"A park that goes Above and Beyond"
It has been written be myself and numerous other coaster fanatics that the true start of the coaster season begins at Holiday World for Stark Raven Mad, and ends at Knoebel's Amusement Resort for Phabulous Phoenix Phall Phun Phest with a Twist(er). Yes, it is true that there are parks that are open year round, and yes there are parks that open earlier in the season than Holiday World, and stay open later than Knoebels, but the prime coaster season is bookended by those two events. For myself I had already made numerous runs to King's Island and had made stops at several other coaster venues already this season.
It can also be remarked that both events occur at very similar style parks. Both parks are relatively small in size, both offer two wooden roller coasters, both parks have one coaster that is an airtime machine, and the other that is concerned with laterals, both parks serve Pepsi products, both parks are run by families. Yes, there are many big name parks in this world, but none have quite captured the atmosphere generated by these two small parks.
It is therefore with great excitement that Jerry and I pulled into the parking area at Holiday World around 5:15 on the first night of Stark Raven Mad. We found a parking space and without too much of a wait we were quickly checked in and received our goodie envelope. The envelope contained a strip of tickets, a coupon sheet, an event schedule, and a flyer for the park's fall event, which seems to change sponsorship every year. I noted that this year the ticket strip was printed in the order in which the tickets were going to be used, an improvement over last year.
We tore off the Friday Night admission ticket, and entered the park. My first brief stop was to add a park map to the envelope of stuff. We then paused to think about what to do. With a night heavy on the coasters, we decided to try the parks new Liberty Launch.
A short walk later we arrived at Liberty Launch. Liberty Launch is an S&S Double Shot. Double Shot's are shorter S&S towers (less than 100' tall) that somehow still manage to deliver the ride experience of their much taller products. The ride starts out as a Space Shot, then when the car reaches the top on the second bounce another air blast fires offering the Turbo Drop style experience. It's a delightfully fun ride, and I must say better than the full size S&S rides I have experienced at 4 Cedar Fair parks.
I noted the queue for Liberty Launch to be reasonable, and so we entered the queue. Holiday World copied the traditional S&S queue area down to having two lanes with numbers painted on the ground. In this case the park admits 6 quests from each lane. The guests have still to work out that the number they are standing on is their seat assignment. We boarded the Liberty Launch, restraints were checked, and I noticed the car moved higher up the tower than most S&S rides to be weighed, where is slowly descends almost reaching the loading area, then when you least expect it, you get launched, and your shoulders get a gentle introduction to the shoulder bar. This could be seen as an improvement over other Double Shots that I have ridden that have left bruises on my shoulders. The ride falls back down, goes right back up to the top, gets that stronger downward blast, then bobs up and down like most S&S rides before coming back down to the loading area. The ride is a sure winner for Holiday World.
It was so fun, we got in the queue again. This time the line was shorter, and with 5 minutes to go in the parks normal operating day we were the next riders to board. The group ahead of us were loaded, the car went up to be weighed, slowly lowered but came all the way back down to the loading area. The crew tried to fire the gondola three times with no luck. I tell you this to point out an area where Holiday World went "Above and Beyond" I have been to other parks that, if faced with a ride breakdown in the last half hour of the day would have merely closed the ride for the day, and maybe offering some words of apology to the guests. Not Holiday World, Holiday World summoned the ride mechanics, and allowed people to wait, for those who wanted to wait it out. I do not know if they ever got their ride, as we decided to bail and head to the opening ceremony for SRM. We do know that a ride mechanic was already on site when we left.
We next headed to the Hoosier Celebration Theater. In another case of process improvement by the park, the venue for the opening ceremony had been changed. For the last few years it was held in the Holiday Theater which is located right inside the front gate. While being easy to locate, the venue was not large enough to handle all the attendees, and with the accumulation of body heat was not all that pleasant. This year the park moved the ceremony to an outdoor theater, the one located between Halloween and 4th of July. Access to the new venue from the front gate was quite easy thanks to a new walkway that runs from the hill by Raven to a spot next to the Hallowswings.
There were still several seats in the theater, and so we sat in the side section with me on the aisle. Shortly after 6:00 the Stark Raven Mad theme song was played to provide "mood music" and during the first playing of the song, another one of those "Above and Beyond" classic Holiday World moments occurred. Pat Koch started walking down the aisles of the theater personally shaking hands and welcoming people to the event. It is any surprise that we refer to the park staff as the Holiday World Family. SRM is like a family reunion, where the park welcomes all their distant relations back once a year for a weekend of fun.
After what was referred to by the park as the Stark Raven Mad Anthem was played a few times while the crowd was still filing into the theater, the festivities began. There were the usual introductions, there was a song-and-dance number to the tune of "Who Could Ask for Anything More" (I've got Raven/ I've Got Legend/ I've got my rides/ Who Could Ask for anything more?) featuring the tap dancing of Pat Koch. The park was honored with an honorary membership to ACE. Then, and I must stress, there was a reading of the rules. Important safety announcements were made regarding seatbelts, lap bars, and the proper useage of lap bars. Of course no opening ceremony would be complete without an Auction. This year the auction was to benefit the Roller Coaster Museum Fund. All kinds of stuff was sold to the highest bidder. CCI logo golf shirts, various used parts from the parks coaster trains (Wheels), lift hill flags (which I bid on, but could not see paying upwards of $30 for mere solid colored, non standard size flags that would not fit on any flagpole I own), Jeff H's cast from last SRM, a copy of Tim's new Amusement Park Guide, Banshee signage, and parts of the lighting package from Banshee. The park quipped about them not knowing what the winning bidder was going to do with it, but I later found out the park did go "Above And Beyond" by wiring up the lighting package parts to function by merely connecting an electrical cord to a wall outlet. Paula made a remark about "where do you guys get the money?"
The last item up for bids was a real oddball. Paula announced that they were going to start a new tradition, that of auctioning something rare from the parks archive. Assembled group drools. Something back from the parks days as "Santa Claus Land" The item up for bids was a small book-sized cedar box that was once sold at the parks gift shop and bore the Santa Claus Land logo. As if that wasn't enough to get the crowd excited, it was announced the box contained another item inside, a mystery item. Only the winning bidder would learn what the mystery item is. Then it was mentioned that the mystery item could change your life forever. My gut reaction was that the park had placed either a season pass, or a Lifetime Pass To Wooden Coaster Heaven, in the box.
Therefore I was not surprised at how high the biding got. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, the winning bid was $250. This auction winner deserved special treatment. They came up to the foot of the stage, was introduced to the crowd, the bid was recorded on the tally sheet just like any other winning bid, cash was exchanged, then while the winner and his partner were up on stage, Paula asked if the rest of the people could see what the mystery item is. The winner agreed, opened the box, revealing a jewelry box, dropped to his knees, and proposed on the stage at Holiday World. Paula then chuckled that it was an old cedar box, but it came from her house, and did not have the park logo on it. I'd have to say that proposal was staged.
A few other orders of business, Dave Johnson, the creative talent behind the event flyers and shirts was introduced, and Paula re-gifted a copy of Dr. Phill's book to Dave. Lastly it was announced the park had 60 copies of the Stark Raven Mad Anthem on CD for sale for $5.00. 60 copies, 850 attendees, I didn’t even try.
Shortly thereafter the opening ceremony concluded and it was to the rides. With the large crowd from the theater all headed to Legend, Jerry and I headed to Raven, and without too much of a wait had seats in seat 6.1 Ahh, how nice it is to be back at Holiday World riding the Raven. After having an air filled ride we decided to go check out dinner while people were clogging the ride lines.
The traditional Holiday World opening night dinner is the interesting combination of Pizza, Pepsi, Potato Chips, and Phudge. This year I noticed a relish tray was available. We met with lots of folks during the event starting around this time, so in order to not offend anybody, I won't mention names, but a big "Hello! Glad to have met you!" To all the folks I met.
I went inside Kringle's and picked up my meal of two slices of sausage pizza, potato chips, chocolate fudge, and Code Red. There is something special about Holiday World's pizza, you can enter Kringle's, (dare I say it) RAVEN-ous and magically after two giant slices, a mound of potato chips, all the drinks you can take, and an ultra rich block of fudge, you feel full and satisfied. I do have one suggestion, however, since fudge is included, how about including milk on the beverage bar?
After dinner, we proceeded out on the midway. Rather than head directly to the coasters, we took our fresh-from-dinner selves to the spin rides. First up was the Scarecrow Scrambler, where I notice an enlarged queue area has been installed. The Scrambler wasn't bad, but it does seem faster than most big name park Scramblers. From the Scrambler we headed over to look at the new HallowSwings. HallowSwings is the parks brand new Zamperla Flying Carousel. As the name suggests, it has been themed to Halloween, and is quite simply the most beautiful swing ride anywhere. We decided to take a ride on the HallowSwings and received a wonderful ride. In order to make room for the swings, the Banshee (Chance Falling Star) had to go.
Having made our rounds of the available flat rides, it was coaster time. For the remainder of the evening we would make a pattern of getting a couple Legend rides, going over visiting Raven, then some more Legend rides, then some Raven, repeat.
Rather than give the play-by-play of the night, here are my comments on the two HoliCoasters.
Raven: The 1995 classic that introduced Holiday World to a new audience: Coaster Enthusiasts. Raven is themed after the famous Edgar Allen Poe poem. I think it goes something like "Ride The Raven, Forevermore". Holiday World is a Theme Park, and claims to have beat Disney to the title of "World's First Theme Park" by several years. For example most of the structures in the Christmas section of an alpine chalet look to them (North Pole, anyone?) The Raven, in accordance to its theme, has a Victorian haunted house as its station. The queue starts by going through a set of imposing looking wrought iron gates, then makes its way up the front walk to the big veranda style front porch, winds its way around the porch, then goes in the front door of the house. The front hall and stairwell are painted in classic haunted house black.
Riders then climb the stairs to the second floor of the house. A gum roof has been formed on the porch roof that is accessible from the open window at the top of the stairs. On the now finished second floor one finds the coaster station. Several improvements have been made over the years: wall paneling has gone up, the speed of the queue gates has been reduced to something reasonable, an exit gate has been installed. Riders then select a seat, and after the appropriate safety checks the train takes off, right through the big front picture window on the front of the house. Riders can wave excitedly to those folks milling about on the exit ramp, or to the queue below as the train does a queue fly-over then heads alongside the house, where the ride makes its one crossover as the train takes a sudden dip underneath the brake run to arrive at the lift hill. At the top of the lift hill, one can wave to those people at the front gate plaza, then the train turns to the right, and goes down the first drop. While the first drop is good it is really just an appetizer, you then go through a tunnel at the bottom of the first drop, and rise back up where you hit the first really good airtime moment as your dive down into drop 2, then a turn to the right as you fly past the parks general public picnic area, dive back down drop 3, take a lateral filled swoop turn over Lake Rudolph, rise back up to start the return leg. At this point you take little drop 4 which does nothing on its own, but it sets the train up for the rides big climax, Drop 5. Drop 5 is the rides biggest airtime moment, and is one of the best drops on a wood coaster anywhere. But don't think the ride is done with you yet, after ducking under an archway the ride switches gears and starts negotiating a wild series of turns designed to create massive laterals and general mayhem until the train finally finds itself back at the station. Is there any doubt why this is rated the World's Best Wooden Roller Coaster.
The other wooden coaster offered tonight was The Legend. The Legend was the park's 2000 expansion, based on the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This time the station is themed to a one room school-house. The school of Legend was so popular in fact, that in 2002 the schoolhouse was greatly enlarged and a second train purchased. When the Legend was build it included a long section of straight track directly after the station. This space could accommodate the rides switch track, as well as moving the loading platform down, in order that there may be an extra safety brake between the trains at all times. The park kept the existing entrance and exit stairs and such, and merely enlarged the school room. A bad side effect of this is that whereas before the riders entered the station roughly in the middle of the train, now everybody enters the actual loading area near the rear of the train. This has caused its share of problems, as sometimes the congestion is so bad in the back of the station area, that seats towards the front of the train go out empty because people can't get to them. This year the park added a separate rear seat queue, but it didn't seem to solve the problem.
Now for the ride, the train departs the station, and turns right to go up the lift, the lift presents the ride with a view of the ride, and a good view of the waterpark. I was glad to hear that the lift-top recording of a wolf and the words "Don't Look Back" has returned. A quick right turn at the top of the lift and its down the first drop with a twist at the bottom to go through the rides first tunnel, then the second drop, then the third drop which spirals its way down under the parks new waterslide, Zinga, the ride then passes under itself on a double up which produces a nice moment of floater air, then the train passes through tunnel number two. At the end of tunnel two the ride starts its signature element, the clockwise double helix, with two tunnels. In a weird move, the train goes up and down hills while negotiating the helix. Once out of the helix, its time for the Four Turns. A diabolical series of turns full of laterals. The train then comes into the brake run which passes right over the ride entrance. It’s a great ride, it's an intense ride, but I think I prefer my Raven.
With the basic ride descriptions done, I will just say that I talked with a lot of people, rode a lot of rides, found lines that were slightly shorter than last year, and had a really fun time. One small planning error at the end of the night meant that we missed out on finishing up on Raven, which meant we had to walk up the hill. We then headed back to car, to the hotel, got some much needed sleep, got cleaned up, had breakfast at the hotel buffet, skipped the waterpark ERT, and arrived at the park just before 10:00AM.
I had a feeling today was going to be crowded. As soon as we neared Holiday World there were traffic cops there to guide us into the parking lot, then parking attendants to guide us to a space, then a parking tram to shuttle us to the front gate. This would make the 11th time I have been to Holiday World, (I won't count the one time I went to Santa Claus Land when I was a little child) and this is the first time I have seen this kind of parking lot operation.
Never fear, our tickets admitted us to the park, and we headed directly to the Raven. But first I must pause to comment, that as many times as I had been to the park, I never quite noticed they had a nativity scene until this year. You see this year it has been moved directly across from Santa Claus at a key intersection in the park. Proceeded on, we found a relatively short line for the Raven, took a couple rides, noted a full Scrambler queue, and headed on to Legend. When we arrived at Legend, Rideman was just exiting and he informed us of the sadistic fun he was having waving at those people exiling out in the waterpark. Before the border was reopened between Splashin Safari and Holiday World, I was able to get two rides on Legend. Yes, it was fun waving at them.
We rode Legend a few more times, once in the rain, a rain that was short lived, and soon enough we decided to take a tour of the park.
We headed into the 4th of July section, where we noted the ride lines would be a bit long today. We watched a cycle of Eagle's Flight, noted that no improvements had been made since last year, and opted for a ride on the Roundhouse instead.
Next we came around to Liberty Launch, where after waiting about an hour were able to get our second ride on this ride. We then ran into Dave Althoff and proceeded to spend a lot of the day with him. WE went back for more Raven and Legend rides, until we had to make a restroom stop. I want to know what size park guests the park had in mind when they installed the new WaterLess urinals this year. They would be just great for an NBA basketball team.
We rode some more rides, including the Rough Riders bumper cars, Roundhouse again, some more Raven and Legend Rides and more. We did take a break from riding to watch the deputizing of HoliDog's deputies (Path monitors for the walkback) which took place in his FunTown, then had lunch at the Alamo. The Alamo is famous for its Frito Pie. (Try it, You'll like it) WE noted that they only offer mild sauce, even the new salsa they have is mild. We took the walkback, saw a lot of coaster action, saw the old Gerstlauer train (the park even took the tarp off of it for us) and due to the company we had for the walkback, had a really enjoyable time.
After the walkback we did more coasters, we did more rides, we had Deep Fried Oreos (YUMMMMMMMM!), we did a gift shop run, we rode more coasters. We brought our afternoon's riding to a halt with a ride on Raven around 7:30, then a trip on Legend around 7:45. All in all we made it back to the picnic grove around 7:50
There was a large crowd for dinner, so large in fact that a half hour queue had built for the buffet. The line stretched from the far back blue picnic shelter to the entrance of the grove. We were kept entertained in line by a band, and with talking to people soon reached the buffet.
It may seem a bit trivial to critique the buffet, but a couple pointers are in order. Chiefly the park should place the condiments AFTER the entrees so that you know which ones you will need. For example I saw Mustard, Mayo, and other burger fixins, so I prepared to have hamburgers for dinner, except there were no hamburgers on the buffet by the time I got up to the front.
We talked through dinner, and soon decided to make our way back to the miday. A check of the watch revealed that ERT should have started 10 minutes ago. We joined the large crowd assembled at the picnic grove exit. We stood, we waited, then Pat Koch came on the microphone.
In accordance with the parks wishes, I will not go into what happened, but an announcement was made, the details of which can be found here : http://www.holidayworld.com/xedni.html Without going into details, I can't go without commenting on the profound, surreal, eerie effect generated when a picnic grove full of happy coaster enthusiasts turned absolutely silent, and then a super quiet reverent procession was made from the picnic area in the back of the park to the exit gates up front. It was an amazing and profound effect I hope to never have to repeat. (User pauses)
Now it's been about 10 days later, the daily search for news articles has subsided, and life at the parks seems to be back to some resemblance of normal. Through it all the Koch Family, Paula and the entire Public Relations staff, as well as the entire Holiday World family have shown the utmost grace and skill during their traumatic park. Holiday World has risen due to their values of openness, honesty, and integrity. Even at its lowest low, the park has managed to show what it is made of, to show that they are a park truly "Above and Beyond" in every sense of the word.
I'm not an enthusiast. I just play one on message boards.
Missing the Fallen:
King Cobra 1984-2001
The Bat 1981-1983
*** This post was edited by SFgadvMAN 6/17/2003 8:36:35 AM ***
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