Bigfoot Fun Park weathers daily year-round operations

AT: Tim Baldwin

BRANSON, Mo. — Like many cities in the middle part of the country, Branson can experience particularly warm days in the summer and vividly cold temperatures during the winter. Despite the ups and downs of a tourist-centric destination, Bigfoot Fun Park has completed a full year of operation and doesn’t look to slow down. The park opened in the spring of 2017.

Emma Hamilton, co-owner and general manager, is excited about what the facility has to offer visitors. From conception to opening, the development of Bigfoot Fun Park (originally Bigfoot on the Strip) took about two and a half years.

“We tried to bring things that fit into Branson really well, but were also unique to the area,” Hamilton told Amusement Today. “Our most visual anchor is our 200-foot tower. It is the tallest [structure] in Branson. Its official name is the Bigfoot Action Tower, and it has two exciting thrill rides on it — the Super Sling and Gravity Bomb. The absence of the shoulder restraint [on the drop tower] makes it unique compared to others in the country. You get beautiful views of Branson, and it is a true freefall.”

Both rides on the tower were supplied by Soaring Eagle out of Logan, Utah. On the Super Sling, riders sit back to back and are shot in the air flipping end over end. It was the first to debut in the U.S.

“I experimented with the idea 15 years ago,” said Stan Checketts, inventor and owner of Soaring Eagle. “We always wanted something where you were exposed with your arms and legs hanging out. We came up with the saddle with people seated back to back. I was really excited about it. It’s really smooth.”

“The tower is super efficient and super reliable,” said Hamilton. “As the focal point of the property, we have it decked out with 35,000 LED lights and sound. Every night we have free light shows.”

Bigfoot on the Strip features themed activities surrounding the mythic character. Both an 18-hole miniature golf course and maze/activity climb sport an outdoors and wooded feel.

“We worked with a local landscaper who really brought it to life,” said Hamilton. “He brought in a lot of Ozark native plants. We have a 250-foot long tunnel to transition to the back part of our golf course. We have hand-painted black light murals inside that go from the woodlands to the frozen tundra of the yeti. The back part of the course has a lot of whites and more of a Tibetan scene.”

The FEC used Cost of Wisconsin for the golf course, which is handicapped-accessible.

The Yeti Fun Zone features climbing towers, tree houses, a maze and a Monkey Jump finale into a big inflated cushion. Amazen Mazes was a supplier of the maze panels. The structures were built independently under the park’s creative vision. Hamilton is confident that all age groups find challenging areas and playful activities.

“We’re kind of an interesting hybrid,” said Hamilton. “We have elements of an FEC and we have elements that would be more traditionally seen in the theme park setting. In reference to the Monkey Jump, I think we are the only [place] that has one. We’re the only place in the country that has the same mix that we do. We spent a lot of time conceptually what elements fit together.”

If weather becomes problematic in terms of outdoor activities, the facility has a 4,000-square-foot arcade stocked with the latest games and an indoor shooting attraction from Alterface. Dubbed the 8Di Action Cinema, the themed theater seats 13 players on moving “bikes.” The guests have a choice of multiple themed storylines — from cowboys to zombies to a custom-created Bigfoot story —  they can enjoy while taking aim and going for top score. There is wind, sound, 3D and more. The arcade opened with all-new games, and Hamilton reported that they have already traded out for some newer ones for their second year of operation.

The park does not have set closing hours. Hamilton says the facility stays open “until the fun is done.” She does acknowledge that the shoulder season does have earlier closings, but if customers are on property, they ensure they have a good time. Summer months see typical closings around 2 a.m. “We’ve sold a round of golf as late as 1:30 a.m.,” she joked.

With winter months changing the tourist season, Bigfoot Fun Park uses the off-season as prep time to keep staffing, although the FEC is open daily. Staffing stays busy cleaning, working on redemption prizes and organization tasks while foot traffic is lighter. Branson continues to see a stream of visitors during the fall with the change of color and boasts a busy Christmas season. Even when kids aren’t the core market as in the summer, the facility still finds visitors over a wide age range. The property can continue ride operations until temperatures drop below freezing. Bigfoot on the Strip plans to keep year-round daily operations. “Just being realistic about what you have to offer the people you will be serving during the shoulder season should be your expectation,” said Hamilton.

New for the 2018 season, a new attraction, Bigfoot Discovery Expedition, utilizes five 4×4 Safari trucks for 90-minute excursions off property. Each vehicle transports 28 passengers to Bigfoot Farms in search of Bigfoot. Guests are loaded at the main park and taken 15 minutes north of town to a 430-acre farmland. “The cool thing is that within minutes of leaving the property you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere,” said Hamilton. “You spend about an hour driving through the Ozark scenery; it’s beautiful.”

Once onsite, guests interact with Scottish Highland Cattle. The hairy, long-horned cattle are docile and can be fed from the trucks. It is where Bigfoot “sightings” are most apt to happen.

The facility offers various packages. Hamilton believes the average length of stay to Bigfoot Fun Park is three and a half to four hours.

This article appears in the July 2018 issue of Amusement Today.

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