Special Section - Amusement and Theme Parks - November 2018


Eworks Pro designed a special, large-scale LED lighting system for Morey’s Piers’ “Giant Wheel.” (Credit: Eworks Pro)

Lighting the Way to More Dazzling Rides

by Keith Miller

If you’ve visited amusement parks after the sun goes down, you’ve almost certainly noticed more and more rides featuring stunning illuminated displays. 

The spectacular lighting packages found on new rides and those refurbished during the past decade are almost entirely owed to the adoption of the light-emitting diode (LED).

Lars Koch, vice president of Eworks Pro (www.eworkspro.com) in Winter Park, Florida, says the advent of LEDs in amusement ride lighting has revolutionized his company—the same way the bright lights have illuminated midways after dark.

“Until 2004, Eworks Pro was primarily a manufacturer of incandescent and HID (high-intensity discharge) lighting on amusement rides when Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey, decided to purchase a new lighting system for its 156-foot-tall Vekoma Ferris wheel,” Koch recalls. “I had initially quoted Morey’s a replacement lighting package with incandescent Turbo Lights, which was a common solution at the time.” 

Morey’s was not impressed. Koch remembers how Morey’s Piers co-owner Will Morey wanted less power consumption, more light output, more vibrant colors, and less maintenance replacing burned-out bulbs in hard-to-reach locations. It was a tall order that sent Koch back to the drawing board. 

“After weighing all options, I figured that the only way to meet these requirements was LED lighting,” Koch recalls.

Yet, there was a problem: Koch says nobody had ever done an RGB (red, green, and blue) LED system on a large ride, so Eworks had to design the very first large-scale amusement ride system. 

“At the time, I had no idea we were laying the foundation for this new kind of lighting, which soon appeared on rides and attractions all around the world,” Koch says.

To Light or Not to Light

If an attraction is reviewing whether to add a lighting system, Lars Koch, vice president of Eworks Pro, provides suggestions for what to consider.

“In my experience, it’s best to get the ride manufacturer involved as early as possible. Most ride manufacturers love what they do and, therefore, have a great interest in making their attractions look the best they can.” Koch says operators should approach their decision with research in the following order: 

  • How will my investment pay off?
  • Will local authorities grant permission to operate a large-scale LED system? 
  • What is the local code restriction or limitation regarding light output and light show content? 
  • Does the ride manufacturer offer LED lighting as an add-on package to my new ride? 
  • Who is the manufacturer of that LED package, and what is the company’s reputation? 
  • Will the ride manufacturer work with my preferred LED lighting vendor to get a system perfectly integrated into my ride?

In 2008, Eworks Pro worked with Chance Rides to create lighting for the new “Pacific Wheel” at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier near Los Angeles. But they weren’t done. In 2016, they updated the lighting package with 174,000 LEDs, thus creating a spectacular display of color. Koch says the “Pacific Wheel” and the 400-foot-tall “Sky Wheel” at Vinpearl Land Nha Trang in Vietnam are probably Eworks Pro’s most dazzling displays.

The revolution in after-dark displays continues with the illumination of the “HangTime” roller coaster at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California.

The Gerstlauer dive coaster features an impressive lighting display designed by KCL Engineering (www.kclengineering.com) in Des Moines, Iowa. 

Kris Kunze, the company’s founder and managing principal, says there’s value in creating a dramatic impact at night.

“At night, the lights create a new type of entertainment and deliver an entirely different experience for both riders and spectators,” Kunze says. “We like to consider our lighting system as a reusable fireworks show!” 


The “HangTime” roller coaster at Knott’s Berry Farm features a dramatic, multicolored lighting display by KCL Engineering. (Credit: KCL Engineering)

The LED Difference

Ride lighting specialists all insist the introduction of LED fixtures into amusement rides was a game changer.

“It wasn’t until the advent of LED lighting that all these effects could even be achieved,” says Kunze. “Previous lighting products were not rigorous enough to withstand the necessary mounting and elemental factors, let alone the color-changing and programmability of LED technology.”

Also crucial is the “RGB LED,” which combines the red, green, and blue lighting colors into one fixture. 

“While separate red, green, and blue LEDs may be less expensive than RGB LEDs, they’re not able to render colors at a high resolution,” explains Koch. Moreover, he says the separate LEDs are usually two inches or more in height, making them very boxy, compared with 0.5 inches for RGB LEDs. Not only is this not aesthetically pleasing, but it increases wind load.

Theoretically, RGB LEDs can produce 16 million colors, but Kunze notes, “Realistically, there are about three dozen colors that make the ride look attractive.” 

Kunze says the paint color of a ride should dictate the color palate used in the ride lighting package. From that base, programmers can then create shows to support the ride’s theme, evoke a certain emotion, or design special light patterns for holidays like Independence Day or Halloween.

Adding LEDs to an existing coaster or other ride is easy, according to Kunze, since KCL doesn’t penetrate or modify the structure. He markets lighting packages to operators as a lower-cost option to make an impactful change.

The daily operational cost of a lighting package on a ride like “HangTime” varies. 

“While each coaster’s electrical demand can vary widely depending on the quantity and types of lighting fixtures used, typical costs to power the system for an average coaster can range from only 50 cents to a dollar per hour.”


Zamperla creates its rides’ lighting designs in-house, such as for the “Mega Swing” at E-World in South Korea. (Credit: Zamperla)

Doing It All In-House

Lighting specialists like Eworks Pro and KCL Engineering work with ride manufacturers to design lighting packages that will satisfy those manufacturers’ requirements. But some ride companies, like Antonio Zamperla SpA (www.zamperla.com) in Vicenza, Italy, actually create all of their lighting designs in-house. Zamperla boasts it’s been doing this for 52 years, since the company’s inception.

In 2018, Zamperla provided the 170-foot-tall “CraZanity” swinging pendulum to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, where the ride garnered rave reviews for its colorful LED illumination.

“It’s really a combination of almost every department we have, where everyone has to work hand in hand to understand where we can place lights because there’s tons of wiring for each light in each program we have available,” explains Sales Manager Michael Coleman with Zamperla.

For “CraZanity,” Zamperla strung miles of wire and had discussions with the construction, maintenance, and operations teams at Six Flags Magic Mountain about where the lighting units could be placed on the ride and how the LEDs would be attached to the structure. Coleman points out that the company is going beyond just lighting the structure and the track of certain rides and is adding LEDs to ride vehicles.

“We’ve incorporated lights even to our new coaster vehicles, and it will have its own power supply to light the seats,” he says. At IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017, Zamperla displayed its carbon-fiber concept installed into a ride vehicle.

Advantages to Parks

In 2016, Adventureland Amusement Park (www.adventurelandresort.com) in Altoona, Iowa, installed a 2,500-foot-long Gerstlauer Infinity Coaster called “The Monster,” equipped with a lighting system from KCL. The park has had three seasons to evaluate guest reaction and says it’s been overwhelmingly positive.

“The lighting has actually made ‘[The] Monster’ two different rides, day and night,” says the park’s spokeswoman Molly Vincent. “Everyone is impressed by the number of different lighting options, and we change them quite often. It’s definitely one of the most photographed attractions in the park we see tagged on social media.” 

As a result of its experience with “The Monster,” the park has already upgraded the lighting on three additional rides. 

Is America Following Asia’s Lead?

Adam Sandy, chief business development officer for Ride Entertainment, which is the sales partner of lighting provider KCL Engineering, says LED conversions and additions are popular worldwide.

“[LEDs] have been a big hit in America,” he says. “I can tell you that by contrast, most American city skylines and streetscapes are pretty bland when compared to their Asian counterparts. Because of this, I think we have really blown away some of the parkgoers in North America with the concepts KCL has put together. Parks that were dark or lit with standard street lighting now have an energetic atmosphere each night, and you don’t need an expensive IP (intellectual property) to accomplish that.”

In 2016, Adam Sandy, chief business development officer for Ride Entertainment (www.rideentertainment.com), was in Adventureland for the opening of “The Monster” and says when Kunze showed him sample programs KCL was working on for the ride, he felt his company needed to start working with them. In early 2017, Ride Entertainment became KCL’s sales partner in the industry.

Sandy says the properties Ride Entertainment works with have seen when mobile food and beverage stands and souvenir carts are placed within a ride using upgraded LEDs, the park’s per-cap opportunities increase at night.

“A good lighting package can make a very good coaster experience a great one,” Sandy says. “The cool thing about a lighting package is not that it simply illuminates a structure; it’s that these systems tell a story and entertain guests. They increase guest enjoyment and length of stay.”


Calaway Park replaced its old flume ride with a new one called “Timber Falls,” which creates a sawmill-themed experience for guests. (Credit: Calaway Park)

Flume Forward

The iconic attraction plunges into the future

by Jim Futrell

In September 2017, Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, surprised its guests by announcing that one of the historic park’s most popular rides, the “Log Jammer,” a 1975 Arrow Development log flume, would close forever. Kennywood was hardly alone, as more than a dozen theme parks in North America and Europe have made similar moves since 2010. While this might be seen as an indicator of a larger decline in the iconic ride, the consensus among those in the industry is that it is just part of the ongoing evolution of the storied attraction. 

History of Making a Splash

Water rides have been an important part of the industry since the late 1800s when shoot-the-chutes and old mills became commonplace in the emerging industry. But following World War II, these old-style rides fell out of favor as the industry began modernizing. In 1962, Arrow Development, inspired by the logs that lumberjacks sent down the river to sawmills, started developing a new generation water ride, initially constructing waterways out of plywood to perfect the hydrodynamics needed to carry logs down a trough. The concept caught the attention of Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, which opened the world’s first log flume, “El Aserradero,” in June 1963. Ohio’s Cedar Point followed with its own version, “The Mill Race,” a few weeks later in Sandusky on the shores of Lake Erie. With its wide demographic appeal, log flumes were a perfect fit for the emerging, family-focused theme park industry, and by the late 1960s, the ride had become a must-have attraction. 

As theme parks spread throughout the globe, manufacturers such as Mack, Intamin, and Reverchon in Europe and Sansei and Meisho in Asia introduced their own versions, but the rides were still mostly found at larger parks. That changed in 1980 when O.D. Hopkins Associates Inc. built its first log flume at Wonderland Amusement Park in Amarillo, Texas, introducing a version that was more affordable for smaller attractions. By the turn of the 20th century, log flumes were commonplace at amusement parks—large and small—throughout the globe. 

But as the log flume celebrates its 55th anniversary, many of the older rides are reaching the end of their useful life, forcing many amusement parks to make a difficult decision.


Last year, Kennywood made the decision to remove the “Log Jammer” to make way for the park’s new Steelers Country area. (Credit: Jim Futrell)

Making the Decision

Even after 42 years, guests still lined up at Kennywood’s “Log Jammer” on summer afternoons despite the addition of two other water rides at the park. But according to Nick Paradise, the park’s public relations director, the “Log Jammer” was at a crossroads. It needed a full rebuild, or it needed to be retired. Standard offseason maintenance was no longer enough.

“Aging becomes a challenge for most rides,” says Paradise, “It becomes a trade-off between overhead and popularity. In the ‘Log Jammer’s’ case, the overhead was becoming very significant. It was at or past its life expectancy.” 

While a full rebuild was considered, which Paradise conceded would have been a good decision in some respects, the park had to make the decision about whether it would have generated a sufficient return on investment. 

“It would have been a significant expense, but would it have drawn the crowds?” Paradise asks. In the end, it came down to what was the best thing for the park as it moves forward. “Sometimes you have to say goodbye,” he explains.

In Kennywood’s case, the removal of the “Log Jammer” was the impetus for an entirely new area, Steelers Country, a 3-acre tribute to Pittsburgh’s beloved professional football team. Anchoring the new area, and occupying much of the “Log Jammer’s” footprint, will be “Steel Curtain,” a record-breaking roller coaster from S&S Worldwide. 

“Our fan base had been clamoring for a roller coaster for quite some time,” says Paradise, noting there were not many options in the space-constrained park as far as where to put it. “A new attraction would not have been possible if we had not made the decision.”

Renovating the Flume

While roller coasters have tended to be the go-to replacement attraction for most parks, Calaway Park in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, could not imagine being without a log flume. According to General Manager Bob Williams, the park’s O.D. Hopkins flume had been one of the park’s signature rides since it opened in 1982, sharing the top billing with its roller coaster. But by 2014, the ride’s capacity was falling—just like the leaking water from the ride’s structure. 

An initial plan to upgrade from a fiberglass to a steel trough soon evolved into an opportunity to create Calaway Park’s first themed ride. The park formed a committee and created a storyline involving a sawmill that once operated in the area. 

“We knew the popularity of the old one and took it to the next level,” says Williams, adding it was critical to keep a water-based attraction. “We had a hard time of thinking of it as anything else.”

Calaway Park ended up ordering a complete replacement from WhiteWater West Industries, which acquired Hopkins in 2012. The new ride had the added benefit of upgrading to the latest technology, including a continuous loading deck, redundancies, multiple sensors, and better blocking technology. In addition, capacity increased from 350 per hour to 800, which was important as “Timber Falls” is now the No. 1 ride at the park. And even though Calaway Park replaced a flume with a flume, the project resonated with the public, resulting in a 14 percent increase in season pass sales during its first full season in 2016.

Flowing Forward

While replacing an attraction that has reached the end of its useful life is hardly a rare occurrence, other facilities are making a commitment to keep their aging log flumes in operation, often making a significant investment in renovating them.

Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey, opened its log flume in 1985, purchasing one of the first O.D. Hopkins models. 

“At the time, we didn’t really know how long it would last from a market perspective,” says Jack Morey, executive vice president of Morey’s Piers. But it quickly became one of the most popular rides in the park, and 33 years later still ranks in the top 10 percent among the park’s 62 rides. “We wouldn’t even think of taking it out,” he says.

But it became necessary to make a significant investment to renovate the ride in 2013, a decision Morey says the team never questioned. 

“It’s a family ride; you ride together. You get to hug your kids,” Morey explains of the in-line bench seating. The renovation also created the opportunity to give the ride a sea life theme. 

“For the foreseeable future we will baby the ride to get life out of it.”

The Current Market

While operators of log flumes are currently making decisions about what to do with their existing aging rides, log flume manufacturers insist the attraction has a very bright future. 

As a manufacturer of both water rides and roller coasters, Liechtenstein-based Intamin Amusement Rides has a unique perspective on current conditions. While it does see customers looking at roller coasters to replace aging flume rides, according to Sascha Czibulka, Intamin’s executive vice president and member of the IAAPA Board of Directors, one-third of the flume rides the company currently has in its order pipeline are for replacements of existing ones. In fact, the number of water rides Intamin currently has on order is not that much lower than the number of roller coasters in the works. 

“There is a certain preference toward the coaster, especially in the more mature markets such as the U.S. but also Europe,” Czibulka says. “I think the main reason is simply the higher marketability of a roller coaster, which is still unmatched.” 

Noting that while the roller coasters appeal to a narrower demographic, Czibulka says many guests are still highly entertained by simply watching high-thrill rides, terming the phenomenon “passive” capacity.

John Hudd, managing director of water ride manufacturer Interlink LG of the United Kingdom, has sold more than 100 flumes since 1982 and believes attractions add roller coasters as a marketing tool. 

“Parks never bought roller coasters for people to ride,” Hudd says, sharing his perspective as the head of a company whose core product is water rides. However, Hudd still sees a market for his flume rides, noting that while the company’s sales were originally concentrated in Europe, now 60 to 70 percent take place in the rapidly growing Asian market.

While Hudd agrees that the first generation of flumes are becoming expensive to maintain, the greater challenge is changing technology and customer preferences. 

“Development of safety systems has increased, and the cost of retro­fit is very high. It is not easy to upgrade with new norms,” he says.

Hudd sees the era of the traditional in-line, bench-seat log as waning in favor of flume boats with two-person seats that provide greater stability, restraints, and more personal space in regions of the world where straddling a bench with strangers is not culturally appropriate.


Phantasialand’s “Chiapas” is a 2014 Intamin flume ride that incorporates modern technology, a soundtrack, and three drops along the six-minute ride. (Credit: Intamin)

A Bright Future

Hudd is convinced that the current trend of amusement parks removing log flumes is not indicative of a larger decline in the ride.

“Parks are currently looking to do something different; sooner or later, they will come back,” says Hudd noting the continuing popularity of existing water rides at parks around the world. “While the future is not in a log, the appeal remains—a drop, a chute, and a splash.”

He’s not alone in that belief.  

“Our industry is, in general, cyclical, so it is reasonably safe to assume that ‘dry’ water rides will see increased demand,” concurs Intamin’s Czibulka. 

Nathan Jones, president of the park attractions division of Richmond, Canada-based WhiteWater, agrees the flume is going through an evolutionary pause. 

“Roller coasters have seen a lot of R&D (research and development) and innovation in recent years. Log flumes have not kept up with the industry,” he says in explaining the current trend of roller coasters being the preferred replacement of log flumes. 

“I think that every type of attraction has to evolve in order to meet the demands of changing markets and changing audiences and demographics,” says Intamin’s Czibulka, citing two ways Intamin has responded. First, it has added features and components from other types of attractions it manufactures, in particular from its roller coasters, such as high-speed switches, high-speed lifts, and magnetic brakes. And second, the company has responded to changing standards, which require more sophisticated restraint systems.

Czibulka mentioned “Chiapas,” a flume Intamin installed at Phantasialand in ­Germany in 2014, as an indicator of the future of the ride. Replacing an older flume ride, “Chiapas” is a heavily themed attraction with its own soundtrack. Not only does the six-minute-long ride feature three drops, including one of the steepest drops found on any flume ride in the world, but it also incorporates modern technology, such as a restraint system in the boats. 

“I think we have demonstrated that a flume ride can be still very relevant today,” Czibulka says.

The Rising Tide

“El Aserradero,” the first modern flume ride at Six Flags Over Texas, is still in operation today, while “The Mill Race” was retired at Cedar Point on Labor Day in 1993 and replaced with Bolliger & Mabillard’s inverted “Raptor” roller coaster. However, in a testament to the second-ever flume’s nostalgia, Cedar Point started selling retro “Mill Race” T-shirts using the ride’s old logo in 2018.

With a nod to the past, while looking to the future, WhiteWater’s Jones sees it as the responsibility of the manufacturing community to make attractions operators fall in love with the flume ride again, noting his company acquired Hopkins to increase its market share with theme parks. Citing its track record of innovation in water park attractions, Jones hinted that WhiteWater is looking to reinvent the log flume for the 21st century, highlighting lighting, adding sound, creating a narrative, and building a storyline.

“We are looking at it as a challenge and stepping up again. We didn’t come into this business to be a commodity,” Jones says. “We’re looking to push it to next generation.”

Jim Futrell has been researching the industry for 40 years. He has written extensively on the topic and oversees IAAPA’s Oral History Project. He recently released his eighth book, “Images of America: Seabreeze Park.”


“Fall Fantasy Parades” continue an almost 70-year tradition of inviting performance groups to Kennywood. (Credit: Kennywood)

Beyond a Field Trip

Youth programs offer lasting benefits to amusement parks and participants

by Juanita Chavarro Arias

Along the streets of Kennywood amusement park, the melodic sounds of horns and woodwinds fill the air as cymbals crash together and lively drum cadences match the rhythm of steps marched in unison. Color guard flags twirl high above guests’ heads, and rustling pompoms draw enthusiasm from the crowd. These are the sights and sounds of the West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, park’s “Fall Fantasy Parades,” an 18-night tradition in its 69th year that welcomes more than 150 high school, college, and auxiliary marching bands throughout August.

“A lot of bands see this as a reward for their hard work during band camp, so the last thing they do is come and march at Kennywood,” says Lisa Bliss, promotions and sponsorship manager at the park. “Over the years, our lists have grown and grown. This year, we were almost at capacity, so that’s a great thing for us.”

Like Kennywood, amusement parks around the world regularly open their facilities to students and teachers, creating unique performance and educational experiences that can’t be had anywhere else. Many parks offer the ability to book a day through their website, while sales teams usually offer special program packages with a variety of add-on options, like all-day park admission, unlimited ride wristbands, and food and beverage catering. From parades and music festivals to edutainment days and science tours, youth programs offer amusement parks opportunities to increase attendance during slow periods, gain additional revenue, and connect with local communities, while delivering memorable experiences with educational value to young guests.

More Guests, More Revenue

With 800 to 900 students marching in Kennywood’s “Fall Fantasy Parades” each night, Bliss says it’s an opportunity for participating students’ friends and families to come to the park to support them and their schools. Local bands tend to draw the largest crowds, and visitors from neighboring communities and states, like Ohio or West Virginia, usually come to enjoy the park for the entire day before the evening parade.

“It really boosts our numbers at a time when we typically are slow,” she says. “People line up way before the parade starts at 8 p.m. Guests are usually sitting at our large cafeteria (a prime parade viewing area) by 2 or 3 p.m., reserving their spots.”

A dramatic increase in attendance after 5 p.m. during the month of the parades led the Kennywood team to offer evening ticket specials, Bliss says. Another source of revenue is lunch and dinner catering purchased by many of the participating bands. 

The almost year-long planning process for “Fall Fantasy Parades” involves a lot of coordination across art, games, maintenance, and sales departments to ensure floats are designed, bands’ dates are confirmed, and lineups are accurate. Bliss says organization and communication with staff members and band directors are the keys to the parades’ success.


Gröna Lund electricians and mechanics teach students about hydraulics, magnetic brakes, and more at the Technology Table. (Credit: Gröna Lund)

The Value of Educational Partners

On the education side of amusement park youth programs, Sweden’s Gröna Lund hosts “Edutainment Days” in September for high school students to observe math, physics, and science principles found on 16 of the park’s attractions. They also study the technology that powers rides, like hydraulics, magnetic brakes, pneumatics, and levers.

Andreas Theve, Gröna Lund’s park historian, comes from an educational background, having worked as a high school teacher and assistant principal, so he understands that in order to approve and fund a field trip to an amusement park, teachers and school administrators need to see its value for students and their grades. “It has to be part of the course they are learning about in school,” Theve says.

A way to build credibility for an educational program is to work with local school boards, universities, or science centers during the program’s development, Theve recommends. For Gröna Lund’s “Edutainment Days,” he partnered with local professors and House of Science, a science center connected with the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

“We allow 3,500 students in the park for 1.5 hours, which is enough time to allow them to solve the problems in the worksheets we’ve developed,” Theve says. “In September, the park is open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays from 3 p.m., so the park is open just for the students between 1 and 3 p.m. Then, the student groups will nearly always buy wristbands to stay after the educational day is over.”

Similarly, Ron Gustafson, director of marketing and public relations at Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, Connecticut, worked with the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) to accredit Quassy’s 30-plus page “Fun with Physics” booklet with lesson plans and worksheets based on the park’s rides. “Fun with Physics” teaches middle school students about roller coasters’ conversion of gravitational potential into kinetic energy, centripetal accelerations on rotating rides, and the conditions experienced on free fall rides. AAPT verified the booklet’s information and formulas, and “Fun with Physics” continues to be one of Quassy’s most popular programs.

“It was a pretty big project to complete but certainly one that’s worked very well and had some staying power,” Gustafson says. “We tell the teachers to download it from our website before they arrive and pick out the projects they would like their students to complete during their visit to the park.”


For Academic Days, Tivoli Gardens provides downloadable exercises, cups, sleep masks, and earplugs for experiments at select rides. (Credit: Tivoli Gardens)

A Boost to Academics and Sales

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark, established an education department in 2013, and it has grown significantly in the past few years. Tivoli’s education program offers two different products: “Academic Days,” self-guided visits in which the park provides school groups with experiment exercises and unique materials like sleep masks and earplugs, and 21 educational courses covering a range of subjects for different age groups taught by Tivoli’s own educators. The park’s three classrooms have a capacity of up to nine classes a day.

“It is essential for us that our educational courses and all exercises for ‘Academic Days’ are linked to Tivoli in an obvious way,” says Christina Høj, head of education at Tivoli Gardens. “Some teachers who visit us again and again have told us that the students they brought the previous year had used examples from Tivoli when, for example, discussing potential and kinetic energy on their physics exam or the golden ratio for a Danish exam.”

Through surveys and interviews with teachers and students, Gröna Lund’s Theve has received a lot of positive feedback about the lasting impact of the park’s educational programs on student performance.

“I received a letter from a teacher who told me he usually gave a test in October, where, previously, not many students earned high marks,” Theve recalls. “But when students took the test after attending our ‘Edutainment Days,’ no one flunked. The hands-on method does really work.”

For amusement parks looking to achieve these kinds of results from their youth programs, Kennywood’s Bliss and Tivoli’s Høj recommend starting on a small scale and growing programs after gaining insights about what works. 

“Balancing the commercial aspect with the academic relevance is very important,” Høj says. “For schools, the product has to be affordable, but if it doesn’t support the curriculum, it is not attractive.”

Quassy’s Gustafson suggests thinking outside the box and looking at park demographics to develop programs that draw groups in.

“Without our educational programs, early summer and late spring sales would be off dramatically,” he says. “Schools consider coming to the amusement park on a field trip because of a great, established educational program. That’s important for the industry as a whole.”