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Tim's Turn - November 2016

The Poe-try of a Ride

How I helped name Holiday World’s ‘Raven’

Once upon a time, I was invited to a great many parties, grand openings, and ride dedications. Today, I get invited to virtually nothing. While I am not totally sure if I have retired or not, most everyone else thinks I have.

One of my first invitations came from Bill Koch Sr., asking me to visit during the first season after he changed the name of his park from Santa Claus Land to Holiday World. To expand, Bill Koch Sr. added Halloween and 4th of July sections to the park to represent more seasons than just  Christmas. 

With another expansion of the park in 1993, adding Splashin’ Safari Waterpark, came another invitation, this time from Bill’s son, Will, who was then president and CEO. 

Then one day less than a year later, I received an unexpected call from Will. He asked if I would come up and look over the site and the plans for what was to become the park’s first major ride, a Custom Coasters woodie. He knew I had ridden hundreds of different coasters, and he wanted my honest opinion. I expect he asked others to do the same, as well. It was a big step for him to not only build a major coaster, but to go into what was then a major debt for one of the first times in the park’s history. 

Will had done his homework. He had visited parks around the country, and knew what he liked in coaster design. He took his favorites to the designers and they combined his preferred elements into the layout. To this day, I have never seen any park official take such care and conduct so much research for a single ride. This was obviously a big deal for Holiday World.

My wife, Kathleen, came along and as we walked through the dense woods and the ravine where the coaster was to be built, he explained how it would hug the terrain to enhance the illusion of speed, and how the 180-degree swoop out over Lake Rudolph would surprise the riders because they couldn’t see the lake as they approached.

As we stepped out of the wilderness into the Halloween section of the park where the ride would end, I half-joked to Will that the coaster should be Edgar Allan Poe-themed. Then it hit me: “Will, this sounds like a great ride, and with the speed and the airtime riders will experience, some will get off and probably proclaim, ‘Nevermore, nevermore.’ So why don’t you name it the ‘Raven.’” He smiled, liked it, and that’s how the ride was named.

To my surprise, I received a call earlier this year from Dave Hahner, the historian for American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE), asking me about my part in the naming, which he had heard earlier from Paula Werne, the park’s publicist extraordinaire. I confirmed it.

In late June, the “Raven” was named an “ACE Landmark Coaster,” and a sign—giving me credit for naming it—was posted outside the Victorian-themed station. Wow, what a wonderful surprise and honor to be immortalized for something connected to Bill Sr. and Will—both IAAPA Hall of Famers—and the historic family-owned park. Thank you, ACE!

I realize it’s a natural progression, but as I matriculate deeper and deeper into retirement and people start forgetting about me, I wonder if I will ever be invited to another park event. Oh wait a minute, I hear a faint voice calling from far away … “Nevermore, nevermore.” 

Tim O’Brien is a veteran industry journalist and former vice president of Ripley Entertainment. A longtime Funworld contributor, he is author of several books chronicling the industry’s attractions and personalities.