Sunday, April 12, 2015

Opening Day Review 2015

"It’s opening day again, what’s going to disappoint me this year" That was my honest thought going into yesterday afternoon. I already knew two rides for sure were not going to be in operation that day, Scrambler and Timber Wolf, and I knew that was NEVER a good start.  I have to say though, I was pleasantly surprised and I am optimistic.  In writing opening day reviews, and attending opening days there have been years where you could throw a rock down the midway and not hit anyone.  Opening day's have also marked the beginning of the Worlds of Fun Music Festival and the choir group members have often been the only guests in the park!  That was certainly NOT true yesterday.  While I would never call yesterday a crowd, it was certainly significantly busy, and a good showing for opening day.  I also always pay attention to the guests and their overall demeanor and generally everyone seemed happy and having a good time, which is also a good sign.

Some new flags heading up from the back lots where we parked, C & D were both completely full.  Also a ton of new trees waiting to be planted. 

So, let’s get to the review. We arrived around 2:30-3:00 pm since both Jeff and I had ran the Rock the Parkway half marathon earlier that morning.   The first thing I noticed was all the cars in the parking lot and the scrambler cars there too (sad face).  There was quite a substantial line at one of the ticket booths, but we soon found out it was for season pass processing, and all the other ticket booths appeared to be open as well with short lines.  I always hate to see long lines when they are avoidable so I was happy about this.   As we entered the park I noticed the sign that displays the rides down for the day, and noticed in addition to Scrambler and Timber Wolf, Bamboozler and Boomerang were showing down as well.  "Great, more rides down" you know me, always the eternal optimist.  As we entered the park though I noticed how busy it was, it felt like a normal summer day, certainly not opening day, my parking pass worked, my season pass worked, cash registered were working, so far so good. The grass is green; the sky is blue, happy thoughts. I did like that the first thing I heard when I walked into the park was the carousel band organ and not the modern pop music I have been hearing in Scandinavia recently. 

The season pass processing line.  Please process your pass before opening day! 

SO where to go, Orient or Scandinavia?  I decided to check out Scandinavia first; specifically Viking Voyager since I knew it had received some work over the off-season and wanted to see if the updates had made any noticable difference.  For those that missed my off season review (how dare you?!) know that the Voyager splash down moat and lake had been either patched or replaced, as well as the filtration system for Voyager had been fixed.  I did not realize that the filtration system hadn’t been working, but after Jeff piped up and stated he was thinking it hadn’t worked since the 1980’s I was surprised.  I was even more surprised after seeing the effects.  WOW.  Even if you don’t ride Voyager go take a look, it looks pretty!  No flooding water out of the lake, no broken concrete, and the water is incredibly clear.  Even with the blue dye you can see the bottom of the lake and the trough. I mean who knew?!

WOF added three isolation valves to the park plumbing, and one was added here in Scandinavia.  Here we have the whole area cleaned up and pretty again.  Voyager also looking nice, clean pretty blue water. 

Worlds of Fun also added some theming to the ride, and I have to say and I never thought I would ever say this… it's almost overkill.  Almost.  I really like the new signage. (either that or I am not used to NEW theming).  If this is starting a trend towards theming I am ALL FOR IT.  

One of the many themed signs from Voyager 

Probably the highlight of Voyager though has nothing to do with the ride, or signage but instead the most important part of any park, it’s employees.  There are those that complain about slow loading, stacked trains (the 2nd train on a coaster having to park behind the 1st still in the station), etc. on opening days.  Though I am often critical of these things later in the season, and I firmly believe capacity is an important component of a positive guest experience, I also believe in giving employees the benefit of the doubt on opening day.  This is opening day, and though employees receive a great deal of training, NOTHING can train someone for a multitude of guests streaming in, except the real thing.  So instead of being critical, I will give a compliment.  At one point while watching Voyager operate, it stopped dispatching boats, and boats began to back up behind the unload position.  I believe this was as they were trying to open up the second load/unload side of the trough. The unload employee instead of following standard procedure, sent a loaded boat up to the load position to unload the guests on board.  He thought outside the box, and relieved the line of backed up boats, which could have possibly caused a larger problem.  Great job, great critical thinking displayed, especially on opening day.

The new Coke refresh station, and new signage in Scandinavia.

We made our way towards lower Scandinavia, the new Coke Refresh station was not open, but looked like it was being finished up, and looked nice.  Also for those that remember the Halloween Haunt signage, one of which is in near Finnish Fling, has been changed out for the regular season to general park information signage.  There are four located throughout the park that I noticed, which provide information on current location, which major attractions are in which section of the park as well as the park's upcoming events schedule.  Funny enough the label for the signage is “Around the World in One Day”, which I am guessing the park has picked up as a slogan for this 43rd season, and is appropriate considering the park is themed after “Around the World in 80 Days”.   My favorite part, for me at least, is that the sign is appropriately themed to it’s world location.

Finnish fling with some minor repair work, and new paint job on the Scrambler cars. 

I also noticed Chicken Shack was open, and found most counter service locations, except for Paisano’s in Europa open for guests, which is a good sign, especially due how busy the park was that day.

The motor is in for Scrambler in Scandinavia, and the Octopus/Scrambler station with the Octopus sign still up.

Across from Chicken Patio was the old station for Octopus, which will once again become the new/old home for the Scrambler, as Scrambler started out in that location when the park opened in 1973.   As a huge fan of Scrambler (it's one of the first rides I rode at Worlds of Fun as a child and its one of the few that I rode then that is still there), I am thrilled it is moving back to its rightful home in Scandinavia.  I really do like the new colors they are painting the station, as they are more the warmer, earth tones that the park was originally painted in.  The only comment I could make was I do wish they had removed the Octopus sign, as it is more of a reminder that that ride is not there.  I know of a good home for it… just saying.

Moving into Africa, I noticed the large signage on Big Game Hunt from Snoopy’s Hot Summer Lights, in other parts of the park it appears that the lights and signage is being removed.  Hot Summer Lights was wonderful when it debuted, but I think it has run its course, and really should be removed.

New concrete pad at Congo Clearing/Gorilla Grill, as well as new tables.

We headed over to Prowler, and found it had a significant line, it was also running two trains which was a good sign.  Gorilla Grill was also open, and the new patio and tables looked nice after being completely replaced during the off-season.

Moroccan Merchant appears to have a new sign, and new themed signage. 

As we had noted on entering the park Boomerang was down for the day.  We had been told during the off-season tour that it was receiving a new control system, which it had needed for a few years, I am taking an educated guess but I a betting this was part of the reason it was down.    

Map case with the new map concept, this one was in Scandinavia.

Africa, near Moroccan Merchant, is host to a second of the new park directional signs, and since we are talking about signs, I thought I would bring up the map cases.  The map cases are all, (except the one by Nile) original to the park, and have always been home to a larger, park map.  This year, while I love the creativity that went into designing the map case map, I, and several others I spoke with dislike the fact that the map is only of the section of the park the map case is located in.  What happens if someone is in Africa and wants to know how to get to Patriot? 

New concrete block wall by nile, this used to be railroad ties.  On the right is Nile showing one of the drive drums. 

So moving onto Nile, it appeared to have a few updates that may not be entirely noticeable but important.  Number one, the drive drums were both working and working the RIGHT way.  About half way through last year one stopped working and never worked the rest of the season.  Drive drums are located at the base of the boatlift, and are used to prevent wedging of boats.  In order to work properly drive drums have to spin separate directions, one pushing a boat in, one pushing a boat out.  For years, they have both been spinning inwards, so for the first time in awhile they are spinning the correct direction.  So, a good sign.  Thank you maintenance! Nile also appears to have a sound track for the tunnel too, which is a nice addition.  Nile still needs work though, only three of the original eight geysers were working (four in each lake), would love to see more!

Drink stand by Mamba with new thatching.

Moving on, Mamba was also running two trains, and also had quite a bit of a line.  We loved seeing the drink stand up in mamba plaza with new thatching added to the roof.  This would be a great way to fix the Boomerang station too.

Next since we were up by Mamba we decided to head down Forum Road/Heart of America Blvd towards Americana, and headed towards Planet Snoopy.  We wanted to stop and take a look at the push motor that Cosmic Coaster had installed at the end of last season.  For those that don’t know since it opened in 1993 operators have had to physically push the train out of the station.  Now with the push motor, operators no longer have to strain their back, guests may not notice, but I can guarantee ride operators will! 

"As Scheduled?"

We next headed over to Timber Wolf.  First I know there is a lot of discussion both online at and the park about Timber Wolf.  I saw some of it first hand in the park. I am not in the slightest bit upset that Timber Wolf was closed on opening day.  I can’t say why, but from what I have heard, it’s for good reason.  What I am disappointed in is how it was handled by the park.  I wish they would have advised their patrons on the fact ahead of time.  Sincerely, I am of two minds on that, and I am sure they were too.  If they say something, they attract bad PR, if they don't then their fans are upset.  I completely get that, still I stand behind what I have said.

Thunder hawk no longer the world's largest lawn ornament.  On the right are some "fake" skeeball machines, the look like they would be, but are not.

I have to say what surprised me the most though was not far from Timber Wolf.  It was the ride I have nicknamed, the world’s largest lawn ornament in previous years.  Did not apply to today, because Thunderhawk was open!  HAPPY DANCE!  I honestly can’t remember an opening day Thunderhawk has been open, so this is a good sign.  We next decided to check out the old arcade, Uncle Sam’s Skeeball Hall/Snoopy’s Arcade.  As most know this arcade has changed very little in the last almost forty years.  This year though, it finally has no Skeeball games.  Not a single one.  Very sad for me as I love skeeball, so much I HAVE a skeeball machine in my garage.  Last year we were told only three of the about a dozen machines worked, now they have all been removed.  A moment of silence…

New barrels to replace the one's that have been falling apart.  New asphalt in Americana.

On a more positive note, more asphalt has been replaced in the park.  From the Europa/American bridge trestle, up to Game Street USA and back towards Viddle Griddle all has been completely replaced.  It looks nice, and this section really needed it.  Theming wise there were also a few old barrels that have been completely replaced as well.  Small detail, but nice to see.

A picture is worth a thousand words, new landscaping on Depot Hill (used to be large evergreen bushes).  On the right the "new" Worlds of Fun balloon/impact logo. 

Moving into the old main entrance square, its of worth to mention the new in-park Guest relations now located in the Brims and Bonnets/Charlie's Caps store location.  It is also sporting a new version of the park logo.  "Worlds of Fun" in the new Impact font (which I still dislike) with the old-style balloon.  Ugh, if I have to deal with the Impact font I guess the balloon makes it better… a little.  I DO like the new Guest Relations, they can do anything Guest Relations at the park gate can do, and it’s a convenient centralized location. I have been told that later in the season Guest Relations will offer cell phone charging services as well.

 This is a great point to discuss the new “Park Ambassador” position that Worlds of Fun has created this season.  Park Ambassadors man this new Guest Relations location but they also are found wandering the park, they can answer questions, celebrate a birthday or anniversary with a special pin, and in general help guests.  Great job.

Missing a few trees in Europa.

At this point we decided to head back to Europa.  Europa this year has received a lot of updates, mostly good, one sad one.  First the bad news.  All the middle island trees near Autobahn are gone.  I am sure the reasoning was to open up the midway a bit, in my drug-tripping, completely irrational, moments I can dream that this is because they are planning on adding a new ride to Europa (something that hasn’t happened since 1979!).  To tell the total truth a lot of these trees were damaged in a storm two years ago, and probably also by having hundreds of lights stapled to them didn’t help either.  Jeff did remind me though and it’s a good point to all of my tree-loving readers that Worlds of Fun didn’t open with a forest of almost fifty year old trees, and that some removal to thin out the existing trees is to be expected.  Okay, fine.

A good look at the Autobahn building, the colors are growing on me.   

Moving onto the good news.  Europa’s own Autobahn, neglected and unloved, has finally received some love.  It looks fabulous.  New paint, new LED lights (they probably didn’t think I would notice?), new shingles, and 12 WHOLE OPERATING cars!   I almost had a coronary.  Ok now in my dreams I would wish they would open up the rest of the floor that has been now closed in, but I guess I can be happy anyway.

Deja Vu with a new paint job and signage.

Of course the other update to Europa was the also long neglected Déjà vu.  Déjà vu’ first received a new paint job, and like the “new” scrambler station it is also warm, and earth tone retro. The inside of the shop of course is what everyone wants me to talk about.  It’s retro too, as in Zambezi Zinger, Orient Express, “old” balloon logo retro.  There are some I am sure that are thinking… wasn’t this the company that took all these rides out? Why are they now trying to make money on their “mistakes”.  To them I say, Worlds of Fun isn’t just one person making decisions.  Déjà vu is one or two determined retail folks, standing up and saying “this is our history, and we need to care about it”.  Good for you, and I applaud that there is a small contingency at the park, actually employed there, that really does care to remember. YEAH I am not alone in my craziness. 

Zambezi Zinger shirt.

Still… and you have to know this was coming, I really wish this hadn’t been a surprise.  For example, the balloon logo isn’t really retro, for me at least.  There was the balloon logo with the “Worlds of Fun” across the front of the balloon that was used from 1973 until 1997.  then there was the Cedar Fair balloon logo, were the “Worlds” was stacked on top of “of Fun” that was used from 1997, until 2001. (when Snoopy came home, and they added the dog dish).  Me personally I see that logo and I think… Zambezi Zinger, dolphin show, main gate, all gone that year.  That’s when I started my first website that would become, for all those reasons and more, in 1997.  I also do like a few of the Zinger/Express shirts, but overall they look retro, in that they are meant to look like a new take on the old logo, instead of simply being the old logo.  I would have preferred a shirt that looked like a shirt that I could have bought in the 1980’s.  Still, overall I admire the tenacity, and give kudos to the concept, and will admit to wanting to buy at least a few things… when I have money to do so.  Ugh the cost of gold passes…

Wow, two paragraphs on a SHOP, but one last thing before I go on. Déjà vu is home to a nice model of the Zambezi Zinger, produced by a friend of mine, Randal Strong-Wallace.  Its great, but I have my concerns as far as how long it will stay in pristine shape.  People were already leaning on the wobbly plexi-glass, and trying to touch the thing, and this was opening day.

Randal is in the process of opening a museum in Independence for his model roller coasters, check out his website for more information or to donate:

Not mentioned a bit, but something I at least want to tackle is Moulin Rouge.  No Moulin Rouge show again.  Until 2013, there was a Moulin Rouge show that opened on opening day.  Last year I gave the park a pass with the renovation, this year… unless they are secretly renovating the inside of Moulin Rouge, which if they are I promise to eat crow happily, I am not amused.  Not at all.  What would have happened if opening day instead of being in the 70’s would have been in the 40’s? Yes, fewer people, but I can guarantee there would have been someone complaining about no shows… INSIDE. 

That’s all I will say about that.

Bamboozler in pieces.

So our last section is the Orient.  Not a whole lot going on there.  Bamboozler was sitting unassembled (mostly) in pieces, not super thrilled about that, but if I think about it, who really comes to Worlds of Fun to ride Bamboozler?  I am sure it has its fans, but its not a huge loss.  The bathrooms in the orient appear to be boasting a new coat of green paint, and they look nice.  Rickshaw Richards also has a new sign I noticed, but again not a whole lot going on there.  Remarking on the map case again, it was kind of funny with the Orient considering just how small a section it is, how it appeared all by itself on the map.  Really think this should be the entire park again.

Rickshaw Richard's new sign.

As we headed out about 8:30 that evening I noticed one other small detail.  The yogurt shop in Scandinavia, its not the lemonade store anymore, it’s the “Yodeling Yogurt Factory”, and the graphics are rather reminiscent of the old Worlds of Fun Scandinavian motif.  It’s also rather adorable, in a small world kind of way (in a good Small World kind of way, not a creepy, freakish, Brent Barr Small World kind of way)

 New yogurt sign.

So there you have it, six pages, but you have to give it to me there was a lot to talk about.  From the off-season trip I really didn’t think that this day would have gone so well, call me pessimistic.  Yes, there were a few rides down, that’s never a good thing, but its amazing how easy it is to overlook things like that when there are not a million other negatives to remind us, and other guests of them too.    Basically if guests are having a good time they are going to overlook a lot more negatives than if they are having a bad time.  Overall, a good start to Worlds of Fun’s 43rd season.  See you at the park!

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