Friday, November 9, 2018

Winterfest 2018 Preview


Last year was Worlds of Fun's first foray into the Winterfest/post-October event, and in my opinion, they had a home run hit.  (My First Annual Review can be found here) So it is no surprise that Winterfest will be returning for the 2018 season in just a few weeks when the park re-opens on November 23rd.  Prior to the 2017 Winterfest, no one had any clue what to expect.  With that in mind, and with one season behind us I thought it would be useful to do a Winterfest Preview.  Before I go further if anyone should notice any errors, or omissions (and I am sure there will be) please feel free to contact me immediately as always my goal is to provide the most accurate information possible.

All attractions that are red or green are clickable for more information and if offered, to make reservations.



First, there are a few important "need to know" details when it comes to Winterfest:

1)  Gold and Platinum Season Passes for the 2018 season INCLUDE Winterfest, and some pre-purchased for the 2019 season do as well. (if not all of them).  All other Winterfest tickets, as well as Winterfest activities can be purchased on the official site here.  The park is offering a substantial discount if tickets are purchased online rather than at the gate.

2) Not every ride will be in operation but SOME will.  Similar to 2017, there will be 26 rides in operation during Winterfest (Nordic Chaser is added to the list), most of them are in Planet Snoopy, and some will not operate if it is too cold.  There is a list of the operational rides found here, I also list them below in coordination with their area of the park.

3) Unlike the regular season, Rides are not the primary highlight to Winterfest and do take a back seat to the great live entertainment, lights and other attractions found throughout the park.

4) Also unlike the regular season, hours will be limited for Winterfest, with the park being open from 4 p.m. -10 p.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving (November 23) and all Saturdays, and 5 p.m. -10 p.m. all other days.  The exception being New Year's Eve when the park will be open from 5 p.m. to Midnight.  A park operating schedule can be found here.


Now that we have the basics covered, we can look at the actual park and experience and how it may not only differ from regular season but also how it may differ from even the 2017 version of Winterfest.  To make this as uncomplicated as possible I am going to divide this guide into six sections, one of each of the themed lands in the park, however the "Winterfest section names" will also be included to hopefully make things less confusing.



Scandinavia (Intl. Plaza/Scandi Elf Village/Candy Cane Lane)

Scandinavia is where most guests enter the park and includes the main park gate, it is divided into International Plaza, Scandi Elf Village and Candy Cane Lane.

The most significant change here is that while Ice Skating was located at Festhaus Picnic Pavilion in 2017 it is no longer at this location for 2018 and has been relocated to Americana at the Ripcord Lake.


Rides open during Winterfest:
Fjord Fjarlene, The Grand Carousel, Nordic Chaser and Scrambler (weather permitting)


Shows
There are three shows located throughout Scandinavia.  The first two are located near the park's centerpiece 70' foot Christmas Tree in International Plaza and include the Tree Lighting Ceremony at 5:30, and Cool Yule Christmas a spectacular show featuring pop Christmas favorites.  The third show in Scandinavia is at Tivoli Music Hall as is titled Charlie Brown's Christmas Spectacular, the Christmas Spectacular at Tivoli is truly the flagship show for Winterfest and shouldn't be missed.



Entertainment
Kids can meet Santa Claus at St Nick's Pics at Tivoli East (next to Tivoli), photos with Santa are an additional cost.  North Pole Post Office is also an option for kids wanting to write and mail a letter to St. Nick at the North Pole too and is located next to Viking Voyager's entrance (Christmas House/The Lift)



Shopping
Shopping includes all shops normally at the park but with different names and in most cases, completely different merchandise.  Frosty's Furnishings, which is normally known as Plaza Gifts is located at International Plaza, and features Christmas gifts, collectibles and apparel.



Dining
There are several options for gastric delights throughout the park.  Chickie and Pete's will be accepting the dining plan.

1) Dasher's Diner (Pizzo Pizza) will be once again serving Monkey Bread
2) Sugar's Cake Factory (Norma's Funnel Cakes) will be serving funnel cakes, coffee and hot chocolate
3) Tivoli Music Hall Snacks

4) Chickie and Pete's will be open at it's normal location in Scandinavia and will be accepting the dining plan.


Africa (Africa Season of Lights)

Once guests past Scrambler and Candy Cane Lane they pass under the train bridge and enter Africa.  A major change for 2018 includes the movement of the Coca Cola Polar Bear Plaza from Patriot's Plaza area to the Mamba Plaza area, and includes the operation of Coasters Diner.

Rides open for Winterfest
Prowler (weather permitting)



Shows
Sounds of the Nativity returns to Africa once again in 2018, and is located near Zulu.  Sounds of the Nativity features a small cast of singers performing traditional Christmas carols, as well as a nativity and live animals like those that would have been found at the original nativity.



Entertainment
The Polar Party Crew will be at the Coca Cola Plaza by Coasters Diner for games and fun,  along with additional Coca Cola retro style decoration.


Shopping
Shopping options include Stocking Stuffers (Moroccan Merchant) a discount store for clearance merchandise.  The popular option to fill a stocking for a set price will be returning from 2017. Dino Store will also be open.

Dining
There are two new dining options in Africa for Winterfest both of which are included on the dining plan.
1) Season's Eatings (Gorilla Grill), Which as mentioned will be accepting the dining plan and will feature sweet potato waffle fries with gruyere cheese sauce, as well as macaroni and cheese and chicken tenders.

2) Coasters Rockin' Winterfest Cafe (Coasters Diner), which is also accepting the dining plan and will feature its normal menu.  It is also one of only three eateries in the park that is indoors.

Europa (Winterfest Way)

Europa, or as it is shown on the map, Winterfest Way, will feature several changes from 2017 Winterfest.  Mrs. Claus Kitchen Cookie Decorating has moved out of Europa to Americana this year, in addition many vendors from Artisan Alley have been moved from Americana to Europa.  (or it has expanded).   It appears Le Taxi Tour will continues it's amazing 12 Days of Christmas Lights Overlay.



Rides open for Winterfest
Falcon's Flight, Autobahn, Flying Dutchman and Le Taxi Tour (weather permitting).



Shows
Tinker's Toy Factory returns to the Moulin Rouge this year. Tinker's is a wonderful show that uses live music to tell the adorable story of one of Santa's elves who needs help finding his Christmas Spirit!


Entertainment
Le Taxi Tour will be continuing it's enormously popular 12 Days of Christmas light overlay, which will almost assuradly cause it to have extremely long lines.

Shopping
Shopping Options include the new for 2018, Tinker's Toy Box (Deja Vu) this was the previous location of Mrs. Claus Cookie Decorating, and will feature toys and build your own stuffed animals (personally, I want that sheep that is on the official site, that's cute!).  Also, several booths for Artisan Alley will be located throughout Europa.



Dining
There are two options available for dining in Europa, Dancer's will be accepting the dining plan.

1) Dancer's Snack Shack (Paisano's), will will be accepting the dining plan and will feature homemade biscuits served with either chicken and or gravy.  They will also serve a kale salad.

2) Moulin Rouge Snacks

Americana

Due to the sheer size and number of activities in Americana I am following Worlds of Fun's lead, and dividing it up into the Old West Christmas and Tinsel Town.

Americana: Old West Christmas

The Old West section of Americana includes the portion of Americana that evokes a western theme and runs from the Worlds of Fun Railroad/Depot to Timber Wolf.  The Old West section includes one new major activity, the Old West Carriage Company that will offer horse drawn carriage rides up and down Heart of America Blvd (Forum Road), at an extra cost.

Rides Open for Winterfest in Americana/Old West
Worlds of Fun Railroad, Mustang Runner, Cyclone Sams (weather permitting, however Cyclone Sam's is an indoor attraction)



Shows
Christmas Bluegrass (Old Sound) will be also returning to Winterfest for 2018, at the Country Junction Amphitheater.  Tucked out of the way next to the Railroad Depot, it offers a quiet, laid back show featuring popular Christmas carols played on fiddles, banjos, mandolins, guitar and even a double bass.  A great show for those that love bluegrass.

Entertainment
New for 2018 Winterfest is the Old West Carriage Company that will offer horse drawn carriage rides up and down Heart of America Blvd. The carriage ride runs from near the Americana ICEE stand (Custer's Last Stand) and ends near Coasters in Africa.  I am unsure if it is round trip or one way at this point.  This will be an additional fee for this attraction.

Shopping
Ornament Keepsakes (located in the Airbrush Artist booth), will offer personalized ornaments for sale.

Dining
There are three different dining options in the Old West section of Americana, Vixen's Fixins is the only one on the dining plan.


1)Vixen's Fixins (Vittle Griddle), located around the corner from Front Street, and across from the train station, this is an outdoor eatery, that will be accepting the dining plan.  It will offer pot roast sandwiches and sweet potato fries.

2) Festive Feast (Battlecreek BBQ), one of only three eateries that is offers indoor seating, Festive Feast is appropriately named offering a holiday dinner featuring glazed ham, pot roast, and garlic-roasted chicken, along with festive sides and speciality deserts.  Festive Feast is NOT on the dining plan. 

3) Cheery Concoctions (Blue Bronco Bar), located adjacent to Festive Feast/Battlecreek BBQ, Cheery Concoctions is not really an eatery, but certainly is home to gastric delights of the liquid variety.  Cheery Concoctions serves hot chocolate, egg nog and hot buttered rum just to name a few. Say it with me... mmmmm hooottt buttteeerrrreed Rum.

Americana: Tinsel Town

Located from Timber Wolf and including Front Street, Patriot Plaza and Ripcord area, Tinsel Town has the most entertainment value per square foot of almost any other section of the park.  It is home to three shows, Ice Skating, cookie decorating, three shops, and six dining locations.




Shows
Holly Jolly Trolley is our first Tinsel Town show, and is a creative take on late 19th century musical-styling, complete with San Francisco-esque trolley, and the cast dressed to the nines in top hats and petticoats. As its a moving show (the trolley roams around Americana), it can sometimes be hard to catch, but usually stops around Tinsel Town Treasures and Planet Snoopy. Jingle Jazz and Mistletones are both located around the main Americana fountain area, and alternate show times, (in 2018 one was on the hour and the other on the half hour) Both feature ladies groups singing with out instrumental accompaniment (A Capella) with Jingle Jazz featuring more classic carols, and Mistletones featuring more mid-century favorites such as "Frosty the Snowman" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town".


Entertainment
Some of the two biggest changes coming to Winterfest 2018 fall into this category.  First, the ice skating rink is moving from its original location in Scandinavia to Ripcord lake for 2018, and will be named "Snowflake Lake", like the previous years this will require an additional fee, $15 for one, or $12.50 each for four of more.  Reservations can be made early, and require a specific time slot.  Ice skate rental and skater assistance devices are included in the fee.

The second big change coming to Americana is the addition of Jack Frost Igloo Village, which will be located it appears near Patriot Landing.  Each separate Igloo will be rentable private enclosed "igloo" with a maximum capacity of 8 guests.  The reservation fee of $299.99 covers four guests, and includes food & beverage delivery, an event host, souvenir mugs for hot chocolate, reserved show seating, a cookie decorating session in Mrs. Claus Kitchen and a complimentary ice skating or carriage ride session.  Each reservation includes the cost for up to 4 guests, with each additional guest being $29.99 each.  Price does not include admission to the park.



Mrs Claus Kitchen Cookie Decorating has been re-located from Europa to Americana in 2018, to the previous location of Snoopy Arcade, right across from Timber Wolf's entrance.  Most likely it's been moved to this location to offer a larger space.  Mrs. Claus allows guests of all ages to decorate their own over-sized cookies, and take them home.  Like 2017, Mrs Claus Kitchen requires an additional fee of $14.99 but includes four larger cookies and frosting, enough for an entire family to decorate.

Shopping
Americana Tinsel Town has more shopping than anywhere else in the park. Artisan Alley which for 2018 is being split into two areas of the park, Europa as previously mentioned and the original area, near Timber Wolf, where guests can shop local artisans for both seasonal decorations, and crafts.



At Front Street Shops, Mistletoe (Front Street Emporium) will continue to feature both vintage Christmas merchandise, as well as hometown favorites such as a limited edition hot air balloon ornament (modeled after the iconic Worlds of Fun balloon), as well as Pickwick candles, and other handblown ornaments.  Peppermint Patties Christmas Candy (Peppermint Patties),  will feature its normal selection of hand-made fudge, and taffy, but also Hammond candy canes, Russell Stovers Chocolates, and gingerbread-themed ornaments.  Last, and new for 2018 is Tinsel Town Treasures (Guest Services office), will feature retro holiday decor, from the age of tinsel trees and black and white television sets.



Dining
The Americana Tinsel Town dining options are almost identical to their normal park operations menus with slight variations in flavors and menu offerings.  Prancer's Pizza (Pizza Pier) and Subway are on the dining plan.

1) Prancer's Pizza (Pizza Pier) - Dining Plan accepted

2) Festive Funnel Cakes (Grandma's Funnel Cakes)

3) Comet's Cookies and Cream (Double Dip)

4) Caribou Coffee & Cinnabon will both be open at their normal locations in Front Street Shops

5) Subway will be open at it's normal location and will be accepting the dining plan.


Planet Snoopy (Charlie Brown Christmas Town)

Rides open for Winterfest
Beagle Brigade Airfield, Camp Bus, Charlie Brown's Wind-up, Cosmic Coaster, Linus Beetle Bumps, Lucy's Tugboat, Peanut's 500, Peanut's Playhouse, Peanut's Road Rally, Peanut's Turntyke, Sally's Swing Set, Snoopy vs. Red Baron, Snoopy Junction, Snoopy's Space Buggies, Woodstock Gliders, and Woodstock's Whirlybirds.  (all are weather permitting)


Entertainment
Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree Lot offers a maze of trees, pines, spruces and firs followed by a photo opportunity with Charlie Brown, Linus and the Charlie Brown's famous Christmas Tree that just needs a "little love".  Sally's Christmas Crafts adjacent to Peanut's Holiday Gifts (Snoopy Boutique), offers an opportunity for children 12 and under to create their own Christmas Tree ornament.   Families can meet Sally afterwards.

Shopping
Peanut's Holiday Gifts (Snoopy Boutique), located in Planet Snoopy features its normal selection of Peanut's merchandise but also a collection of Hallmark ornaments and collectibles.


The Orient (Orient Lantern Fest)

Rides open for Winterfest
Bamboozler and Spinning Dragons will both be open for Winterfest (weather permitting)



Shopping
Rickshaw Rudy's Pop Culture Christmas: (Rickshaw Richards) One of our favorite shops from 2017 will be back and offer merchandise from such pop culture Christmas hits as "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and the infamous leg lamp from  "A Christmas Story".

Dining
Panda Express will be open for Winterfest, it will be accepting the dining plan.


Yes, there are only a few hours for all the fun but... wait there's MORE!

With so many activities scattered through the park its impossible to do everything in one night... for that reason Worlds of Fun has added yet another attraction, or probably more like two dozen or so more attractions in the guise of themed characters that roam the park and are available for photos.  These include (and it's a long list that has grown in 2018) Jack Frost, Snowflake and Tinsel, Holly, Jolly and Lolly, Belsnickels (I had to look that one up), Mr. & Mrs Tannenbaum, General Napoleon, Captain Macaron and Cookie Caramel (mmmmm....), and yes even for the scrooges among attendees.... the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future!  An entire list of characters can be found here.

You could say we saved the best for last... One of our favorites, and one of the biggest hits of Winterfest can be found throughout the park and that is the over 4-5 million (either way Clark Griswold would be proud), twinkling lights.  While traversing the park be sure to check out the Orient's Lantern Fest, Africa Lights, Candy Cane Lane and Tinsel Town's 300-foot Steelhawk Tree, and the thousands of other twinkling light displays throughout the park.  It is truly the most amazing light display anywhere in Kansas City.




Monday, November 5, 2018

Dis-Oriented Express





I borrowed the title, so it's only appropriate I credit the creative titling to its originator, the Kansas City Star. Please be aware if you read the article, it has a great deal of inaccurate information.


Earlier this year, on April 4th, which has over the years become the dot org sanctioned holiday entitled “Orient Express Day”, there was a post on the photo asking what year Orient Express was removed.  That date was in 2003, but in the course of our discussion, I began thinking back to my personal experiences with November 2003.  And realized in a sudden, disquieting, way that my memory of what transpired was fading and that terrified me more then the thought of riding Orient Express did way back then.  See I was terrified of pretty much all coasters until 2004, this means, sadly, that I never rode Orient Express.  So, why would I care if they tore it down?  The simple reason, though I never rode it, Orient Express was always there, every single time I ever went to Worlds of Fun up to that point.  There was never a time I didn’t walk or ride a tram to the gate that I didn’t hear Orient Express’s lift hill echoing as it came out of the tunnel, or hear the rattle of the structure as the train went through its loop approach turns and drops.  I even worked on Orient Express a time or two...
A few photos taken by Jeff when Orient Express was originally under construction in 1980.  Jeff was 13 years old at the time.

My husband Jeff Mast shared this experience with me, I even think he was probably the main reason we even went out there though he would probably never admit it.  If it could be argued I have no personal experience with Express, then it could also be argued that few could have more of a personal relationship with Express, except possibly its builders and mechanics than Jeff.  When he was 13, his dad drove him out to Worlds of Fun’s parking lots, to watch Orient Express be built, while he was still 13 years old he was on the first public train for Orient Express on April 4th.  Later, when he was 17, he operated Orient Express, and as he will tell you if you spend any time around him at all, he was the last to operate three trains on Express.  He then went back to the ride almost two decades later in 1996 and 1997 and operated her again.  

The drive box from 1997.

I remember the last night of Worlds of Fun’s operating season in 2003.  Jeff and I stood around looking up at the Orient Express. At this point, it hadn’t operated for probably a month or so,  but though we all knew the end was coming, we all seemed somewhat comforted seeing Orient Express there, standing strong and steadfast as it always had, thinking that for sure we would all be mistaken.  There was a young boy there too, one who out of respect I won’t mention his name, but one who I feel safe enough to say is still very much involved with the park… I can’t think of this memory without him being in the memory too.  

And there it was...

It was Jeff who saw the post that October morning that stated that a piece of track had been removed by “C Block” and that Orient Express wasn’t being dismantled, that there were no more fixes for Orient Express left, it was done and being destroyed.  I remember quite vividly Jeff not believing it, or as it was probably more likely not WANTING to believe it.  We drove out to Worlds of Fun either that afternoon or sometime soon afterward, parked on Worlds of Fun Avenue and Jeff with his high power zoom lens was able to confirm the rumor.  That it was true.  All of It. There had been no announcement from the park, there had been no last ride, no ceremonious goodbye,  not even a dismantling, a piece of Orient Express was gone forever, and we should have known exactly what we were going to see over the next few weeks… but neither of us wanted to discuss it.

Or think about it.

Looks whole from afar but look closer...




Less than a week later we were at it again. This time, it was readily apparent what was happening, a portion of the lift hill had disappeared. The weather itself seemed to share our sentiment with its cloudy and foggy overcast skies, yet Orient Express still rose up out of the ground, almost demanding it be noticed and not go silently into the night.



Still standing tall... mostly.

There were two or three other times we stopped for photos of Orient Express’s demolition.  One time, one that I will never forget for as long as I live wasn’t even photographed, Jeff was looking the other way for some reason.  We had been watching one piece, an approach to one of the loops teeter like a drunken sailor back and forth over a matter of thirty to forty minutes.  Seemingly ready to drop, but never quite going the full distance.  Finally, as Jeff was looking away I turned my head and out of the corner of my eye saw it fall to the ground….  I had to pause a moment here in writing just remembering that, and it's amazing how for a ride I never rode, fifteen years after it last operated, that moment still carries such an emotional weight for me.
The entire first drop is missing, and the weather seems to match...

By now it was late November, and though I spent most every trip with Jeff when we went up to spend quality time with the “departing family member” there was at least one time Jeff went without me.  It was definitely near the end, around the annual IAAPA convention time (usually the week before Thanksgiving).  While he was watching the work slowly taking place, he noticed that one of the scrap trucks was full and appeared to be ready to leave.  At this point, he had to make a decision.  He could follow the scrap truck to the scrap yard and attempt to get a piece of Orient Express, or he could do nothing, and not leave his comfort zone, yet never have a piece of a ride that really was like the best of friends to him.  For those that know us, I'm usually the one to rush in where angels fear to tread, Jeff is usually the quieter, reserved one (probably a smarter choice…).  With that being said, I am proud that Jeff went out of his comfort zone and he literally followed that truck ALL OVER Kansas City crawling behind it sometimes at 10 miles an hour, before it finally reached its destination in the Kansas City west bottoms.  He then had to make another leap of faith and get out of his car and walk into the scrap yard and ask for a piece of Express.  He tells of looking onto the massive pile of twisted red steel that was all that was left of Orient Express, which I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I’ve thought of over the years.  The manager of the scrap yard had to make a few calls and make sure it was ok to give out scrap, but once he received the final okay Jeff was literally allowed to go out and pick scrap off the ground. Only it wasn’t that easy.  The tiny piece we have weighs a good 40 to 50 lb...  The pieces of Express as they laid there weighted far more than is possible for a human being to lift.  An employee with a crane saw his dilemma and moved a gigantic piece off the top of the pile, and made it possible for Jeff to grab what we have now.  A piece of the track rail, a portion of the anti-rollback trough from the lift hill, and an entire brake fin, most likely from the Express’s basement and as far as I know these are all that are left of the Orient Express track structure.  
Approach to first loop...


This was the next photo taken of the same portion of track, on the same day... if you notice one piece is missing from the first photo.


On April 4th, 1980, a little over 38 years ago, Orient Express opened as the largest and fastest steel coaster on the planet.  Fifteen years ago, today, that same coaster lay twisted and forgotten.  It was during the demolition of Orient Express while listening to the radio that I heard James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and its famous line “Flying Machines in Pieces on the Ground” which seemed to capture that moment for me. It’s for Orient Express that we remember every other ride, every other good friend, that we always thought we would see one more time…




More Photos of the Removal of Orient Express can be found here:

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Damn the Torpedos... a 2018 Haunt Review


It’s amazing what you discuss and think about on an 18 hour drive home (which is what we just finished doing yesterday, from Kansas City to Orlando) and among those hours I went from, “I’m definitely writing a haunt review” to “I am definitely not writing a haunt review” to everything in between.  Finally, I have decided to write one, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead.  Because the last one I wrote was in 2016, and well it’s not online for … well I won’t go there.

Our view walking in Friday Night, the poles are cleverly disguised Winterfest decorations!

Suffice to say yes Jeff and I drove from our home now in Orlando, to Kansas City specifically to go to Haunt.  Let me say that again… we drove one way, 18 hours, over two days, specifically to go to Worlds of Fun haunt.   We arrived in Kansas City about 7 pm on Friday, Oct 11th, and after dropping our stuff off at Jeff’s mom’s house, we immediately headed to Worlds of Fun.  It had been a slightly drizzly day, and I was hoping it kept the crowds down, which we found to be the case.  We parked in the back of D lot, and had no wait to get into the park, we ended up staying until the park closed, at midnight, and over four hours went through five haunts (not counting the walk-thru scare zones) and rode the train, Steelhawk, and Timber Wolf.  We met up with a friend of ours who also hadn’t been to the park since 2016, and he started off with rave reviews of the new gate, the overall park appearance, and Timber Wolf.

Graveyard near Lore of the Vampire.

Our first stop was Lore of the Vampire, the oldest running haunt at the park, being one of the first of the haunted houses premiering in 2004.  Like always the theme was well executed, but what we found which seemed to be repeated across the park was limited staffing for monsters (Screamsters), and a LOT of acting.  Before I go forward let me add some personal detail, Jeff and I were both Screamsters at the park, myself from 2005 until 2007 at Dominion of Doom and Asylum Island, and Jeff from 2005-2008, as Pigman at Camp Gonna Gitcha, Asylum Island and was one of the first sliders at Outlaw’s Revenge in 2008.  So, please be aware any critical comments do come with a large dose of realization how difficult the job of being a Screamster is.  With that being said… it isn’t scary when a Screamster is just standing there, trying to act.  Acting, by itself, does not scare, and that’s what everyone is paying for.

Acting, however, does have its place, as a distraction.  When I worked in Doom I tag-teamed with an older lady, who distracted those passing through while I would jump out screaming right after they became focused on her.   So sometimes it works, if it’s done RIGHT.  Lore wasn’t alone with this problem, and don’t get me wrong, there were some great Screamsters in there… the graveyard (outside) stands out in particular, but overall, we were all pretty disappointed.



Pretty sure both Steelhawk and Timber Wolf were ridden between Lore and the next few haunts we visited.  Steelhawk like usual had no line (since it has such a massive ride capacity), Timber Wolf had about a 10-15 minute wait. Timber Wolf was running awesome, better than I can even remember, (disclaimer: I did not ride it in its best years around 1995), the brake on the second drop was on, but it seemed the brakes around the new helix were light or not on at all, allowing for some significant airtime. Great experience.



Our next stops were the two haunts near Timber Wolf, Ripper’s Alley and Blood on the Bayou.  Both were standouts.  Ripper’s Alley was originally located on Forum Road and three years ago was moved to Bicentennial Square. I believe three years ago in my review I commented on how much the move to a building really helped the experience.  It had the longest wait of the night, about 30-45 minutes, and I felt it was worth it.  There was a good balance of acting and scare, and I loved the steampunk/London theme that goes along with it.  Blood on the Bayou was next, and it was a complete, utter, walk on.  AWESOME.  I believe, the perfect haunt is a combination of theme, acting, and scare, and for me at least, Blood on the Bayou has it.



Moving on, I noted a lot of the decorations for Haunt that had been added.  I had seen the photos, but I love to see them in person too.  One critique we had had back in 2016 was a definitive reduction in decorations, and I was happy to see it has vastly improved, with the “Wizard of Oz” characters by Cyclone Sams, the various gourd/pumpkin displays around the park, as well as  the ninjas in the Orient. I also absolutely loved the pumpkin displays throughout Europa, VERY well done.

It's....it's...  a Nightmare Before Christmas Tree.  Yep.

  I never thought I would say it… but I do rather miss the pre-haunt daytime entertainment, the witch doctor’s revenge, digger’s used coffin lot, etc. There has also been some commentary about the Christmas decorations that are making their way into the park.  Unlike 2017, I didn’t find them as distracting, and if I wasn’t looking for them I probably wouldn’t have seen many… (ok the Christmas tree in Europa is hard to miss, but I like the theme going there so I won’t give anyone a hard time on that).



We took one look at the bloodshed line and decided to skip it instead and did Khaos.  Khaos appeared to have a short line but was still about a 20-minute wait or so.  I had a pretty good idea going in what the idea was, more illusion and confusion rather than straight out “scare”, I think Jeff still thought it would be a variation on the Asylum Island/Urgent Scare theme.  Personally, I liked it for what the premise was, but still, think Asylum was better overall, Jeff didn’t like it at all, thinking that haunt should be about scaring and less about mental mind tricks.  I am glad they kept “The Yard” and think the placement, more in the middle than at the end was better.  I also noticed in one room that the characters seemed to almost dissolve in mid-air, I am not sure if that was intentional, or just a trick of light and fog, but thought it was pretty interesting.

 
The park was pretty deserted by just after Midnight on Friday Oct 11th, this is looking into Boneyard...

This is still in boneyard... but its another cleverly disguised Winterfest Decoration, in this case, a candy cane.  It was kind of fun going around finding them all, kind of like a treasure hunt.  Fun in a GOOD way.

After finishing Khaos is was about 11:30-11:40, so we decided to head for one more haunt, realizing the park closed at midnight (I thought it used to be 1?), we headed to Chamber of Horrors.  We arrived at 11:45 to find that the line had been chained off, with no employees or volunteers in sight, except for two we saw walking out of Dino’s Alive area just prior to us arriving.  Realizing that something was wrong, (and thinking in hindsight that the volunteers had simply closed up early), we found a Supervisor who agreed that the line should still be open 15 minutes prior to closing.  He let us and about a group of 6-8 guests behind us who also were trying to find the way in, into the haunt and re-opened the line.  That wasn’t the end of confusion either, because halfway through, the music to the haunt shut off and the closing spiel began, followed by what I have called for years the “get the heck out the park” music (“Thriller” by Michael Jackson).  Having both done and acted in haunts for years I can attest that the music or lack thereof can SERIOUSLY distract from the experience, so the second half wasn’t quite too memorable. However, there was one shining light in the face of adverse conditions and that was the Screamsters themselves.  Though their music and effects were pretty much non-non-existent the last half of Chamber of Horrors, the Screamsters kept scaring, and working, and making sure that those passing through were having as good of an experience as possible regardless of the situation.  Having been in more “e-stop” situations at Asylum then I can count or remember, its always a hard situation when your environment changes so drastically, and its hard to stay in character.  Those working Chamber did and did as good a job as they possibly could, and they deserve kudos for that.

I'm not sure if this was either a clever way for the park to still use headless-skeletons, or what, but we both loved these decorations...

With Friday night done, we discussed plans for Saturday.  Originally, we had considered buying Fright Line passes, since they aren’t horribly expensive ($60 for Saturdays, $50 for Fridays), but considering we had done all but three haunts we figured they wouldn’t be entirely necessary.  After all three haunts should be all that hard right?



After spending some time with family Saturday morning we headed out to the park mid-afternoon and arrived around 4 pm Saturday afternoon.  Our first plan was to circle the park, head to Planet Snoopy and get some pictures while we still had light.  Though  I don’t have kids myself I thought Planet Snoopy was well done, though a bit chaotic. There were definitely more activities and the whole was far better laid out than in previous years.  I especially liked the mini candy stops and corn mazes (#WOF).  I had mentioned on Friday night we had ridden the train, but on Saturday we did get a bunch of photos and were able to confirm a few details.  First, ELI is probably getting better care then it has in decades and looks and sounds the part.  The timing on the engine has been modified, which is a time-consuming process requiring alignment of the driving wheels with the steam piston itself, not very noticeable to the average park goer, but one that is very much appreciated from a steam train enthusiast.  Also, we noted all the brass, including the brass on the headlamp, had all been shined, something that well… hasn’t happened a whole lot in the last few decades.

 Tricker Treat Candy station in Planet Snoopy...

Yes those bails of hay DO say #WOF...

Around 5:30 we decided to head towards Scandinavia, and I already noted guests had started lining up for the Overlord’s Awakening show and parade, which at this point wasn’t until over an hour away.  We decided at first to get a spot, but it wasn’t terribly prime (we were already behind about 10-15 people), and instead around 6 decided to instead head for a haunt and wait in line for it to open.  We decided on Bloodshed and arrived there around 6:30,  and found the line snaking already towards Planet Snoopy.  A point of contention I have with the park, was their overall lack of crowd control and it became fairly noticeable at this point, because around 7 pm a manager showed up and decided that the line snaking towards Planet Snoopy wasn’t going to work and instead should have been headed down towards the direction of the Forum instead.  So he took a 100+ person line and attempted to move it, not too successfully either as we ended up losing our space in line by quite a few people.  Following that experience, over the next 30-45 minutes, we noticed quite a bit of line cutting, with no one there to monitor the line itself PERIOD.  Line cutting was something that we witnessed not only on several occasions on the days we visited, but also noted by friends who visited the parks on the following two, far more busier Saturdays.

This was the crowd for the Overlord show about an hour prior... this was about when we decided to stop waiting.

However, please don’t let my criticism distract from the attraction itself though. Bloodshed was at the top of its game, the theming (carnage, carnage and more carnage) was excellent, fog and effects were great, but the Screamsters really made it, every single one was on point, and Bloodshed both on Saturday, and the following Friday was the hit of the visits.



After we got through, probably around 8 or so, we thought about heading towards Cornstalkers and noted the line, which stretched past Boomerang’s entrance at this point, and as neither of us were quite interested in waiting in that kind of line (probably close to 2 hours long) we moved on. Instead, we headed for Europa, and arrived at Moulin Rouge right as the 8 pm show was letting out and got a seat for the 9 pm show instead.  It didn’t take long for Moulin Rouge, a small theater anyway, to reach capacity, and I believe it had a crowd at the back simply standing for the show too as it began.  It had been a few years since I had seen Haunted Homecoming, and I found the show enjoyable, though I have to admit there were a few scenes at the end that have become so repetitive of previous years it's almost downright painful.  With that being said the cast outdid themselves, the talent was excellent, and they really seemed to be giving 110% go their performance.  You can usually tell when a cast is either going through the motions or really into the material, and this one was definitely the later.   If you haven’t seen Haunted Homecoming before its definitely worth the stop. If you have… just be aware the material hasn’t really changed much.



Our next stop was the Skeleton Crew show at 10 pm.  Before I get there another problem I witnessed multiple times within the park was food service, or the lack thereof.  I stopped at Caribou Coffee briefly enough to notice the line snaking outside the door.  There was an employee there directing guests to nearby counter service restaurants for coffee and hot chocolate, but Pizza Pier had just as long of a line.  Once we made it to Scandinavia, I noted at least the line for Norma’s Funnel Cakes was still indoors, and they did have hot chocolate on their menu so that I decided was my best option.  I waited about 10 minutes, which isn’t too bad by itself, but noted there were TWO employees working, one on the cash register and one making funnel cakes.  TWO.  It was a cold Saturday so attendance wasn’t overwhelming and there were already long lines everywhere. To top it off the TWO employees working weren’t even Worlds of Fun employees they wore the shirts matching a food truck company parked on Forum Road.  I am thinking they were drafted into service for an already low staffed park.



After I had my hot chocolate, we hung out just for the few minutes before Skeleton Crew, it was easy to walk up just a few minutes before for a good view, but I imagine on a busy Saturday it might be harder.  Overall I liked the show, Jeff had seen last year’s show and thought this year’s show was much better, and I loved the different stunts, the best part is that the actors made it all look so easy.  Definitely worth the time.


Afterward we walked over by Cornstalkers, it was around 11 and the line was finally back to about the Nile Train Bridge, still long, I was willing to wait but Jeff wasn’t, so we ended up heading back out.  I thought that was it, but it wasn’t, as my mom, the same person who took me to Worlds of Fun the first few times when I was a kid, yet at best, tolerates the place, decided she wanted to take her little sister to the park the following Friday and wanted to know if I wanted to go.  Well OF COURSE!


So fast forward to the next Friday, I had signed up for the Kansas City 10k the following morning so I called myself insurance to not stay until closing.  Still, we ended up arriving slightly before opening at 6, and following the signs I had seen the previous Saturday, I recommended we park in Oceans of Fun’s lot.  First, the lot was open, second there were about a dozen other cars parked there (about three rows of cars by the end of the night), and last, there was no wait, whatsoever.  It was AWESOME.  Unlike the previous Friday, this Friday evening boasted exceptionally nice weather, and I wasn’t expecting the low crowds we had experienced the previous Friday but was hoping for some decent haunts.  I hemmed and hawed about whether to include the review of everything or just the haunts, but decided on covering the entire evening.



The kids wanted to ride Bamboozler so that’s where we went first, that took about 30 minutes or so, next they wanted to do Spinning Dragons.  As anyone familiar with that ride will tell you when the line is almost full its almost an hour wait.  I knew this and gave them the option of doing that, or getting in line for a haunt or seeing Overlord and the parade.  They decided the parade.  We waited about 30-40 minutes for the show, we had a good spot right on the line, just a bit off to the side (near the Carousel), thanks to their great spotting.  Unfortunately, we almost got pushed out of the spot by families and groups coming in at the last minute.  I had to stand my ground with a lady who wanted her kids to stand in front of us when she showed up a few minutes before the show started.  Sadly, that’s not really Worlds of Fun’s fault, more people in general, as this kind of thing happens even at Disney World, which is why I really don’t like parades or fireworks in general.  Still, we had one of the best views of the show and parade I’ve ever had.  The Overlord show was the Overlord show.  If you haven’t seen it, its worth it, otherwise it's about the same.  The parade was awesome, and the characters were really getting into their roles which was entertaining, to say the least.



After the parade everyone literally massed towards the Scandi/Orient bridge, everyone in my group wanted to go that way too. Having previously discussed our next plan was to go to Bloodshed, and I knew that going that way would take forever to get through the crowd while going through Scandinavia would be a ghost town.  After the crowd passed, we headed just that way, and made it to Bloodshed right around 7:30, it was almost exactly a 15-minute wait (I actually looked at my phone), and it was a great experience!  Once you have been through haunts as many times as we have, and worked in them you kind of become a little... well, you know what to expect.  I will admit to being startled a few times, (it's really not that hard with me!), but when going with kids who don’t have as much experience, its awesome, like experiencing something brand new.  Lots of good startles and scares, and once again the gore is just over the top at Bloodshed too.  After that they wanted to ride Mamba, so we headed there next.  One switchback was full so I wasn’t expecting a long wait, and I believe it was about 30 minutes, not bad.  Our next stop was another haunt, and I recommended Cornstalkers, since it was right there, and ok I hadn’t done that one yet!  We got in line, which was right under the Nile Bridge, and waited, and waited, and waited, about 20 minutes, with no movement.  With kids… you know how that goes.  They wanted to go somewhere else.  So I recommended Blood on the Bayou, which I also knew to be good.  We headed there next, stopping at Mustang Runner to ride that (about a 20-minute wait).  We headed to Bayou next, which was about a 30-minute wait, again not too bad, and which was quite fun again going through with relative newbies.  It was quite a good night up to this point, but you know something had to happen… The kids wanted ice cream (yeah… 45 degrees… ah to be 12 again ), so we went there first, and then I decided I wanted a funnel cake… We were over by Patriot so I headed to Grandma’s.  The line should have been the dead giveaway, the memory from the previous Saturday with two employees at Norma’s should have made me smarter and should have enabled me to make informed decisions… I got in line anyway.  Twenty minutes later I had paid for a funnel cake, $11.  I got into the second line to pick up the funnel cake.  Let me tell you there was a lot of grumbling from a lot of full-grown adults, with a lot of not so PG comments thrown in.  Not from me mind you.  About 20 minutes of waiting I did something most would consider nuts.  I put the receipt in my pocket and walked away.



After the funnel cake debacle we headed over to Patriot, it was a little after 10 at this point and the kids wanted to ride Patriot if the line wasn’t too long, which it was, probably about half the lower queue was full which means 45+ minute line.  We headed back towards Steelhawk and of course crossed through Carnevil, and while taking a picture of the Jack in the Box I’ll admit I got startled, that was a good one!  Next, Steelhawk, I was sure that that would be a short line, and I had seen it running earlier.  Of course… it was down for high winds.   At this point, we decided to throw in the towel and head out.  Turns out parking in Oceans was both easy to get in and easy to get out, though probably something that will catch on as more people hear about it, it’s still no matter what a much smaller parking lot than Worlds.  Definitely park there unless you have some dying reason to go in through the main gate.



Before I finish out one last topic I wanted to discuss.  A few years ago in my haunt review, I singled out Bone Yard for being well, for not being all that good.  I believe my comment was there was no one there when we walked through.  Which admittedly is not a good experience to have.  So with that being said.  I was impressed with the Screamsters and scare zones this year, we went through all of them at least a few times each, I think I got startled once or twice, (maybe more than that), But never was at a loss to see people getting scared (including those WITH me, that’s always the best part), and since I am a big proponent of giving kudos when deserved, a kudos to all those that have the much harder job of scaring a much larger group of people in a much less organized atmosphere then one would find in a house/maze itself.

This is Timber Wolf's new helix with pretty lights.

 To finish up, overall, there are definitely areas for the park to improve, but that is always the case everywhere, I think some of the biggest areas are staffing, (especially food service, but other areas too), as well as ride capacity.  I have never seen so many coaster trains stacked in all my life at Worlds of Fun. (stacking refers to when the returning train sits in the trims behind the station waiting for the second train to be dispatched)  A friend of mine the other night timed them and messaging me saying Timber Wolf was averaging 4.5 minutes per cycle, which is approximately an hourly capacity of 600 (assuming two trains), on a ride that's probably capable of around double that...    I think the staffing issues are also somewhat prevalent in the haunts, though I think the Screamsters there give 110% in most cases.  After speaking with numerous friends on this issue we all seem to agree that Haunt has suffered from a needless corporate influence,  the homegrown and spontaneous atmosphere that once permitted haunt and allowed it to grown from a tiny local event to a midwestern spectacle is what peopled loved and what created the crowds we see today, not slick marketing, or “scare school”.  Haunt, at least for those that visit multiple times a year, every year has been weakened from the originality that made the original Halloweekends, not necessarily perfect, but perfect because of its imperfections.

I could leave it there but there is one last thing I need to say.  As a former Screamster myself I want to give kudos and thank every single Screamster that made our experience fun.  In the end, that’s what its about right?  A World of Fun?  As I mentioned its hard and tedious work, and sometimes rather thankless getting off at 3 am in the morning, scrubbing paint off your face, and still having it stuck in places you couldn’t reach, until Monday morning when people at your real job look at you weird because your ears are still black.  Let me tell you it may seem thankless but it’s not, you and every Screamster that came before you built the event, not marketing, not ticket sales, not some slick online commercial, YOU.  People came in 2004, in 2006 in 2012, in 2017 and because of YOU had a great time, an amazing time, they then told their friends, who told their friends, who put the cars in the parking lot, and created the massive attendance numbers the park is experiencing today.  Remember that, remember the amazing experience you created but not only for the guests but for yourself too.