Thursday, October 13, 2016

Halloween Haunt 2016 and Park Review for Oct 1, 2016


The major goal for this trip was to reshoot the park, since I was in the process (and currently) of re-writing the page for current attractions I wanted not only current photos but also current menu and shop information as well.  Yes, most people come to Worlds of Fun to have fun, ride some rides, go through some haunted houses… we come to see how much Vittle Griddle’s burgers are this year.

Originally, my plan was to visit the park at the end of August, but Frontier Airlines had other plans, and after a 9-hour delay (yes 9!) I made the difficult decision to cancel my trip.  So October it was.  Our plan was to be at the park all day, and that pretty much panned out. 

Our plan was to circle the park and take pictures of pretty much everything, with special consideration on those attractions that will most likely be changing (read demolished) prior to the next season.   Of course with the new gate coming in 2017 upper Scandinavia received a lot of attention.  Though there is still no art work for the new main gate we did receive some updated information as far as placement, and what will be going and staying.   Right now it appears Tivoli West and Tivoli Central, along with the old Baltic Bazaar are to be removed, with Tivoli East staying and possibly becoming a santa visit gazebo for Winter fest.  At first, the idea that Tivoli East staying was a positive, but then I began to think and discuss it with others. 

Goodbye old gate.... not going to miss it.

It’s a point that the Scandinavian gate was never designed to be the main gate, it’s a talking point I have been saying one way or another for years.  Part of the problem IS aesthetic, the gate looks like its falling apart.  I believe, atleast as much as possible within Cedar Fair, that this issue will be resolved.  (Yes I think we will be getting a Cedar Gate)  The second issue I am more and more realizing will not be resolved and that is making the new gate, BE a main gate.  The current plaza doesn’t work, period, even with Baltic Bazaar gone, people are still going to head for the SO bridge, just like they do now.  IF, however you move the gate to where Tivoli East is, knock it down (That’s shocking item #1, yes KNOCK IT DOWN!) and built the gate there, and also tear down The Lift/Norseman’s Nicities, you have fixed two issues.  #1 you have a nicer/more astehtically appealing gate, and #2 you have a new main gate area, Brige to the right, Viking Voyager, Tivoli and the rest of Scandinavia to the left.  Maybe not exactly like the Americana gate, but it bears a closer resemblance to it, and most main gates I can think of, and it makes a more uniform displacement of human traffic flow.  Will this happen? Probably not. 

 
This is approximately where the new entrance will be.  On the hill is Tivoli West picnic pavilion, the red wall is the back of Baltic Bazaar.  This is also where Micro Moto Bahn was previously.



So since we just talked about Voyager lets continue talking about it.  As many know its been down since atleast labor day weekend.  Why?  Those familiar with Voyager know it has had problems with leaves from the surrounding trees falling into its pumps and clogging them for many years.  For years this was partially solved by assigning an ambassador to the pumps to continuously clean the leaves out of the pump pits.  Having worked this position innumerable times, I can attest to it not being a very fun, or clean job.  I commend the park for being diligent in keeping this classic ride, that opened with the park in 1973, both operational and updated.  As an Arrow Development flume ride it's becoming a rare ride in the world of amusement parks.   However, there is no question that Voyager is a popular ride, anytime of year, exemplified by the fact that in the few minutes we were near the ride's entrance we heard at least a half a dozen parties express dismay that the ride was closed for the season.  I think two issues need to be resolved, one is staffing, which I can’t offer any recommendations on other then obviously… it needs to be fixed.  And two… and I am sure people will think I have lost my mind… chop down the trees.  As much as I love the trees and the beauty they offer to the park, it’s another point when they effect the operation and very existence of a classic Worlds of Fun attraction.

  
Voyager, down for the season. Last photo is the old Norseman's sign, showing halloween decorations that are no longer there.

In regards to another, nearby original Worlds of Fun attraction, the Tivoli Music Hall we have slightly better news.  Tivoli was home to a musical revue from 1973 until 2011, every single season.  2011 was the end, though it was unknown at the time, the reasoning given is that the theater needed massive rehabs that just weren’t in the budget at the time.  Tivoli, is virtually identical to its original self in 1973 except for the addition of the covered entrance way in 1974.  We have heard that Tivoli is slated to receive significant work due to a new show due to debut in WinterFest in 2017.  Hopefully we will have more information on this soon!

Understaffing seems to be a huge issue around the park, about half the restaurants (if not more) were closed, including Chicken Shack (ugh… only slightly worse then what ambassadors were renamed to), Gorilla Grill, all closed.  Nile was in operation unlike Voyager, and we noticed a few things.  The 1st geyser on Lake Two has been completely removed, Nile opened with 8 geysers (four in each lake), on last count, I believe it was operating with TWO.   The new metal fence, I believe replaced at the beginning of last season at the emergency evacuation dock (by the lift) looks horrible, as in not only not themed, but incredibly tacky surrounded by the more appropriately themed, but horrible condition rope fences.  Here is the thing.  Wood is CHEAP, if you are going to replace a fence, at least make it fit.  Ugh I can’t believe how horrible it looked.  Last thing on my Nile tirade… one person as load/unload… with 6 boats?!  Don’t get me wrong, the kid doing load/unload was working his butt off, running back and forth like crazy.   However, why are you making a kid work his butt off for barely over minimum wage to cover the park’s mistakes?  Someone in HR needs to sit down and have a good long thought as to why no one wants to work there and if they do they don’t want to stay.  Seriously.



So moving to Europa, biggest change there is that Le Carousel is now gone.  I know most people were already aware of this, I was already aware of this, but it was my first time seeing it gone.  Not entirely sad about it, as I am glad that Europa is finally (38 years!!!) later getting its first “new” ride.    At least I don’t have to also complain about Autobahn too, it was running 12 cars, I was surprised.


 

Moving on to Americana.  The breaking news last week was the update of Vittle Griddle to serving LC’s Hamburgers and Tenderloins.  While this has been discussed quite a bit online I wanted to make at least a few comments here as well.  First off, with the park never offering exceedingly great food anyway, going to an outside vendor, especially a local favorite was a VERY good move.  Funny, but good move.  Why funny?  Well, though I may know WoF history I also know Cedar Point history too, and know that one of the first moves towards making Cedar Point into its modern incarnation in the 1940’s and 50’s was to get rid of third party vendors.  (every ride, and food stand at Cedar Point used to be operated by third party vendors its an interesting story).  I am very glad and can only see good things happening by going this direction.  More palpable food for one.  Overall the food itself was excellent, tasty, and hot.  I have no complaints about food, or the price, which was $14.99 per person including fries, loaded burger with bacon and drink.  Yes, a significant increase over “outside of gate” prices, but considering Worlds of Fun and LC’s are businesses, who must make a profit to stay in business, plus the food is good, plus Worlds of Fun is a captive audience type of situation, I am ok with that price.  Last thing before I move on.  Vittle Griddle is the LAST… LAST…. LAST (get my point it’s the LAST) full service restaurant in Worlds of Fun that was open on day 1, that still carries its original name, PLEASE don’t change it.  LC’s at Vittle Griddle, or Vittle Griddle serving LC’s is fine.  Yes, I am still upset about Custer’s Last Stand.  No I won’t get over that… (dang stupid ICEE stand…)

 

Okay, now that I have gotten that out of my system.  We next headed to Planet Snoopy.  Unlike in previous years the kids side of Halloween Haunt has been way scaled back this year with absolutely zero presence in Europa.  I am not sure why?  It wasn’t really all that spectacular anyway, but I am wondering if those with kids noticed a difference?  So all Halloween activities are in Planet Snoopy now.  It was notably crowded, AND I noticed another impact of low staffing issues, as Worlds of Fun is now pulling a Six Flags, and having kid rides operators rotate between 2-3 rides.  Since I am not a parent I cannot understand the frustration that this causes, but I am guessing it causes some frustration.  Not only does it seem that keeping employees is hard, but also it now seems Worlds of Fun is taking anyone that can convert oxygen to CO2 as an employee.  I saw an employee with a goatee, even worse the operator of Woodstock Glider’s moved SUPER SLOWELY.  Like the iceberg that sank Titanic could win a foot race against this guy.  I know, because I rode it, which was fun, it was a great addition, and a great location for the ride. 

 
Wicked Witch of the East with feet sticking out under Cyclone Sams (there is a sign that tells people not to sit on them, but people do anyway... not surprised).  The other two are from previous seasons.  Outlaw's Revenge signage is almost nonexistent anymore, just a banner.  

In addition to the not so supersized, not so scary Halloween activities, there also seemed to be a lack of Halloween decorations.  It might be my imagination but in previous years I remember cobb webs, skeletons, burlap, etc. EVERYWHERE.  I saw very little of that.  I did love the wicked witch of the east legs under Cyclone Sam’s, but there should be more of that.  There used to be skeletons giving speeding tickets to Taxi cars, skeleton’s riding brooms, etc all over the place.  I didn’t see anything.  We used to joke that Worlds of Fun must have gotten a bulk deal on Skeletons, or cobb webs, or witches on brooms, or whatever was in excess at the park that year. It makes me wonder if Worlds of Fun got discount on thin air this year… there was certainly a lot of it. 

 

We moved on a little while later to what is left of Bicentennial Square, if its even possible for the arcade (used to be Uncle Sam’s now it’s Snoopy’s Arcade), to look more dismal, it reached that point.  For Halloween Haunt the rest of the area has been turned into the “new” London Terror Square, which I will talk about a little later. 


 
The scaled back prize station at Snoopy's Arcade.  Next to it is picture of one of the yellow orient benches.

We did check out the new Carnevil near Patriot, funny that its back (almost) where it started but I was surprised how small the entire area was.  Back to the Orient section and we noticed the old yellow orient benches, well, at least some of them.  Some know that we tried to acquire one during the time they were sitting, rather abandoned in various locations outside the park.  It looks like though we weren’t lucky enough, others were, as the number of benches is diminished from the original.  Sad, because I would much rather have them in the park then in my living room as cool as they are.


Moving onto the second half of this report, a review of Halloween Haunt.  Someone had asked for a blog on the history of haunt, and through this evening I couldn’t help but think that that it would be great to include a little of the history along with the reviews of each attraction, and also how much has changed since the attraction formerly known as Halloweekends began in 2003.  In 2003, Carnival of Carnivorous Clowns opened where Patriot Landing is today, it was one haunt, very well done, if with an extremely limited budget, but it lit the fuse of one of Worlds of Fun’s most successful festivals ever.

 

As part of the VIP event we received special viewing of the Overlord’s Awakening.  Eric Burke at Worlds of Fun had also invited a few friends of ours to take part in the parade as tribute Dwayne Kimery, who was a screamster at Blood on the Bayou and had recently, unexpectedly, passed away.  In a wonderful gesture we were also invited to take part.  Overlord’s Awakening was as many have reported, incredibly loud, and I strongly recommend everyone bring a pair of earplugs with them, I would not however chastise Worlds of Fun in this regards at all.  As crazy loud as it was, and it was, I wouldn’t change it for a second.   Overlord hadn’t changed much from 2015, the wicked witch of the east and west were still present and had the same lines, and all the actors did a great job.   The Overlord show itself started in 2008, the first year Jeff and I were not screamsters.  The parade itself started the year before in 2007, out of necessity.  Prior to 2007 make-up and costumes for the characters was done at each individual haunt, in 2007 it was combined with one singular make up trailer by the Administration building.  This necessitated the walk of screamsters to their individual haunts.  The parade that we know today gradually evolved over 2007, and some rules were put in place (no running through gift shops for instance, and yes I did that).  In 2008 came the Overlord as we know it today, and a much more organized procession.



As we walked towards Blood on the Bayou it brought back some very good memories, and I could tell though it was busy, it also wasn’t crazy crowded, a good thing.




Blood on the Bayou
Theme: A
Scares: C
Overall, Blood on the Bayou was probably my favorite haunt of the night. As the newest haunt, debuting in 2015, it still has a little “new haunt” smell shall we say.  It was a creative, if a vaguely politically incorrect theme (which is A-OK with me), southern bayou complete with alligators, and tarot card readers, and it wasn’t the standard turn-a-few-corners maze as we have seen in the past.  We gave theming an “A” simply because it is outstanding, you can visit it multiple times and see new things each time.  As far as scare level, it’s more on a creepy level rather then absolutely terrifying level. 

Key Room: I won’t go into detail on the Key Rooms, but as we experienced all of them and I thought  I would at least report on overall opinion. We had last done the Key Room experience in 2014, and were rather under impressed that we did not re-experience them in 2015.  Since we had a complimentary pass we figured we would give it another shot.  I was very impressed, overall the lines for the additional attractions were short (with one exception), and the themes ranged from overtly gross, to psychologically disorienting, to adult in nature.  For those with kids, its probably not an experience I would recommend for those who don’t want to explain certain things to their kids, if you get my drift.


London Terror Square
Theme: B
Scare: C
I had read a few reviews of the new London Terror prior to visiting, and I wans’t really looking forward to it, but as it was next door to Blood on the Bayou, and had a key room I figured we should atleast try it.  I was surprised in a good way.  I personally think it made a good transition from straight line walkway (it used to be located on Forum rd) to indoor haunt maze.  The park enclosed the old Timberwolf Games area, to create an now almost completely indoor haunt.   Overall the theming is still relatively average, though it really has almost the highest level of potential of any haunt in the park, I mean the streets of London at night, Jack the Ripper, come on lots of opportunities there.  The scare level is relatively average. 

London Terror moved to its current location in Americana to create a “new” haunt in 2016, but it was originally located on Forum Rd between Americana and Africa, it premiered in 2011 replacing the almost disastrous Dominion of Doom, that premiered itself in 2005.   I refer to it as disasterous for it is quite possibly the weakest haunt in Haunt history.


Carnevil
Theme: D
Scare: C+
Carnevil is a direct descendant of the original haunt at Worlds of Fun, Carnival of Carnivous Clowns which opened in 2003.  When Patriot was built, Carnivorous Clowns was relocated from its “palatial” indoor haunt location to a less-than-satisfactory outdoor haunt location near Timberwolf.  This year, 2016, saw its move back its near Patriot location. 

Overall Carnevil is incredibly small, relatively cramped, and almost entirely taken up by a cargo container which is home to this haunt’s key room.  The key room here had the longest wait, probably about 30 mins.  The scattered theming was obviously all relocated from Bicennenial Square/Timberwolf.  Overall, Carnevil was incredibly underwhelming, and seems like an afterthought on the way to ride Patriot.  In fact, the only salvation this attraction has is the few screamsters that were working it where truthfully having a great time.  One in particular who kepting rotating around the key room area, and seemed born to be a just truly creapy, though I am sure (I am left to wonder a bit…) is a very nice person in real life.  So whoever you are, you are the reason for the C+ on scare and not F.

 
A few older photos from Club Blood, which was in the basement of Lore of the Vampire.  Though I was never a fan of Club Blood, I do dislike the idea that they chopped out the entire basement of a haunt for a pay extra attraction.

Lore of the Vampire
Theme: C
Scare: C
Lore hangs on as the oldest operating haunt, debuting originally in 2004 with Camp Gonna Gitcha with a Hatchet.  That was a time with a 30-45 mins line for a haunt was considered REALLY long.  It is located in the original queue house for the Orient Express and includes a walk down the original concrete tunnel that marked the beginning of a ride on the Express. 

Besides it being in the old Express station I have always really liked this haunt.  The theming is pretty much as you would expect by the name… lots and lots of Vampires, the theming was well done from the beginning, and the only aspect keeping the grade down on theming is the removal of the entire basement from the actual haunt.  The basement is now eaten up by the key room, which was exceedingly well thought out eats up a lot of space.  Like Bayou in the scare category there were a few startles but nothing truly terrifying. 

Key Room addendum:  I really don’t want to give too much away in regards to the key rooms, but I believe I am safe in saying that at the end of each one, each group is given a clue for the location of the 7th, hidden key room. At the end of Lore of the Vampire we had pretty much figured it out and headed there.   After that experience our group decided to split up as we headed to Ed Alonzo’s Fun House show in Scandinavia.



Ed Alonzo’s Fun House: warning Adult humor!

When the Ed Alonzo show premiered three years ago at Tivoli no one knew what to think.  Tivoli didn’t have a great track record when it came to Haunt Shows (Slash anyone?) and magic shows certainly didn’t either.  Most of us knew the star of the show, Ed Alonzo from his appearances on Saved by the Bell, so we hoped a bit of “star” power would help, and our cynicism was unfounded, it proved to be a complete hit.  For those who have not seen an Ed Alonzo show be forewarned, it is adult content as you have never experienced at Worlds of Fun.  The level of depravity surprised Jeff and myself the first time we saw it, in between the laughing so hard we were crying that is.  Ed Alonzo’s show features a wide variety of magic, dancing girls, and adult humor, but its quite entertaining, and as long as you are prepared its comes with high recommendations for adult groups only.

Ed Alonzo also does a “clean” family show during the daytime, similar magic tricks, some dancing but not nearly as scandalous and more “family” oriented.

The Boneyard:
Theming: D
Scare: F
Sigh.  Is this even a haunt? Were there any Screamsters even in there?  The theming was similar to previous years, and offers lot of potential hiding spots, disorienting crates and boxes, but when it came to scares and well… staffing it falls flat on its face.  In fact, staffing seems to be the key word when it comes to haunt and Worlds of Fun this year.  I noticed on signage outside and throughout the park that Worlds of Fun is practically begging for help, even for haunt.  Nowhere is this more evident in The Boneyard.  The Boneyard started out its life as The Fright Zone, a scare zone surrounding the then, Camp Gonna Gitcha, which premiered in 2004.  Camp Gonna Gitcha was located where Prowler is now, so it only made sense.   

Boneyard replaced Fright Zone in 2014, and featured a lot of new theming materials.  The various limb-covered crates were the primary addition.  Before, there were a few scattered metal containers and that was it.  In fact, in its first year I distinctly remember a few rubber, run of the mill, park trash cans being beaten to the point that they were useless as trashcans.   Which highlights another point.  In the early years of Haunt, when Jeff and I were Screamsters, it was fun; there was almost limitless freedom to do whatever you wanted (obviously within reason), and almost no rules.  Now I am not saying there should never be any rules… but things changed.  Though I may not understand Worlds of Fun operations staffing issues I think I understand Haunt staffing issues, and the number one issue… Managers should be HAUNT Screamsters FIRST, and NOT Oceans of Fun managers trying to fulfill their contract to get a bonus.   Staffing Dominion of Doom in 2005 with Oceans of Fun ambassadors trying to fulfill their contract to get a bonus was the death knell for Dominion, if the park keeps doing the same with management of Haunt, that might be the death knell for haunt.  I am sure among the hundreds of Screamsters there has to be at least a few with some management potential.  Find it. 


Zombie High
Theme: B
Scares: C
Zombie High premiered in 2012 near Prowler, it was obviously built up around the popular theme that pervades the various online and television love affair with zombies.  (Zombieland, Walking Dead, need I say more?). Overall, of all the themes of the various houses this one is done pretty well, the original Asylum and Blood on the Bayou are about the only two that are/were better.  I am not sure how many have noted this but the high school at this zombie land is Cleaver High and its mascot is the beaver, this is taken from the Moulin Rouge show, “Stax of Wax” and its successor, “Meat Cleaver High: Haunted Homecoming”, which both share the same fictional high school and mascot.  So someone obviously loves continuity, or really loves beavers, I am voting for option A.   There were one or two startles here too, so I have to give it a passing grade based on that.  Overall, an average haunt.


A nice historical picture of Master McCarthy's Doll Factory

Miss Lizzie’s Chamber of Horrors
Chamber of Horrors was down when we passed by so it was the only haunt we didn’t visit.  Though a bit of history on it might be interesting right?  Chamber of Horrors is partially housed in to the old Zinger queue house and partially in a new building constructed not for Chamber of Horrors, but for Master McCarthy’s Doll Factory.  Master McCarthy’s premiered in 2008, and was summarily killed off (good riddance, it was only slightly better than Dominion of Doom) in 2013 to be replaced by Miss Lizzie’s Chamber of Horrors.


Asylum Island
Theme: C
Scare: D
Asylum Island has reigned virtually supreme since it debuted in 2006, so it was with heavy hearts that we heard of its demise thanks to the politically correct police this season.  Its last operating day as Asylum Island was on October 1st.  All the haunts at Worlds of Fun have a history, none as important as Asylum Island though.  Prior to Asylum, the event was called Halloweekends, a Halloween-inspired, festival, it featured a couple, decent, haunted houses, and attracted an average amount of guests, normal line was about 30 minutes, a long line was close to an hour, it was fun, but the whole Worlds of Fun season didn’t revolve around it.  Then Asylum came along and changed EVERYTHING.  Suddenly, a 3 hour line for ONE haunt wasn’t crazy (unless of course you were standing in it), a parade prior to the haunts opening? Sure!  Build new buildings just for a haunt? SURE!  Plan your whole season around haunt? Sure!  Asylum basically took Worlds of Fun haunt from cozy little town to big city metropolis on the haunt scale of things.  When it opened in 2006 it was extremely well done, Insane Asylum, ran by its patients instead of its doctors. The theming was there, feces lined the hallways, blood poured down the walls, a crazy doctor ran the joint, and rabid dogs and crazy patients hounded guests waiting to enter. 

In 2016, it was quite a different story.  Most of the outside theming and effects are gone, many of the effects on the inside of the house are either not properly maintained (if you can call fake feces not properly maintained…), and the highlight of Asylum, The Yard, seemed to be missing a few strobe lights and fog, we could see far to easily where we were going.  Of course, now Asylum has been re-themed to Urgent Scare, and supposedly considerably changed.  However, Asylum had such an impact on Haunt at Worlds of Fun I doubt it will be forgotten easily.

Cornstakers entrance today, and the entrance sign to Camp GonnaGitcha when it was in Africa.

Cornstalkers
Theme: C
Scare: B
Cornstalkers opened in 2010, replacing the recently relocated Camp Gonna Gitcha (With a Hatchet).  First, a little history, Camp Gonna Gitcha opened as one of two haunts in 2004, and was one of Worlds of Fun’s first haunts.  It was located where Prowler is today (hence the relocation), and used a lot of what was left of the queue infrastructure from Python Plunge.  Its theme was unique; that of a summer camp gone horribly wrong, and it has never been reused (I think its theme is one that ripe to be re-born).  It never really made the transition over to Nile island well, and because of that, was replaced with Cornstalkers the next year.  Cornstalkers has always had heaps of potential, I mean a cornfield, at night?  Sometimes it pulls it off pretty well, other times not so much.  I have to admit to being startled a few times, and constantly on guard, probably more so then any other haunt, which accounts for its grade.  It also, and maybe it was my imagination, didn’t seem to suffer as much for a lack of staffing as the other haunts did too.  But again that might have been right place, right time.  I have to say its really missing a few good (or even one) chainsaws, those are always down right terrifying.  


Bloodshed
Theme: B
Scare: D
Bloodshed is another one of those haunts that really has a great premise, but just somehow fails to deliver.  Bloodshed’s premise is a slaughterhouse, where initially its detailing the slaughter of animals, but turns and twists throughout until its actually revealed to process human parts.  It, like Asylum, also used to have an outside component, which it lost almost the following year after it opened, like Asylum.  Bloodshed opened in 2007 right on the footsteps of Asylum Island and was unique in that it was the first permanent structure built specifically to be a haunt.  Every other haunt previously used an under utilized section of the park, or non-used building (such as a picnic pavilion with Asylum or old station like Lore).  I have to admit to being rather tired by the time we entered Bloodshed, but I really wasn’t scared or startled at any point, some of the theming was interesting to look at, and yes, of course it was rather… dismembering, but that’s about it.  I think Bloodshed seemed to really be effected by the lack of staffing, and it really showed. 


So what was our overall opinion?  We had a good time, and first and foremost that’s the important part right?  However we had a LOT of help, first it wasn’t terribly crowded (I heard the next weekend was nuts), and second we were given complementary Fright Lane passes, complete with skeleton key room entrances.  So we didn’t have to wait for virtually anything.  I looked up a few of the prices, and for a skeleton key and fast lane entrance you would need to purchase Fright Lane Plus, which is $65 per person.   Which does NOT include your base park ticket.  Still a good deal?  I am not sure.  I am NOT a fan of the Fast Lane during regular season because I believe it gives the park an out to not run capacity.  Don’t like waiting in the long line because we’re only running one train on Mamba? Buy Fast Lane!  My opinion is that if you ran rides at capacity, which is what guests are PAYING for with admission ANYWAY, they wouldn’t need Fast Lane.  Fright Lane could be considered different, in that the haunts are not technically normal park attractions; you are getting those plus the haunts.  However, I still see an issue with making people pay more for something that is advertised as included.  Which are the haunts.  Plus, with the haunts going slightly downhill over the years, and more emphasis, staffing and creativity going into the key rooms… I don’t know, I am all for capitalism, and making a profit, but on the backs of your patrons?  I am not sure what to think of that.  Haunt’s success was built on giving people and exceptional value for their regular admission ticket, and I don’t see that happening anymore. 

As to the Key Rooms, as I mentioned above I have a concern regarding them distracting from the primary haunt.  Case in point with Lore of the Vampire, almost 25% of the original haunt (the basement) was cut out to supply the Key Room.  That smacks of diminishing returns for the regular guest.  That being said, we really enjoyed the Key Rooms, they were very individualized, and highlighted everything gross and just … wrong about Halloween, in a good way.  They are very VERY much improved over the Key Rooms that we experienced in 2014, and again though I love the premise, I am not so crazy about how it’s carried out.  To Worlds of Fun, don’t let the drive for money and profit allow you to forget who is giving you that, your guests, all of them.  Take care of the guest first.  To those reading this, I would strongly recommend if you want the full experience to get Fright Lane with the Skeleton Key if you can afford it. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

New for 2017! An in-depth analysis



It’s the “back gate” not the “main gate”, we have said innumerable times,  explaining once again that the Scandinavian gate that almost everyone, including the park, refers to as the main gate was never intended to be the main gate.  The main gate as we knew it, was bulldozed after the 1998 season to make way for…........... Wait for it…............ Go Karts.  Finally, 18 years later, Worlds of Fun will HOPEFULLY have something it has not had since 1998, a REAL main gate.   On August 18th, 2016 the park made several announcements related to the 2017 season and in this (probably lengthy) blog post we will take a detailed look at each of the four announcements, and provide some insight and probably a whole lot of guessing into the details of each one.

The Henrietta and main gate as it appeared on opening day 1974.

Let’s go back though and look at some history though first (because you do all know WHO is writing this right?).  Worlds of Fun opened in May 26, 1973, and to enter the park guests rode a tram to the MAIN gate, bought tickets at a beautiful tree-lined plaza complete in Americana-style gingerbread trim and crossed the beautiful side-wheeler Henrietta to enter the park.  In front of them as is there today was Front Street Square.    There was a second gate at the time too, the group-sales gate, or back gate that lead into Scandinavia, buses could easily pull up and in later years bands, choirs, school groups could organize and enter the park as a group here too.  Other than for groups it was seldom used, in fact a large sign once hung above the back lots informing guests whether the gate was even open for the day or not. 




The Henrietta twenty-five years later, a sad remnant with debris floating in the surrounding moat.

Change happened in mid-1995, when new owner at the time, Cedar Fair, made the decision, along with many other parks at the time, to discontinue the tram service.  Unlike many other parks the Americana gate was set about a quarter of a mile walk from its nearest parking lot.  The point was to separate the fantasy world of Worlds of Fun from the dust and grim of the normal every day.  Though it is uncommon for a park's main entrance NOT to be visible from the park lots it is a concept employed successfully at one of the most successful theme parks in the world, Magic Kingdom in Florida and was also successfully employed by Worlds of Fun too.  It's that unique separation of the parking lot to the gate that gave Worlds of Fun its "magical" experience but also lead to the unique situation where its main gate no longer functioned when the trams were discontinued.  The problem is that quarter-mile or so was a even longer walk to most people’s car, the Scandinavian gate took over a lot of the foot traffic and became a still secondary, but now more often used gate.  The trickle of guests into the Scandinavian gate over the next few years turned into a flood and it turned the Americana gate, once a hub of activity into a ghost town.  Clarks’ Livery Stable (where Subway is now) where guests would rent a locker or a stroller saw scant guests normally, and was closed in most cases, The glass encased Guest Relations was boarded up, a lone ambassador sitting forlorn on a stool manned the single open turnstile on the once busy Henrietta, when the Americana gate was even open that is.  The writing on the wall was clear as day.    Mamba opened in 1998 to great jubilation, but on the opposite side of the park the Americana gate was closed, no one crossed the Henrietta anymore, very few even noticed it, and its green algae covered water that now surrounded it.  In spring 1999, the gate was gone, completely demolished with Go-Karts now in its place.  The solitary tree that once served as the tram turn around stood in the midst.

The Scandinavian back gate as it appeared in the mid-1990's

The Scandinavian back gate was all that was left.  Over the next 15-16 years the Scandinavian gate changed a LOT.  Landscaping was added, Guest Services had already been relocated several years prior, but it too was updated and enlarged. Attempts were made to make both the gate and surrounding entrance, feel, at least somewhat like a main gate.  An arcade became a gift shop, the original glass blower’s shop became a candy shop, the park’s full service restaurant  gave its outdoor dining patio to lockers and wheelchair rentals.   A beautiful hand carved carousel was added in 2011, though some attempts were half hearted, not all of them were, and it became more and more obvious that there was no way to band-aid in a main gate.   Many of the long time fans who had been coming to the park since the days of the trams took to taking first-time visitors through the “real” main gate by quite literally walking newbies over to the Go-Karts, and walking across what was left of the Henrietta into Front Street square. 

Finally, in 2017 the wait will be hopefully over.  So what will the new gate look like?  We have been given brief details by the park, that the new gate will be re-designed, that it will include an international plaza where guests can meet up, and that it will have a waterfall.  Many of us, especially long time Worlds of Fun fans worry that it will look just like all the other Cedar Fair park gates (well except of course, Cedar Point), like Dorney’s or Valleyfair’s, which are fairly identical cream colored clock tower entrances.  Maybe.  One thing is true first appearances ARE everything, and for the first time in almost twenty years guests will not have to pass through the rickety old Scandinavian gate, one intended to be a back gate, but forced to become so much more.

Dorney Park's main gate
Valleyfair's main gate



Onto the rides.  Two new rides for 2017 let’s see if I can get this right.  Falcon’s Flight and Mustang Runner.  First, as I am sure I am the only one geeky enough to notice, Falcon’s Flight follow’s traditional Worlds of Fun ride naming pattern, two words, both starting with the same letter. (Zambezi Zinger, Oriental Octopus, Finnish Fling, Viking Voyager, Fjord Fjarlene, the park was and is littered with them) So lets start there,





Falcon’s Flight facts, the ride is a Huss Condor, first manufactured by Huss Rides in 1984 it is one of two used rides purchased by Cedar Fair on its Europe legacy rides tour.  It will however, from reports be completely updated, and for all intensive purposes, be a new ride.  It is a 102 foot tall circular ride, with four arms, and four cars circling in each arm with a capacity of 56 riders per ride cycle.  It’s also a rather rare ride, this will be the first in the Cedar Fair chain, and one of only a handful in the United States, in fact the only other operational Huss Condor I can think of is at Hersheypark.   In the unconfirmed rumors division, we have heard that Falcon’s Flight will be replacing Le Carousel which interesting enough, and factually enough is Europa’s newest ride added in 1979,  making Flying Falcon, Europa’s first new ride installation in 36 years.



The second ride is a little more common, a Huss Troika, that the park will be naming Mustang Runner.  It will be located in the western Americana section where Krazy Kars/Crashem Bashem (Kiddy bumper cars) was located, the yellow building is still there for now.  It is unknown at this point whether the old Ski Hi Station (red barn) will remain.  The Huss Troika was first manufactured in 1973, and is as mentioned a much more common ride but one that is exciting to see the park adding as it’s a very enjoyable, not too overly thrilling of a ride. 

Both rides as mentioned were manufactured by Huss Manufacturing in Germany which also manufactured the Huss Enterprise known at Worlds of Fun as Zulu and the Huss Top Spin, which was known at Worlds of Fun as Thunderhawk. 


The last new announcement for 2017 was the addition of Winterfest to the parks 2017 operating calendar.  Parks opening up in winter or the Christmas-season is becoming a more and more common occurrence, however Winterfest is actually a take off of an old tradition at another Cedar Fair park, Kings Island.  Winterfest at Worlds of Fun is due to kick-off on November 24, 2017 and will operate for six weeks.  Though details are scarce the park is announcing that the new festival will feature 14 characters, lighting displays, ice-skating and live entertainment.   For a look at how Worlds of Fun may operate their Winterfest it is beneficial to take a look at the history of the event at Kings Island.  The original Winter Fest debuted in 1982, and featured festive lights, a large Christmas tree at the park’s signature Eiffel Tower attraction, ice skating in the royal fountain (located at the entrance to the park), the carousel and steam train were the only rides in operation.  In 2005, Kings Island attempted to bring back the festival with limited success,  and is again doing so along with several other Cedar Fair parks in 2017.

As Winter Fest is a traditional Kings Island event, a look at King's Island version at KI Central might be of interest: http://kicentral.com/parkhistory/winterfest/

Those were the facts, now we enter into the world of speculation.  Nothing I write going forward has been confirmed by the park in any way shape or form.  Many of the attractions at Kings Island could easily be copied over to Worlds of Fun, A Christmas tree in Americana, (the art work shows a large Christmas Tree in Front Street Square), while we lack a large fountain for ice skating that King Island possesses, I could see them using Ripcord lake, or possibly creating a flat ice skating rink somewhere else in the park.   However "flat" and "Worlds of Fun" do not seem to go hand in hand, this detail should be interesting to see how it unfolds.  Also, a key aspect of the event is live entertainment, this makes me question whether Tivoli Music Hall may be on the list for renovations, since it is in many ways functionally the same as it was in 1973.  Another consideration is that many buildings were either not built, or have not been renovated in such a way to operate in cold temperatures, bathrooms and fountains are shut down in the winter, most buildings that I am aware of do not have heat, so there are many logistical mountains to cover so to speak prior to next November.


In regards to rides questions began immediately after the announcement.  Would there be rides?  Some said no, as Kings Island only operates their steam train and carousel during the event historically.  However, nearby Silver Dollar City operates almost every ride as long as the weather is favorable and meets necessary temperatures.  Worlds of Fun has stated so far that they are considering about two dozen possible rides for operation.  Im guessing at this point the list will include the Worlds of Fun Railroad, the Carousel and possibly Cyclone Sam's, in fact a online poster (not affiliated with Worlds of Fun) mentioned temporarily re-theming Cyclone Sam's to a blizzard instead (Blizzard Bill's?) which I thought was quite creative.  Last point is the so called elephant in the room, though Winter Fest is being hosted at several Cedar Fair parks it’s a question as to how this event will compete with nearby Silver Dollar City’s Old Fashioned Christmas, the folks at Carowinds must be asking the same question as their market is not to far from Dollywood, which also hosts a Christmas-time event, it’s a question we will most likely not have an answer for until December 2017.  It will be interesting to say the least as in most cases its rare for the general public to visit the park past the traditional end of October closing date.