Our destination is ahead

AT: John W.C. Robinson

Sad news has hit the industry the past couple months with countless fairs and festivals cancelled because of the COVID pandemic. Several amusement parks and water parks have announced they won’t be opening in 2020 and are looking toward 2021.


The amusement industry has been on the edge of its seat, preparing protocols to be ready for reopening and, at the same time, wondering all along exactly when it will be able to reopen.

I remember the first time I drove to Cedar Point. The sun was setting as we got deeper into northern Ohio along our four-hour drive, and I kept thinking to myself, “I should be able to see the coasters by now.” I was almost hungry to see the lights of a coaster hill illuminating the night sky and know that I was just minutes away from parking and walking through the front gates.

In so many ways, that’s exactly where we are right now as an industry and a society. Since mid-March, when the majority of the major U.S. parks shuttered their front gates, we’ve been maintaining course under stay-at-home orders and waiting to know when we’d be close to the laughter, thrills and memories of an operating park again. In our journey, we’re close enough that we know — at any minute — we’re going to see the coasters operating just ahead in the distance.

Some states have already lifted their stay-at-home orders, and many others are gradually allowing businesses to begin serving customers again. Granted, they’re all doing this with the reminders that social distancing protocols are still in order. But still, people are coming out of their homes and into the sunshine, visiting restaurants, city parks, aquariums and more.

Overseas, Shanghai Disneyland has opened its gates once again. Europa-Park and Efteling both announced opening dates for May. And, in the U.S., we’re starting to hear opening dates for Holiday World, Mt. Olympus Theme Park, Kentucky Kingdom, even the now-saved Indiana Beach. With Tennessee lifting restrictions on capacity, effective May 22, it’s allowing large attractions to reopen and Dollywood has already promised an announcement is forthcoming.

These are baby steps. However, they’re still steps inching us closer to a 2020 park season and starting to reopen our beloved industry. It’s been a long winding road to get this far, and not an easy journey, but the good news is that we’re almost there. We’re almost to that illuminated coaster hill operating in the distance and welcoming thrill-seekers and families alike.

This article appears in the JUNE 2020 issue of Amusement Today.
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