Designing a Roller Coaster Experience: Holiday World

provided by the Glick Fund, a CICF fund focused
on inspiring philanthropy. Additional support provided
by the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation, in honor of
the children and families of Christel House. [MUSIC PLAYING] Ever wonder how creativity,
innovation, and theater make their way into
roller coaster design? We’re here at Holiday World to
get a behind the scenes look to find out why. Follow me. [MUSIC PLAYING] LAUREN CROSBY: My
name is Lauren Crosby, and I am the Director
of Entertainment and Events at Holiday
World, as well as I am a fourth generation
owner of the park. Whenever I was at
Florida State University, I majored in retail
merchandising and product development. And I fell in love with
Anthropology and their windows and how they
display merchandise. So I ended up doing two
internships with them. The way they do their
windows, you don’t just get a sheet in from
corporate and it tells you what you’re doing. They say, OK, the theme for this
quarter’s windows are flowers. And you do with
that what you will. Doing that with the
retail merchandising was kind of bringing all
of my loves together. And so whenever it
came time to come back home and work at the park, we
started looking at the park. And we were like, you know what? We’re a theme park. We need to– we kind of lost
sight of that a little bit, and we need to get back to that. We need to make sure that it’s
clear that we have a theme and this is it. Our president looked at me,
and he said, you know what? He was like, you’re that person. He’s like, you’re gonna do that. He’s like, you’re gonna
take your experience with the visual merchandising
and the art and the theater. And he was like, and you’re
gonna apply it to the park. And then, what do you know? We start building a coaster. This was exciting,
being the first post where I got to coordinate
all of the many pieces that go into making a huge
project like this happen. My name is James Oliver,
and I essentially coordinate all of the
maintenance, construction, and grounds activities
here at Holiday World. My whole life, I
have always wanted to be involved with
amusement parks. When I was young, when I went
on my first roller coaster, I got hooked. And I knew this was
what I wanted to do. So when I was in, I think
around eighth grade, I wrote a letter to, actually,
a roller coaster designer. And he gave me a list
of things to focus on, going to engineering school,
the experience to get. And so from the
time I was young, this is what I wanted to do. And everything
I’ve done has been to try to get to this point. So Holiday World is the
world’s first theme park. We opened as Santa
Claus Land back in 1946. And we’re proud of our
heritage, of being a theme park. And so when building
Thunderbird, we wanted it to be more
than just a roller coaster and we wanted it to be a
completely immersive experience that our guests loved. And so all of the
little theming details come together to make it more
than just a roller coaster. LAUREN CROSBY: There are
a lot, a lot of details. And with those details
come a lot of options. We had concrete colors. We had the type of
fence that we put up, the type of shingles that go
on the roof, the type of stones on the side of the buildings,
the colors of paint on the side of the building. I mean, you don’t know how many
types of lanterns there are. Not everyone who
comes to Holiday World is going to ride this ride. And so we’ve designed it,
as well, for the non-riders. If you are not going to ride and
you’re standing in the plaza, you’re immersed
in the experience, from being able to see
the train launch out of the barn to being
right in the middle of the first and second
loop on the ride. Creativity is so
important to my job. I mean, creativity, as
well as innovation, are, I think, crucial to this park. We have to keep it
true to Holiday World. So this coaster starts off
right here in the plaza, and then goes into the woods. So whenever it’s in the summer
and all the leaves are out, you can’t really see what
happens after the Thunderbird crosses over the voyage. It’s gone. It’s in the woods. You don’t see it
until it comes back. Now, did you build the barn
first, or put the coaster, then build the barn? You have to set
the coaster first. And then our carpenters
had the– see, when I talk about the challenge
our carpenters got to have, we already had the
track there, and we asked them to build a
barn around the track that stayed out of the clearance
envelope of the ride. HOST: You’re talking about
theater and the feel of it, close calls. So what is this whole idea
about, this concept, then? On the wing
coaster, since you’re on either side of
the track, whenever things are close to you,
they seem really close. Right, right. And so that chimney is just
outside of the rider envelope. So there is no way you’re
going to hit that chimney, but whenever you’re
riding on there, it sure does feel like
you’re gonna hit it. JAMES OLIVER: So Thunderbird,
like many roller coasters, in a lot of ways, are
like large pieces of art. With the placement
of Thunderbird on top of the hill
here at Holiday World, you have incredible views of
the surrounding community, of the forest that the ride is
built in, of the rolling hills, of other attractions. And it all comes together. And it truly is a
beautiful piece of art. Not only is this the first
steel coaster for our park– so it’s a huge, huge milestone–
but it’s what my dad wanted. So it feels really, really
awesome to me and my family to see it come to reality. Seeing people come up
here and experience it for the first time
was the best feeling. It made me feel like hey,
your hard work’s paid off. You did something good. As a kid, this was my dream. And to end up being able
to fulfill that dream and be involved with such
an incredible project, it’s just– it’s
hard to describe. And really, it’s sort
of cliche, but it proves that if you work hard,
you can achieve your goals. [MUSIC PLAYING] We are here in Indy to meet
one of those amazing artists– not just artists, but also
art educator and lawyer. His story and his hard
is going to amaze you. Let’s go meet him. My name is Justin Vining,
and I’m a full time artist, and I work out of the
Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis, Indiana. I grew up on a farm, and–

Stephen Childs


  1. Thanks so much for visiting with us last fall – we had a blast sharing our story with you!

  2. Awesome loved watching this Holiday World is amazing and Thunderbird is a piece of artwork b/c it's absolutely beautiful along with the rest of the park I can not wait to get back and visit!!!

  3. Man, it would be fun to hang out with a roller coaster engineer sometime. I wonder what sorts of ideas we could exchange with each other. It could be amazing!

  4. Holiday World the world's first "Theme park?" Is that… actually true? Obviously there were amusement parks before hand and resorts but as for an actual "theme" park?

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