Kings Dominion, Doswell, Virginia, USA
Before I dive into the actual trip report, I want to thank all of you who not only sponsored me, but any of you who sponsored anyone at all for Coasting for Kids 2013. We blew the $100,000 mark out of the water yet again, and here's hoping we continue to build on that success going forward.
After missing last year's event, I opted to switch to Kings Dominion for this year. It was a shorter drive, and I was interested to see how Kings Dominion's setup would work out. Besides, the prospect of Dominator and Intimidator 305 was rather enticing. I know it isn't about what ride you're on, but it's nice if the rides are some of your favorites.
Kings Dominion had a late start time to the event, so I had time to grab two laps on WindSeeker, which I had skipped last year out of fear which remained unconquered until a spin on the Kings Island version several weeks later. Honestly, this is probably my all-time favorite "flat" ride. I know it isn't anything overly complex, but it's still a feat for me every time I ride it because it is so unnerving that the feeling of accomplishment it gives me after each lap is something no ride, coaster or otherwise, is able to deliver.
After my WindSeeker runs, I went back to the Eiffel Tower for the briefing. We had been divided into six groups. I was assigned to group six, which I would later discover was more or less the "unaffiliateds." We had two guys from ACE in our group, but it paled in comparison to the armies from the Coaster Crew and TPR.
It was explained that we were each going to marathon six rides with an hour apiece and an hour lunch break after the second ride. The way KD organized it, though, was that we were essentially going to be single riders that were given exit ramp access. This would prove to be a royal pain at times, but more on that later.
Our first ride was Anaconda, which was exactly the ride I wanted to start the day. I'm not joking, either. I knew it and Hurler would be the worst of the day, and though Hurler was our second-to-last, I at least got one out of the way right off the bat. We had no problems with Anaconda as the ride is never crowded, so we never had to get off the train. The ACE guys were on the other train from the three of us (a teacher and a...well, I'm not sure what the other lady did, and myself), but they didn't seem to run into any issues either.
This was also where the Spanish comment, "¡Ay! ¡Me duele!," story took place. The teacher was a high school Spanish teacher, and we wanted a team motto, so the Spanish version of, "Ouch! It Hurts!," became our slogan for the day.
We got ten laps in and decided to leave a little before our hour was up so we could spend more time on Rebel Yell, which was our second assignment.
This was where the setup became an issue. Rebel Yell was only running one side and running one train on it. Now, the park really wasn't crowded, so under any other circumstances, this wouldn't have been an issue. However, when you're having a charity coaster marathon, you should at least make some sort of concerted effort to let the participants actually marathon the rides.
I say that, but our group was only five people large, which leads me to think that having six groups going on six rides is probably overkill. I'll touch on this at the end, but it just seemed like this event was not well-executed on the KD side.
Anyways, after only getting two laps out of four or five cycles, I gave up and went to WindSeeker along with another member of the group. WindSeeker had no line, so we figured that we'd participate in WindSeeking for Kids 2013. ;) We got three spins on it before we headed to lunch.
Lunch was nice, and it was also when the awards ceremony took place. There were two first-place winners at our event, so that was really cool to see. A decent number broke the $1,000 mark as well, so it was nice to see such success.
We were informed that after lunch, the park wanted some group shots on Dominator. This concerned me because our post-lunch ride was supposed to be Intimidator 305, which I had been looking forward to since I first signed up. I was thrilled that we were getting a group shot, don't get me wrong, and major kudos to the park for choosing such an awesome ride, but by the time all was said and done, we had made it to Intimidator 305 with half of our time on it already gone.
During our time, though, they decided to add on the second train. While we lost several minutes due to this, the capacity boost and ensuing ease of getting some of us on each cycle probably compensated for some of the loss earlier. I was still annoyed because we were losing so much time on the best ride, but whatever. In this situation, the next group left their ride early similar to what we did with Anaconda, so any hope of extending our Intimidator 305 time a bit due to the loss caused by the group photo was lost. I snagged five laps on this one.
Dominator was next on the agenda, and though we didn't know it at the time, it would be the last full hour of the event. It would also be the most productive, with a dozen laps obtained. I was even able to end the run in the front row. The trains were moving so fast that the one time there weren't enough seats for single riders, we were off for just a minute before the next train rolled in and away we went once more. I enjoyed it immensely, but I'm sure our successors at Intimidator 305 did as well thanks to the capacity boost they got.
Next up was Hurler. I got three laps in before we got bumped (this was another one-train ride), but that was two more than I had planned on getting. I jumped ship for an attempt at round two of WindSeeking for Kids, but weather had rolled in and the rest of my group probably got only one more lap on Hurler before it shut down.
As time went by, we watched the remainder of our Hurler and our entire Grizzly marathon period come and go. At this point, I was feeling a little better about the shaft at Intimidator. Realizing that sticking things out for one last post-event lap on Intimidator was kind of pointless, and knowing I'd come back again soon, I opted to leave.
All in all, it was fun, but at just over thirty rides total between the five coasters I rode and WindSeeker, it was hardly the stuff of legends that my two years at Dorney were. Honestly, I probably got as many laps during the morning marathon on Steel Force in 2010 as I did during the entire event yesterday. I thank Kings Dominion for hosting the event, but I think that some work should be done on how the event is orchestrated.
Now, I'm not saying that everyone who participates in this event should get eighty rides in during the day. Most people can't go that long. At Kings Dominion, though, it was sometimes a struggle to get any rides in at all, and I think that kind of defeats the purpose of the fundraiser. I think that going forward, they should either take the CGA approach of blocking a train on two rides with groups marathoning one in the morning and switching to the second in the afternoon or block rows on the rides involved to ensure participants are able to actually marathon the rides without having to stand around waiting for an eventual seat that may be several cycles away.
What's more, it seemed that a lot of the Ride Operators had no idea the event was even happening until it started. It just seemed like there was a lot of disorganization and little thought put into the execution.
All in all, I really did have a fun time, but I would hope that Kings Dominion would work out a better system for future events. Again, though, I thank them for hosting in the first place, and my sincerest gratitude to my sponsors.
Gosh, after all the glowing reports about the event planners and ride ops at several parks, it sounds like KD didn't have it very well together. You'd think that, because it's all Cedar Fair, that there would be some consistency in operations.
I don't want to begrudge them, don't get me wrong. I love the park, and the folks working with us were extremely nice and friendly. I guess I just liked the event being a challenge of riding something as much as you possibly can, and it felt like, at times, we may as well have just waited in line with everyone else. Part of the fun of the Dorney events when I participated up there was pushing yourself to keep going and doing so with some great people riding along with you. With rare exceptions, that didn't happen at KD. Besides, an hour is pretty easy to do on most coasters.
Ultimately, I guess I liked the challenge aspect of it all, and at KD, the only challenge was even getting on the ride in the first place.
Let me put it another way: if it was just some enthusiast get-together, I wouldn't have minded. The fact that the event is supposed to be one where people push the limits of their endurance leads me to believe that a better system needs to be in place for the future. I know that donations are made due to a belief in the cause and not out of demand that the person requesting said donations do some inhuman feat, but even if the people who supported me don't feel in any way shafted, I still feel like I didn't hold up my end of the bargain, even if it was due to no fault of my own.
I'm shocked to hear the disorganization of the event at KD when Dorney's was so well organized. I think the biggest "suggestion" I heard was some sort of water station for the participants, and also a joking suggestion for free ice cream with the lunch. Why wouldn't they do dedicated trains for the event? Especially on Rebel Yell, where they could run one side for the group and one for GP? Seems strange.
"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band
Well, to the credit of KD, when you have so many rides involved, dedicating entire trains would be total overkill. If they broke it down to two rides, yeah, a train would be great (still overkill for now, but as these events continue to grow, they're going to need more slots or they'll have to restrict the number of participants), but for now, I think maybe two cars would work (or four rows on Rebel Yell).
Honestly, I'd be all for cutting down the number of rides, but I'm sure a lot of people appreciate the variety, and I respect that. I'd be down for Dominator and Intimidator 305 being the only two, but again, based on some of the comments made about how Talon and Hydra saw a lot of early wash-outs, I don't know that those two would be the best choices.
I guess calling them totally disorganized would be unfair, as everything went off without a hitch, but I just think it was kind of a weak setup that isn't ideal for something of this nature. Basically, by not setting aside seats for the participants, the park ran the risk of turning it into Waiting in Line for Kids 2013.
I want to clarify that I understand that the event is about Give Kids the World and not me driving my lap count into the stratosphere, but I think that the marathoning is what contributes to the fundraising effort, and I think that it's easier to drive donations if I'm pushing myself through a strenuous activity (riding coasters for hours at a time certainly qualifies) to earn them.
It seems to me that the best thing a park can do for the event, regardless of marathon capacity, is to provide as much exposure as possible for Give Kids the World. In that regard, having as many red shirts (or whatever color for that year) in one space as possible with a dedicated train can be the ideal. It also helps if the ride ops are aware and enthused about the event and can make announcements about what's going on.
That would be my objective in organizing the logistics anyway.
Edited to add: ...without taking anything away from the rest of the guests experience. That's always a priority for the parks, as well.
"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin
That's my thought too. Having groups of 6 scattered around the park doesn't seem like it would draw much attention. They'd blend in with all the other school/church/community groups wearing brightly-colored matching shirts.
A few times people in line for the other side of Gemini would ask what charity we were raising money for. Most haven't heard of Give Kids The World, and it's hard to explain it before the next train dispatches, so I just tell them it helps kids with terminal illnesses, and that there's a tent in front of the ride with more information. But if you're marathoning a ride on the other side of the park, telling them to look for an informational tent isn't as helpful unless they have one at each ride.
I seem to recall that in previous years, the Gemini crew would sometimes include a brief spiel about the event between dispatches. This time they just said that the blue side was reserved for a charity event if people looked confused.
That's a part I hadn't considered, although one thing that was kind of cool was the fact that sometimes, members of the teams would have captive audiences with whom they could share information about the event.
That said, there's a happy medium, and a lot of people thought we were with a school group.
I'd be interested to know why KD does it so differently from everyone else, as I believe they've been that way since the first year they've participated. Part of me suspects that they are trying to offer variety, which I think is quite nice of them, but there's the whole execution piece to it where one would expect that they'd make sure we were able to actually marathon, and I'm not sure why they didn't do that. As I understand it, it was set up the same way last year.
If I had to guess, I would say they are concerned about guest experience and want the event to interfere as little as possible with regular operations.
Perhaps with so many years of the event in the books now, Cedar Fair could benefit from doing a best practices round table among the parks to discuss how things work/don't work at each of their parks. Dunno.
"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin
I read somewhere here that at CP they also collected a certain amount from visitors on the midway. Did that happen at the other parks too? I'd certainly promote that opportunity at the information tents.
They collected at a table in front of Steel Force the last two years. But I didn't see any this year, I assume because the event was on multiple coasters.
The amusement park rises bold and stark..kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
^^ The event coordinator said that the GP didn't seem to understand what the donation table was for and didn't really contribute enough for a continuation of the donation table.
I also think that it makes sense to have "best practice" collaborations across Cedar Fair parks. Really, for any business it makes sense.
Also, for a charity event, the same colored shirts all on one train seemed to be very eye-catching indeed, and it got people asking what it was for. Plus, it didn't seem to slow down operations or irritate TOO many people, as all the marathoning rides had two to three trains running (Steel Force three). The longest the line for Talon and Hydra ever got was to the base of the steps. I can understand on a packed day where it may irritate more patrons, but...this is kinda bad but interesting thought: I would be willing to be they'd sell more FastLane passes then. I can't imagine there'd be too much of a downside to offering the dedicated trains then. Of course, my business sense is crummy, but it's just a thought.
"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band
The lines at KD were pretty light. If they, for example, picked Dominator and Intimidator, Dominator has three and Intimidator would have a twenty minute wait with its two, and honestly, that crew is so good that it would probably be even shorter.
Honestly, though, they could even just partially block an Intimidator train and it wouldn't be a problem at all. OR, they could use one side of Rebel Yell, etc., etc., etc. Ultimately, there are plenty of possibilities that would work as a better system and really make those red shirts stand out.
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