Speculation builds for Holiday World’s secret

Photos by Jonathan Streetman/The Herald
The construction site of Holiday World's future expansion is right next to a group of waterslides where park patrons can grab their tubes and a sneak peek at the progress from several stories high. Many have taken photos similar to this one that have landed on message board forums and caused much speculation.

By JONATHAN STREETMAN
Herald Staff Writer

SANTA CLAUS — The hints at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari have been laid out for everyone to see.

As the theme park in Spencer County builds toward a July 24 unveiling of its largest expansion since opening in 1946, there’s a whole website devoted to doling out a daily clue, written in the style of a pilgrim making the voyage to the New World on the Mayflower.

It’s been cleverly titled 66DaysatSea.com, an homage to the time it took the Mayflower to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

The construction site, where large concrete footings have already been installed, is right next to a group of waterslides dubbed Hyena Falls, where park patrons can grab their tubes and a sneak peek at the progress from several stories high. Many have taken photos that have landed on message board forums.

Those forums have been lighting up since the day of the announcement that Holiday World would soon begin construction on a new attraction to open in 2015. Sites such as themeparkreview.com, coasterbuzz.com and screamscape.com are constantly peppered with new theories.

The ocean means it’ll be a water ride. The wooden ship obviously means another wooden roller coaster. Those pilings in the ground clearly mean a steel coaster. Pictures of clouds means it’ll be the tallest coaster they have.

No one has been able to guess what it will be. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been close.

Paula Werne, the park’s director of communications and the author of the 66 Days at Sea blog, regularly reads forum posts to see just how accurate the speculation might be. She evens contributes to the conversation from time to time as Raven Maven, her pseudonym derived from the park’s popular wooden roller coaster.

“It’s a whole lot of fun,” Werne said of the buzz. So far, the site has 42,763 hits.

As Holiday World builds toward a July 24 unveiling of its largest expansion since opening in 1946, there’s a whole website devoted to doling out a daily clue,  66DaysatSea.com.

The forums are an important factor, she said, in the next day’s clues. When she sees a group of posters heading down the right path, sometimes she reinforces their suspicions with a clue just for them. Other times, she leads them astray to keep the game afoot. While she said the last six days of the campaign are already written, every other entry is written the night before it’s posted online.

“It keeps the process organic and allows me to really have some fun with it,” she explained.

But as much as she enjoys the conjecture, she remains tight-lipped and wary to disclose too much.

When asked about some of the clues already presented  — Do the birds mean anything? What about the wooden planks? — she smiled.

“You never know,” she said.

She knows. Holiday World President Matt Eckert knows. A handful of full-time employees know. That’s about it.

Even the construction workers who are building the, well, whatever it is they’re building, aren’t sure what’s to come. Like a Lego set taken out of the box one piece at a time, Holiday World’s newest attraction is being put together under a thick veil of secrecy right out in the open.

At the site, all vice president and director of development James Olliver would confirm is the first shovel hit the dirt in March. Two dozen pilings are already in the ground. There is a ramp cut out of the ground that’s perfectly sized for a coaster track or a simple walking path. And there are wooden stakes plotting out some sort of invisible boundary. There’s plenty of room to grow; Holiday World owns about 200 acres of land but, in its current format, uses only 110 of that acreage.

Eckert could not be more pleased with the hype.

“I am totally enjoying all of the speculation,” Eckert said with a grin to say he’s happy to know something you don’t know. “I have seen every possible explanation on the message boards. Some may be right, some not.”

The park president praised Werne for her ability to generate such fun while remaining historically accurate.

“Every single clue has been phenomenal. Obviously, I know what to look for, but some of the clues have been very clever,” Eckert said. “You look at, like, Day 7 or Day 19 and you go ‘Oh, that’s great.’”

Today marks Day 32 of the 66-day voyage, which will culminate in a July 24 “Christmas Eve in July” celebration at the park. The 2015 addition will be announced that evening with fireworks to follow.

July 25, something big is expected to arrive at the park. Then, construction will get serious — and we’ll all have an answer.

“After that,” Eckert said, “the secret’s out of the bag.”

 

Holiday World named StormReady

SANTA CLAUS — Visitors of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari can rest assured that in the event of a severe weather event, the park is ready.

During a press conference Wednesday, the park was officially recognized as a National Weather Service StormReady facility. Holiday World is the only theme park in the NWS Paducah, Ky., region’s four-state area to earn the distinction. The accreditation is valid for three years and can be renewed.

StormReady is a national program founded by the National Weather Service in 2000. Certification requires meeting specific criteria including multiple ways to send and receive warning messages, an effective way to monitor storm systems, an effective shelter plan, availability of backup generators, training for all employees and a visit by park officials to the NWS to better understand how the process works.

Park president Matt Eckert said safety is Holiday World’s top priority.

“Being StormReady is something we have been very diligent about acquiring,” Eckert said. “We invite over 1 million guests to visit us each and every year. With those guests, we want to make sure they have the safest experience while having fun.”

Contact Jonathan Streetman at jstreetman@dcherald.com.




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