Cedar Fair’s Grand Carnivale increases attendance, entertainment value

AT: Pam Sherborne

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The success of the Grand Carnivale, held for three weeks this season at four Cedar Fair Entertainment parks, is certainly proof that a new ride doesn’t have to be the centerpiece of a park’s season. A new event can create the same excitement and increase attendance as well. 

Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, one of the four parks that presented the huge production saw guests coming back multiple times and even dressing in costume. Grand Carnivale was held there July 20-Aug. 11. 

“We definitely saw more guests during the three weeks we had the event here,” said Michael Fehnel, Dorney Park general manager. “People just wanted to see it over and over again.”

The Grand Carnivale was created and pulled together by Cedar Fair’s live entertainment department. The production celebrated the sights, sounds, smells and tastes from cultures around the world including India, China, Italy, France and Germany. 

The totally immersive event included a parade with nine lavishly decorated floats called the Spectacle of Color Parade, which began at 5 p.m. Costumed performers welcomed guests to the parade then the party spilled over into the Carnivale Street Party where there was a variety of live performances, crafts, games and an abundance of international foods and beverage. 

The park teams enjoyed the event as well. 

“Our team loved it so much so they really put the extra effort in there for it,” Fehnel said, adding the production ran every single day during the three weeks it was scheduled at the park.

“The scale was so large, it took talented organizations coming together to pull it off,” Fehnel said.

His sentiments were echoed by Chris Foshee, public relations and communications director at Worlds of Fun, Kansas City, Mo. The event was held there July 13-Aug. 4. 

“We definitely saw an increase in attendance during the production,” Foshee said. “The Spectacle of Color Parade was a big hit. From the elaborate floats and immersive theatrics to the interactive performances and festive atmosphere, it really delivered an over-the-top, unique experience for our guests.

“Our teams were able to carry over the energy from the parade into our Carnivale Street Party, which kept the good times rolling into the night with dancing, live music and fireworks,” he said. 

The Grand Carnivale, which had two units this year, also was held at Kings Dominion, Doswell, Va., June 15-July 7, and Kings Island, Kings Island, Ohio, during the same dates. 

Maggie Sellers, communications manager, Kings Dominion, said the Grand Carnivale also was a great success for her park. 

“Guests loved all aspects of the event, from the food to the performers and even into the night with the Carnivale Street Party,” Sellers said. “It was truly amazing to see everyone gathered for the Spectacle of Color Parade. Seeing all of the guests interacting and dancing with the performers made it all the more special.”

By all reports, Kings Island saw the same success.

The idea for the Grand Carnivale was a collaborative effort by both the Cedar Fair organization and outside design and creative experts, said Brent Barr, vice president, Cedar Fair’s live entertainment department. 

“We started working on the project in September of 2018 and rolled out the first set of parades at Kings Island and Kings Dominion on June 15, 2019,” Barr said. 

Barr said it took approximately 175 individuals to make Carnivale happen including performers, technicians, costumers, drivers and operations personnel. The cast was a combination of both local and outside performers. 

“We worked with several casting agencies to bring in the special performance skills needed to make Carnivale great,” Barr said.

Those agencies included Michael Windish Productions, Les Productions Haut-Vol, and RWS Entertainment Group

Other production partners used in at least one of the four parks included Rozzi Fireworks, All Wheels Sports, Kern Studios, Lawless Industries, 3DX Scenic and Iacono Company, S4 Lights, Curtis Creative Design and Marketing, MCW Designs, Great Lakes Audio Visual and Creative Development.

The food also was a highly popular element to the event. 

“It really encompassed our whole team,” Fehnel said. “We even brought in a craft beer from each one of the five countries. I would call it an ensemble effort.”

Next year the Grand Carnivale will be expanded adding Valleyfair, Shakeopee, Minn., and Carowinds, Charlotte, N.C. 

“We will have three parade fleets that each travel to two parks,” Barr said.

This article appears in the OCTOBER 2019 issue of Amusement Today.
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