Wrapping up the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament
So... what to make of this year's Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament
I've heard the complaints from some readers: That this year's tournament is diminished because The Voyage, a roller coaster from Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, has made the finals and, given its strong support from fans coming to the site from Facebook and Twitter, might win the whole thing.
And those critics have a point. I mean, come on, a 5-seed from a tiny location in Indiana shouldn't possibly hope to make the finals of the 64-team tournament, to face in the finals a 1-seed from the biggest name in the field, representing an institution that starts with the letter "D"?
That never happens in real life, right? ;-)
Maybe this *is* destiny. Maybe "Hoosier Hysteria" lives again.
Or maybe this tournament represents something a bit more fundamental than that. Let's not discount what Holiday World's fans are saying here. Let's listen to them, instead.
First, let's set aside the idea that The Voyage got this far simply because Holiday World's PR person rallied its fans via Facebook and Twitter. Other parks, with larger social media fan bases, tried the same and didn't get past The Voyage.
Holiday World's fans turned out not only because The Voyage is a great ride (I rode it last summer and instantly became a fan, too), but also because of the relationship that Holiday World and its fans have with each other.
In all the fuss we make about storytelling, setting and ride systems, we must not forget that theme parks are first in the hospitality business. When we enter a theme park, we want first to be made to feel welcomed. We want whatever experience we encounter within that park to provide good value for our money.
Holiday World excels at hospitality. We've mentioned many times on this site the park's free parking, free soft drinks and free sunscreen - expenses that, together, will set you back $30 or more at most other parks. But Holiday World extends its hospitality to its guests beyond the park gates.
Plenty of theme parks have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. But few will retweet or acknowledge posts from fans and independent websites, such as this site. Count Holiday World among those. Not only that, Paula Werne, Holiday World's PR person, posts here on Theme Park Insider in response to readers' questions about her park. To Holiday World, social media are actually, well, social - a conversation between the park, its fans and the people who cover the park - and not just another one-dimensional channel to distribute the park's PR, as it is for Disney and Universal.
Because readers feel part of that conversation with Holiday World, when the park asks them to rally for one of its attractions, they respond. But let's not forget that Holiday World established the foundation for that conversation by providing great value and strong in-park hospitality, as well as three world-class roller coasters, with The Voyage the highlight.
When fans cast the votes for The Voyage, I'm hearing a message that goes beyond their enthusiasm for this individual ride. I'm hearing people express their support for a park that values their business. For a park that doesn't nickel-and-dime them at every opportunity. For a park that treats them as *people* online and not simply as prospective sales.
And I'm hearing fans that crave an opportunity to let other people around the country, and the world, know those things. Disney fan sites don't cover Holiday World, or provide an easy channel for its fans be heard. Roller coaster sites too often segregate discussions into steel vs. wood, pigeon-holing Holiday World as a "woodie" park, and not enabling its fans appeal to a broader audience.
At Theme Park Insider, I don't care which company builds or runs a theme park. I don't care whether a roller coaster is steel, wood or a hybrid. All, I care about is whether a park provides a great experience, at great value, for its guests.
Let's not forget that Disney does that. Fantasmic! is one of my favorite shows, and would be a worthy champion for this tournament. I'm not counting it out, and no fan should. (The final vote is Monday from 11am-7pm ET, 8am-4pm PT.) But this tournament provided a forum for Holiday World's fans to draw your attention to their beloved park... and they took it.
And I couldn't be happier. No, Holiday World isn't a Disney clone. Its park lacks the immersive detail of a Disney park. But it's wonderful fun, with thrilling attractions, tasty food and great value. Located outside any metro area, you won't find it filled with locals who hang around simply for convenience. Holiday World instead draws a delightful crowd of knowledgeable theme and amusement park fans, who had to make the effort to drive out to Southern Indiana to visit.
If this tournament convinces a few more such folks to discover Holiday World, or any of the other great themed attractions that don't get the attention that Disney and Universal enjoy, then I will consider this tournament to have been a great success.
Oh, and by the way... Go Butler!
I agree with the Duke / Butler theming. What more can you say!
I have to note that I do go way back with Butler. Going to high school in Indianapolis, I played in the Indianapolis Youth Symphony at Butler; my first job was in the box office at the performing arts hall there; I went on many "study dates" in the Butler library, and I watched my high school basketball team get killed in the state tournament every year in Hinkle Fieldhouse. And, oh yeah, my high school's graduation was at Butler, too.
Well said. I have been a life long fan of Disney and I've never heard of Holiday World before this tournament. I want to go there now.
Hi,l'm not at all surprised that The Voyage at Holiday World has beaten the disney ride,good as the Haunted House is,having ridden both rides The Voyage is in a entirely different league and the park is possibly the most friendly in the world let alone the US. Regards J C K
The other thing that cannot be forgotten, and I have said it over and over again, is that the Voyage is a one of a kind, masterful coaster experience. It is not like riding your local GCI. For me, it is the most fun you can have on a coaster without an inversion. So, all other considerations aside, please don't discount the fact that the Gravity Group and Holiday World actually caught lightning in a bottle with the Voyage. It
Well said Robert. And Go Butler! Indy has been all abuzz all weekend. All my Butler buddies are on cloud nine!
As a family from Northern IN we take a trip to FL and visit Disney every other year as a family vacation. We have, however, made the trip south 4.5 hours to visit Holiday World just so my husband and kids can ride the Voyage and Raven. With Cedar Point and even Kings Island much closer we enjoy the small park atmosphere you get at Holiday World. Its like your part of their family and not just a number through the gate. As this is not a Disney year for us we are planning our summer theme park visits and Holiday World is on the list. We are looking forward to a great visit there this year especially if the Voyage can win.
Very well put. I had never heard of Holiday World prior to your first mention of The Voyage. Then shortly there after I watched something on the Travel channel that was talking about the most thrilling rides in the country and once again, The Voyage was featured.
I've been a fan since I was a 4 year old going to the park when it first opened...going again and again then with my kids and grandkids...its just a great place to visit...just enough to amuse the kids, plenty for adults and teenagers, a great water park, CLEAN, do I need to mention that ??? YES...clean, fun, inexpensive, just big enough to have fun and not be worn out. Not to mention the history around the park with Lincoln's boyhood home and cabin. At 67, still a fan.
While I have never been to Holiday World, I am glad that it is in the finals this year. I feel this site often concentrates too hard on the larger parks and overlooks some of the smaller parks in our country. Family owned Parks like Holiday World, Knobles and (untill recently) Kennywood have always delivers a great quality, low cost product and deserves as much love as the Universal/Disney Orlando parks or even Cedar Faire and BushGardens.
With all due respect, aside from the structure of the tournament, that being seeding and brackets, really it's a weak comparison to liken it to actual athletic competition to make a point. Seeds in this tourney are voted through, based off of either true ride experience execution, popularity, or the ability to rally the troops to this site to vote blindly. Much in the same way the starting line ups for the MLB All Star Teams are voted in by the people, you don't always have the most deserving player starting at his position, but rather the one who is most liked, well known, and whose teams front office PR people manages to rally its fan base around a player and stuff the ballot box to get him in.
When you visit Holiday World, it's like you've come home to see the family. The familiarity and the friendliness make you want to come back again and again. We choose Holiday World over Paramount's King's Island every time, because it is a better value. No, Holiday World doesn't have the same number of attractions as PKI, but you have more opportunity to ride what is there because you aren't stranded in line for hours on end. The park is CLEAN, too. This is probably the most overlooked quality, but SO appreciated. As a parent, I love that the park isn't strewn with trash and leftover food. The employees are always picking things up, and I see the patrons following that lead. I love Holiday World - it used to be one of the best-kept secrets. I'm sure they will meet the challenge of the larger fan base and not lose those things that make them special.
Thank You!....for your great comments about Holiday World!....we love HW!....people who love HW, think of it as "our" personal park!....lol....we feel at home there....it's like a big family reunion everytime you go back....each new ride is like a new addition to the family!....we ooh and ahh over it and take pictures of it with us!...lol....and the Voyage is no different....you must get to know it before you can judge it...so come on over and take the ride of your life! --- Karen, Corydon, IN
I just want to say that although I did indeed vote for the Voyage, I have never visited any of Holiday World's Facebook or Twitter pages and never knew anything about a "rallying of troops". I just love the Voyage. I also deeply love "The Haunted Mansion", "Pirates of the Caribbean", "Spider-man" and "The Mummy's Revenge". For the most part, I enjoy classic darkrides more than rollercoasters and I've reached the age where if the coaster looks like a plate of sphaghetti I'll likely feel more torture than excitement. The Voyage, however, captures the feeling I had as a child riding the Beast like no other woodie ever has.
I couldn't agree more. I've never been to Holiday world, but the onride POV video provided here certainly makes me want to make a trip from Southern California out to ride the Voyage. It just looks like a great ride. All these positive things I'm hearing about the park here makes me want to go even more. I love Disney and I love Fantasmic, so I am really excited about this matchup and I think I'll like either outcome. We have two great attractions from two great parks that have their strengths and weaknesses. This tournament couldn't have a better outcome.
As a person who has been singing Holiday World's praises for a very long time on this website...long before The Voyage, I'll second the motion on covering Kennywood and Knoebels.
The friendly greeter outside Holiday World is the park's matriarch Pat Koch.
I'm glad HW has such a dedicated following. However, you just screwed yourselves over. Now your unknown park is very well-known, indeed, and will soon be filled with the same backwater hicks and city trash that pack Orlando parks regularly! You've created a monster!
My family and I have been to a lot of parks over the years on both coasts, in the south, the north and in the midwest and I have to say that I think Voyage is probably the best coaster we've ever ridden. It is worth the trip to Holiday World for this ride alone. The first time we rode it, we were literally speechless at the end. We were fortunate enough to be able to ride it about ten times the day we were there. It seemed to get better every time. The triple down is just great and the rest of the ride after that is nothing short of incredible. It is like no other coaster. And Holiday World is a great park with many perks and friendly people. The owner of the park was at the entrance personally greeting guests as they entered. I wish we lived closer to this park because I would definitely make it an annual trip. Go out of your way to get to Holiday World to ride Voyage. You won't be disappointed.
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