Shaggy does SRM...

Associated parks:
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Tuesday, June 4, 2002 9:12 AM
You know, I really struggled this trip report more than I ever thought I would. Honestly, I held off writing it for a few days to collect my thoughts and more or less sort out my feelings. That having been said,

SRM is my favorite coaster event. Period. It is one of those few times that, as an enthusiast, I see countless people ALL having a great time. There is a different kind of excitement here than at other coaster events. I can only attribute that to one thing: the people and the place.

It is pretty obvious that enthusiasts really like… no really LOVE the Kochs, Paula and Holiday World. Each of them should be very proud of the way they have managed to embrace those enthusiasts that so love being there. Without being too philosophical, I think there is a great need among many enthusiasts for “acceptance” and a feeling of “belonging.” They find that at HW and it is expertly demonstrated at SRM.

You know, the park is not the biggest. The park is perhaps not the best. However it has carved it’s own perfect niche that makes it stand out from any other park you may attend. Now, of course I doubt I am sharing anything new as the amount of trip reports pouring in exemplifies that. But I think this park manages to succeed by operating with a guest’s mindset.

Today’s corporate parks think that success lies in huge marketing tools, major additions, and keeping guests busy, busy, busy. Holiday World ignores that mindset by focusing more on smaller things that add up to major differences. Of course they still have their various ride additions, however the focus is left to much more noteworthy items. I can only imagine what their management meetings must be like. I expect that conversations usually revolve around what each of the various HW decision makers would enjoy or look forward to as a guest at a park. “I would really love it if I had free soft drinks.” “I would be much happier if I didn’t have to pay $10 in parking before I ever got to the entrance of the park.” They then actually institute (Shock! Horror!) The things that they believe a guest would enjoy. Contrast that to corporate parks that probably spend 99% of their time reviewing ebbs and flows in revenue and base all decisions on the almighty dollar it will generate. Holiday World consistantly bucks that trend....and in so doing generates the stats they so desire.

How so? Well, Holiday World was packed Saturday. It was busier than I have ever seen it. So much so, that I could not have imagined Legend WITHOUT a second train. I could not have imagined Raven’s layout any longer than it is. Ironically while I was taking a late afternoon siesta in my car, I overheard three separate families (non-enthusiast) leaving the park all remarking how wonderful the day was. Now, in most parks they may have spent hundreds of dollars only to find it very crowded and left leave feeling unfulfilled or gypped.

But, when people leave Holiday World, they feel that they got exactly what was advertised. They do not leave feeling ripped off, or over charged. And that feeling will (and does)keep the people coming back again and again. It is an amazing trade off. A guest feels they got more than their money’s worth of they received special amenities like free parking, or sunscreen. That helps mask the fact that the park may be very crowded, or not have quite as many attractions as others they may have been to. It sounds silly and very basic, but a free soft drink truly obscures the fact that you are waiting in a long hot queue line. It is such a simple principal that other parks are too blind to see.

So you can only imagine the gasps of horror that exuded enthusiasts when Pat Koch announced at the pre-ERT session Friday night that two park chains (or the like) had approached them with hefty offers to purchase the park. You see IMO corporate parks are sly like that. They smell a moneymaker, or see a highly successful park, and they immediately pursue investment or buyout. They want a piece of the action, and the driving force is profitability alone, not guest satisfaction. The end result is, said park gets milked for as much money as it can get from it’s guests and thrives only on the reputable methods by which it operated before being purchased. I could name several parks that have suffered that fate. Thank goodness for the Koch’s love and desire to keep a family tradition alive, regardless of how tempting it may be. Again their blinders are off and they are much smarter than we give them credit for.

I must admit to a sneak preview a week prior to SRM. Typically I have waited for SRM to roll around before attending HW for the first time each season. But about two weeks ago, I received a call from two buddies that were headed to HW during a weekday. Of course I immediately became sick and found I needed to leave work just a bit early. I was going against my decision to experience the “new” Legend with all the rest at SRM. But how could I resist?

I can admit this now. My experience on Legend that day was not quite what I had envisioned. Now, I had a wonderful day there. The company (Thank you J.S. & D.M., I know your reading ;-)), and seeing and spending time with Paula was worth the trip. A day at HW is never disappointing. However my SINGLE ride on Legend was. Legend has been my favorite ever since my first ride on it, make no bones about it. But, I personally never had a problem with the G-trains. I was excited at the thought of cushier PTCs, and didn’t really mind the switch. Especially since the purple color was retained and (hopefully) the ride quality.

That day, I rode and was less than enthusiastic. I kept my mouth shut though. Here it was a week prior to SRM and my reaction, being what I consider to be less opinionated than most, was low. I rode only once that day, because my heart couldn’t take it. The reason for my opinion was based on a few things. The ride seemed sluggish. The intensity felt controlled. And most importantly, my favorite element (the mid-course air drop to the tunnel) was a shell of it’s former self.

My reaction to Raven with its “re-track work” was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum since it produced the best rides I had ever received. Again the day was a success with one “Legendary” exception.

Fast forward to SRM. To be honest, I wasn’t really all that excited to go. Not because of the Legend issue, but rather because this year I have found much less inspiration to attend park after park. I’m getting old I guess. But I knew it was a chance to see many of my friends and spend quality time with the Reid and Brock families whom I love dearly. These two groups of folks have embraced me essentially as a family member and I am eternally grateful for that gift.

Speaking of friends, as always it was terrific to see each and every one of the folks I know there. Too numerous to name, and I will not embarrass myself by trying to name all, I hope each of you had a wonderful time. I am falling into the groove of becoming more excited about the friends I will see and spend time with at an event rather than the rides I will experience. Once you become a bit more active in coastering, you almost discover that the rides nearly become just the “desert” of the meal.

My intention was to only attend Friday evening. I really had no desire to spend two days at SRM. And, no offense, was adamant about not seeing fellow coaster friends in bathing suits. Sorry, I love you guys, but not that much. Not that I can talk, I doubt anyone would have enjoyed seeing me in mine. LOL

I will not detail each and every moment of Friday’s (or Saturday’s) activities. But a pre-ERT session confirmed my suspicion that Legend was still not up to it’s old self. However, that evening ERT sessions did help redeem Legend back to the high spot on my personal favorites list. During a full out night ERT session, Legend runs like a champ. It indeed has perhaps the best layout of any wooden coaster I have ridden. It still edges out Raven in my book as the better coaster in the park. I even found myself having moments of panic on both coasters worrying about just how well these coaster can hold together being run in “insane” mode.

Overall if I have to sum up my feeling about Legend, it would come out like this: Legend is an incredible coaster. It is not to be missed and is a must do on any enthusiast’s list. I love its layout, feel, new trains, speed and sound. The coaster’s intensity is less during day ride sessions and it now falls into the category of a dreamy night ride. However, prior to this season it was so far above any other coaster I had ever ridden that nothing even dared rival it. For some reason, which I can’t totally put my finger on, it now seems that others do have the chance. It now has potential of being topped, something I never thought possible.

But there was a trade off. I now cannot imagine Legend WITHOUT two-train operation. It is indeed “the” coaster at the park. Whereas Raven is enjoyed and still very popular, Legend is the attention getter. It just doesn’t seem as wild as it used to. Now, remember I am jaded. And I expect that had an everyday unsuspecting guest (who is a bit of a novice) ridden Legend either of the two nights, they would have been terrified out of their pants. But those of us who know what is coming up, or what the coaster can do, can tell the difference and know that it is holding back.

SRM is known for the wonderful ride ops and maintenance folks that help make it the success it is. Each and every year I am thoroughly impressed with the efficiency and pep these folks demonstrate. (One ride op was a bit too peppy for my taste and was more odd than entertaining, but apparently others enjoyed it quite a bit) Having been in their shoes, it is not easy to work regular hours and then rally enough chutzpah to keep the fire burning into the wee hours of the morning. But I must beg HW though to be extremely careful with their ops, and help them focus on safety first. Having fun is indeed important when working at a park… after all one happy and excited ride op equals numerous happy and excited guests. But I saw a few close calls with track crossing procedures that, as a former ride op, scared me to death. HW has an impeccable safety record, and it would crush many of us to see anything bad happen at a park we love so dear. So I beg you Holiday World, PLEASE keep a watchful eye on ride op safety and enforce those first and foremost!

Also, knowing how much HW strives to perfect the guest experience, they now have a challenge at hand. Although the two-train operation on Legend is welcome addition, it has created a station problem that must be addressed. The bottleneck that now exists by having the queue end at the very rear of the train is frustrating not only for guests, but the ride ops as well. Hopefully in the future we will see an improvement here. You know you have an issue that desperately needs addressing when even enthusiasts at an ERT session were finding it difficult to maneuver their way past people to fill empty gate corrals near the front of the station. If experienced enthusiasts have trouble with it, you can only imagine what regular guests are dealing with. During non-ERT hours I saw countless trains being sent with up to 3 rows of seats empty, when the line stretched into the ques on the ground at the bottom of the stairs.

But I digress. Because if you didn’t figure it out earlier, I had such a wonderful time I returned for day two (after the water park ERT had ended mind you.) There again, I had an incredible time on Saturday and surprised myself at the ability to remain entertained at the park for two days straight. Again, I thank friends and company plus wonderful operations for that. The end result is a bubbling excitement and anticipation of next year’s SRM. It is indeed something I cannot miss.

I think that each and every person that attended SRM, no, ANY person that leaves Holiday World walks away with something special. No other park I have attended gives you the same indescribable feeling. It is as though you were just welcomed into someone’s home with open arms. You leave feeling happy, excited, fulfilled and ready to go back. That is a consistency that is hard to find at any other park in the world.

There is quality left to be found. I thank the good folks at Holiday World for giving us that gift. They help each of us to remember that there is indeed a Santa Claus.

Shaggy

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Shaggy
A.K.A. John K.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2002 9:27 AM

John, Very well stated and it about mirrors my sentiments exactly on everything you posted.

I'm not giving up on Legend! It gave some great rides at times durring SRM and I am possitive it is just the wheel bearings breaking in as the G train was sluggish most of it's first season.

Legend is a insane ride, when running at its peek, even it's insane brother up the hill can't touch it! I had mixed feelings going in on the PTC's but I had no qualms with them and it was more comfortable. Actually the only problem I had was the bar came down on the double up and ouch that was a painful landing! I seen many using these straps to hold the bar up and all I got to say is when you get ejected don't blame anyone but yourself as the evidence will still be there when the train comes back to the staion without you.

Oh well, back on topic. My TR's may have seemed a little harsh but my comment on calling the wrecker to pull legend out of the helix was jokingly made. Once I started to accept the fact that it wasn't quite as good and have fun anyway, I had a ball. If you can't enjoy yourself at HW then you might want to get some help :)

Chuck, who thanks John for his TR.

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Charles Nungester
Lesourdsville Lake, The great American amusement park opens the season June 6th Thurs-Sun every week. Park phone is (513)539-2193

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Tuesday, June 4, 2002 9:29 AM

insert Butthead's voice here Uh.........that was cool. Shaggy, have you ever felt a need to write in a magazine? That may be one of the most, well-educated, heartfelt TR's I've ever read. Incredible! Now, June 24th is WAY too far away! Thanks, Shaggy, your SRM report. Your report, along with Jeff's has picked up my right arm and called the nearest Red Roof Inn for reservations to SRM 2003.....I'll be there.

Wow.

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There's nothing like a woodie...

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Tuesday, June 4, 2002 9:42 AM

Thanks Chuck/Woody... heh heh, or should that be Woody/Chuck? J/K

I like to write, one of the majors I persued in college was English with a concentration on Journalism. I do not use those journalism skills in my profession so much so this sort of gives me an outlet to practice.

My downfall is in shorter posts where I do not proof-read and grammatical and spelling errors slip by. It frustrates me when I make such posts. Especially on other boards where I cannot correct them.

Never-the-less, I am glad it inspired your excitement about attending. Make sure you write one about your experience there.

Shaggy

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Shaggy
A.K.A. John K.

*** This post was edited by Shaggy on 6/4/2002. ***

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Tuesday, June 4, 2002 11:25 AM
Great TR John,

The nightime rides on The Legend and Raven are absolutely insane indeed. I can describe how tired I was the day after the event.
I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by attending the event, mainly because it was my first SRM, I went by myself (my friends are not the coaster nuts like I am), and I am relatively new to the enthusiast 'crowd'.
Thanks to everyone I met for being wonderfully nice, fun and easily approachable. It was everything I had expected SRM to be and then some.
Also, John, from one PKI fan to another, thanks for the great company and conversation on day 2 of the event. You could definitely write a book with all your knowledge about theme parks.
All that is left to say is I'm already making plans for SRM'03.

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You don't stop playing because you grow old,,,you grow old because you stop playing.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2002 12:02 PM

jbeast,

I'm glad to hear your weekend was a success! I also had a great time and cannot thank you enough for letting me join up as your ride partner.

SRM 2002 is a memory lots of us will have to share and talk about for a long time.

As far as the knowledge and writing a book.... you know it's funny, when it comes to useless info, such as parks or tv or such, I do admit to having an upper hand. However, really useful stuff alludes me. Now if I could just learn to curtail all that useless info into making me rich......

Ha Ha!

Shaggy

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Shaggy
A.K.A. John K.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2002 4:17 PM

Shaggy,

Great views dude!

I myself was really surprised at Legend's new trains. They did seem to provide a more controlled feeling during the first half of the ride, but the last half was just insane. Perhaps I am in the minority but I found the new trains to provide a LOT more airtime than the old ones used to.

It was great getting to chat with you a bit (as always). We are going to have to start planning 'that' future trip soon.

-Sean (Please, PLEASE! Don't tell a lie!) F.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2002 10:07 AM

Magnificient TR, Shaggy

HW is still the class-act of the industry. I can't imagine a summer without at least one trip there. Unfortunately, the misses and I were unable to attend SRM this year. However, we did make it to HW a couple of weeks ago and I still put The Legend as my #2 wooden (Viper at SFGAm is my #1). I for one enjoyed the G trains. I enjoyed moving around and very seldom had bumps and bruises. That said, I enjoy the new trains, also; and my wife prefers them. Unlike me, she would get banged around on the old trains. I guess my XXL body size helped me for a change. :)

Thanks again for the great TR.

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Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein

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