Holiday World: Coasterbuzz.com Fall Afair
October 1, 2005
"It's so great to be back"
Once upon a time, there was a town in Indiana names Santa Claus. This town became quite a popular place for parents to get postmarks on those "letters from Santa", and over time it seemed that a need was created for a place to actually visit Santa Claus in Santa Claus. Enter the Koch's who in 1946 created Santa Claus Land, a children's theme park based on Christmas and Santa. One might note the opening year predates that famous California park by almost nine years. Over the ages Santa Claus Land became very popular and successful, such that in 1984 Santa Claus Land became Holiday World with the addition of two more holiday themed lands, in this case Halloween and Fourth of July. The park continued to be very successful and in 1993 entered the then growing water park craze with the addition of Splashin' Safari, an African safari themed water park, that was included with admission. Since this is a coaster related website, you will be glad to hear that in 1995 Holiday World built their first major roller coaster, the Raven, which stands in the Halloween section of the park. Raven became very popular and in fact won a lot of awards, it also showed that a mid-size wood coaster can be a high quality coaster. Shortly thereafter the tradition of coaster enthusiast outings at Holiday World began, and so on October 1, 2005, after not having been to the park in over two years, I gleefully decided to return for another day at Holiday World.
Yes, I realize that October 1st is also the same day as the infamous OctoberFirst celebration at LongWorld in Bithlo, FL, but I had to send Todd Long my regrets this year. Somehow when choosing between LongWorld and HolidayWorld, LongWorld didn't stand a chance.
The day started out pretty much routine, Rideman came and picked me up at an early hour of the morning and we pretty much drove straight down I-71 through Kentucky before switching to I-64. We did mange to stop at the rest area in Indiana which is notable only because we saw quite a few people in their coaster enthusiast finest (park t-shirts, what else?) I also grimaced when I noted the flagpole at the rest area had three (different) flags on one pole, all at about the same height. Something just doesn't look right about that.
Anyway, after a brief stop we were soon on our way to the park and in fact pulled into the Raven parking lot at around 10:45am park time. We did debate the merits of parking in the Raven lot or the Legend lot, and even though we were parked pretty far back in the Raven lot, we decided to gamble on a possible parking upgrade later in the day.
We opened the trunk and Rideman proceeded to get out his portable TV studio with a broadcast quality camera and accessories. It seems that he would be 'working' this event as a volunteer cameraman for the Coasterbuzz Podcast taping. Shortly before 11 we had made our way up to the parks entrance plaza where Pat Koch greeted us with open arms. Well we did get a scolding for choosing to wear park shirts that featured parks other than Holiday World, but all in good fun. We then headed to the designated check in lane where we proceeded to check in with little fuss. We were advised to reinforce the name tags with a little bit of tape, then were handed our Funvelopes. Lets see admission ticket, meal ticket, schedule of events, ground rules, discount coupons. Okay we get out the admission tickets and head to the front gate.
The front gate area of holiday world doesn't promote any particular holiday, yet looks festive done up in the Holiday World colors of red, yellow and blue. One of the things Holiday World has done which is sort of unique is they removed the front gate turnstiles, for safety reasons, since their audience is mostly children. We handed in our tickets and soon entered Christmas.
Walking up the walkway from the front gate we passed the locker and stroller rental as well as the parks relatively new front gate area gift shops. We also noticed the new Christmas tree. I'm not sure of the entire story but right as you enter the park you enter a Swiss chalet looking village, Christmas carols softly play and right in the center of the walkway is a pine tree. Well, this year it is a fully decorated pine tree, which makes a most impressive Christmas tree at the front of the park. In case you needed any more reminders that this is the Christmas themed section the first turn to the left will take you to Rudolph's Reindeer Ranch children's rides area, which has a nice selection of children's rides, a climbing structure, and bumper boats. I particularly like the carousel type ride that uses seahorses which are suspended from above and are apparently free to swing out a little bit.
Further up the main walkway at the next intersection to the left is the giant Santa Claus statue. Sure the coaster enthusiasts may be taking rolls and rolls and megs and megs of pictures in the Halloween and Thanksgiving sections of the park, but for most families the key #1 photo spot is their children posing next to the Santa Claus statue. Flanking St. Nicholas on the pathway to Halloween is the parks large scale Nativity Set, which if I remember correctly received a new paint job this summer. We also checked out the big fountain in the middle of the main walkway. The fountain was completely redone this year with an enhanced light package. The fountain was supposed to feature a sculpture of two hands in the center in honor of the highly coveted "Applause Award" the park won at IAAPA last year. Well the center pedestal is there but no sculpture. File that under work in progress and move on. This area also includes the parks main theater as well as a smaller venue for Storytime with Santa.
To the surprise of most of you we did not take off running down the pathway to Halloween with the speed and fury of an Olympic sprinter with the theme from Chariots of Fire playing loudly in the background. You see, I know Dave did not want to leave his expensive camera equipment unattended, so instead we set out to take an introductory tour of the park, to see what they have managed to chance since our last visit. We noted the new Skeeball machines in the skeeball building, and ducked into Kiringle's Kafe for the first of many FREE soft drinks. You heard that right, Holiday World offers FREE unlimited soft drinks to every guest. Further down the path I noted that Holiday World has gone to a designated smoking area arrangement. I'm glad. We soon pass Kringle's, the fudge shop, the glass blower, and note that the location of Kringle's Banquet Hall had changes since last time we ate there. A couple curves later and we are walking into the Fourth of July section.
The Swiss chalet Christmas village theme gives way to a Colonial village, carols give way to fife and drum music and patriotic standards. Welcoming you to the area is the parks Spider ride, dubbed "Paul Revere's Midnight Ride" I'll have to take Mr. Revere up on his offer of a ride sometime later today. We pass the main gift shop, "The Liberty Bell Shoppe" Next to the gift shop is a trail where guests can drive antique cars. Dubbed the Louis and Clark Trail after the two famous explorers, I'm pretty sure they would have appreciated the use of a car when they were making their trail. We next pass by some games, the Udderly Blue Ice Cream stand, where not only can you buy blue ice cream you can get a delight known as a Patriot Missile complete with red and blue ice cream with white sprinkles. Unfortunately for those of us who like to eat Patriot Missiles, this stand was not in operation today.
Then you come to a crossroads. To our left is the center path that cuts the loop in half. You see Holiday World for the most park is one of those theme parks that was designed with all the attractions in a giant loop, so that you had to pass by every attraction the park offered. Fortunately there is a path that allows people to cut through the center of the loop. Along this pathway is a southwestern looking building dubbed The Alamo, which appropriately enough is a Mexican food eatery. Going to the right you would go down a walkway to the Betsy Ross museum. I have never gone to visit the Betsy Ross museum but according to the guide it features dolls or dollhouses, and not that famous item you would expect to find in a Betsy Ross museum. Don't worry though, because you can see a fine display of Betsy Ross's work located directly across from the Alamo in the form of the 14 flag Avenue of Flags, which I believe is dedicated to all heroes.
Continuing along the main path, we pass a Pepsi Oasis, then we come to the parks bumper car ride, known as the Rough Riders. We noted the queue area for Rough Riders has undergone some changes, and the cars themselves have new and improved adjustable seatbelts. Rough Riders is unique in that it is a themed bumper car ride. Imagine being in the middle of a stampede in the wild west. Well thats sort of what Rough Riders is all about because instead of driving cars the vehicles look like horses and bison and other livestock. Just beyond the bumper cars we spot the parks Double Shot ride. A Double Shot launches you like a rocket and then later throws you back down towards Earth faster than gravity. It was speculated that this would be called the Firecracker, but that obvious name choice had already been used on a steel family rollercoaster the park had removed a few years prior. The park named the tower ride the Liberty Launch and features a white structure with red and blue seats and read white and blue decorative pieces. The top of the tower sports four more examples of Betsy Ross's work. I noted they have added a single rider queue to Liberty Launch.
Further along, we passed the always crowded bumper boats pool. Bumper boats are included in the gate admission at Holiday World. The theme appropriate name is "Thunder Bumpers on Chesapeke Bay" We then come to the turnaround where you start back around towards the front. Sitting at the far rear of the park is HoliDog's Funtown, another children's area, which we decided to skip for now. We did note what is believed to be the oldest ride in the park, the Freedom Train. Freedom Train is a miniature railroad. Smaller than the rolling stock used at most parks, this train is clearly designed for children with adults having to struggle to squeeze into the open air car, and they may as well forget about getting into the enclosed car. While riding the Freedom Train riders are treated to scenes and s script related to nursery rhymes.
We make the turnaround and head back towards the front of the park. We come across one of the parks new-for-2005 attractions, Revolution. At first glance you may not notice it because it looks very much like the ride it replaced, the Roundhouse. Roundhouse was a Hurbetz Round Up, which was apparently getting past its prime, yet still popular. Revolution is a Darton Zero Gravity. Zero Gravity is the modern version of the round up. Zero gravity includes a new drive system, new looks and styling, mostly around the top of the ride and the coverings in the center of the ride platform, improved capacity since the ride only has one opening for loading and unloading, instead of two on a round up, and enhanced ride performance with a ride that can get up to speed and up in the air faster than Roundhouse and a ride that can lower and come to a stop faster. The upshot of all this is its a new ride that offers the same thrill as the older ride, with higher capacity. The park even used the same basic color scheme for the exterior of the ride as the old one.
At about this time, we came across Paul Drabek. We stood for awhile and talked before continuing our tour. We passes the parks Flying Skooters ride, dubbed Eagle's Flight. Unfortunately these flyers aren't very snappable. We move further past "Ragign Rapids in Boulder Canyon", the river raft ride which apparently received all new rafts this year before coming back to the center cut through path. This area contains the Funnel Cake Factory, some games, the Tilt-A-Whirl (named Virginia Reel) , Indian River Canoe Ride (Venture Canoe), that is missing the float through tipi, despite the Indian theme., and Salmon Run (Winky the Whale with a custom paint job) It should be noted that this area provides two kiddie rides in the center of the park located to rescue parents whose children need to get on a ride right away. We continue downt he hill past the snack bar and the outdoor theater, as we glance at the signs advertising the new-for-2006 Thanksgiving section, and especially Voyage, but more on that later.
We pass the entrance way to the closed-for-the-season Splashin Safari water park, and the new shortcut path designed to minimize the walk from the front gate to the waterpark. Upon entering Halloween we glance at very nicely themed HallowSwings, the parks swing ride, with cheerfully spooky theme. At this point Rideman had to hustle back to the Holiday Theatre to setup for the podcast and Paul and I went to look at Halloween. We looked at Halloween by going down a flight of stairs, under the Legend station, then back up the stairs to where the line extended just outside the schoolhouse door. The station for The Legend (of Sleepy Hollow) looks like a one room schoolhouse complete with working school bell and chalkboard. Before to long we are climbing into the second row of the Legend train. Shortly thereafter we exit the schoolhouse and make a right turn past the Goblin Burgers stand and head up the lift hill. Once up to the top, a turn to the right sends up down the twisting first drop which ends with a left-hand twist into the first cedar tunnel. Out of the tunnel and a jog to the right to crest the second hill, then back up for the spiraldrop that is the waterpark turnaround, we duck under some waterslides, then make a right hand turn to cross under the outbound structure where we encounter a couple airtime speedhills, then the second tunnel. Climbing out of the second tunnel we head towards the rides helix element. Its a double helix with interesting elevation changes throughout. Coming out of the helix we finish with the Four Turns Of Doom, which are four very sudden very hard turns. The first takes you out of the helix where you take a sharp left to dive through a small opening in the lift hill, then a sharp right to take a dip under the Frightfull Falls log flume, then a sharp left for the station and queue are flyby, then a turnround to the right to take you to the brakes.. Its a very action packed coaster but for some reason this ride seemed a bit on the sluggish side. Perhaps it will warm up later.
We walk through the Halloween games area and Merlin's Arcade, then past the Spooky Burger stand and the ramp down to Frightful Falls, the log flume,. We head up the hill past the Scarecrow Scrambler and the high dive show to the wrought iron gates guarding the entryway to the Raven. The Raven is still my favorite coaster at holiday world. We headed through the gates and up the entry path to the Raven. We enter the Victorian house that serves as its station and climb the stairs to the second floor. We find a nearly empty station, and 1 to 2 trains later I am climbing into the rearmost left seat on the ride.
I climb in and pull down on the bar and click-click-click-click-click-click, it seems the lapbars have been modified so that there are more locking positions to choose from. Anyway the train soon departs and we make a turnaround to the left to travel through the new carriage house which houses the spare train, then a slight jog to the left and we are traveling up the lift hill which crests in such a way that it overlooks the front gate plaza, the train then takes a right and travels out alongside the parking lot. Down the drop, through the tunnel, up, a slight jog to the right, down, up, then a right turn to set you up for the Lake Rudolph drop where the track goes out over the lake before forming a turnaround to start you on the return portion of the ride, you then come back up and make a left turn to run alongside the outbound track where you first take a small dip, then you make a left turn and go into the rides signature fifth drop. The BIG drop into the woods. From there the ride takes on a different character with its 4 turns in quick succession which throw you from side to side before you wind up on the brake run about to pull into the station. Well friends, the Raven still has it, it may not be in insane mode yet, but it still packs a wallop. At this time I'll just mention that the park has adopted a fairly strict no-loose-articles policy, but at least in addition to the courtesy shelves in the station, they also have courtesy platform side lockers for those that are a afraid to leave their stuff just sitting out. A nice touch that more parks should look into.
Looking at our watches, and correcting for the time zone difference, I realize that the podcast taping is about to start, so we dash up to the nearby Holiday Theatre and quietly enter to find the show hasn't started yet. Rideman is in the rear of the auditorium preparing, and the principles are in the back socializing. At around 12:05 taping starts. It was a bit of a strange moment when Jeff Putz broke the news to the audience that this wasn't the parks normal "Pop Revolution" show, and that they would be seeing no singing or dancing. This dismayed the general public who pretty much left en masse. It also caused the enthusiasts to try to egg Jeff on to doing a song and dance number. No dice.
A podcast, at least in this case is an internet based radio-style talk show about coasters. One episode per week, about half an hour per show where a panel talks about the latest news in the amusement industry and also talks to a guest panelist. This weeks guest panelist was Will Koch who graciously allowed coasterbuzz to use the Holiday Theatre as a recording studio. It was a fun and interesting show, and we learned a bit about where they want Holiday World to be in a few years. Some juicy tidbits to be had by listening to the podcast. (I believe http://podcast.coasterbuzz.com will take you to the podcast download page, I am not sure how long the retention of old files will be).
After the podcast taping ended, we took care of some personal needs, had another round of soft drinks, and I left with Paul while Rideman took his equipment out to the parking lot. We started in the Fourth of July section on Liberty Launch. The single rider queue was not open, but since the line was only about 1-2 cycles long that really wasn't a problem. We took our seats, I lowered the shoulder harness, and quickly learned that the seatbelt was short. Hmm, I just rode two S&S towers at Valleyfair! less than a month ago that did not exhibit this short seatbelt syndrome. Luckily we were at Holiday World and not some park whose ride ops were trained by Vogons, this means that they were willing to help me with get that bar down enough to fasten the seatbelt. I must say I thought Liberty Launch was a bit on the wimpy side, not much airtime to be had.
After Liberty Launch we headed into Holidog's FunTown. The area where Holidog's FunTown sits used to hold a small steel portable coaster called the Firecracker. When they changed the area over into a new children'a area, one of the changes was to block the old pathway which required crossing the railroad tracks of the Freedom Train, and instead built a bridge over the railroad tracks. We crossed over the bridge and into Funtown. Funtown contains a food stand, a character greeting area to meet Holidog, and the entryway has jumping fountains. These are the fountains where the water shoots from one fountain to another and if you aren't careful you could get wet. The odds of getting wet go up by people intentionally diverting the water. If that didn't get you wet keep going and you will see water geysers in the ground. Its the perfect place for a child to get totally soaked while having fun. The water activity area is surrounded by a big climbing structure, and in back of the climbing structure are hidden two children's rides. First is the Doggone Trail where children ride in little jeeps that travel automatically along a fixed course. The other ride is the Howler, the Howler is the parks kiddie coaster. It is a Zamperla model and it has a helix. A ride on it is two trips around with the operator asking if anyone wants to get off before starting the second circuit. Paul and company wanted to ride this, so I got in line and we loaded up the Howler with adults. Man that lapbar is a tight squeeze but luckily they let me straddle the lapbar and sit sorta sideways. A few moments later we had finished our ride on the Howler. Of special note is the Howler train, it looks like Holidog, with the lead car showing his face, cap and front paws, and the rear of the back car showing his rear paws and tail. Cute.
We returned to the Fourth of July section where I took a ride on the new Revolution. As I noted above the ride looks and rides very similar to the Roundhouse ride it replaced. I did note that the safety chains on the Roundhouse were replaced with a section of strap that is permanently fixed to one side of your berth, and a loop at the other end of the strap fits over a post on the other side. Either way the 'safety restraint' is mostly a psychological barrier reminding you to stay back. I mean neither system is going to really hold you if the unthinkable happened. Before the ride started the ride op introduced herself as the Ruler of the Revolution, and gave the ride rules, in fact they were very similar rules as you would hear on a Round Up, go figure.
So I had a fun fast ride on Revolution, then we stopped off for some Deep Fried Oreos ($2.96 w/tax). Hmmm, decadently delicious. We then headed to ride Legend. This time the Legend line was to the bottom of the stairs, but it still didn't seem to take to long to get aboard. As we were boarding we saw Rideman arrive so hey we all met up. The second ride on Legend was decidedly better than the first so hey it's warming up!
After our Legend ride, we talked awhile, then headed to Frightful Falls. Some selected members of our group decided they wanted to see how much weight they could put in one log. Rideman and I were not in that group, and took a log for the two of us and sat rather comfortably. Frightful Falls is not frightful in the least, well except for that dark opening tunnel. Then you sort of meander out towards splashin safari, the meander back towards Halloween, then you go up the lift, down the big drop, then turnaround back into the station. We got wet some but not too wet. We unloaded and watched for the Log of Overloaded Doom behind us to go down the drop and create a massive wave.
After Frightful Falls Rideman, April and I headed to get some snack foods to tide us over until dinner. We also learned that the Alamo has discontinued Frito Pies as a menu item. Awwwww! After snacking, we headed to Paul Revere's Midnight Ride. The line looked long but in reality it was just a one cycle wait. This spider ride stayed true to its reputation and gave us a nice spin filled ride. Great fun. Checking watches we hd just enough time to make final preparations for the Voyage construction tour and get over to the meetup area.
So we met up to go look at Voyage. We heard some ground rules, and then the parade of coaster enthusiasts started its way down the path towards the group sales picnic grove where it was diverted out the employee exit. I mean all the way out the employee exit and into the employee parking area. Along our way out, the park was nice enough to post another set of the Thanksgiving and Voyage display signs for us to look at. The employee exit is down a hill which gave us a taste from a distance of what we could expect. Start your drooling now! We reentered the park by the Snowy White Gravel Road into the construction area where on one side we could see the foundations for what will soon be the Voyage station and on the other side we saw some newly laid footers and a couple track sections Key points of interest in the parts of the track that were already laid was one of the 90' bank turns. I tell you that just looks so wrong, as well as the 66' first drop, which also just looks so wrong. Of course in this case looking so wrong is music to a coaster enthusiasts ears, and amidst the dropping of jaws and bulging out of eyes, Will Koch just sort of stood to the side and took the reaction in. There was one part of the tour where we climbing up a big steep hillside to reach the turnaround point for this out and back. There isn't and track laid back there yet, but it was a good demonstration. You remember that ground hugging return run shown on the diagrams of his new out massive out and back coaster? Well the return run goes along a steep downward hill. Oooh, this is going to be just so exciting! I really can't wait to ride this one, its going to be an airtime lovers dream. We paussed to watch a TV crew tape some interviews then brought up the rear of the pack as we made our way back to the guest sections of the park, chatting it up with Pat Koch along the way. I did note a park security person was posted at the employee entranceway overseeing our return to the park, and after awhile we had returned to the same spot we started the tour. Many thanks to the Holiday World staff for letting us see Voyage so close up.
After grabbing some refreshments, Rideman and I headed to the HallowSwings. Its a very elaborately themed spooky swing ride with smiling skulls, spooky characters and topped with a ring of bats. We watched as the Monster Mash played on the ride's sound system, then we entered and took a ride. Not all seats on the ride are the same width so be sure to take the time to find the seat that best matches your butt width. We took a fun filled HallowSwings ride. We then headed to the Liberty Belle Shoppe and then passing by the crew headed into the banquet hall we checked out the new trading post by the front gate before exiting the park to drop off cameras. While out in the parking lot we also took the chance to seriously upgrade our parking spot to one much closer to the front gate.
We then reentered the park and headed to the new Kringles' Banquet Hall, which replaces the old one that was located as a private room inside Kringle's Café. The new banquet hall is a perfectly ordinary rectangular room with perfectly ordinary white walls. There is some color in the room by way of the base of the support columns being painted red, and there is one small Christmas tree sitting in one corner. Not much to look at, and the acoustics of the room scream Mess Hall quite loud. The cafeteria I eat at most days during work has the same problem. Too many hard surfaces mean that when you get a few people talking the sound just seems to echo and multiply to the point where you have a constant din and soon you can't hardly hear the person sitting two chairs down, which causes you to talk louder to compensate which just makes the problem worse. WE went over the serving area and caught the tail end of the meal service, which for me was two slices of pepperoni pizza, some chips, a pepsi, and orange-creamscicle fudge. Hmmmmmm.
We ate a while and socialized a while, then the formal part of the dinner entertainment started. Will Koch and family thanked us for returning, Pat Koch told a very entertaining story about the parks customer service training. (And thats all I'm going to say about that) Will then laid out the ground rules for ERT and stressed safety. After the speech was over we had the charity auction.
It has become tradition at these types of events for Holiday World to sell off some of its coaster related trash to help benefit a good cause. This year the money raised would go to the Red Cross to help Hurricane Katrina victims. Now I know that when people are bidding one limited 'collectible; items, auctions tend to run high, and when people are bidding in charity events, people have been known to bid high as a way to help the charity out and get a gift out of the deal. The auction started wth a story about lightning and fried Raven computer circuit boards. Several of these fried circuit boards went for about $30-$35. The auction them moved onto various used coaster wheels. Each lovingly tagged with a maintenance department tag. These various wheels of all type sold from anywhere from $30-$100, with the $100 being for a road wheel. Last up for auction were some of the flags that have flown atop the Raven and Legend lift hills. It should be noted that these flags do not have any identifying devices in their design. They are just solid colored tall narrow flags used for color and motion atop the lift hills. Bidding for these got up to $60. I admit that I want one, but I will also admit that I am not about to pay $60 for one Even if the money is going to a very worthwhile cause. I can only wonder how much money they park could get for the banners that line the midways, you know the ones with Holiday World logo on top and the section name and a graphic device in the field. But all in good fun and all for a good cause. The auction ended suddenly and without warning so that ERT could begin.
ERT is of course the main event, so we headed out of the banquet hall and met up with each other by the time we got to the entrance to the Raven. As usual the coasters were running in insane mode all night, and we moved back and forth between the Raven and the Legend, with much of the time spent on the Raven. A festive atmosphere was at hand with shouting competitions between the two coaster stations, and a re-ride friendly atmosphere if no one was waiting for your seat. At one time we scored 4 laps in a row on Raven without leaving the train. This was made easier once both coasters switched to double rides. We took numerous rides on Raven, then towards the end of the night headed back for one last ride on Legend. We wondered if we would get that ride when the queue gates failed to open, but Holiday World took it in stride and opened up the attendant's gate at the front of the platform and loaded the train up the old fashioned way, the way parks did it before seat queues. The ride would up being a triple ride on Legend that lasted just long enough so we could not finish up on Raven. Wow the airtime, the laterals on both coasters. Two very fine wooden coasters running in top notch form. Yes, its so great to be back at Holiday World. We stood along the midway across from the Raven entrance and talked to Will and Pat for quite some time until they finally politely excused themselves and we suddenly realized there was nobody around us in the park. I suppose this means its time for us to leave. So we made our way out the front gate picking up 2006 season pass flyers on our way out, we did so due to the big Voyage logo on them.
Man, I can't WAIT to go ride Voyage next year! Next up in the trip report series will be Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. I'll spare you the details about how we got totally off course and went totally out of our way getting to our hotel.. I'll just say I know there are a lot of scenic roads in the area, but they aren't very scenic in the middle of the night.
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