June is Pride Month, and we've never hidden our support for equal rights for everybody. Sure, we are a theme park and travel site but we are also members of many different communities that converge, and the LGBTQ communities is one community we've never hidden our support for.
So as we change our profile picture to "Pride Journey" we sadly got some push-back. R.D. is here with one of his amazing articles and has some thoughts on it.
Written by RD Sussman-Dewberry
It is June in America, and that usually signifies wedding season is in full swing, parks are in daily operation, and that rainbow flags begin to appear all over the place. June is typically thought of as the Gay Pride Month, in deference to the Stonewall Riots in New York City that began a major push forward for equality and equal rights for the gay community. While Stonewall and other events of the 60s were the start, we adopted so much as a group to make it a time to celebrate and to remember our past - and to hope for a better future.
I grew up as a kid in the 70s and 80s. For me, coming out was a tough (and very long) process that started in 1990, and still goes forward to this day. I chose to be who I was from a late teen on, and I am thankful that I did find an outlet of people who welcomed me in as one of their own: The coaster community.
If you go to any given theme park event with a coaster group, look around you. There are gay people. And LOTS of them. You cannot attend a major coaster event and not find gay people. Theme parks, roller coasters = gays. It's been that way for decades now. And thankfully, with only a very rare few exceptions, we find that gays are accepted - and are treated as equals. And this is a great thing in so many ways, as we don't have to stop being who we are to ride a coaster. Or to enjoy a flat ride. Or to ride the log flume (No jokes, please...).
Walt Disney World Gay Days
One of the things that has amazed me though is there is, despite this very common population, a handful of people who don't get it. Who are clueless to what is going on around them, and to the people they are interacting with. And they do not realize that there are a LOT of gay people around them.
And you know what? It makes them sound like jackasses.
As I write this, I have seen a beautiful sense of support for Park Journey when we changed our logo to be a rainbow - to support the gay community, and the gay coaster enthusiasts. Many people have supported us. And while I'm one of two gay people on staff, it is beautiful to me to see my fellow PJ team members support us. And to support the gay community who form a part of our world.
I don't ever expect everybody to agree with me, or with anybody. That's just plain rude. And I never want people to assume that they have to agree with gay politics, gay movements, whatever. We're in the United States, we're together as a nation, and we're big and diverse with different opinions. At the same time, I do hope that people will understand this: If you don't like a person's opinion, you are entitled to do so - up to the point where you insult them, their group, their family or their beliefs. That shows disrespect - and a tremendous amount of disrespect - to others. That's not tolerance - it's ignorance.
I want everybody - no matter who they are or how they believe to be able to say their opinions - in a polite, dignified way. I love to see other people's opinions and to think in their shoes. But I ABHORE anybody who refuses to listen to the other side. Respect is a two way street.
To my gay family out there - enjoy this time for us to remember our past and celebrate for our future. To my supportive family, thank you for being there for me. And to everybody else - have a beautiful and wonderful June.
As we enter the summer season many of us are going to be spending time in our local water parks. Some of us will even be going to check out the latest water theme park in Orlando.
Unfortunately water parks are somehow still inaccessible to a large number of our population and RD has some thoughts on this.
Written by RD Sussman-Dewberry
In the next few days, we will be flooded with a barrage of pictures coming from the new Volcano Bay Water Park in Orlando, and major water parks all over the country come to life & show off their latest in slides & such. And at the same time, I count how many I see that are Handicapped INaccesible. The easily not-able to be climbed stairways to the key attractions at a park, the wonderfully well not-designed for handicapped guests rapids rides, the beautifully UN-able to be ridden slide towers for guests with any sort of mobility issue.
And I as I look at all these colorful non-ridable tubes going up everywhere, I have to think this: Why are the water parks getting away with this bullshit? How many of them actually care about the guests with mobility issues? And how many of them are willing to install attractions to fit the needs and wants of 15% of the people who are mobility impaired.
Now I know you're thinking: 15% of the population? Screw them. They're not all that important; they can go in the lazy river or in the wave pool. They don't need to ride the waterslides. They don't need those - they can be happy in the wet places that lazily go around in circles. We don't need them clogging up the slides with accessibility issues. We don't want to wait for them to take forever to get into a waterslide, and then to egress the same one at the bottom.
And I say it's time for a major change.
15% of the population has some form of mobility issue that prevents them from being able to easily walk up stairs, or to be able to egress from a slide bay. I'm one of them. For me, going up a slide tower can take upwards of 30 minutes depending on how tall the tower is, and then getting out at the base can be nearly as difficult (I have to 'roll' out of a raft for example, landing face down in the water). At the same time, parks don't realize that they are potentially missing out on 15% of the population's MONEY.
Parks could install systems for these crowds - but are afraid to do so on two levels: The first, the cost of installing hydrovators (basically elevators with grid-floors for water slide towers that are designed to be safe for water parks) and hydrolators (Water slides with conveyor-belt lifts to the top, as seen in a very few parks) is expensive, and they require maintenance. The second is the modification of slides to handle a handicapped egress point (Lower sides on a boat entry - or a transfer sling for chair-bound guests) would require them to spend money to refit for these guests. Both are not inexpensive - at all. But let's look at the longer term benefits of a park.
If a park were to add these benefits, they could market themselves as the first handicapped-accessible water park where ALL guests are welcome. They could add in their own worlds of great benefit if they choose. And they could also allow for more guests to come in - more tickets sold - and more people to visit. It would allow for a previously unwelcome guest demographic to enter water parks, and to be treated as equals with others - something that the handicapped population enjoy - and respect. And it would be a free bundle of publicity that no money could buy: Being able to market it to the media. And the media would be there to cover it all over the country: A water park for all guests to enjoy.
I do go to water parks myself when I can - but I must be very careful where I choose to go with, and with whom I travel to them with. They must know how to get me into/out of certain attractions - and are very capable of doing so. Otherwise, a water park day for me would be floating around in a lazy river, wanting to go on a water slide- but being told I am unable to - or cannot - due to the stairs involved.
It is time for a change. And a big one. It is time for water parks to become handicapped friendly - instead of handicapped hostile.
And don't let anybody tell you any different ...
Written by Gregg Condon
Look, I get it. Your favorite park is Disney, or it's Universal, or it's Cedar Point, or it's a Six Flags park. You think Disney is too crowded (OK it might be) or that Universal uses too many Screenz (maybe they do) and Cedar Fair and Six Flags don't theme their coasters (what's the point when they're going 70 mph). So for ALL of these reasons and more, you'll only visit one theme park chain.
But why? It's probably the greatest time in the history of theme parks to be a theme park fan. They are all trying to one-up each other and it's AMAZING.
In the 90's and early 00's we had the great coaster wars. Amusement Parks from, well really Illinois to New Jersey were trying to one-up each other with taller and faster coasters (California and the West Coast somehow got left out of this). But that didn't do anything for fans of Disney or Universal parks.
Disney was the king of the themed environment for decades. Not only themed rides, but lands around those rides. A recreation of New Orleans for a Pirates themed ride. Old west themed lands. Castles. World's of "tomorrow" that never really came to fruition (but that's a whole other article).
But the fact is, Disney was the top. Even after Universal Studios Florida opened Universal was really second fiddle to Disney and it seemed that's where they were destined to stay.
And then in the late 90's and into 2001 Disney built a couple of parks that weren't quite as successful as they probably should have been, because Disney was trying to save some money. Disney was always the "first offer" when it came to franchises to create themed environments for (yes, even Potter) but they were famously hesitant to give up any control when it came to the final say over what was in their parks.
And it is for that reason JK Rowling found the perfect partner to re-create her Wizarding World of Harry Potter ... and then everything changed.
On May 10, 2010 the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Islands of Adventure and thus started the theme park war that we now see ourselves in.
No longer would off-the-shelf mouse coasters themed to Dinosaur parking lots or twisty roads in the Santa Monica Mountains be enough. Swing rides that looked like oranges, gone. Special effects shows featuring crappy war movies, gone.
But the impact wasn't just for Disney. It opened up a whole new era for Universal Studios across the world which has probably benefited the Hollywood Park more than any other.
Just look at the timeline for Disney and Universal just since Wizarding World opened:
And these are just the highlights, so much has been done at all of these parks since 2010. And we're just getting started.
In addition to these attractions at Disney and Universal, the other park chains are starting to catch on to themed rides and environments. We've seen the Justice League rides at Six Flags parks. Coasters with themed elements like Mystic Timbers at Kings Island, Cobra's Curse at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
The complete re-do of Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm. Interactive dark rides at Legoland. Even smaller parks like Glenwood Caverns are opening themed rides that fit their parks.
And of course for the coaster fans we've seen the complete re-imagining of classic wooden coasters thanks to Rocky Mountain Construction, the continued success of B&M Hyper Coasters and the infusion of newer manufacturers (to the US) like MACK and Gerstlauer. Parks like Lagoon are even building their own coasters.
As I said, it's an AMAZING time to be a Theme Park Fan.
Sure, there are always there are those who will find fault with anything. Guardians of the Galaxy Tower, Volcano Bay, World of Pandora, Soarin' Around The World, duplication of rides at Six Flags. There is not ONE attraction opening up at any park that is beyond critique. No matter the chain, theme, ride system, fan-base ... inevitably somebody out there is going to hate it, or at least give the perception that they hate it.
But now that the theme park war is almost a decade old it shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, with all of the rumors going around with Tron coming to EPCOT, NintendoLand coming to Universal, more Potter coming, Marvel and of course Star Wars Land there is going to be more choice than ever.
For those of us that can look beyond what company is creating what environment and enjoy lots of different things at different parks, it's absolutely amazing. For those that continue to support only one company while still criticizing everything that company does you are likely going to be continually disappointed.
IP's aren't going anywhere. Screenz aren't going anywhere. Overlays of existing rides to fit what's new and hip aren't going anywhere. Synergy is where it's at. And why not. When you have franchises that are pulling in BILLIONS of dollars every year at the Box Office it's no surprise that corporations want to capitalize on that with attractions and most importantly, merchandising.
So you can either continue to be disappointed with the highest quality attractions theme parks have ever created or just go with the flow and enjoy the ride ...