Holiday World is a park that has been on my agenda ever since I first developed an interest in riding roller coasters. The presence of two major wood coasters was obviously part of the draw, but the real draw was the thought of enjoying a day in a park where the staff have won the most friendly award in Amusement Today for five years running.
On arrival at the park it was immediately clear why. There was a tragic accident at this park some ten days before our visit apparently caused by misbehaviour on the part of a coaster enthusiast, something which was not likely to endear our group to management. Nevertheless, park manager Will Koch was gracious enough not to tar everyone with the same brush. He gave us a brief rundown of the facts of the accident as known at that time, the synopsis of which was that failure of the ride equipment was not to blame. He felt that it would be too hard on ride staff to ask them to run an exclusive session for us today, and everyone in the club completely agreed with him. He hoped this wouldn't upset people too much, and noted that the liquid sunshine pouring from the sky would likely result in minimal wait times all day anyway.
The rain wasn't too heavy as we entered the park, but nonetheless everyone was handed free ponchos. This is one of the many things Holiday World do to provide customer satisfaction; other items include free soft drinks at all times and free sunblock in the water park. Most guests including me are not blind enough to realise that we pay for these so-called free items in an increased admission charge. However, the fact that one only has to pay once makes for much improved guest satisfaction; it's nice to think that the park isn't trying to fleece me for every last cent they can get.
We began our morning with the Raven (#156), the original wood coaster at the park and the one which first put them on the map. The design was constructed by taking the most popular elements from other wooden coasters and merging them all together into a single ride. The result is simply superb, particularly in the back seat, making it no surprise that the ride has topped the annual wooden coaster poll in Amusement Today for several years running. The only down side was a longer queue than necessary thanks to only a single train, but the park apparently has plans to modify their star attraction to take a second in the next few years.
The other wooden coaster is Legend (#157). Though only marginally taller than Raven it features almost twice the length of track and four tunnels, one of which is underground. This ride was also very good; in any other park it would be a star attraction. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite have the staying power of its brother, and indeed the wait times were considerably shorter.
It was quite amusing to note how many club members went for their circuit on Howler (#158), despite it being located a good five minute walk from the major attractions. The ride operator seemed quite amused at the sheer number of adults going for her ride today, but to give her credit, she was happy to let us make fools of ourselves!
With the coasters completed we decided to try a few of the other rides. The Freedom Train passes by many life sized recreations of nursery rhyme characters, and is the only ride remaining in the park from its first season in 1946. There is also a beautifully themed wave swinger called Halloswings, which passed a few minutes.
After a lunch break, most of the group elected to try out the water park. There were some superb slides in here, chief of which was the new-for-2003 attraction called Zinga. This is the first installation of a Proslide Tornado, and it will certainly not be the last; the basic premise is that riders are dropped into a large cone in which they slide back and forth before splashing down into a pool below. I must have ridden this more than a dozen times in total. There was also a massive wave pool and a number of other exciting slides.
Towards the end of the day I decided to head back into the main park for a few more coaster rides. The weather began to close in even as I was marathonning on Raven, but to their credit, the park kept the ride open. Many other parks close at the first hint of precipitation, but not here; the only thing that will shut the rides down is thunderstorms, which seems sensible enough.
All too soon it was time to leave. Holiday World is what every theme park should be. The friendly, helpful, and efficient staff are a credit to the park and its management. Having two of the best wooden roller coasters on the planet and a fabulous water park doesn't hurt either. No other park I've been to comes close to this; hopefully I'll be back soon.
We'd only been on the bus for a few minutes when it stopped of a mansion. Hard as it may be to believe, The Koch family had invited the whole group round for dinner! There's no way eighty five people would fit in my apartment, but even if they would it seems improbable that I'd invite so many strangers into my home. At any rate, we were invited to explore the place at our leisure, and were shown various cabinets containing certificates and photographs of family achievements. The boss spent most of his evening answering questions from the floor. Many other family members were present and they were all delighted to make us feel welcome. There was a certain sense of unreality about it all. Holiday World is just one big happy family, and coaster enthusiasts are apparently part of it.