Appreciating the smile

AT: John W.C. Robinson

I was having a conversation during the recent Golden Ticket Award ceremony at Silverwood Theme Park about how the industry comes together so well at events like that one. No matter what we do in the industry, when we come together, we shake hands, have a drink and have a laugh together like we’re old friends even if we were perfect strangers just moments before. Our common ground? We work in the amusement industry. We’ve got a passion for making sure people smile. 


About 20 years ago, I was fresh out of college and starting my first “real job.” The money was good, the people were friendly and the opportunity was plentiful. But, as with most jobs, too much time was spent harping over little things that didn’t matter in the long run, and too often coworkers were concerned more about their own advancement than anything or anyone else.

I took a vacation in the midst of all that to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. I wasn’t halfway through the week when I just paused, looked around and wondered to myself, Why did I ever leave the park industry? This is my home.

I’d grown up around amusement parks. My father was the operations manager of LeSourdesville Lake (Middletown, Ohio) when my parents met, and parks were just our reality. I worked alongside family in the parks handing out silverware at picnics or counting tickets for promotions. Even as a teenager, I was working in my dad’s office writing press releases for upcoming events at parks he was working with or dropping off promotional items throughout the city.

After years of doing that and finally getting out “on my own” … I wanted back in. I wanted back into an industry where everything revolves around a paradise, an escape or some fun for families and guests of all ages.

On your worst day in this industry, what you’re doing ensures someone is smiling. Today, right now, someone is smiling as a result of something you’ve done in this industry, something you’ve done while working and something you’ve done while collecting a paycheck.

The WWA Symposium and Trade Show is in October, the IAAPA Expo is just weeks away and January’s safety seminars are around the corner. Through all of those, we’ll be surrounded by people with one thing in common: they want to ensure people will be smiling tomorrow. It’s all business, but it’s the business of smiles.

The old adage is “It’s not work if you’re having fun.” I’d argue that being part of this industry necessitates adjusting that statement to be: “It’s not work, if you’re ensuring someone is having fun … today.”