Holiday events at regional parks growing this year

Posted Monday, November 27, 2017 9:22 AM | Contributed by Jeff

The destination parks have been presenting holiday events for years. More recently, smaller regional parks, which traditionally had only been open during the warmer months, have been hanging Christmas lights, serving hot chocolate, and, yes, cranking up their roller coasters and other rides for holiday celebrations.

Read more from USA Today.

Thursday, November 30, 2017 9:14 AM
99er's avatar

BrettV said:

The Magic Kingdom Halloween and Christmas events are Magic Kingdom with a different parade and fireworks.

They offer a lot more than just those. For a lot of people the amount of character meet & greets that are not offered any other time of the year is enough. Outside of Halloween and Christmas I don't believe you can meet all 7 dwarfs at once. Plus there are added stage shows like Hocus Pocus at Not So Scary. The capped attendance I am sure is a big plus too (which I wish Universal would do with HHN). It really is a whole different atmosphere durning events that makes it worth it to some. It is much more comparable to HHN as a hard ticket event that what you think.

I understand not seeing the appeal or the willingness to pay because that is how I feel about coaster club events at amusement parks.


-Chris

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Thursday, November 30, 2017 12:12 PM

I guess I didn't realize they had that much other event exclusive stuff going on (which, as a former Cast Member for six and a half years, shame on me... although I never worked at Magic Kingdom). It still wouldn't be worth it for me, although I did enjoy the events when I got in on a comp.

And that is also why I have never gone to a club event or joined ACE. Although I do support this site and would likely attend an event if Coasterbuzz still did them. But more than anything, I totally get why Jeff stopped doing it.

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Sunday, December 3, 2017 3:26 AM
99er's avatar

Disney has been great at adding more extras onto events to make it worth the price of admission. I'm actually with you on the subject as I would never pay to attend the events but I can totally see why people do it. I know its built into the price but the amount of "free" candy you get at the Halloween party and all the snacks/drinks at the Christmas party this year is a lot more than in the past. For how popular these events are I am surprised that the parks continue to add on extras but people definitely eat it up.


-Chris

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Sunday, December 3, 2017 5:55 AM

We did the Halloween party this year to do something different we hadn't done before. We might have stopped at half the trick-or-treat stations, and still ended up with so much candy we had to re-arrange our luggage to get it home. For our group of 5 (including the 2 year old) we netted 3-4 pounds per person, which seemed insane. We also dressed up, and got some character interactions most will never experience, and some pretty cool photos.

We did the Christmas event in 2008. Our reasoning there was a bit different. We flew into Orlando on a Friday for a cruise setting sail on Sunday. We hit up the Christmas Party on Friday evening, then spent Saturday in Cocoa Beach recovering from being at the park until 1 am and all the hot chocolate and cookies we consumed in those late hours. Back then I think the tickets only cost us $45-ish.

Pricing wise, I think the Halloween ticket got folks in starting at 3 pm this year. For less than the published price of a one day Magic Kingdom ticket, you could get 9 hours in the park, about the same amount of time the park was open to regular ticket holders.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017 3:00 PM
Vater's avatar

Anecdotal, but I know a few people who are not fans of amusement parks at all who have started going religiously to these holiday events every year.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017 3:48 PM

For the full time folks working at seasonal parks hosting these “shoulder season” events, it does bring up an interesting employment dilemma with respect to work/life balance.

Traditionally, with most seasonal parks, there is somewhat of a trade off between working increased hours, nights, weekends and holidays for three to four months a year and having an “off-season” working a more traditional work schedule (and taking some much needed vacation time off).

But now enter Halloween, and most recently enter these holiday events, which now includes working bookends around Christmas. So now your operating season just got extended along with the operational stresses that come with it.

I’m very fortunate to work at a park that doesn’t do Halloween or Christmas, and that plays a huge role in my work/life balance knowing that outside of summer where my work/life balance decreases, there is still a good nine months a year that I can make up for the sacrifice I make each summer. I’d be curious to take the temperature of the morale of the folks that now have to work these events, and lose out on part of the coveted off-season.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017 11:45 AM

Having worked at Disney, where in certain lines of business (and especially during the busy seasons) the idea of a "work/life balance" is nothing more than a joke, even having a 3 or 4 month offseason would have been a dream come true for some of us.

I think at least in the case of Cedar Fair, once Ouimet came on board he made sure the full time folks were still having a decent work/life balance during the season. I know he removed the mandatory six day work week among other things.

I suppose if you worked at a park that once had a six month offseason and now only has a three month offseason, it would definitely be a change. But the benefit of Halloween and Christmas, I would think, is you still are only open for the weekend, so in theory full time staff should be getting some days off during the week. As opposed to the parks down here in Orlando that are 24/7/365 operations.

Last edited by BrettV, Wednesday, December 13, 2017 11:46 AM
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017 4:22 PM
Jeff's avatar

You can't do more with less, and I think sometimes Cedar Fair isn't good at recognizing this among the full-time staff. There's some disconnect between the front-line execution people and those up the chain at times. They're far more empowered (and accountable) than they used to be, but I think they're also expected to make do with the staff they have at times.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Thursday, December 14, 2017 1:36 AM
99er's avatar

Just to pull off Winter Fest at KI they brought in full-time staff from Cedar Point and Dorney. I believe staff from ValleyFair were sent down to Carrowinds to help them with the event so if at some point those parks are expected to receive a Winter Fest, hopefully they have worked out staffing by then.


-Chris

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Thursday, December 14, 2017 10:01 AM
bjames's avatar

You'll not get me on a roller coaster in winter weather. Somehow having freezing air whipped in my face for two and a half minutes isn't enticing. Plus I wear contacts so I'd imagine my eyes would be frozen solid by the end of it. No, I'm content with doing things outdoors in every season *except* winter.


"The term is 'amusement park.' An old Earth name for a place where people could go to see and do all sorts of fascinating things." -Spock, Stardate 3025

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Thursday, December 14, 2017 5:23 PM

99er said:

Just to pull off Winter Fest at KI they brought in full-time staff from Cedar Point and Dorney. I believe staff from ValleyFair were sent down to Carrowinds to help them with the event so if at some point those parks are expected to receive a Winter Fest, hopefully they have worked out staffing by then.

That’s a good example for the point that I was trying to make.

I’m sure that you can do this for any job, but when I look full circle at my job (compensation, benefits, sacrifices, overall satisfaction etc.) having an 8-9 month “off-season” factors big into the equation of my overall job satisfaction and why I do what I do for a living and at the park that I’m employed. But if all of a sudden you throw in a Halloween event and a Christmas event, it changes that landscape dramatically, at least in my mind it does. The simple answer is just pay me more, but the world isn’t that simple and doesn’t work that way.

So while some enthusiasts dream of a career in the attractions industry, the harsh reality is that for the most part, this industry can be an exhausting one to work in (hospitality in general is that way). The pay is generally on the lower end of the scale, and the varying and long work hours can take a toll on the work/life balance issue I brought up. So when you add in these events, and throw off an already limited and stressed work/life balance, I can’t imagine it not effecting morale, unless something else gives.

Having lived it now for over two decades, it’s an interesting job dynamic to think about.

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Friday, December 15, 2017 6:39 AM

bjames said:
No, I'm content with doing things outdoors in every season *except* winter.

Which is why I can't imagine living somewhere with winter again. It took a while to get used to Christmas in shorts. But, my overall mood and disposition is so incredibly different without that period of gray sky and cabin fever taking over the winter months each year up north.

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Friday, December 15, 2017 9:23 AM
Jeff's avatar

Same here. The cold last weekend in Orlando made me want to hibernate. I felt like a slug. Planning to work from my patio this afternoon just because I can.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Friday, December 15, 2017 6:48 PM

I love winter. Spend a lot of time outside in the cold/snow (as much as we have anyway in NE Ohio). Skiing, sledding, hiking, etc. But that being said, I have no interest in riding coasters in the winter. I like seasons and having times of the year for different activities. I snow skied in 50+ degree weather and didn't really like that either. I get that a lot of people hate the cold/snow. To each his/her own. Makes for less crowded activities in the winter in many instances. With the first snow of the year now here, I have neighbors I won't see (or their dogs) for the next 3-4 months. Still will take my dog for a walk 2-3 times a day in any and all weather. She actually gets energized by the cold and snow.

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Friday, December 15, 2017 8:37 PM

Our neighbors have a Great Pyrenees puppy, nine months old, sweetest boy on earth, and he’s lovin’ this cold weather and snow. First ever.
So there’s something for everyone, I spose. Me, I’d like to be in Hawaii.

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Friday, December 15, 2017 8:56 PM

Hanging n' Banging said:

99er said:

Just to pull off Winter Fest at KI they brought in full-time staff from Cedar Point and Dorney. I believe staff from ValleyFair were sent down to Carrowinds to help them with the event so if at some point those parks are expected to receive a Winter Fest, hopefully they have worked out staffing by then.

That’s a good example for the point that I was trying to make.

I’m sure that you can do this for any job, but when I look full circle at my job (compensation, benefits, sacrifices, overall satisfaction etc.) having an 8-9 month “off-season” factors big into the equation of my overall job satisfaction and why I do what I do for a living and at the park that I’m employed. But if all of a sudden you throw in a Halloween event and a Christmas event, it changes that landscape dramatically, at least in my mind it does. The simple answer is just pay me more, but the world isn’t that simple and doesn’t work that way.

So while some enthusiasts dream of a career in the attractions industry, the harsh reality is that for the most part, this industry can be an exhausting one to work in (hospitality in general is that way). The pay is generally on the lower end of the scale, and the varying and long work hours can take a toll on the work/life balance issue I brought up. So when you add in these events, and throw off an already limited and stressed work/life balance, I can’t imagine it not effecting morale, unless something else gives.

Having lived it now for over two decades, it’s an interesting job dynamic to think about.

I happened to be at a park this summer that was getting a winter event for the first time this year and heard some comments from someone "higher than most" along the lines of what you have said above. I'll leave it at since those comments were made to me in confidence.

I get the dilemma, as I work/own a seasonal business too. We all go like gangbusters during the busy portion of the year, and then look forward to the "break" of being slow. I want the staff to "recharge", but at the same time I can't pay them for standing around and doing very little during a portion of the year either. If it meant that I could offer some sort of thing that would make the slow time not so slow, I would, as that's how businesses operate. I would be cautious though at doing it though if it meant the sanctity of my staff.

Hopefully CF does something to acknowledge these parks staff efforts.

Last edited by SVLFever, Friday, December 15, 2017 8:57 PM
Fever I really enjoy the Simpsons. It's just a shame that I am starting to LOOK like Homer.
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Friday, December 15, 2017 11:06 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

GoBucks89 said:

I love winter.

Same.

I love winter and tolerate summer the same way most people seem to do the opposite.

But that being said, I have no interest in riding coasters in the winter. I like seasons and having times of the year for different activities. I snow skied in 50+ degree weather and didn't really like that either.

It took me a long time to come around to early/late season park visits. Amusement parks are a summer activity. For a long time, it felt weird to have the cool bite of fall and changing leaves at the park or the lack of leaves on trees you'll find in the very earliest of season. I eventually got used to it, but being at the park still feels most "natural" to me during the summer months.


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Saturday, December 16, 2017 7:45 AM
slithernoggin's avatar

Oh, Mr Lord Gonchar, I don't understand you.

Why anyone would prefer bitter cold temperatures and snow that has to be shoveled over nice, warm, summer temperatures escapes me :-)

To each their own.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Saturday, December 16, 2017 11:12 AM
kpjb's avatar

99er said:

Just to pull off Winter Fest at KI they brought in full-time staff from Cedar Point and Dorney. I believe staff from ValleyFair were sent down to Carrowinds to help them with the event so if at some point those parks are expected to receive a Winter Fest, hopefully they have worked out staffing by then.

This is the worst. So if I'm working at ValleyFair, my park doesn't have a winter event. It's a busy time of year getting ready for Christmas, I finally get some time to spend with my kids, and now I have to ship off to North Carolina to help them out? Screw that.


Hi

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Saturday, December 16, 2017 11:48 AM

I’ve been thinking about all this, and I dunno.

I worked 33+ years in a busy industry, as an hourly and as management. Much of my work was in centers that operated 24/7/365. I’m trying hard to think of a time when we ever had an “off season”, or a “slow period”- we were gangbusters all the time and hours could be long. The mantra was Busy is Good. And frequently, in exchange for our hard work, more was piled upon us. Those of us who were fond of our paychecks made the best of it. Those that couldn’t handle it knew where the door was.

While I understand working in the outdoor amusement business is rigorous, (I have done it and occasionally still do) the idea of full time employees needing an off season to balance their life is curious. We were expected to take care of that on vacation time and days off, and at no time did we think that period should total 7 months out of the year. Nice work if you can get it.

Extending the park season into Halloween and Christmas may be an inconvenience, but I see it as a way to increase the bottom line. And if the add-on events are successful, it only serves to favorably build the brand in the eyes of the consumer. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Full timers and managers who feel abused by an extended season should inquire about a pay raise to compensate them for their time and trouble. And for all I know, they could be getting one. But if the answer is no, it may be time to think about taking their talents elsewhere.

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