The idea of creating magical moments in the theme park industry seems like it’s a concept reserved for a certain mega corporation which houses parks in Florida and California. These wonderful experiences that might be difficult to come by at many corporate spots are the reason why theme park enthusiasts love to spend time at parks. These experiences, however, come in droves at Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, and specifically at their HoliWood Nights event, held this year on June 2nd and 3rd. The unique combination of amazing and varied rides, combined with the epitome of what is perfect customer service, makes for the ideal coaster enthusiast event and family friendly park.
Excellence in Abundance!
Plenty is known about the excellence of Holiday World’s coaster collection, water park, which includes the two best water coasters in the world, and free amenities such as parking, beverages, and sunscreen. As impressive as that lineup is, however, it is the friendly faces that greet the customer at every step that makes this park so special. The experience started with gregarious members of the security team in the parking lot, three of them to be exact, who welcomed us with a smile and a welcome that started the first day off in a wonderful way. The young men at the security station both asked the kids if they were excited for the day, and the man who scanned our tickets at the entrance stated that it was a perfect day to be at the park.
The same level of service continued on at the rides as we started the day off on The Raven. My wife and I decided to parent swap since we had a baby in tow, so I rode first with my younger son, Alex, while Melissa waited with my older son, Andrew, and our toddler, Madaleine, who was too short to ride. After checking seat belts, the attendant quickly asked Alex if he had ever ridden and after discovering that the answer was, “No,” he said, “you’ll love it” and away we went. After finishing the ride, Melissa and Andrew were not able to get on the next train, and when she mentioned it to one of the operators, he apologized no less than three times and promised he would get them on the next train. He honestly felt so badly about it, and that extra level of concern and care made all the difference, and no one was the slightest bit upset about missing the one train.
On a number of the coasters, operators would ask Alex if they could check his height since he is only an inch over the 48” height requirement that the three wooden coasters at Holiday World all have. For years with both boys, we go through this request a lot since they have been at heights that are close to the minimum for different rides (Alex at 42” and 44” and Andrew now at 52”). At most corporate parks, the attendants regard this task as a nuisance since it slows down operations and adds another task to their routine. At Holiday World’s coasters, however, the attendants always asked with a smile, and then stated something encouraging, like at The Legend, when one woman said, “Yes! You’re good to ride!” This just makes a little kid feel excited, as opposed to being an inconvenience. These little gems all pile up to make a treasure trove over the course of two days.
Splashin’ Safari ERT!
This level of service continued at the water park for nighttime ERT (exclusive ride time) on the two water coasters, Mammoth and Wildebeest. One of the wonderful attendants on Wildebeest noted that our accents were a bit different as we waited for our raft and asked us where we were from and was surprised to hear that we made the trek from Central New York. The employees on this wonderful coaster were also very accommodating, allowing multiple groups to re-ride after our two hours of allotted extra time had expired (keeping in mind how long that day had been for them, working two extra hours). The attendants at Wildebeest were very friendly, chatting with people who were being grouped together on the circular rafts, as opposed to mindlessly pointing at people and which rafts that they should go to. All of the employees during these ERT times really seemed to acknowledge that we were people who truly loved and appreciated the rides, adding to the energy that resided in each station. For those readers who know Cedar Point, picture the energy in the Millennium Force station, and apply that to each station at Holiday World – yes; that type of energy.
Service With a Smile!
This same level of care was seen in the food service workers as well. On the second night (Saturday) of ERT, dinner was served in Kringle’s Banquet Hall in, you guessed it, the Christmas section. After we grabbed our slices and thanked the woman who was placing them on plates, she stated, “We thank you so much for coming to our park!” The pride of her workplace and the warmth in which it was delivered exemplified how much more these positions are than simply jobs to earn an income. This is simply not a message that is ever delivered in other parks.
We experienced this same joy on the Holidog Express in the 4th of July section. The train takes a leisurely jaunt around the adorable Holidog’s Funtown section, which entertains tykes predominantly under ten years old. The journey takes riders through a number of classic fairytale sets including Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, and Jack and the Bean Stalk, and one of the operators says the classic rhymes on a microphone as the train passes the sets. She orated these famous words with joy and jubilation, as if this was the first time she had ever said them. She absolutely seemed to love what she was doing, and, after the ride, she and the engineer thanked everyone for riding.
Going Above & Beyond!
A few other small examples really show how far Holiday World will go to make sure that everyone has an amazing experience. After the first night of HoliWood Nights, which ended at 11pm, a number of attendees were congregated at the exit at around 11:30. One woman was left without a ride and needed to get to the campground on the other side of the lake. She had not realized that the last trolley back to the camp had already left, and one of the Holiday World employees drove her back himself. In what other parks would this scenario ever play out this way? Another example is seen in the incredible hustle on a hot day that the operators on the four coasters exhibited. After checking safety belts and restraints, it was a common sight to see the operators sprint back to their positions to give the all clear sign. They wanted to make sure that the coaster enthusiast were able to get as many rides as possible on their wonderful coasters.
The final example of how amazing Holiday World’s customer service was seen at the top levels of management, which obviously trickles down to everybody else. The presence of four prominent figures, Park President and CEO, Matt Eckert, Owner, Leah Koch, Director of Attractions, Eric Rentz, and Director of Communications, Paula Werne, were visible figures during the two days at the park, not a mysterious list of names of people who might be hiding in a corporate office somewhere. They engaged in heartfelt conversations with whomever was near them, and it was always natural and honest as opposed to an imposition or a responsibility. Matt was even kind enough to tutor Andrew a bit on a friendly competition that was taking place on The Legend on Saturday night involving teams of four trying to preserve their cups of water as they flew through the serpentine track in the dark (thanks Matt!). Leah’s love of the park was seen on Saturday night as she was excited to take a ride after our train on The Legend, for it’s a rarity to get a ride on this great coaster after the sun sets with Holiday World’s normal business hours. Imagine how many times Leah has ridden this coaster over the years! All of their smiles are just contagious and permeates the overall tone through the rest of that park.
For further proof of their joy of life and love of the park, just take a listen to their Holiday World Podcast, which is released every two weeks. The joyful stories and hearty laughs that emit from speakers with each episode would make even jolly, old Santa proud. Be sure to take a trip to Holiday World and experience the joy for yourselves. For a more detailed recap of the HoliWood Nights experience, take a listen to the episode of Theme Park Families.
[Feature image courtesy of Coaster Addict Adam].