Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Opening Day Review 2011

In the last 15 years I have written now 10 opening day reviews, and just once I would love to write a review proclaiming the beginning of a perfect season. Unfortunately this one isn’t going to be it. With that being said, it wasn’t the worst that I’ve seen, far from it. We also, along with most other park fans had the unique position of knowing almost exactly what we were getting into so to speak.

So lets take a look at the park, all the good, bad and ugly parts of it. Jeff and I ended up hitting the park about Noon, it had warmed up for the previous nights near freezing temps and promised a nice, slightly cool day. C lot was pretty much full and they were already parking D lot so it looked to be a pretty busy opening day, compared to previous years. Our first experiences with the park that day probably go down as some of the best, and that has to do with two of the parks most recent “additions”. I say that loosely as neither has opened, but already have made positive impacts to the park.

You know you never realize truthfully how big an impact an attraction makes until its gone. Several removals have made decidedly negative impacts. I would have to say though that the removal of the blue and white tent previously known as Festhaus I, has had a decidedly good impact. I never realized how tacky it was until it was gone. With the new carousel pavilion, and Festhaus II still under construction, guests approaching the park can now actually see into the park, and not see an awful circus tent. Really, Jeff said it best when he mentioned that the back gate, now feels more like a real main gate. Much more welcoming. Plus the lack of overgrown bushes, trees and fields of weeds on the walk in, replaced with a nice wooden structure (Festhaus II), new trees, rose bushes and new shrubs, is also a decidedly better view. They always say first impressions are the most important... well if that's the case then WOF has increased its perception by a factor of 10.

Not the greatest shot, but it gives readers the general idea...

In comparison...

Carousel pavilion looking from the Scandi/Orient Bridge.

The new carousel pavilion also looks to be taken nice shape, its unlike an addition 10 years previously, does not appear thrown together, cheap, or thoughtless. Exactly the opposite. Its a steel structure, with a copper roof, and beautifully wood trimmed ceiling. Though it won’t greet guests as they enter the park proper, it will still offer a magnificent first impression as it will be easily viewable from the walkway into the park.

Yes the carousel is delayed. Unlike Planet Snoopy (which we will get to soon) this doesn’t terribly bother me. Let me share something with you my readers. Carousel Works, the company doing the restoration for the Grand Carousel, has been restoring the horses since last April, 2010. Not exactly what you would consider poor planning on the part of Cedar Fair or Worlds of Fun. Truthfully the new carousel will be a true work of art, and its not something that really should be rushed if you catch my drift. I have no doubt, whatsoever that it will be worth the wait. I have also received permission from Brandon at the park to release a few photos of the horses under restoration. You can see these HERE. Last but not least, of the fabulous news is to do with the band organ. It has been unknown up to now what the fate of the band organ was to be. Now we know that it is in the process of also being completely restored. Carousel fans should be elated, and I know I am, it was the best news I received all day.

The band organ as it appeared when it arrived at Worlds of Fun back in the Fall. It is currently not at the park right now being restored.

A little more information I was able to find... as a few know and many don't, band organs are EXCEEDINGLY rare. Especially one's that still operate. The few that can fix them and/or maintain them are a dying breed. the 1926 Illion's band organ from what I am aware of is a Stinson Band Organ, (visit their official site HERE). There is one basic premise to how band organs work, this is especially important to consider when realizing how amazing these machines are. They DO NOT work on electricity. Instead compressed air is the only "power" these machines use to provide amazing music.

So after admiring from afar we entered the park, and encountered the first major snafu of the day. Gate central didn’t like our season passes, and appeared to not like a LOT of season passes. Not a major thing, not really terribly unusual, but still rather funny considering the gate central system was the new, updated, and “better” ticket processing system added only two short years ago. On our 2nd visit on Sunday, it appears the issue has been resolved, as neither of us had issues with our season passes.

I am sure a lot of you who have read my trip reports previously have mouths gaping open. I don’t usually use fabulous and Worlds of Fun in the same sentence. So my next few comments should ring with a degree of familiarity. What is the deal with the music? First thing I noticed when I entered the park was not so much the lack of it, but the incongruity of it. Some areas had the normal themed music (western Americana, Orient and Europa), some decidedly DIDN’T (Americana). Now I know and understand the argument for playing modern music, instead of say John Phillip Sousa in Americana. Teens like it better. Here is my argument. 1)It makes the park sound like a Six Flags park. 2)The guests that LIKE the pop, modern music are teenagers, most of which will not make the decision on whether to return to the park on what type of music is playing (and are more likely to consider the 45 minute line for Timber Wolf), and those that DO visit the park very often, are usually loyal park patrons, who DO CARE what music is playing. (for those still reading yes I am speaking about more then Jeff and myself) 3)Something about walking from the Goo Goo dolls, to “Back in the Saddle Again” within 2 seconds, doesn’t exactly speak continuity. So what is a good compromise? Whats wrong with playing appropriately themed music on the midways and maybe popular music in the queue lines?

Ok Ok I will stop kicking that dead horse.


So moving on. After quickly transversing the Orient section where we noticed the only change was a new Zoltar game, we entered Americana. Timber Wolf was running only one train... something that does bother me, but I have come to accept as a common occurrence on opening day. It appeared to be running slightly better then last year thanks to the continuing work on its track structure. Thank you Worlds of Fun. Thunderhawk, as no surprise was down, and wasn’t even fully assembled, again no surprise. Thank you Huss rides. We checked out the new merchandise kiosk by Cyclone Sam’s, and actually almost completely missed it. It was themed so well, it really almost blends right into Cyclone Sam’s “barn”. Looks good, and I like the small, but reasonable selection of leather wrist bands and key chains, are personalizable. I also liked that it was affordable too, $8.95.

Say good-bye to that old stage and rusty tressle, they are already gone. A new stage will be built in its place.

So Planet Snoopy. My first impression was “wow that is so bright!”. Especially after the muted tones of Camp Snoopy. The bright yellows, and reds really stand out, and after the shocking first glance, I really kind of like the new colors. Jeff mind you is still mourning the lose of a “woodsy” themed area. :) What I REALLY like though is the attention to detail. Like the carousel pavilion of Festhaus II this is NOT being cheaply done. The whole area is covered (or will be covered) with paving stones, instead of just simply concrete. The pavers are even being laid correctly, to last, with concrete UNDER them. Almost everything is either replaced, or brand new. It’s nice to see every once in awhile an area that is entirely brand new and shiny. New lights, new pathways, new rides, old rides have all been refurbished. Oh and that shop that used to scream BEAR COUNTRY, has been completely refurbished, and now boasts an incred-o-dome yellow exterior. It really reminds me more of the Snoopy comics and movies then the old Camp Snoopy did.

It might be just me, but I am so happy that this building received some significant refurbishment. It always screamed "Bearenstein Bear Country" to me. I think the new updates are adorable.

Leaving Planet Snoopy, the entrance and exit signs are slightly different... nice touch.

Work was even being accomplished on opening day, Astronaut Snoopy showed up about half way through the day.

More work was progressing on the Flying Ace Balloon Race.

That’s the good news. Unfortunately the bad news shined above everything else, and that is that Planet Snoopy it is not even HALF done. For opening day, the Red Baron (Snoopy vs. the Red Baron now), Wacky Worm, Pony Promenade, Woodstock’s Express, and Scrambler were the only rides open. No new rides opened on opening day. Are people upset? yes, does it bother me? yes. Along with the carousel, this means that not one single new attraction was open on opening day. Worlds of Fun could have helped themselves in this department with better planning and more control over the entire issue. However for those willing to grill WOF over the coals... don’t. The park was open and honest with the future guests about what would be open and what wouldn’t be. They advertised that fact in almost every way possible. Also like it or not other factors were at work, mainly snow and bad weather. You CANT be constructing new rides when there is over a foot of snow on the ground. It is what it is.

I also wanted to comment on the new Family Center. Seriously I never thought Launchpad gifts would make such a successful transition, but it did. I would have never recognized it from the inside for what it once was. Besides offering a respite for parents and small children, it also offers an auxiliary Guests Relations desk. the desk found directly inside the doors, offers all the same abilities as the main guest relations at the gate, without all the walking. Both Jeff and I REALLY like this addition.

The new Family Care center, previously known as Launchpad Gifts. You can also see the completed paving stones laid around the new entrance.

Inside the Family Care center is the kid's play area, there are also separate rooms for nursing, a small kitchenette, diaper changing station, bathrooms, and Axillary Guest Relations.

With those positives, I am going to turn and discuss some of the not so pleasant experiences on Saturday. Europa. Poor Europa. I really have to feel bad for this section of the park, it seems like every time I mention something bad, things only get worse. Somebody please give this section of the park some serious love. Really. First of course is Bounce a Roo’s, a ride official gone for the 2011 season, but still partially there. It looks so lonely. Second Bonici Brothers. I remember a few years ago when the name changed, they gave it a min-face lift. Obviously it didn’t help that much, as today we realized that half of the patio covering area was torn down. You don’t really notice it either (that’s NOT a positive)... I wonder what the issue was? If it was beyond repair, why wouldn’t you simply rebuild it? It wasn’t as if it was a complicated structure.

Poor Bounce-A-Roo's

On that same tangent, maybe it was the fact that for once in six years we didn’t have to run off and get to work on the train, patriot, whatever but I noticed several structures that were in noticeable need to repair. For example posts in the depot are literally rotting away at the base, train on the Le Carrousel structure is falling off, noticeably. These are relatively minor, and unlike Bonici Brothers are simple fixes.

Nice benches, not in the right place though...

Last, oh gosh. Moulin Rouge theater patio, is now home (hopefully TEMPORARILY) to two displaced Camp Snoopy benches, canopies and all. It just screams Tacky. I completely understand the desire to re-use, they are in decent shape (could use a coat of paint), and I wouldn't want to throw them out either. How about this? Give them a coat of paint and move them to Mamba plaza. Provides seating with some much needed shade. Move the benches already at Mamba plaza to Moulin Rouge plaza. Benches get re-used in a thematically, and honestly, simply a much more aesthetically pleasing way. Also, can we please remove the halloween haunt green light gels from the lamps? It isn’t October anymore.

An asymmetrical Bonici Bros' Notice the left side doesn't match the right as it used to.

Here is a little bit of a better look...

The Le Carousel Structure needs some TLC.

So is there ANYTHING good going on in Europa? Yes, one thing. Deja Vu, received a little bit of an internal update. Nothing major, but still always nice to see atleast some attention being paid to poor, forgotten Europa.

So onto Africa. Boomerang was down all day. Things could have been worse, after all of all of WOF’s coasters, Boomerang is certainly NOT the most popular. If one coaster was GOING to be down, then Boomerang was probably the best option. Sometimes there are just things that are out of the park’s control. However, remembering quite clearly SEVERAL opening days where more rides were down then were up, I am certainly not going to rack the park over the coals.

So we talked about the previously mentioned one train on Timber Wolf. Yes it stinks, but in comparison to Prowler running 1 train... wow. Its your premier roller coaster, one of the most popular coasters, and you only have 1 train? To make it worse the train wasn’t even put together. I heard something about a train refurb... what about the five months the park was closed? Other things I give the benefit of the doubt, this is just plain poor planning.

One last thing, and its another one of my favorite subjects... landscaping. Some both good and not so good things. First, I have noticed a lot more BUSHES in the park, in places that used to be home to annuals. 1)if you are going to have bushes please pull the weeds around them, *cough* Prowler *cough* 2)we all know replacing annuals with bushes is taking the cheap and easy route... On the flip side, I did notice a LOT of work on trimming, in a good way. Trimming back shrubs, old trees, etc. It makes the park look not so … disorganized? I also noticed a few new landscaping brick replacements. Here is an amazing thought... it used to be those landscape brick replacements were the HIGHLIGHT of opening day. Now its just barely a mention. Last thing, and this is one point that is not directed at the park or its employees but at GUESTS. Yes you folks reading this pay attention. If you want the park to respect you as a visitor, then also respect the park, don’t let your kids walk through the flower beds, or even worse, PULL the newly planted annuals out of the beds and throw them on the ground. We saw this in EVERY SINGLE flower bed, on OPENING DAY! Seriously were has consideration gone? The park can’t say it, but I can. End rant, I now will vacate my soap box.

So overall... not one of the best opening days ever. Still, certainly not the worst either. There have been seasons were it seemed like half the park was nonoperational, or seemed like they had closed the park in October, and re-opened in April with little to no changes. So there have definitely been improvements over the years. I will have to make one comment, atleast to me it seemed much busier then opening days in the past. That might have had an impact on the overall operational capacity of the park. From first appearances though if the park can quickly get everything it order, it should be a good season. As always hoping for the best.


Todd said...

I can certainly agree with you on the park's music. Upbeat music certainly has its places and a slow moving queue line is one of them.

Another compromise I wouldn't mind would be switching the music to top 40 after the sun goes down. More young people are in the park then and visual theming is arguably less immersive as well.

Whatever is being played, I just wish the park would turn the volume down in some places. I would like to be able to have a conversation with the person standing next me.

Mike said...

My family did enjoy the music around Planet Snoopy Easter Sunday. updated covers of classic songs were enjoyable, plus they threw in a few 'Christian' songs (Michael W. Smith's 'Friends' was one)

Volume was definitely high in places, but overall very nice.

Last year we had a problem with the music being played by Mix 93 on their DJ nights. I felt some of the songs contained inappropriate lyrics. I'd like it to stay a 'family park' after sundown too.

Jennifer said...

I have absolutely no problem with the music in Camp/Planet Snoopy, it fits the "theme" there, I actually always loved that they played "The Bloody Red Baron of Germany". I just don't care for the pop music in the Americana Front street area, or Scandinavia. I miss Roll Out the Barrel :)

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

I made my first trip today. A few things that stood out to me.
-When riding the Mamba there seemed to be at least four types of cars in the back of the OoF parking lot for new rides. Soon after I got a view of Planet Snoopy and knew why. It seems at least 4-6 weeks from being finished. Not good for the families who only take one trip a year.
-I will cut the park some slack when things are dirty or in disrepair late in the season. The Fury of the Nile is in desperate need of some love. The "tunnel" smells horrible and is covered in spiderwebs.
-I found the TimberWolf far less smooth than at the beginning of last season. Still better than the the end of last season, but still not worth the ride.
-Is it possible to bring back a pinball machine in the arcade. I got a ball stuck in one four seasons ago. A week later it was gone. I promise to be nice to the new one.

Still excited to get my first visit of the season in. Looking forward to heading back soon.