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An interview with Paula Werne

The PR director at Holiday World talks about the award-winning park, and her role there.

From Nick Markham
Posted May 19, 2010 at 9:34 AM
Paula Werne is the Director of Public Relations at Holiday World, the Santa Claus, Indiana theme park that won the Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament this year for its Gravity Group roller coaster, The Voyage. She answered questions via e-mail.

1. How did you first get connected with the park?

I got a job offer on my home answering machine out of the blue. Seriously. Will Koch and his dad decided it was time to have a public relations department at Holiday World and asked me to start it. That was in 1991 and I was home with my 6-month-old baby and between jobs. I’ve been here ever since.

2. What kind of process do you go through deciding what next should come new into the park?

That’s Will Koch’s territory. He does a lot of “walking around” research. He watches the park carefully all season long to see where the congestion is, and where we need more capacity. He listens to our guests’ opinions and reads through all the comment cards and emails we receive. And he dreams about what “could be.” It all pulls together and he starts talking to engineers and ride manufacturers. He really enjoys the process. And he’s good at it.

3. How do you make sure your park remains the most friendly park in the world?

We work at it! We hire friendly people and help them learn how to be even more helpful and kind. We hold “hospitality training” for all of our staff each season. As senior staff members, we set the example. Over the years, it’s become part of our park culture.

4. Why, would you say, Holiday World is drawn to adding record breaking wooden coasters or rides every time you feel a new coaster or ride should be added?

We’re in that pattern, aren’t we? We won’t always necessarily do that, but when we can tweak a design so that it sets a new record, why wouldn’t we?

5. Pilgrims Plunge is quite the unique ride. Did Holiday World first come up with the concept, did Intamin offer the new product to you, are did you work together on making a great one of a kind water ride?

Will Koch had wanted to add a shoot-the-chute for many years. He got “stuck” on whether to build it in Holiday World or Splashin’ Safari. For 2009, he found a way to sort of do both. He worked with IntaRide to make it work, and to create the world’s tallest water ride.

6. Wildebeast is also breaking records at the moment. Is the planning process the same for waterpark attractions and do you have planned from the very beginning, "we want to break the record for longest water coaster in the world"?

Usually it’s more like, “what would it take…” and then we go from there. Will Koch likes to challenge ride designers. He’s an engineer and he’s also a coaster lover. Dangerous combination! J

7. New Timberliner trains have also been added to the Voyage. How will this add to the already great experience on the #1 wooden coaster in the world?

We expect the Timberliners to create a smoother—yet still intense—ride. We also expect Voyage to require less track maintenance. Win-win.

8. Lastly, Why do you love Holiday World?

What’s not to love? We’re in the business of making people happy and have been for 64 years. It’s amazing to hear from families who have visited for five generation. Being part of so many families’ memories is an honor. Just walk through the park any day and see the smiles and hear the laughter. It’s a magical place.


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