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SUMMER / FALL 2019      © 2019 812 Magazine

What I've Learned, | Jun 20, 2019

Off-season at Holiday World


The off-season months are just as busy as the summer months.


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A roller coaster overlooks the empty wave pool in the water park. // Courtesy photo

When you hear the phrase “amusement park,” you might think of a place like Disney World in Florida or Universal Studios in Hollywood. And though these are popular travel destinations tourists flock to in the summers when school is out, many are also able to enjoy the parks year-round. For some amusement parks, however, visitors can only engage in the fun during select months of the year. So what happens in the parks when visitors aren’t around? If it’s anything like Holiday World, the off-season months are just as busy as the summer months. 

Holiday World is an amusement park located in Santa Clause, Indiana, just a two-hour drive from Bloomington and around an hour drive from Louisville. The park, which opened in 1946, is comprised of four “lands” dedicated to four holidays: Christmas, 4th of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving. In 1993, Holiday World introduced their water park, Splashin’ Safari.  


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Even before the park closes for the season, the park’s maintenance team gets a jump-start on the work that needs to be done in the off-season, said Aaron Berg, Director of Maintenance & Development. Things like taking apart certain rides, draining pools in the water park and winterizing buildings and rides are done when the park closes in the fall, Berg said. 

The park looks different during this season, as rides are taken apart and inspected by maintenance. Pieces of rides are taken apart, leaving behind skeletal structures, and ride cars are tucked into various places throughout the park, said Paula Werne, Director of Communications. While walking through the park during the summer, you wouldn’t expect to see anything out of place. But in the off-season, ride dummies line the fences and water ride cars sit in the grass.


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Unique compared to amusement parks in warmer climates that operate year-round, Holiday World faces the varying seasons of the Midwest. With the demands of the off-season, and Indiana’s unpredictable weather, one of the biggest obstacles the park faces is weather, Berg said. When elements like snow and ice come around, certain maintenance tasks have to be rescheduled for days when the weather looks better. Other tasks that don’t require good weather to perform them are done on poorer weather days, he said. 

“The weather really drives our schedule,” Berg said. 

On days when the weather is bad, staff at Holiday World are kept busy with tasks indoors. Things that are brought into the buildings are taken apart, inspected and tested, whether in-house or sent away for testing. These inspections and tests are to ensure that rides are working as they should when the park opens back up and guests are let on the attractions, Berg said. 

Different attractions require different types of maintenance. Wooden roller coasters demand more attention, Berg said. The park’s first wooden coaster, The Raven, was built in 1995. Though the tracks on steel coasters have to be maintained less, the cars on both steel and wooden coasters are inspected, Berg said. 

Coaster technicians have replaced 720 feet of track (that’s longer than the St. Louis Arch is tall). In order to work in harsh winter conditions, technicians cover parts of the track like a covered wagon to keep themselves protected and make work easier, Werne said. 

As the weather begins to warm up toward another summer season, things at Holiday World are shifting as well. The pace of the work being done picks up, as work is finalized and attractions are put back into place.


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Pumps are put back in to pools to prepare for the summer weather and cars are put back on roller coaster tracks. One thing being done now and every day in the park is testing rides. In fact, Holiday World just won an audit excellence award from the International Ride Training for safety, Director of Attractions Lori Cotton said. 

A feature of ride testing and safety training at Holiday World is using test dummies. Though dummies used to be filled with corn feed, dummies are now plastic and filled with water. The water dummies are less problematic, as the bursting of corn-filled dummies produces an unexpected side effect when the feed hits the ground and stays there. Werne saw the result of this incident when giving a tour through the amusement park a few years back. 


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“I actually saw corn that had grown,” Werne said. 

The summer season brings in warm weather and with it, a slew of student employees. Each season, Holiday World hires around 2,200 people. About two thirds of those people are college and high school-age. These students perform tasks like running rides and games, serving meals, lifeguarding, performing, cleaning and other jobs, Werne said. 

If you would like to know more about Holiday World, read updates about the park, and find park operation hours, check out Holiday World’s official website. Happy summer Hoosiers!

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