks!


Kris Rowberry Returns to Great American Thrills

Kris Rowberry

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?

– KR

Kris Rowberry

Kris Rowberry is back at Great American Thrills!


Winterfest at Great America Gives a Shimmering Debut

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 ob-board spiel.

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:

Winterfest Main 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.

 

Snowflake Lake:

Arguably the most striking feature of Winterfest, this honest-to-goodness ice rink is in the middle of Carousel Columbia’s reflection pond.

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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.

Santa’s Reindeer:

Winterfest Reindeer

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:

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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.

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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.

 

Merchandise:

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!

THIS is what fans want to see in their local amusement park!

 

And this…

CGA Winterfest Merch 2

 

And finally, this:

CGA Winterfest Merch 3

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.

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.

Food lines CGA

Final Thoughts:

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?

Winterfest Snow


Kings Dominion has the Worst Day Ever on Social Media After Allegedly “Trolling” Coaster Fans

On Saturday, Kings Dominion finally revealed their 2017 attraction that it had been building up on social media for several weeks – an expanded Planet Snoopy, along with a season-long photo service and in-park wi-fi.

And the reaction online was both swift and ugly:

KD Twitter Ouch 2

KD Ouch Twitter

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About 98% of the posts responding to the park’s announcements were negative. Park “fans” are incensed because they felt Kings Dominion staff purposely lied, teasing them into thinking something larger (and in their opinion, better) was coming (specifically, a Rocky Mountain conversion of their Hurler wooden coaster).

Here’s their reasoning – exhibit A is a tweet similar to this (which has been subsequently deleted). It features Snoopy looking at the Hurler roller coaster:

14030619_10154267595696023_1081570843_n Exhibit B (they say) is this video, in which their PR Manager read fan mail:

Chad Video

The first question asks if green colored roller coaster track in an Ohio foundry is destined for Kings Dominion. He responds, “Green? No. It’s red.”

Apparently his sarcasm didn’t translate to everyone – as “fans” immediately assumed he was hinting at the familiar red track from Rocky Mountain Construction. Some fans got the joke:

Chad Positive

But apparently, many did not – and therein lies the problem.

Exhibit C (they say) is the fact that the park announced the expansion as part of a big event, inviting pass holders and bloggers to come and hear the news first – two days after the rest of the chain announced their attractions. This led park “fans” to THINK the timing indicated it would be a major announcement.

The simple fact is this: coaster “fans” created their own narrative and reality, due in part to the echo chamber of social media and the constant searching for the latest rumors on ride additions. They had convinced themselves not only was a roller coaster coming to Kings Dominion – but that they the fans DESERVED one.

How can I say this with confidence? Because others did some research – yet were drowned out by all the fervor:

Not Near Hurler

Now – should the park have used photos of Snoopy looking at a closed Hurler? In hindsight, probably not. Is it worth getting so worked up about, that you threaten the park, sharpen your pitchforks and hope the PR guy is fired? Hell no! (I’m looking at you, Instagrammers)

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I want “ansers” too…like how you think your eight followers on Instagram constitutes a personal phone call from the park, apologizing for not putting in a ride that you wanted.

FullSizeRender

“Hype” that was driven more by coaster “fans” online who wanted a narrative, and didn’t get it.

In the end, this tease campaign made perfect sense – Snoopy is looking around the park, “snoopin’ around” as they say for his Planet Snoopy expansion. But the scale of the announcement vs. the attraction, coupled with the “echo chamber” and “need to know” community that is the online coaster “fan” made this the perfect storm for full-blown virality – in the worst way possible.

Welcome to the tightrope that is social media. Hope you’ve got a net set up below.

And as for the coaster “fans” posting all the hate and vitriol against the park to social media or demanding the park add a coaster to satisfy you – good luck ever being invited to a media day or special event…


California’s Great America announces The Patriot for 2017

With no fanfare or any buildup, California’s Great America announced a long-standing rumor that it will convert it’s Vortex roller coaster into a floorless model, dubbed The Patriot.

Now, I’m all for improving the ride experience for any coaster – and certainly Vortex fits the bill for that. But considering that a longer, faster, taller (and better) floorless coaster is an hour’s drive north from Santa Clara – why would they try to market the world’s shortest floorless coaster in the same media market? (An ultra-competitive media market at that).

The Patriot at CGA 1

The Patriot will convert Vortex into a floorless coaster, with new trains and paint. Graphic courtesy of California’s Great America.

The press release sent out by the park also erroneously claimed that Vortex is the oldest stand-up coaster in the United States (“Apocalypse,” formerly “Iron Wolf” is the oldest at Six Flags America). It also said the ride’s name was inspired by the “All American Corners” section of the park – even though the ride shares no entrance or exit to the area (It’s officially located in Hometown Square).

Vortex Oldest

Not quite, California’s Great America…

RCDB

Don’t get me wrong – this is still a good move by the park. But it’s no slam dunk. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has the upper edge on this ride type with Medusa, so Great America must come with a really good angle to get their message heard.

Looking at the park’s social media feeds, members of the general public aren’t really sold on the idea:

Confusion

Park fans on CGA’s Facebook feed are a bit confused on the Vortex / Patriot conversion and sadly the park isn’t answering their questions…

For me, the park would have been better off converting the ride into a sit down coaster, such as Kumba, Wildfire or the Incredible Hulk. At least then it would have been unique to the area. But, it’s still a major improvement to a ride that desperately needed it.

Let’s hope the station is also improved, with actual shade and you know – a roof.

The Patriot 2

The Patriot will be one of the shortest floorless coasters when it opens in 2017. Graphic courtesy of California’s Great America.

But the one thing I can’t shake from all this is HOW it was announced. At least when Cedar Point converted Mantis into Rougarou – there was a fun teaser campaign (Squash the bug). You felt like you were a part of the park.

But the way The Patriot was announced this morning came off like a doctor giving you a bad prognosis: “This is coming. You’ve got two weeks. Buy a season pass.”

There’s no emotional connection to an announcement this big when it’s done via press release only. Honestly, I don’t feel compelled to buy a season pass at all. The two errors in the release certainly don’t help, either:

CGA Patriot Release Error

What lies “beneath their fee”? Isn’t that your admission? 😉

Overall though, the general public will welcome this change if it’s marketed well – and my hope is that it will be successful. But it will also be increasingly difficult to get the right message across – an emotional one – if the park does not connect better with the fans in the future.

What do you think of The Patriot? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!


Social Media Strategies and Best Practices for Amusement Parks

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.

RMC Before and After Comparison

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.

CGA Capture

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 No Show

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!


Kings Island Unveils Mystic Timbers and Teases with #WhatsInTheShed

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 2017 Teaser What's In The Shed

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:

Capture 1 Capture 2 Capture 3

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?


Instagram Coaster Accounts Are Not Real Media

I’m going to say something here that’s bound to tick off some of my readers – but it warrants being told:

IF YOU RUN A ROLLER COASTER OR AMUSEMENT PARK INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT…

YOU ARE NOT ACTUAL MEDIA.

There, I said it.

The same goes with just having a social media presence, whether it’s just a Twitter account or Tumblr that’s focused on parks or rides. None of that qualifies you to be invited to nor demand to be invited to a park media event.

This just about sums up most of Instagram...

This just about sums up most of Instagram…

Why? Well I’ll tell ya…

Credentialed media (such as myself) are invited to events because we earn it. We write proper news stories, we create content that’s more than just a photo and a caption. We provide insight for people who may be fans of the industry or the general public who might do a Google search.

Demanding that you’re invited to media events based solely on the fact that run an Instagram account dedicated to rides is laughable.

You have to have impact – you have to actually DO something besides snap photos with your phone and upload them.

Media events at parks – by their very nature – are supposed to be fun. But, that does not mean they are there for you and your “hundreds” of followers to HAVE fun.

Make sense?

Coaster Expert Kris Rowberry gets his thrill on

Getting my thrill on with the lap bar only “Superman: Ultimate Flight” at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

People like myself are there to work; to cover a story. When you shove your way to the front of the press line, or bolt in front of others to get on the ride – that’s counterproductive to our whole industry of covering parks. And it’s why more and more parks are second-guessing bringing in “online, coaster media” in the first place.

When the enthusiasm over a new ride or attraction blinds you – that’s not good. I’m not saying what you do is dumb or pointless – I just want you to realize there are more steps to be taken to get up the ladder.

This problem is so prevalent, that at one media event I attended this year, a member of the Instagram Mafia DEMANDED that they receive the park provided ride POV first from their PR Manager.

Really?

Think about that. It’s not about covering the park anymore, is it? It’s about…YOU…being first. That’s the wrong attitude to have.

Simply put, if you don’t create meaningful content or respect the parks you cover (and the people who cover them) then I hope you enjoy the latest attractions when they open to the general public – because that’s when you should be riding them, first.

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Am I way off base? (It’s happened before). Let me know in the comments section below or on my social media links!


Dorney Park’s flag stolen and the massive social media backlash over special needs employee not rehired

Dorney Park in Altoona, PA learned the hard way this week that when it rains, it pours. (or maybe when it snows, it blizzards). A member of the Cedar Fair chain, the park saw not one but two major media events – and neither one was positive.

Last Sunday, after the park had closed – four teenagers were able to enter the park, and somehow scaled the 200 foot tall “Dominator” free fall ride to steal one of the large flags at the top. “Dominator” is a triple S&S tower.

Not a great start to the week, admittedly. But then it got worse. Much worse.

Christopher Emery, a special-needs individual had worked at the park for 12 consecutive years, cleaning bathrooms. When he went in for his annual interview with managers, he apparently didn’t do well. So much so, they decided not to rehire him.

When his friend – who also works at Dorney Park found out – he jumped onto social media to vent his frustration. Outside of having a bad interview, there wasn’t apparently any other reason for not rehiring him.

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Within a matter of minutes, both #ShameOnYouDorney and #ShameOnYouDorneyPark were trending locally in the Philadelphia area as well as in the online amusement community.

It took until the next day for Dorney to issue a statement to the press, as well as try to quell fervor online. It was textbook, “too little / too late.”

Social media is a double edged sword. You can rise and fall very quickly and you’re always under a microscope. Parks can’t afford to not have a social media person ready to go at any time and not monitor their feeds constantly. No engagement is walking tightrope without a net.

Dorney eventually responded - but only issuing one statement and not responding to individuals only incited more anger towards the park.

Dorney eventually responded – but only issuing one statement and not responding to individuals only incited more anger towards the park.

One of the best examples of handling a crisis of late came from overseas. Alton Towers not only immediately issued statements on an incident on the Smiler via their social media channels – they responded to their guests’ questions and complaints – ALL OF THEM. And it wasn’t a canned response either – it was custom for each one.

It just goes to show the power of social media in this new era – and that trying to avoid it is only inviting trouble. As for Dorney Park, let’s hope this week is a bit more calm on the media front, for their sake.


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!


Five Things Amusement Park Fans Must Stop Doing in 2015

Call me “Grandpa” if you must, but there’s a ton of things that just drive me nuts with the whole amusement park and roller coaster “fan” community. So here’s my picks for the the top five things we’ve got to stop doing in 2015:

 

5.) “Coaster Battles” on Instagram:

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Collage by Instagram user: @Insta_Coaster

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Collage by Instagram user: @Screamsource

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I get it, you’re trying to drive engagement to your profile. But damn it’s annoying as all hell to see a “battle” of two or more rides that are usually “apples to oranges” in terms of comparisons-sake taking up my entire screen while I’m just trying to see some beautiful photos. Speaking of photos on social media…

 

4.) Stealing Each Others’ Photos / Videos:

Copyright 2

 

There’s a reason when you search for photos in Google there’s a small disclaimer at the bottom. It reads: “This image may be subject to copyright.” So what does that mean? In short, it means you need to get permission to use the photo or follow the rules for using it as defined by the author (Creative Commons 3.0 is a good example of this).

So while it’s so easy to right click a cool photo and drop it into your social media feed (Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr) you better do some research to ensure no one owns the rights to it first – or you could be sued, and sued for each time it was reproduced (i.e. “shared”.) You wouldn’t want someone stealing your term paper and calling it their own – so why would you steal someone’s art and not attribute it.*

*Fun fact: While attribution is good, it does not completely absolve you from copyright infringement lawsuits. The easiest solution? Just go out and capture your own photos / videos.

Oh, and if you DO get caught – just fess up to it and fix the situation. No one likes a sore copyright infringer.

 

3.) Flying Your Drone Over Parks / Construction Areas:

Seriously - as cool as you think it might be to fly over a park, the lawsuits over damage etc. don't make it worth it.

Seriously – as cool as you think it might be to fly over a park, the lawsuits over damage, etc. don’t make it worth it.

With UAV’s (commonly known as “drones” becoming more and more prevalent (as they become cheaper), the temptation is there to do some really nefarious things with them, such as flying over closed parks without permission to spy on construction progress, or worse, fly over the general public without asking first).

While these amazing devices have given us incredible perspectives on parks and rides recently – the world isn’t quite ready to see them flying overhead while families are trying to enjoy their day. Plus, most pilots are not up to par with the pilots they see on YouTube – at least, not yet.

They’re also a major insurance liability to the park and yourself (seen all those drone FAIL videos? Now imagine them over a crowded midway) not to mention the serious, Federal / FAA violations you could be racking up – so just leave the DJI Phantom II in the hangar for now – okay?

 

2.) “Selfie Sticks” on Rides:

Loose articles can ALWAYS come loose - keep the camera in your pocket and ENJOY THE RIDE!

Loose articles can ALWAYS come loose – keep the camera in your pocket and ENJOY THE RIDE!

These things are bad enough off-rides, do we really need to capture every waking moment of our lives on RIDES and then upload them? Plus, once that stick / camera / phone gets knocked loose and whacks some unsuspecting guest below – good luck explaining yourself to the judge & jury in the civil & criminal lawsuits that are sure to follow.

 

1.) Arrogance in Parks and Online:

Dislike-Social-Media3

Unless you’re the GM or other high-ranking manager of a park, you’re not allowed to walk around your local park or on the internet like you’re a God on the subject (myself included). Begging for perks, exclusive experiences etc., just because you belong to a certain “coaster club” is not only beyond arrogant – it’s counterproductive to the entire community.

All it takes is ONE PERSON to act like an enthusi-ass at a park or TOWARDS a park – and it will ruin the fun for the rest of us. Think of that next time you’re bad mouthing a park via social media or claiming to know everything to the “GP” the next time you’re out on the midway. Remember our passion is all about having fun – not making other people miserable in the process…

What are your thoughts? Got anything to add to this list? Leave me a comment below or on our social media pages:


Coaster Con XXXVII in the Bay Area this week

All this week, Great American Thrills will be bringing you insider coverage from Coaster Con XXXVII – the biggest event on the American Coaster Enthusiasts calendar – and the first time ever the event has been held exclusively in Northern California.

rd9o

From behind the scenes tours, special VIP events and even a few surprises along the way…stay tuned to Great American Thrills as we update the site every evening.

You can also follow our social media accounts – as we’ll be updating LIVE as we can with these hashtags across all the platforms:

#CoasterCon

#GreatAmericanThrills

#LostParks


Cool Theme Park Video Contest

Do you enjoy making amusement / theme park videos? Want to win some awesome prizes? Then why not enter the Six Flags St. Louis “I Got Tsunami Soaked” video contest!

Just upload your video on how you’re preparing for the Tsunami Soaker, send the park a Tweet using hashtag: #IGotTsunamiSoaked and that’s it! Whoever receives the most RT’s wins! Deadline is May 20th, but get your entries in early for the best chance of going viral.

I visited the park last summer – and let me tell you, if you’ve never visited – it reminded me of Magic Mountain, if it were more beautiful and much more humid 🙂

main_TsunamiSoaker


Inaugural #CoasterChat TONIGHT on Twitter!

Join the creator and host of Great American Thrills®, along with the creator of CoasterAddict.com, for the first ever #CoasterChat tweetup!

Many of us love roller coasters and the amusement parks that build them. Similarly, many of us also tweet…all of the time. Now, we hope to merge the two together on a weekly basis, discussing the latest news and topics surrounding the amusement park industry. We look forward to hearing all of your great ideas and enthusiastic candor!

So, how can YOU participate? It’s easy! Just log into Twitter around 6:00pm TONIGHT, and search for / follow the #CoasterChat hashtag – it’s that easy to join in on the fun – see you there, coaster fans!

Logo by: CoasterAddict.com

Logo by: CoasterAddict.com


Six Flags scores viral hits on social media this off-season

Kudos to Six Flags for turning one of the worst winters EVER into one of the most entertaining – and keeping their followers on social media engaged during the long off-season:

First up, is Six Flags St. Louis

After a bitter cold spell gripped the midwest, the marketing folks at the former Mid-America park decided to trudge through the snow to make a statement…and a brilliant one at that:

Six Flags St. Louis on Social Media

The folks in the marketing department deserve a raise just for changing the sign in those conditions!

Now, would it have been even funnier if they said the water park WAS open? Of course, but you have to imagine the marketing and ops folks would have had fits of people showing up, ready to take “bobsled runs” down those frozen, fiberglass slides.

Not to be outdone, this week, Six Flags Great America decided to have some fun with their own freeway advertising signage – this time invoking one of the greatest comedies (and certainly best park-related movies) of all time:

Six Flags Great America funny signage

“The moose out front should have told you – that it’s colder here than in Alaska right now!”

Folks – this is what social media is all about – in each of these instances, fans and news outlets picked up on the post – and shared it across a wide swath of the internet. Even if you weren’t a fan of these parks…chances are you would have seen or HEARD about these posts if you lived near or around these parks.

And to think – this is all FREE PUBLICITY (and positive, too) is when the parks are CLOSED. Thousands of people are now talking about these parks – and you can bet some folks decided to go in on a season pass online, probably hoping for warmer weather to show up! 🙂

Again, that’s the name of the game on social media when you’re at an amusement park – don’t just throw out updates for the sake of throwing out updates (I.E. throwing crap on the wall and seeing what sticks) – curate excellent content, and it will inevitably lead to better engagement…which will lead to more butts passing through those turnstiles.

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®


Industry Leaders Support Great American Thrills

You’ve seen the recent support from coaster fan sites for Great American Thrills®, now – we’re proud to have industry leaders Irvine Ondrey Engineering stepping up and sharing our idea for a better amusement park travelogue show!

Industry leaders support Great American Thrills®

You know you’re onto something when fans of the industry you want to highlight like the idea – but when companies WORKING in the industry you’re looking to highlight want to help spread the word – that gives you an extra-special feeling.

I’m fairly certain “Insane Coaster Wars” (by Indigo Films) or “Ride-iculous” (by High Noon Entertainment) don’t have that sort of support from within the industry they’re covering; but then again, neither of those shows are as “authentic” as Great American Thrills®!

Thanks again, Irvine Ondrey Engineering – and remember, we can’t do this without YOU! Keep sharing the video with all your friends, family and favorite television networks – let’s get Great American Thrills® on the air, together!


Great American Thrills TV Pitch Gaining Steam!

This week, we were honored to watch as several of our friends in the amusement industry stood up and said, “WE WANT GREAT AMERICAN THRILLS® ON OUR TV’S!

From our friend, The Coaster Guy:

Kurt Dahlin, The Coaster Guy

To our friends on Screamscape:

screamscape capture

To our new friends at BehindtheThrills:

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It looks like the Great American Thrills® pitch is really gaining steam! We’ve also been contacted by several other sites interested in interviewing both Nicholas, Robert and I about the project – so stay tuned and KEEP SHARING THE VIDEO WITH YOUR FAVORITE CABLE CHANNELS!


Great American Thrills® Official Pitch

After months of planning and years of dreaming – I am proud to present the official “pitch” video for our Great American Thrills® concept:

But, we need YOUR help! We need you to share this video with all of your friends, family and websites that you visit, especially television social media pages, such as Discovery, Travel and Destination America. The more eyeballs that see it, the better the odds of it being discovered – so SHARE AWAY!

From our press release today:

NEW COASTER SHOW CONCEPT AIMS TO SHOWCASE AMERICA’S GREAT AMUSEMENT PARKS

 REDWOOD CITY, CA: Today, Kris Rowberry and Nicholas Laschkewitsch, producers of the popular “Lost Parks of Northern California” series, are proud to debut the official television “pitch” for their Great American Thrills® travelogue show concept. It can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeIJ6Kd__M0

The show follows host, Kris Rowberry, as he and his crew – headed by Laschkewitsch – travel the country to find their next thrill, based on suggestions and recommendations sent to them via social media, using the #GreatAmericanThrills hashtag.

“We all know social media is a huge part of our lives now,” said Rowberry. “So why not use it to its full potential – beyond just getting something trending?”

“Other shows may use hashtags or handles, but we’re the first one to utilize the medium to this level,” said Laschkewitsch. “In the process, we’re getting the authentic park experience from the people that know parks the best – their fans.”

Contributors to the show have the opportunity to join in on the fun: if their post is chosen, they get an automatic invite onto the show – which offers the chance to be on TV.

“We noticed that most ‘coaster shows’ have featured the same three parks,” said Rowberry. “We want to tell the stories and meet the people of the other 99% of amusement parks here in America.”

“When coaster enthusiasts aren’t watching the current slate of ‘coaster shows,’ that should tell you something,” said Laschkewitsch. “Our concept is simple: Bring back the passion of enjoying the great American amusement park, with the latest in modern technology.”

“But we can’t do this show alone,” said Rowberry. “We need fans of coasters and travel shows to tell their favorite cable networks they want to see Great American Thrills® on the air this summer!”

Both Rowberry and Laschkewitsch are proud members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, an organization dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of roller coasters worldwide.


Great American Thrills Filming at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Today

If you’re in need of a serious park fix in Northern California today, come on out and cheer us on at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk this afternoon.

We’ll be filming a “pitch” video for networks and production companies, hopefully to get the “GAT” concept on the air!

KMR_6971

If you’re not able to make it out to the beach, you can still participate! Just tell us the next great ride you want us to ride by tagging your post on social media with #greatamericanthrills, just like this:

Twitter Example

We’ll be using the posts in our post-production work – so POST AWAY!

– KR


“How Will You GoPro?”

It’s official – we’re in the “How Will You GoPro?” contest – vying for the opportunity to win our dream adventure, and have GoPro produce a video starring the Great American Thrills team.

Great American Thrills, I Will GoPro Entry

Help us on our journey to capturing America’s obsession with the thrill – like and share our entry with the #iwillgopro hashtag on social media!

You can view our entry by copying and pasting the link below, or by clicking here:

http://www.gopro.com/iwillgopro/5031

But, we can’t get this coaster train a movin’ without your help and support – 

We need you to like, share, and retweet the concept with your friends, family and fellow park fans, using the #iwillgopro hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+

But, we’ve got to make a big push – the contest ends December 4th at midnight – only together, can we truly GoPro!


On Google+? So are We!

G+ers – we just went live with our Great American Thrills™ fan page!

g plus

Great American Thrills on Google+

You can also check out our other social media pages here:

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanThrills

Twitter:

http://www.twitter.com/GreatAmThrills

Google+:

http://www.google.com/+KrisRowberry

Instagram:

http://instagram.com/krowberry

Receive updates, invites to events and more on the world of “Great American Thrills™” as well as the “Lost Parks of Northern California” series. So don’t delay – join us on social media and follow us today!