Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Worlds of Fun Season Pass... Worth it? a 1994 to 2018 Comparison.

A few weeks ago, while organizing old Star Articles I ran across one that I found vaguly interesting from 1994, comparing the cost of a Starlight 4-show pass with a Worlds of Fun season pass. I mentally filed it away as mildly interesting and went on with my organizing.  Today, I noticed the post on Worlds of Fun's Facebook regarding their Season Pass sales for the 2019 season, which if you renew within their "limited time" for $102 (or initial payment of $14 plus 11 payments of $8 each which is also $102 total) includes the rest of the 2018 season too.  I then noticed someone complaining about how they would visit if the price was "less".  I found the concept intriguing.  Was Worlds of Fun really as expensive as some feel?  Now, I can't make a decision on what someone's money is worth, for me, living in Florida it's "worth it" for me to buy a Worlds of Fun Gold Pass... because that's just me, and I am weird.  For others, Roller Coasters and Waterslides are eh.  I get that.  However, if twenty-five years ago it was a worthwhile argument for The Star to compare Worlds of Fun's value to Starlight's... I would argue it would still be relevant today.  So let's just do that why don't we?

As mentioned, a Season Pass to Worlds of Fun if you buy it today is $102 and includes the 2018 and 2019 seasons, PLUS parking for the 2019 season.  While you could argue their are incidentals that those fees don't cover, food, gas, etc, we also assume Starlight's doesn't cover that either.  So comparisons are equal in that regards.  A 4-show pass to Starlight STARTS at $60, but I don't care who you are... if it was me, and yes I have seen my fair share of shows at Starlight, I would pay the extra $18 for the slightly better seats, so $78 for Level 7 seating.  The next level up from that is $140 and that is about half way back.

So $102 compared to $78, not too far off, especially when one considers the $102 includes the 2018 season, AND Starlight includes only grass parking included, paved parking... is $5 extra per show.  So you could reasonably argue that $78 is now $98.  ($5 times four shows).  With that being said, I wouldn't be being impartial if I didn't say all parking is not created equal, and paved parking at Starlight MAY be closer then your paved parking spot at Worlds of Fun.

The argument from 1994 was somewhat familiar, and I thought we would taken a minute to look at that as well.  In 1994 a Worlds of Fun Season Pass was $54.95, or $47.95 if you bought three or more.  A Parking Pass (which was extra at the time) was $25, and an interesting point also to remember, is that the $54.95 or $47.95 DIDN'T INCLUDE BOTH PARKS.  it was $29.95 for the second park.  So for one person, for both parks, including parking was $109.99.. Yes folks, a season pass to Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun in 1994 was MORE then, than it would be today!

Now truthfully, not everyone needed a $25 parking pass, but even with that not included, its really not that far off when one considers gas was .75 cents a gallon, and minimum wage was $4.25 an hour in 1994 that is (I remember this because I paid that, and I was paid that, in that order).

At the time in 1994, a Starlight four-show package for Rear Third of the Theater (or that $78 4-show ticket today), was $28, that $140 ticket today, was $48.  Again, when one considers inflation it's not all that big of a jump, but here's the rub... If Worlds of Fun had increased along the same lines of inflation a season pass SHOULD be $148, instead its almost $50 less.  AND that includes the rest of 2018 season too!

A simple numbers game, and I love numbers, years, dates, figures fascinate me.  I also, in all fairness am probably not 100% unbiased, I love the park and want it to succeed more than anything.  With that being said, numbers are numbers, and numbers don't lie.  I realize most who read this are die hard Worlds of Fun fans much like myself, but its a fascinating discussion, and one that like every other blog I have written I feel I have gained just as much insight from writing as anyone who should read it.

Mann Fuller, J. (1994) "Passes can push down prices", The Kansas City Star, 25 June.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Jennifer's Ultimate Guide to Worlds of Fun Souvenir Maps

Please be aware that all images in this blog have taken time, money and effort to not only find them, but acquire them and scan them.  Please feel free to share them but if you do I ask that you please credit  Thank you.

The first time I can vividly recall seeing a souvenir map is in 1994 when I went into a conference room at the Worlds of Fun administrative building for training.  It was rather boring training, something about different labels on cleaning bottles, but on the wall, there were several framed maps including a 1976 souvenir map, which is easily identifiable by the gigantic 76’ in the corner.  Later during that same season, I recall an old collage on the wall in costumes with a tiny section of a 1980’s map, the portion of the sailer kid cartoon over the boat tank ride in Scandinavia and I vaguely remembered seeing that when I was younger.  It intrigued me… I wanted to know more but no one seemed to know anything.  

Now… more years later than I like to admit, I have a massive collection of souvenir maps, I even have five of them hanging on my walls in my house, a few are Jeff’s that I laminated back when I was in college in 2000, most are those I have been given or bought off eBay.  Souvenir maps are my great weakness, I have several from other parks, but treat the ones I have from Worlds of Fun like gold, and there is no such thing as too many (I have five 1973 maps).  

Over time I realized I am not the only crazy person out there, I might be the craziest of crazies, but still, I wasn’t alone in seeing the value in that ancient 1973 souvenir map.  But I also noticed there was some confusion, ok a lot of confusion regarding what year was what.  I never thought about creating a guide, until someone on another Facebook page called a 1984 map, a 1983 map.  And then I realized maybe I can be of some help and also share a concise look at the different varieties of souvenir maps and help people identify the different years.  I am missing about two years, (1978 and 1994) but have almost every souvenir map produced by the park which will help in identification. 

First off there are six different specific souvenir map designs.  Except for 1973 which is a completely unique design unlike any of the others every other map design was used over at least two different seasons and many of those from the 1970’s are completely original designs.


Here is 1973, I believe also used for the 1974 season as well since there really wasn’t much change between.  I call it the duck and pig map because there IS a duck and a pig on it.  No, literally I helped someone identify what map they had without seeing it based on that fact.  Fascinatingly enough the 1973 map, along with the Orient Express concept art are both artistic creations of Kansas City artist Byron Gash who is also responsible for creating the Topsy’s Popcorn logo too.  It is still a rather rare map simply due to age but I have found it is not the rarest map to pop up for sale.

In 1975 the park came out with an entirely new map.  However, before I continue, I thought for many years that the 1973 map was used up until 1976 when the much more common 1976 map was designed and began to be used.  I was somewhat founded in my beliefs as I mentioned not much changed at the park between 73 and 75.  However, about six or seven years ago when I discovered there was ANOTHER map design before 76, and that 76 wasn’t entirely original but more of a bicentennial rehash of 75 I was intrigued.  I am not entirely sure who designed 75 and 76 but it is the first map to introduce the mascot characters Sam, Grrtrude, and Dan’l who would become fixtures on the map for at least the next decade.



The 1975 and 76 maps are identified by their starry fields, oversized ride cartoon-style ride vehicles and larger than life Sam Panda at the center of it all.  In 1975 he is wearing his original yellow Chinese hat, and in 1976 he is wearing an Uncle Sam top hat, but the basic artistry is unchanged.  These are my two favorite maps, though neither of them lists an artist (which is rather annoying to me) I am a fan of the bright colors and just overall fun expressed in the artwork.  The 1976 map is the map I will always fondly remember from that day of training in 1994…



In 1977 the map design changed again and would remain the same with only minor updates for the new additions in 1978 and 1979.  While the first four years of park operation the maps were penetrating with bright primary colors, the late 1970’s maps could only be described as rather orange in tint,  and for those that remember the clothing, furniture, wallpaper, basically ANY design element from the late 1970’s… it makes sense. 

Another point that always strikes me about the 70’s maps is the cartoon boy in the upper left corner holding the WOF pennant, plus the fact that the title “Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Mo.” at the top of the map is made to appear to be a larger pennant as well.  

There are so many aspects of the 1977-79 maps that I do love.  My favorite, of course, is the old cartoon feller by the Wobble Wheel with the bubble that says “durn thing wobbles”, of course, 1977 is also the first year to show “Yumma Yucca Messa” on the map, and probably my favorite which is actually a varying characteristic of a lot of old souvenir maps is that the front of the zinger train is made to appear with a very fierce face, like its growling at you and the station!   Some many little details to enjoy and I do mean ENJOY because unlike the 1973 and 1976 which show up at least once a year on eBay, I have only seen one 1977-1979 map ever show up there, making them, at least to me, the rarest version of the Worlds of Fun souvenir map.  

That pretty much explains why one of few maps I am missing is a 1978 map, however, I have 1977 and 1979.  The easiest way to tell the different years apart is first 1979 has “79 Great Times” imprinted in the lower left-hand corner.  Beyond that, are the major ride changes in those three years.  1977 isn’t going to show Aerodrome in the upper right-hand corner, while 78 and 79 will.  1978 is going to be missing the Zulu, Le Carrousel and Wing Ding which were all added in 1979.  Take a look at Zulu in 1979 and tell me how many politically incorrect cartoons are in that one little corner of the map… I can't help but laugh at the bird holding the target above Big Game Hunt!  That kid looks to be a good shot.





1985-1987 can be seen here:

With 1980 came a whole new design, one that lasted for almost the entire decade and is probably the easiest of all to use due to its more realistic layout of the park.  With the 1980’s design, we see the names of attractions moving to a key (Fun Finder Legend) in the lower right-hand corner instead of scattered around the map.   We see a return more to the coloration of the original 73 map, using more primary colors, instead of the bright oranges and pastels that we saw in the late 70’s varieties.  Unlike the 75 and 77 versions though we have an artist that signs his name to this map, “Martin” found in the lower right-hand corner, in a tree.  I did quite a bit of researching on this and found this is referring to local artist John Boyd Martin of Ottawa, KS, who is also responsible among other things for the original Worlds of Fun logo.  Today he is a portrait artist, responsible for several locally famous murals of Lamar Hunt, George Brett, and Buck O'Neil, as well as a muralist responsible for the NCAA Headquarters mural in Overland Park, KS, just to name a few.  Like so many blog entries I have written in the past, this one is serving as a catalyst for additional research.

So for those keeping score, we have the first generation, a 1973 map, second generation including 75 and 76, third generation including 77 through 79 and fourth generation including 1980-1987.   By 1989, Worlds of Fun made a minor yet resounding change in their souvenir maps design and switched from a local artist to a national company, Citigraph Inc. known even today for producing park maps, including dozens of different parks across the country. The most obvious way to identify a Citigraph map is the black text copyright in the lower right-hand corner, (Citigraph, Inc.) but overall the maps appear to lose the character that made the preceding two decades of maps unique, in the end, the Worlds of Fun map seemed to look just like the Astroworld or Six Flags over Texas versions.  To throw a wrench in the system, the 1989 map is still a desired after collectible, due to its Timber Wolf poster design on the flip side of the map.  Leaving Worlds of Fun fans to this day asking the eternal question… which side do you display?  

Fascinatingly enough the 95 map was the first map I ever owned, it was 99 cents, and had the blue “I bought it” Worlds of Fun tape on the back.  While the old photocopied 73 map hung on my door at home, the 95 map hung on my wall in my college dorm room, and after it was laminated was covered with “wipe board markers” cartoon characters of myself and Jeff.  So, though looking back now and realizing the homogenization of park souvenir maps was yet another sign of the times, I can’t help but love them right along with the older maps because they not only symbolize an important time in my life, but they were one of my first outright souvenir purchases from the park.




The ultimate sign of the times, of course, was the transfer of ownership of Worlds of Fun from Hunt Midwest, to Cedar Fair in June 1995.  The change was visible both in the park and in its marketing almost immediately, and this is true with the park’s souvenir maps as well.  The last generation of souvenir maps belongs to the Cedar Fair family, and that includes 1997 and 1998 versions, which by far have the most cartoon-like quality and features one of the brightest color schemes (pretty much all the grass is lime green) of all souvenir maps attributed to Worlds of Fun over the years.  Of course being a Cedar Fair period map it carries the same design-appearance that the Cedar Point map does, (as does all the other Cedar Fair parks of the time), meaning every coaster, or coaster-like ride appears stretched to an extreme.  Zinger, in its last map appearance in 1997 appears to have a massively steep drop, as does Voyager.  Mamba when it was introduced in 1998 quite literally lords over the entire map, of course, that is probably not far off from reality as it does appear visible to this day from anywhere in the park!



One last comment before I wrap all this up.  If one notices the 1997 map is celebrating the park’s 25th anniversary.  If you count it out though, the park was only 24 years old in 1997, in 1997 the park was still following traditional Hunt Midwest anniversaries which celebrated on the season number rather than age (because there is no year zero, but there is a season one).  This would change six years later when the park celebrated the 30th anniversary (sort of), AND this means Mamba will celebrate is 25th birthday the same year that Worlds of Fun turns 50 years old, even though Mamba didn’t exist for the park’s 25th anniversary… Fascinating for anyone who like me just loves numbers.

Some may ask why I didn’t discuss the odd 1996 map with the triple tower Detonator (because it was designed that way!) or the 1988 map, the simple answer is that there was no actual souvenir map designed, that I am aware of, for those years.  Souvenir maps were unique, in that they weren’t handed to you when you entered the park, you had to buy them, they were… a souvenir.  It’s sad that in the twenty years that have followed the park has since discontinued souvenir map production, along with pretty much every other park out there too.  Why?  It costs too much, no one wants paper anything, they have lost their usefulness, all of the above?  In the race for… who knows what, we seemingly have not just lost the character in parks, but the character in what we bring home from the parks.  All I have left to hang on my wall is old maps… but everyone still has walls, certainly, there is still a need to find something to hang on them.

 Extra Credit! Not a Souvenir Map but one of the most fascinating maps ever produced due to the three tower Detonator. The 1996 Map Guide

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The New and Improved Timber Wolf: A Review

We rode Timber Wolf on Saturday, May 26, 2018, the actual date of Worlds of Fun’s 45th Birthday.  I ended up riding twice once in the universally proclaimed “best seat” on Timber Wolf, first row of second car (train 2), and once in the very front (train 1).  I probably would have ridden again if I had had the chance.  So much to do so little time.  

I have been riding Timber Wolf since I first started riding coasters in 2004, and it was the first time in probably fourteen years that I had the innate desire to ride it more than once in a row.  I really liked it.  Timber Wolf has always seemed to have two separate definitive segments, so let's start with the first half, prior to the new turn area.  This section was completely re-tracked in the 2015 and 2016 seasons and includes everything from the first drop, turn, second drop and structure fly-through (otherwise known as the Bob’s Turn).   Overall, this first half was always the best part of the ride, to me, with massive airtime both at the top of the first 180-degree turn and Bob’s Turn (named after the defunct Flying Bob’s Coaster).  Immediately following the re-track, this section offered a smooth, yet much more mild, tame experience.  This year, it seems to have picked up some of the lost spunk, with just a touch of intensity, speed and gentle airtime following the first drop.   It’s smooth and re-rideable, and most importantly. FUN.  That last aspect, FUN, is the most important aspect of any park ride and seems to be being appreciated by the general public too, which is, of course, the whole point.

Moving onto the second half of Timber Wolf, it really all starts with the new turn, which has replaced the original 580-degree helix.  To me, I always felt the original helix created a very disjointed ride.  You were going along, lots of speed, enter the helix and then half way up… BANG…. Boringness.   Get your oars out to help Timber Wolf make it because I always had to wonder as it seemingly crawled around at least the second half of the helix.  The new turn lacks that disjointed experience, it seems to allow the ride to carry on with its intense speed, and creates good continuity for the entire ride. 

The last few seconds of the ride was rough, but that is because it hasn’t been re-tracked yet and I am willing to bet will be vastly improved once it is.  It’s possible that what I look for in a good coaster is different then what others look for, in that I like rides that you want to jump off and jump back on, that have the right mixture of intensity, speed, and fun, which is probably why I like Schwartkopf coasters so much. 

The last point of commentary and I think it’s an important one.  I rode with an old friend of mine from Kansas City and his daughter on both rides.  In fact, they rode in the “wheel” seat (the second row of each car), which is usually not a seat I would recommend, as its usually the rougher of the two rows on each car.  However, not only did his daughter LOVE Timber Wolf, she wanted to keep riding it too, AND universally proclaimed it Worlds of Fun’s best coaster (having already ridden Prowler and Mamba).  For me… that is the quintessential stamp of approval.  After all, we all visit Worlds of Fun or any park because we want to be like kids again, so wouldn’t a kids opinion be the most important?   

Today, Timber Wolf is still, twenty-nine years after it first opened, offering a fun, enjoyable, ride, one that already is creating far fewer “I need a chiropractor” comments and many more “Let’s Ride it Again!”.  People want to ride Timber Wolf again, a good sign for a coaster, and an especially good sign for a wooden coaster over twenty years old.   Thanks to Worlds of Fun and Cedar Fair, Timber Wolf IS fun, and most importantly, NOT a pile of kindling (Thank God!) I for one am thrilled they kept it, thrilled they keep investing in it, and happy to re-ride it any day.  Too bad I live in Florida…

Saturday, May 26, 2018

And Then There Were Six....

One of my favorite photos of Worlds of Fun showing Victrix and Viking Voyager.  It was used very often in 1970's park literature and was one of the first old photos I found of the park.  Consequently for those that remember the very first "Gone But Not Forgotten" page it was located at the very top. 

Five years ago I wrote a blog entitled “9 Old Rides”, it has since then become my, by far, most read blog entry, so much so that I decided for Worlds of Fun’s forty-fifth anniversary I would go back and revisit these same rides, and take a look at them in a sort of “where are they now” fashion.

A key point I made at the time was that I had spent so much time in the past looking backward, and very little time on the attractions that were still there and their equally important history.  As history is made every day, the five years that have passed have added a great deal of history to rides that already had forty years of it five years ago.

Of course, then there are the three rides that aren’t there anymore, that really are … history.  I thought that would be a good place to start, not to dwell on the fact that they are gone, but simply because for these three rides the book is finished and closed.

In 2013, the park celebrated its fortieth birthday,  just the very next year, 2014 the first of the original nine rides left bit the dust, with the removal of Octopus.  I won’t spend much time going over the harried story of the Octopus, simply put it was quite a vagabond moving around and changing names more frequently than almost any ride in park history.  Funny enough, due to its one-year temporary-removal from the park in the 1997 season,  it wasn’t until 2014 that it “technically” celebrated forty years with the park.  The story with Octopus is that its manufacturer, Oregon Rides (which replaced Eyerly Aircraft the original manufacturer of Octopus), was no longer making parts of it.  Octopus would be dismantled one final time at Worlds of Fun, while it’s central hub, and possibly some of its cars went on to Valleyfair to be used in its own Monster ride.

Two years later, in 2015 the second original ride went… and that wasn’t one many lost any sleep over, Krazy Kars the park’s children’s bumper car ride.  Originally know as Crashem Bashem, Krazy Kars changed names in the mid-90's.  Long in the tooth, and with the park already home to a wide assortment of many brand new children’s and family rides, it wasn’t a great loss.  It was replaced in 2017 by Mustang Runner, which funny enough is more of a replacement on par with Octopus.

Of course, the last original ride removal is the one that is the freshest and that was in 2017 with the removal of the Finnish Fling.  I personally, was never a fan of Fling as fas as ride experience itself, and it was without a doubt a love it or hate it type ride.  No one ever likes to contemplate the removal of a ride at Worlds of Fun, and especially one with a great deal of history (since there are now a total of three operating Chance Rotors in the country).  Still, I will be the first to admit that its replacement Nordic Chaser is fun and probably quite a bit more universally enjoyable than its predecessor was.

So onto the remaining six… which ones are they you may ask? The original six rides left over from 1973 include in alphabetical order:

Autobahn/Der Fender Bender
Flying Dutchman
Le Taxi Tour
Scandi Scrambler
Viking Voyager
Worlds of Fun Railroad (ELI)

Autobahn/Der Fender Bender (DFB)

Autobahn in 2013 with about six cars operating...

Last year, with just a. few more...

Back in 2013, when we went around and tried to ride all the original rides on May 26th… one of the few rides we didn’t ride, and the only one that we didn’t ride simply because we were too tall (because Krazy Kars had a maximum height requirement), was Autobahn.  Why? Because if I remember at the time it was closed to clean the floors because the roof leaked and the floors had to be dried prior to the ride opening for the day.  That… and the fact it was running only six cars.  Poor Autobahn has gone through a lot of changes over the years, most of them not all that positive.  As mentioned in the previous editorial there is the fact that the floor itself is only about half the size of what it once was.  Then there was the name change in 1995 from Der Fender Bender to Autobahn, which I have yet to figure out the “why”.  Some good news though, first Autobahn still operates.  Second of all, it operates with far more cars today then it did back in 2013.  On Opening Day 2018 it operated with 14 total cars.  With the rehab of Europa, that coincided with the addition of Falcon’s Flight in 2017 the whole area looks much cleaner and brighter.  The area around Autobahn received all new concrete, a few new trees, (to replace the Cottonwoods lost),  and some new paint.  Personally, I wouldn't mind if the park moved Autobahn to another location in the park, and used the area for something... more interesting.  Of course, there lies the problem, if Autobahn was moved and re-named would it still be an original ride?  Yes, those are the things I deliberate over when I have probably fifty thousand other more useful things I could be doing...

Flying Dutchman
Flying Dutchman, like its neighbor in Europa, Le Taxi Tour, has been pretty much going on its merry way for the last five years, doing the same thing its been doing for the last forty-five years.  For those that don’t know Dutchman was manufactured by Intamin AG, way before they got around to putting together rides like Millennium Force and Top Thrill Dragster and there really aren’t that many of them.  Six Flags has a few, though it seems like every time I see one at a Six Flags it isn’t operating, and of course, Kentucky Kingdom has there version as well, but its boats are shaped like dutch shoes rather than dutch boats.  Besides regular maintenance, and the new coat of paint the boats received this year, the biggest change I can think of in the last five years was that its original sign was replaced.  From what I have heard the old one, which was wood and over forty years old by then literally rotted away, and was replaced temporarily in 2015 with a banner at its entrance.  In 2016, the banner was replaced with a more permanent sign.  But I guess I still miss the old one.  I have numerous personal experiences with Dutchman, I operated it several times back in 1994, when the control panel was on the shed, causing operators to have their backs turned while starting and stopping the ride.  Most notably for me though, Dutchman was my first “Thrill” ride, way back in 1993 when I visited the park as part of band competition I was talked into riding it… before then I was afraid of almost everything, including roller coasters, but also anything even remotely thrilling fit the bill too.  For some reason, I agreed to try Dutchman and ended up really enjoying it, so much so I ended up riding it almost every day while I worked at the park in 1994 after I got off from my shift.

The "temporary" dutchman sign in 2015.

The "new" dutchman sign from 2016.

Le Taxi Tour
What always makes the history of Taxis so interesting isn’t so much its history at Worlds of Fun (though it has that too), but its direct ties to its parent company, Arrow Development.  There are two Arrow rides still operating at the park today, both of which are original, the other being Voyager.  When writing up the page on Taxi’s which you can visit here: I did quite a bit of research on the Arrow antique car type.  Arrow first manufactured the antique car ride in 1962 for of course… Six Flags over Texas.  I mention it in such a way because Six Flags over Texas was quite literally a first-ever for several prototype Arrow rides.  Arrow didn’t introduce the French taxi design until 1968 at Astroworld in Houston (a park which is now defunct).  So in 1973 Arrow was already well versed in not only the antique car style ride but also the French taxi design.  Arrow was quite the proliferator of amusement park rides in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  I’ve said it countless times and I probably will say it countless times more, but they quite literally built the amusement Industry of the 1970’s all by themselves.  Herein lies what is so fascinating about Taxis and Voyager really.  Arrows are vanishing by the bucketful across the country.  Of course, Orient Express, probably Worlds of Fun’s most famous Arrow ride vanished in 2003, but I'm not just talking about their coasters.  Antique car rides like Taxis simply takes up so much space that I am shocked that it has made it this long and I hope it will continue to operate at the park for many more years.  Just last year, in 2017 Worlds of Fun turned Taxi’s into a Winterfest themed attraction the “12 Days of Christmas” a quite innovative take on the “drive-thru Christmas lights display”.  I sadly, didn’t get a chance to ride it, but loved the idea, and loved that they took this favorite family attraction and gave it a new, brightly colored twist.

For those that have seen the black and white Silly Serpent photo making its rounds on the web, it's the same guy, Kelly, from that picture that is hopping the Taxi in this one, I believe taken on the very same day!

One of my favorite stories about Taxis is how it almost didn’t become one of the nine old rides, let alone one of six for this year.  In 1994, with the success of Timber Wolf, Hunt Midwest went once again looking for the biggest, newest, attraction for its park.  In so doing they signed a contract for what would have been the world’s longest racing wooden coaster.  As many know, (because I have told this story so many times) it was to be called the Vampire.  We know this because of trademarks filed for by Hunt Midwest and then abandoned the next year.  When Cedar Fair bought the park in 1995, they canceled the contract, and Vampire never came to be.  However, had it been built it would have been at least partially located where Taxi's is today.

Take me home... to the place... that I love...

Scandi(a) Scramble(r)
Probably of all the original rides, I love this one the most because of the memories I have of riding it as a child.  Its one of the VERY few rides that is still there I can vividly remember riding over and over and over again.  I loved it.  Scrambler was built by ELI Bridge, a company still very much in business and famous not only for its Scrambler rides but also its Ferris Wheels, as Skyliner at Worlds of Fun is also an ELI Bridge ride.  Scrambler opened like the other five original rides on May 26, 1973, in its current location known then as Scandia Scramble.  In 1988, the name changed slightly and it became known as Scandia Scrambler.  Over the years it went through various color changes from the original stainless steel, to sporting the original “Worlds of Fun colors” by the late 1980’s. Finally, a change did occur for Scrambler when Octopus was moved from its spot on the hill in Pandamonium to Scandinavia in 1998, Scrambler was displaced to the leftover pad in Americana were Incredi-O-Dome had been only the year prior.  Supposably, the park had looked at trying to put Scrambler inside the bright yellow dome, to make an indoor ride, but it just barely didn’t fit.  We really all thought that would be the end of the Scrambler because for many seasons it didn’t even get put together and back in operation until June.  Recently though, with the removal of Octopus in 2015 Scrambler came home.  It not only received most of its original name back, now known as Scandi Scrambler, it also received a major retrofit, complete with a full lighting package and paint job.  Thankfully at least these last few years it has been open and operating on opening day and is still a popular family-style thrill ride.

Viking Voyager
Probably the ride I have been looking forward to talking about the most.  While Scrambler is my favorite ride as a child, Voyager is today my favorite ride because of the memories it holds for me as an adult.  I operated the ride twice, once for the 1994 season and once for the 2006 season.  It also funny enough is home to my platinum diamond engagement ring, which I lost one chilly, damp, October day cleaning the pumps out of the ever growing pile of leaves.  True story.  Otherwise, why is Voyager so important?  When Worlds of Fun opened it did have three roller coasters, but really only two superstars, Zinger and Voyager.  Of Course, Zinger has been gone now for almost as long as it operated (let that one sink in…), but Voyager thankfully is not only still with us but has faired probably the best as far as upgrades to original attractions over the last five years.  Just listing some of the known updates to Voyager, includes footer work, replacement of the control system, replacement/update to the pumps, and after decades of in-operation, getting the ride's filter system back up and running (the Voyager filter building is right next to Scrambler), not bad for a forty-five year old ride.  And for those thinking they are a dime a dozen, that might have been true at one time, when over 40 different Arrow long flumes operating across the United States, however in the last two decades that number has dropped to twenty (not to mention the non-Arrow log flumes that have been removed too), its enough to give one pause.  The simple answer is that log flumes are expensive to upkeep, and take up a lot of space.  Thankfully, Worlds of Fun has lots of space and hopefully will keep investing in Voyager, as it was and likely still is, one of the parks most popular rides.

Worlds of Fun Railroad

Amazingly, ELI looks about the same today as it did when this photo was taken in the 1970's

A few weeks ago I asked what was the ride that received the most rides from the 1980 press release, of course, that was Viking Voyager.  What surprised me is that it wasn’t the train.  I had always thought, everyone rides the train right?  What you may not know is that it was number five, listed right behind all the rides everyone re-rides over and over again, the coasters.  In fact, four of the six original rides that are still left made the top ten (Autobahn, Le Taxi Tour, and Voyager).    Still, there is something about the train, sure the spiel is fun, the ride is relaxing but its pulled by a real steam locomotive and who can not help loving ELI?  And it's been that way since the very beginning.  Originally, the engineers on ELI were old steam train engineers themselves, including John Graves, who is immortalized on the Train Engineers Emeritus plaque at the Depot and was quoted forty-five years ago with a statement that was true then as it is true now…

John Graves lubricating the rods (that connect the driving wheels) on ELI

“Graves explained that the most enjoyable aspect of his work is being able to talk trains with many of the train passengers.  “I’d rather do that than anything else” he continued with a smile…” (Worlds of Fun’s Steam Train Got its Name from a Chillicothe Horse” Chillicothe Constitution-Tribute Sept 5, 1973).

I don't like publishing photos of myself, and in fact have only done so maybe 2-3 times in the last twenty years, but I figured we are equally a piece of ELI's history as anyone else.

Unlike every other ride at the park which is "push the button and it goes" (or at least some variation of that), ELI is just as fun to operate as it is to ride, which I think in a way makes it even more for fun both the operator and the rider.  As many know ELI has been Worlds of Fun’s one and only steam engine from day one.  It was named after an old line on the Chicago, Burlington, Quincy Line (CB&Q), and while I believe there may be some truth in that ELI wasn’t the engines originally intended name, it HAS been ELI since May 26, 1973, and will always be ELI.  ELI is a true steam engine and runs on the same basic concept of steam engines from the earliest iron horses, however, instead of burning coal or oil, ELI burns propane.  For the park’s 46th season, ELI has been brought back to its crowning glory and was re-painted its original candy apple green color.  Here’s to many more years with Worlds of Fun’s beloved steam train, and one of the park’s favorite crowd pleasures.

But Wait There's More!
Five years ago we celebrated these rides 40th anniversary, this year they turned 45th, but you know in that time two more existing rides turned 40 years old too, and I figured it would be time to give them just a bit of credit, because history is history, and even more so when it is an IS ride and not a WAS ride.

The park opened in 1973 with 60 brand new and exciting things to do.  The next year saw the first capital expansion and with it the ride I always call the honorable mention of the original rides, Red Baron.

Red Baron
Today located in Planet Snoopy, Red Baron is Worlds of Fun’s 7th Oldest Ride, and though its “just” a children’s ride it has been moved around and re-named probably more times than any reasonable person should count, so of course, I did.  Manufactured by Bradley & Kaye (the same company that produced Barnstormer and Le Carrousel) It was originally added to Scandinavia, behind where Baltic Bazaar was, about where the Grand Pavilion is today.  In 1978, with the addition of Aerodrome, it was moved to its current location and has been there ever since.  It has however changed names, many times over.  It has been known as Red Baron, Pandam Airlines (in tribute to PanAm Airlines), Kiddy Hawk Airlines, Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron, and now just Red Baron.  And here is the most amazing fact… As a children’s ride, added now 44 years ago, it has been ridden by not possibly, but quite probably by now three generations of Worlds of Fun visitors.  Grandparents today could be putting their grandchildren on the very ride they themselves once rode as children.  Insert "WOW" emoji here...


Separating Red Baron and Bamboozler was the addition of Screamroller in 1976, which of course was removed in 1988 to make way for Timber Wolf.  In 1977, Worlds of Fun’s newest capital expansion was a “New Attraction in Every World”.  That included the addition of Wobble Wheel in Americana (replaced by Cyclone Sam’s), Bounce-A-Roos (another story in itself but removed in 2010), Micro-Moto-Bahn (removed also in 2010) and Singapore Sling.  Today it's known as Bamboozler.  A Hrubetz Round Up ride it was added where the entrance to Orient Express would be three years later.  In fact, the same queue line entrance for Sling was re-used for Express!  In 1980, it was moved to Americana and became Whirligig and in 1986 it was moved back to the Orient as Bamboozler.  No one ever calls it Bamboozler though, its usually referred to as Boozler, and in a twist of fate uses the same station once used by the Oriental Octopus.  As a basic flat ride, I love telling its story since its rather interesting since it has been moved around and re-named just a few times.

However since I have been busy reminiscing, I can't help but recall another moment, this one back in 1997 when I had a long-ago conversation with a fellow ambassador in the Ambam (employee break area) then located in Pandamonium.   My interest in the park's history was such that I knew absolutely nothing but didn't yet realize that fact, it was during this conversation I learned that Bamboozler was originally named the Singapore Sling.  Prior to that point my memory was such that Bamboozler had always been... Bamboozler.  It was quite possibly the first conversation I ever had regarding Worlds of Fun history with someone who was equally as interested, and though neither Jeff or myself can remember clear enough to be sure, we are both fairly certain it was between us, though we wouldn't officially meet until over a year later. .

The story of the Singapore Sling and “maybe” Jeff highlights an important point to me.  At one point, many years ago all I was researching was the when and where, Singapore Sling was added in 1977, Orient Express in 1980, Cotton Blossom was removed in 1995, so on and so forth.  And trust me, finding some of those dates and years wasn’t exactly all that easy, and involved hours pouring in front of old newspapers.  I thought that was difficult and time-consuming.  Recently, I have found that the more interesting stories are the real stories, the personal stories, I have several, Jeff has several, friends of mine have several and I love hearing them all, they make my own memories so much more vivid.  But you know what, I have found the personal stories sometimes the hardest ones to find.  I never get tired of hearing them, and I hope by sharing mine, it will make the memories of those reading this come alive once again.   The park’s anniversary is just an excuse, but what a wonderful excuse to have.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Worlds of Fun 2018 Opening Day Review

I’m honestly not sure exactly how many opening day reviews I have written over the past twenty years, I started writing them with the 1999 season, stopped for a few years while I worked as an Ambassador and started them again around 2011.  I can admit to having written some not so positive, yet honest, reviews in the past, even though I always tried diligently to write about every positive aspect I could find. It was hard sometimes.  

It wasn’t hard this time. In fact I am left to wonder if one of the whole three people that read this will wonder what happened to me.  However, as difficult as it is to make negative commentary, it’s much easier and much more fun on my part to write about things I have only dreamed of seeing.  There was a time maybe a year or two ago, I literally dreamed of a moment where I turned the corner into Africa and surprise… there was the floral clock, back again. It was a dream I never thought I would ever see.  About six months ago I woke up from another dream where ELI was re-painted and was absolutely beautiful.  Do you know how it feels to watch the park announce, and then see them with your own eyes, and then you get the chance to write about them?!  So forgive me if this editorial goes on a little longer then my previous opening day reviews.  It was an absolute joy to write.   

Check in/Registration for Worlds of Fun Village

What a nice view!

Jeff and I decided to stay at Worlds of Fun Village for the first time this visit.  We visited it back when it first opened in 2005 but only walked around it from outside.  While we lived in town I could never talk him into paying to stay there.  When we moved to Florida though it became slightly easier, and finally I did, for one night, Friday night.  Prior to check in, I had called ahead of time since the website stated that the offices were only open while the park was.  The phone attendant stated that offices opened at 1 pm for check-in.  We arrived around 2 pm I believe, had no problem checking in.   I had requested a cottage near Oceans of Fun and was assigned cabin 220, the one closest to Mamba.  The employees working at The Village were polite and friendly.  We checked out the gift shop and found it well stocked and had a very nice selection of park merchandise and village-specific merchandise as well.  Now some may complain about pricing since food and drinks are above “off property” pricing, but having stayed at numerous other park-based resorts (Disney World, Disneyland, Universal Orlando, Cedar Point Breakers), I found the pricing on point, and no different than any of the others of equal comparison.

The futon (just an FYI in Cabins there are two of these)

We had a short drive to our cabin and parked right in front of it which was very convenient.  We found the exterior a little worn (they are 12-13 years old now), but nothing horrible.  There was a charcoal grill in front, a small deck, and three Adirondack chairs.  We did use the grill and grilled hamburgers and veggies for dinner that night, along with s'mores, and had no problems with the grills, though they are looking a little long in the tooth.  The interior of the cottage was small but nicely laid out into usable spaces.  In the end, there were three of us, Jeff and I and a friend.  All adults.  I would not recommend more than 3-4 adults total in a cottage, though with smaller children I could see them sleeping more.  You enter into the living area which has a full-size futon, kitchen table with four chairs, a small tv, and kitchenette with microwave, fridge, and sink.  Utensils are not provided, and I am wondering if the village has ever tried or considered a utensil rental such as Disney Vacation Club or Fort Wilderness offers.  Our friend slept on the futon and said it was comfortable.  Down the hallway is the bathroom, which is compact, but functional.  The bathroom has a small tub/shower combination (the tub is only large enough for a small child).  The back bedroom had a double bed, tv, small nightstand and bunk beds.  Being familiar with the bunk beds at Fort Wilderness, which are smaller than twin size, I found these to be Twin Size, perfect for a smaller adult (I slept on it without any problem and I am 5’3”), Jeff, being 6’4” took the double.  His feet hung off just a little.  Like many things at amusement parks, it wasn’t designed for very tall people.  (He also can’t ride Outlaw Run because of his height).  Overall though it was comfortable, I have heard the mattresses were just replaced this off-season, which is up there with good shower heads when it comes to a comfortable nights stay!  We paid $99 a night with the pass holder discount and found it to be a very good value, being an easy walk to the park through the Oceans gate.  We would definitely recommend it and hope to stay there again.

Double bed with a towel animal, love it!

Bunk beds.

So when we arrived we sat down our stuff, took some “unmolested” photos, and then took naps.  Jeff and I only had three hours of sleep the night before!  Around 3:30 pm I woke up and checked my e-mail and Facebook, responded to an e-mail and then laying there…. I heard it.  I wasn’t entirely sure that what I heard was what I thought I heard so I sat up and listened more closely.  Sure enough, it was what I thought it was.  Mamba’s lift hill!  For me… that is the ultimate perk of staying at the village, you are right there and can hear the train engage the lift, here the “rip” as the train releases from the chain and heads down the first drop, and of course the B-block brakes.  (clunk clunk clunk).  I ran outside and I wasn’t the only one out there.  It was chilly so I only watched for a few minutes but what a beautiful sight.  Cyrus showed up around this time, and both of started getting organized and ready to head towards the park.  I believe we left around 5:30 or so, and took the sidewalk to the Oceans of Fun gate.  I had confirmed with the front desk at check-in that the Oceans gate was open.  It took about five minutes to walk there and was quite simple.  No one was there except us, and the employees. We went through security and scanned our season passes and we were in!  The first thing I heard was Queen’s “We Are the Champions” playing and my spirit sunk… I didn’t have to worry too long. The themed music, in ALL worlds now seems back and hopefully will stay around.  We passed Nile which was already testing with boats and saw the waterfall was on, which meant it was probably not a ride I was going to be enjoying this go around (hey I am from Florida now!).  We headed towards Mamba instead.  I had noticed as we had walked towards the OOF gate that Mamba had all three trains at the station for the first time in several years.  The third train is still “some assembly required” but it’s THERE.  A major plus, especially come the summer and Haunt when it will need that third train.  I hemmed and hawed on whether I would express this next comment, but Mamba was running EXCEPTIONALLY well this weekend.  Jeff, Cyrus and I walked up to the Plaza and found the queue line open and ready for guests, right then the National Anthem played, the official cue for the park to be open.  After it finished we looked up to the panel and made sure they were ready, they signaled they were, and we boarded the first public train for Mamba’s 20th birthday season.  

Look its the third train!

Mamba photo turned gift shop.

When we exited I noticed that Mamba photo had been turned into a mini gift shop, similar to Prowler, with shirts, and miscellaneous Mamba souvenirs hanging on the wall that used to be open air.  Since there isn’t a gift shop anywhere near Mamba this wasn’t too bad of an idea!  We walked towards Nile which was still closed to guests but would open up later in the day.  Overall, every single ride operated on Pass holder preview (except Timber Wolf but its an exception to the rule) and Opening Day.  AND every coaster ran two trains, if able to do so (since Boomerang obviously can’t!). Though, yes it is should be expected, its a major step forward after previous years.  

Coasters was open to the public as we walked by and I noticed the “directional sign” right across from it was blank on Friday.  Here is another amazing thing to me.  Between Friday night at 10 pm, and Saturday morning at 10 am, there were several updates to the park, including the addition of park information guide board additions, properly themed information guide boards no less.  The one across from Nile was themed to “Egypt” which was awesome, but makes me wonder… are there Mamba’s in Egypt?  :). 

New gate at Fury of the Nile.

The asphalt around Boomerang hadn’t been sealed yet, and was in pretty rough shape, but not really a major issue to me as it is one of only a few areas that have yet to be replaced.  Unlike when over half the park was in this condition just a few years ago.  MAJOR improvement. Maybe this means something new will be coming there in the next few years?  No, I don’t know anything more than anyone else, just being hopeful.

Floral Clock during the daytime...

Floral Clock at Night.

At this point, I was literally dragging Jeff and Cyrus behind me I wanted to see the Floral Clock.  From the pictures posted on the Worlds of Fun blog and knowing the weather the previous weekend (snow!), I wasn’t really excepting anything except dirt and bricks.  I was once again pleasantly surprised to find that there were indeed flowers, though it appears they were a “let's get something in there” kind of thing and I am guessing the flower design is not the final product.  I also loving the new sun and moon topiaries, that frame the clock, beautiful and such a nice touch to this Worlds of Fun original.

Paisano's new Menu.

We next went up through Europa, and since I noticed the show times were not on the park map we had been given as we entered the park I figured I would check at Moulin Rouge to see if the upcoming shows would be listed there.  They were and first thing I noticed was the significant change in the show line up, in that there were MORE shows then previous years.  First off, I am not a huge show fan myself, but I have friends that are.  Moulin Rouge has been reduced from its two shows during the normal season line up to just one this year which looks like it will be a re-boot of “Road Trip” from last year.  However two NEW shows have been added which appear to be variations of shows from Winterfest,  The “All American Trolley” (in Americana) and “Where’s the Party?”  (International Plaza).  This should definitely be an interesting season as far as live entertainment goes.

Italian/Sicilian wedding photos on the wall in Paisano's.  Being 25% Sicilian myself (explains a lot I know) I have photos of my Great Grandparents that look just like these... and yes they all look like mafia photos. 

Though there are no major additions to Europa this year it has been home to several small updates.  Deja Vu, though still home to retro merchandise also has a nice selection of Coca-Cola themed merchandise as well.  Paisano’s, while still serving Italian was not only open(!), it also had several small theming details added, including various Italian/Sicilian wedding photos, hanging lights, and various other small details.  Paisano’s, which originally was Le Polit Bone when the park opened is an original food service location and its overall structure could use some love… but Rome wasn’t built in a day either.  The main reason MOST people go to food service restaurants… you know for food… I won’t overlook either.  Several restaurants received all new menus this season, including Paisano’s, thanks to the new chef on board.  It will take time to see how the menu options will fare throughout an entire season, but on opening day… it was VASTLY improved.  Worlds of Fun has never been known for its tasty food selections, in the entire forty year experience I have had with it, but the fact that the food was warm and enjoyable, was a big step forward.


Looks a bit funky but tasted good which is all that matters.

Several other attractions in Europa have seen some minor updates, Flying Dutchman boats were shiny in their new paint jobs.  Autobahn also was running… 14 cars, an all-time high for recent years, and was also sporting some new German autobahn road signage (as in the REAL Autobahn).  Awesome.  

Some German Autobahn signs, on... Autobahn.

Some German Autobahn signs, Grob Koris and Mittenwalde are cities in Brandenburg.  Of course all distances are metric.

Also, Awesome, Falcon’s Flight received a new lights package.  It was missing last year but has made it for year two. As those that know amusement parks, in general, it's rare for anything put off to “next year” to actually occur. Anywhere.  So I was once again pleasantly surprised.  Falcon’s Flight looks just like it should now. 

Falcon's Flight with new lights!

Some have asked about the troll that was added to Haunt last year, its shed has been closed up, it's not really tacky it's more just “unnoticeable”.

Lookin' good for 45 years old... (actually 46 since it was built in 1972, but since it's a she I thought ELI would appreciate being called younger...)

And from the 1970's... looks pretty similar.  That makes me smile.

I have heard these had to be re-painted a few times to meet park approval.

Ok, Ok, besides the floral clock what else have we all been waiting to see?  The train of course!  ELI and the coaches behind it were re-painted for the first time in many years and it looks… well, I needed to pull out my trusty thesaurus because the word Awesome is getting way overused.  So how about the word Stunning.  Yes, it very much does.  It wasn’t just re-painted though, it was repainted almost exactly as it was when the park opened in 1973, Candy Apple Green, and each individual row ending cap was repainted, painstakingly to its original white and multi-colored balloon.  It does look stunning, and beautiful.  When I first saw the post on Worlds of Fun's facebook I recalled the interview I conducted several years ago with the then new head of maintenance, Wayne Meadows. In the interview he stated that the train was the crown jewel of the park’s ride line up, and now… it looks the part too.   The only question I had, is I noticed there was no train conductor spiel, was this missing because it was opening weekend?  Curious.

The map board by Vittle Griddle.

And the original one by the Depot.

Besides major and minor attractions through the park, one thing I had been noticing was the map cases.  Worlds of Fun is one of the VERY few parks that still uses map cases (thank goodness), and they were fantastically updated this year. Instead of the old stand by glass case with old-fashioned paper and wood displays (and a clock that as another fan mentioned could be updated by just about anyone), it is now a digital board, displaying all the same information but in a much more aesthetically pleasing way. Each board is themed to the correct world, and I have noticed how several of them have a seemingly intra-World theme, such as “Old West” by the train depot, or “Egypt” Near Fury of the Nile.  Speaking of maps we turned the corner and found a few teenagers looking very confused by the Front Street shops end cap display window, that now displays a variety of old souvenir maps (1973, 1987, 1996, and 1998).  The teenagers didn’t realize that the maps were not current, and we explained that fact to them and directed them to the more current map cases.  We happened to notice on the 1973 map that the scanned image had a very distinctive piece of yellow tape that held the map together… it looked familiar…

Moving along.  Every year for the past few years a wide span of old asphalt has been replaced by concrete.  Usually, it coincides with the new addition for that year.  Up to now the entire Orient, half of Europa, half of Scandinavia and half of Americana had been replaced.  For 2018 the park replaced what is most likely the largest swatch of asphalt with concrete at one time from Detonator and Forum Road all the way to near Pizza Pier.  This included re-landscaping, re-curbing, and removing the extended queues for Cyclone Sams.  I am slightly concerned about the removal of the extended queue for Cyclone Sams and how that will effect lines come summer time.   On a different front, we noticed that the lights on the exterior of the building had been replaced by a very awesome (there’s that word again!), flaming light bulb.  Jeff loved them so much he researched them literally overnight and bought a few on Amazon already.  

Not a great photo but shows the new lights by Sams.

The lights on the actual ride itself have also been replaced in this case by LED bulbs.  A fact noticed by another fan, since I can no longer tolerate Cyclone Sams.  And by the looks of those exiting the ride… I am not the only one.  

New Vittle Griddle Menu.

New paint on Bicentennial Square.

Taped up wiring for a light fixture.

Next up was Timber Wolf and the old Bicentennial Square.  For those not familiar, Bicentennial Square runs from Timber Wolf’s entrance all the way back to its exit, it was added along with Screamroller (that Timber Wolf uses the same station and queue line from), in 1976.  Timber Wolf’s line was closed off and had a sign that Timber Wolf was basically a work in progress.  Now for those that have read my opening day reviews in the past, know I am not a fan of rides not being open on opening day.  Timber Wolf’s not being open does not bother me in the least.  Why?  Because the park was completely clear what was going on and they gave a date for expected opening.  Fury of the Nile did the same thing in 1984 (it didn’t open until Memorial Day either), if an opening day is not going to be the same as the rest of the park, and its made readily apparent by the park, (opening late spring!), It is a non-issue if it isn’t open on opening day. Plus, as Timber Wolf is one of my favorite roller coasters (after mamba and prowler), in the park, I am rather intrigued as to this modification since the helix has always been, for me at least, sluggish.  Stay tuned for my review after wolf opens.  

More Bicentennial Square/Ripper Alley for Haunt

Bicentennial Square itself was closed off, just past first aid (the old entrance to Uncle Sam’s Skeeball Hall), when I looked through the darkened doors of the arcade I saw the same picnic tables that had been there since Winterfest and no games.  I have heard the games will be coming back… which is possible.  Still, every time I think of arcades in the park I remember that scene from the new Tron: Legacy, where we see the old shuttered Flynn’s Arcade.  No one cares anymore about arcades anywhere.  Sad.  But true.  What’s fascinating to me, is that it appears the outside of New Funtier Arcade/Snoopy’s Arcade, whatever its called today, has recently been painted.  The same blue color as most recently, but it looks to be obviously VERY recent as the light fixtures were removed and electrical lines taped up as you would do with a proper painting job.  Also, the buildings further down, the old Calamity Games/Timber Wolf games, look to be primed as if ready to be painted.  Maybe, well probably, they are just painting the buildings.  

New Front Street Square at night.

Ok so lets all talk about the ten-ton gorilla in the room.  The new Front Street area.  I knew about it awhile ago, and knew that there would be some that would freak out over the trees.(Go read my Patriot post on April 8th…)  I know this because had this happened three years ago I probably would have freaked out too.  Too many years watching too many beautiful trees being cut down for what appeared to be no reason whatsoever without being replaced.  Truth be told some were probably removed to create a more open walkway.  Then there is exhibit B, Mamba Plaza. Enough said.  So a few years ago when the Americana Front Street island trees were removed I was visibly upset, then the trees in front of Voyager were removed and replaced about three years ago.  This depressed me even further.  Then last year, I remember seeing the new Voyager trees planted just the year before and noticed that they appeared larger already.  Then I sat in Patriot Plaza, waiting for Jeff to ride (as I no longer ride Patriot),  and enjoyed the shade that the once tiny Bradford Pear trees provided.  And I realized something.  Some trees need to be replaced.  This wasn’t the first few years of the 21st century Cedar Fair, ripping out trees left and right with nothing left but mulch beds.  This was a thoughtful and careful process of replacement NOT removal.  The trees aren't even being replaced by "stick" trees either, but the slightly more mature version, and not with “weed” trees but carefully chosen specimens (Hunt Midwest was guilty of both just as a reminder...).  Let us not forget that Worlds of Fun didn’t open completely covered with mature trees either.  I am now at peace with what I have begun referring to as the “Tree Rotation Program”.  

An Atlas Cedar planted by Subway (is Atlas Shrugging?)

The new Americana fountain, its beautiful.

Case in point.  The original trees at the Front Street sunken fountain were Pin Oaks.  A fine mature and beautiful tree.  The new trees, are Shumard Oaks.  Shumard’s are a more hardy species, native to Missouri, and produce red foliage in the fall.  They are also fairly quick growing of the oaks.  It’s also one of the rarer species.  It wasn’t chosen without thought.  Probably the detail I was most disappointed in loosing was the sunken fountain aspect, but that makes the most sense when it comes to ADA.  AND, on opening day a friend made a good point.  It is much easier to walk across the plaza now, rather than going around a sunken area.  The fountain is without question, beautiful, I cannot even imagine any argument to the opposite.  Yes, it’s different, yes it’s changed from what we have all known.  But that isn’t always a bad thing.  For the first five years of park operation, there was no central fountain at all, it wasn’t even added until 1978.  Sometimes new can be better than the original.  

The only slightly critical comment and it's more just an FYI that concerns me is the lip in the concrete from the fountain area towards the shops.  Both Jeff and I saw several people trip, heck I even tripped once on it (of course I am a klutz..).  I am sure the lip was designed to assist with drainage, but it's something I at least wanted to call to someone’s attention.  Otherwise zero criticism.

Picture of Front Street from Friday, notice the lack of flowers in the bed here.

From Saturday morning... now there are flowers.

Last few comments on Front Street, and it’s a small detail but one that reverberates for what it tells me about landscaping and the park.  On Friday night preview the Front Street area had small shrubbery planted but no annuals.  The park closed at 10 pm.  At 10 am the next morning… there were annuals and LOTS of them.  Now I have planted annuals in my own home garden, and while the folks at Worlds of Fun are professionals, there is a fact you can only plant so fast.  So basically someone, stayed up overnight… to plant flowers.  Let me rephrase that… someone at 2 am in the morning was planting flowers. 


My final comment,l, but the newly landscaped areas, the ones that I could see up close, had something that Worlds of Fun has NEVER had.  Irrigation.  Yes, there has been hose plug in rainbirds, but never a full irrigation system.  Nice.

"new" landscaping on the Americana/Orient hillside, notice the old timbers in the background.

The closest I could come to a before picture its from the opposite direction but you can see the similarities.

Moving along, we both noticed some nice “new” landscaping off to the side just past front street.  New is in quotes because at one point the hillside was obviously originally landscaped as it still has its original railroad tie edging.  (like the entire park used to have).  Like more than one thing with park landscaping, what was old is new again, and in some cases being completely rediscovered.   It’s nice to see. 

This lake is under construction...

Taken on Friday this might have been the last time we could see it.

Next door was Ripcord lake, which had been drained and on Saturday (another one of those not there on Friday but there on Saturday), the park had posted a sign apologizing for the “inconvenience” of viewing an empty lake.  For us, it was a rare situation to actually be able to still make out where Cotton Blossom once stood.  From what someone reported it sounds like they are re-sealing the lake bed.  

FunPix signs around the park.

A pricing list for FunPix available for purchase at Guest Relations.

I headed into the Orient, at this point I was passing through as I was trying to get over to meet up with Jeff.  However, I did notice the new FunPix sign by the Orient pond.  There are quite a few of these signs scattered through the park, both offering good recommendations for photo opportunities but when those with FunPix scan the QR code, it gives photo takers themed borders to their photos.  The Orient one features a background of Chinese Lanterns.  FunPix is an interesting concept debuting with the 2018 season.  Guests pay a fee for either a one day use, or the entire season of use, which entitles them to all the available on ride photos, FunPix photographer photos as well as the fun border photos scattered throughout the park.  For those familiar with PhotoPass its a somewhat similar concept.  It’s a fascinating concept.

The orient pond looking pretty.

Some remember the photo I posted about two weeks ago of what appeared to be lanterns going up in the Orient.  After some time it was determined those were the Winterfest lanterns, and it appears they were being taken down, while new Asian Koy fish windsocks were being put up.  They add a themed visual interest to the pond area, and it's nice to see once again the small details being attended to.

Some new hardscaping on the creek under the SO bridge.

Attention to landscaping at the park this season has seemingly taken a light speed jump forward, it has gotten to a point its impossible to walk through an area and not see something new.  The same is true with Orient.  On the Scandi/Orient Bridge (referred to as SO bridge) the old rough rock work on the creek below has been entirely removed and is being replaced by a much more attractive hardscape creek bed.  In regards to the SO bridge an interesting detail I discovered this last weekend also is that the SO bridge, in regards to the actual physical bridge, isn’t original.  The current structure replaced the original wooden bridge in 1982.  Which is WHY on the 1973 map the bridge looks nothing like its current form.

Ugh... and you can even still see where Pizzo Pizza lettering was.

As I turned into Scandinavia, I didn’t notice a small detail that had been changed, to be truthful I didn’t notice it until the following Saturday.  And there is an interesting reason.  Pizzo Pizza, located in Scandinavia since 1981, and named Pizzo Pizza since 1982, was renamed this year… to Just Pizza and Turkey Legs.  Funny thing, it is still listed as Pizzo Pizza on the map.  I don’t get why?  Ok, I guess I get WHY because now it serves Turkey Legs.  But seriously can’t people just read a menu?  Or ok make it Pizzo Pizza and Turkey Legs.  In all the world of beautiful landscaping and re-incorporation of the theme, there is this one little change that isn’t like the others…  And that my friends is about the only truly negative commentary I can make in this entire editorial.  

A new map case!

Up the hill towards the slightly new main gate (it’s so 2017), the park has added a new map case in traditional map case styling but with the new screens.  Supposably this one was relocated from somewhere else in the park.  Maybe it was the one that used to be in the old Scandinavia plaza?  Still a good idea to have one by the main gate.  

Moving through Scandinavia, a fairly major change for Retail is the re-naming and re-theming of The Lift to Kringle’s Holiday House.  I have to ask… why wasn’t it Kringle’s Holiday Haus?  I guess that just seems such an obvious thing to me.  For years, and I seriously mean decades the retail location across from Voyager has struggled.  It was dead when it was Norseman’s Niceties, it was dead when it was The Lift.  I can only hope that maybe with time Kringle’s will pick up in traffic.  It’s a fabulous idea to bring a Christmas store to the park, since so many parks have already followed the same trend.  It's also a very charming store, I loved the merchandise options.  Hopefully, it will pick up in traffic when Voyager does, as it gets warmer.  

Whether they are new or rehabbed they still show some signifiant work was done to Voyager's 45 year old pumps.

While we're talking about Voyager I noticed, also on Saturday that the pumps, located under Lift 1, appeared to either be rehabbed or replaced, probably rehabbed.  I am THRILLED that Voyager is getting lots of TLC, in addition, the trough appears repainted too.  (either that or really well cleaned).  I honestly think Voyager has seen more updates in the last five years then it has seen in the entire other 40 years of its existence, Which is just… Awesome.  

Before we get to the new ride I wanted to make a quick comment.  Now in the twenty-odd years, I have been writing these opening reviews I can’t think of a time I have openly discussed a ride that was removed in the prior season.  Since its usually widely discussed prior to that point.  I am going to continue that trend, but I am going to mention Fling, not because its virtually impossible not to, but to make a point.  Fling was a rare ride, but let's not forget Voyager is getting to a point where it is almost just as rare.  Voyager is an Arrow log flume, and many consider those a dime a dozen.  They were.  Now… not so much.  Arrow flumes are vanishing just like almost every other type of Arrow ride.  (Orient Express and Screamroller were also Arrows)  If you are still dwelling on Fling lets not lose sight of the fact that the park is still investing money into Voyager every single year and that makes me very very happy. 

So 5,364 words is what it took to get me to the new ride for 2018, Nordic Chaser.  Nordic Chaser was manufactured by Mack Rides (the manufacturer plaque is very visible on the ride), and is similar to Mack’s current Sea Chaser ride except the boats don’t spin.  Some have compared it to the old Rockin’ Reeler, and on first appearances, its definitely seems similar.  However, it doesn’t really ride like Reeler did.  It’s more like an old caterpillar.  However, most people reading this have no idea what a caterpillar ride is (it’s an older style ride from the 40’s), and fewer still have actually ridden one, so let me try to explain as best as I can.  Nordic Chaser is a circular ride with undulating hills, that are “wave-like”.  While spinning it produces a very significant level of lateral g-forces (similar, but stronger than Scrambler does), and on each “wave” the car bumps up an down like it was on a literal wave.  It creates a sensation of “almost airtime”, and I believe it was running just a bit faster it would actually be real airtime.  A lot of people were concerned that it was a “kiddie ride” and it really isn’t, it's more a fun family style ride, and fun in that both I and my husband really enjoyed it.  The amazing thing about Nordic Chaser is that the experience is not just about the physical ride, it also combines music (themed music no less!), and colored lights that at night really add to the ride experience.  Almost like an indoor ride, that isn’t indoors if that makes sense.  I personally also love how the queue line and that the drive box fly flags of several Scandinavian countries.  AND, yes the landscaping around Chaser has IRRIGATION too.

Last comment about Nordic Chaser but its similar to my comment about all rides operational on opening day.  And that says it all.  Nordic Chaser, the new ride for 2018 was open on opening day for 2018.  Since there has been some difficulty in getting the new rides open on opening day in the past, its also a major step forward to have Nordic Chaser open on opening day!  

One aspect I was shocked about with Nordic Chaser is that the park kept the original walkways around it, the steps and curves.  Since they re-did and flattened out Front Street for ADA I thought they would do the same here, and I am wondering if that isn’t the long-term plan.  Still, the only way to really do something like that is to do a type of Lombard street switchback.  

ELI has significantly improved the curb appeal of it's home.

Behind Nordic Chaser is a view Jeff and I love to check out and that’s ELI’s Roundhouse, or better described as ELI’s shed.  Like ELI herself, ELI’s rectangular roundhouse has received some much needed TLC since it was probably in worse physical shape then ELI was!  It appeared painted, spruced up and even…. Has a door.  Every off-season in the past the opening towards the park was covered with a sheet of plastic.  That was the only thing separating ELI from snow and ice and everything else Kansas City weather cooked up.  This year it has a real honest to goodness roll down door. 

New menu for Chicken Shack in Scandinavia.

I have briefly discussed the new menus and two of the upcoming restaurants, Chicken Shack (old Nordic Nook) and Gorilla Grill have been recipients of the new menus.  They look far more appealing then the old menus did.  Like a million times better.  Jeff and Cyrus shared some chicken fingers while I ran around doing whatever I was doing at the time.  They said they were quite good.  Nice.  Edible food, always a good thing.

Work done on Big Jack's patio over the off season.

Moving into Africa there are some changes.  First, one thing that hasn’t changed, which has made me EXTREMELY Happy is Big Jacks, is still Big Jacks.  Both on the map and on the snack stand itself.  For those that don’t know (and I know anyone that knows me knows this about a million times over), Big Jacks was named after Jack Steadman, one of the founders of the park, and without a doubt in my mind the person quite literally responsible FOR Worlds of Fun.  With the removal of Steadman plaza last year I thought for sure this would be gone too, and it wasn’t.  So that’s good.

Across from Big Jacks, it appears Big Game Hunt has also gone to the Worlds of Fun in the sky.  This was pretty apparent at Winterfest when it was used as a petting zoo, and to be honest with you the reader, it doesn’t bother me really at all.   Like almost every arcade in the park the era of the amusement park arcade has basically vanished, for years I never saw anyone playing it, and it’s time has come.  However, instead of boarding it up and leaving it a horrible looking eyesore the park made an interesting choice to re-use it, in this case as a FunPix Photo opportunity.  It surprisingly fits!  I have to wonder how long the decked out jungle safari theming will last (not because of the park but because of those IN the park…)  but it's a cute little photo opportunity that is well themed and probably will be more used then Big Game Hunt was at least in its last few years.  Some have discussed what the park will now, permanently put in place of Big Game Hunt and I am not sure.  It's really a tiny little space if you look at it on Google Maps.  Some have discussed moving Autobahn there, but really it's only about 25% of the space of Autobahn (if that).  It’s really shoehorned in there between Zulu and the Railroad tracks.  It will be interesting to see what it’s used for in the future. 

Looking from Zulu onwards across the bridge to G’rilla Grill, the area around the bridge has been meticulously landscaped and looks downright manicured.  The topiary Giraffe, Elephant and Rhino are obviously left from Winterfest, which is a-ok with me, it looks awesome.  I love the WOF letters too, which are also a holdover from Winterfest.  It wasn’t that long ago when this area was a tangled wild set of woods with a not so pleasant smelling creek.  Today, it's like it did a 180, and not only opens up the area but makes it absolutely beautiful.  It will look stunning once all the tropicals get put out.  I can’t wait to see it. 

Fried cheese from G'Rilla Grill. 

New menu for G'Rilla Grill.

Moving on to Prowler which was down on most of Friday preview night, though I heard it went back up right at the end of the night, I did not get a chance to ride it though.  From riding the train it appears portions of the track have been replaced which is good since it was starting to get rough.  

Prowler makes a good intro to my closing discussion.  People come to a park for rides, that is the primary reason, and we all know that.  So on a preview night and opening day to see every single ride (except Timber Wolf but Timber Wolf has an excused absence) was operating made me extremely happy.  Still, though people come for the rides, they come BACK because the park is beautiful and it was a pleasant experience.  Many parks have failed because they have simply been allowed to fall apart (Joyland in Wichita is a sad but good example).  It takes a park filled with people that see beyond a 9-5 job that really care and dare I say love the park to make a park successful.  I am not saying that because I think everything is coming up roses at Worlds of Fun Avenue, but I think the park is headed in the right direction, and that’s always a great way to start a season.  Here’s to a wonderful 46th season at Worlds of Fun, see you at the park!