A word or two on being an enthusiast...or an enthusi-assholes.
I'm writing this today after hearing and seeing some rather nasty behavior among our own community. In fact, having witnessed it in person, it is degrading to so many people - including yourselves who are doing it.
Let me be clear here: The majority of our community are well behaved. They know not to do stupid shit such as 'selfies' on ride, or their own private POV videos for YouTube, etc. They're smart enough to figure out that they cannot jump over a fence to get their hat when it is dropped off on a ride.
Or are they?
Recently I've seen reports from close friends & other people that behavior at some of the enthusiast events is... deploring. No, I take that back, it's downright rude, arrogant and cruel. Of people getting pushed out of their way because somebody was racing to get on the waiting train FIRST. Even when broadcasts of "We're holding the train for you" were being heard, they still pushed somebody out of the way.
And then rude, cruel comments on the operating crew of a particular ride for not moving fast enough for their own liking. Insulting operators, being belligerent towards them, and degrading them.
Believe it or not, those people are earning a reputation in the theme park/hospitality industry. They might think they're anonymous... they are not. And for those who think they're immune to the consequences: Wake up time. You're not.
Let me be CRYSTAL CLEAR here: Ours is a secret society that has no secrets. Everybody in this business, from the park operators to the ride ops to the enthusiasts SEES AND HEARS EVERYTHING. There are no secrets. And names do get passed around. Your facebook comment about a park or their management? It's seen. It's passed around. It's shown to others.
This isn't to mean there's a big, beautiful conspiracy going on, but let's face it: Gossip fuels the business. Whether it is a new coaster going up at (Choose your park here) or somebody is doing something at (Choose your park here), everybody hears the gossip by the time the "SEND" button is pressed on a mobile device. And it gets around like wildfire; entire websites are set up to discuss the latest rumors, gossip and such.
And if you think for one second that a given person's rude criticism of a park or a ride isn't seen by management - you're wrong. Parks and their staff read up too. Every crack made at a park is watched (Even I've been hit with this shit stick before) and is discussed.
Not to mention: Your name is attached to it - and is seen. Nothing is private in the digital age - nothing. You trash one enthusiast's view - odd are, people are watching. There is <ZERO> trust between media forms.
All of this bad behavior is getting around, it is seen, it is being discussed. Parks see the assinine behavior and attitude, and it is NOT working in our favor. In fact, it's putting a bad image in their heads. And as a whole, we will be the ones to suffer.
We, the majority, are being punished by they, the minority.
It's time to stop this. It is time to put the bad boys/girls out to pasture - and to let them know: Your bad attitude, bad behavior, and personality defects aren't welcome here. We're a community that goes for decades in any direction, and the misbehavior of some will not be tolerated by the majority.
We are a group of people who all love and cherish the same thing: Parks & their rides. It is what draws us together every year for our vacations, our rest, our relaxation. And for many events too - whether group led or park led. At the same time, a small group of enthusi-asses are jeopardizing our good times the parks give us. It's time to take a stand, tell these people to stop their bad behavior - and to distance ourselves from them. We do not need to lose what we have because of their asshole actions and thoughts towards parks - as well as towards our own community.
R.D. Dewberry 9/13/18
From the mind of the Editor ...
Hey there Park Journey readers, hope you are all well on this fine late Spring day. It's been awhile since we've done any opinion pieces on the site, and really, we don't usually do them unless there is something that's really weighing on us. Today's topic is something I've been playing around with in my head for awhile but a few recent events have urged me to put finger to keyboard this morning.
Written by Gregg Condon
We're all fans of things. If you're reading this you're probably a fan of Roller Coasters, Theme Parks, Disney, Universal, Von Roll Sky Rides. Maybe you've followed us since day 1, maybe you're relatively new to Park Journey. Maybe you found us through a park update, a YouTube video, coverage of Star Wars Celebration, Halloween stuff. Maybe we even tweeted from the wrong twitter account while at a Hockey game once (it's totally happened) and you thought, "hey, these guys seem cool".
The point is, something you are a fan of brought you to this website, and that's pretty amazing. And we thank you for that. =)
But what happens when your "fandom" takes a turn into "fanatic" and you end up taking it to a whole other level? That's the kind of thing that's brought us here today.
Specifically, what's happening right now in Star Wars fandom.
Let's take a journey back, the year is 1977, I'm only 2 years old, most of you reading this are probably not even born yet (although, we do have a pretty awesome old bear audience ... you know who you are). A new science fiction movie is taking the world by storm.
But this wasn't just a sci-fi movie like 2001 or Flash Gordon, this one was different. And from this spawned an entire universe of toys, shows, movies, books, comics, conventions, theme park rides, theme park lands and millions (billions) of fans.
So many fans that there is apparently a group of fans that feel they "own" Star Wars and if there is something they don't like they feel it is their mission to basically shit on the franchise, and on anybody who doesn't see things their way.
Look, it's ok to be a fan. Even to be fanatic about something. But when your fanaticism begins to impact the enjoyment of others who enjoy the same thing, something is very, VERY wrong.
And as we all know, this isn't just a problem in Star Wars fandom. We see it all the time with actual fights at sporting events. The DisneyTwitter hashtag isn't used as a term of endearment as it should be. There are factions of theme park fans.
Why? Isn't this supposed to be fun? Isn't something that brings joy to billions of people whether it be a movie, a ride, a theme park or a sport be something we should all embrace? If you don't like it, fine. You are totally free to state your opinion.
But sadly, sometimes not liking something turns ugly. As recently the amazing Kelly Marie Tran has had to delete her Instagram account. Not only was there a group of people who were so vitriolic about their hatred of The Last Jedi, it even went to the level of attacking Kelly's race and heritage.
This is when I look at my own fandom of something and wonder how I can love something so much that people with such hate apparently "love" too?
Personally, I'd love to sit down with Kelly Marie Tran, George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Ron Howard, Rian Johnson, JJ Abrams and tell them how much Star Wars means to me. How many rough times in my life the series got me through. How I put the movies on when I'm sick because I can close my eyes, listen to the movie and still see it as I'm watching.
How when I have family tragedy and I need a break I can put on any one of 10 movies and be instantly transported to another galaxy and have a respite.
How I wish I could sit with Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen and let them know that there were people who enjoyed the movies they were in. That the hatred that turned them both away from movies is not the way every fan feels.
But sadly, often times the loudest voices are the most angry.
In a world that's so filled with ugly politics and ugly war and ugliness in the way we treat each other, we should be looking to things like Star Wars, or Disney, or whatever makes you happy as our escape from these things.
The things we love shouldn't be a part of the bad of this world, the things we love should a part of the good of this world. And we should all remember that the good in this world FAR outweighs the bad.
Be good humans ...
We are in the middle of the time of year where we see countless Counts, Hundreds of Haunts, a Smattering of Spirits and other such phenomena appearing around the country (and the world) as we approach Halloween. But sometimes we feel & see things a bit different than during the spooktacular time of year...
Years ago, my corporate masters sent me on a mission to work at a small commuter airline in Nashville, TN which was to become part of the parent airline's affiliate program. Told to "Go west, young man" by my bosses did not thrill me in the least; I'd finally settled into a life which I'd become accustomed to in the urban northeast. So with the threat of unemployment looming over me, I chose to stay working, packed up my ancient Honda and drove to my new home... In Nashville.
Arriving in Nashville in the late spring was a bit of an eye-opener; the city itself presented as being that of a cornerstone of music & industry, and where tourism ruled the roosts. Countless numbers of faux tourist traps lined several main throroughfares throughout the city; and along the banks of the river lay the Opryland Hotel & Conference Center. Along with this came the eponymous Grand Old Opry - and the many museums & tourist attractions there.
But notably, one part of Nashville's vibrant history was surprisingly silent... Opryland itself.
By the end of the 90s, the Gaylord Family had chosen to exit the theme park business entirely; their project at San Antonio (Fiesta Texas) had been sold to Six Flags; and the decision was made to end the nearby Opryland Park as well. Very quietly at the end of 1997, the park shut its doors forever... and was paved over.
Yes, they paved paradise, and put in a parking lot - and a mall.
On the site of the former Opryland park was built another mega-Mills project. Opening in May of 2000, the project had eaten up the entirety of what the park was... and the remaining traces of what had coasters, fun & music was soon plowed over & paved....
Except for one grove of trees...
I went into residence at the Opryland Hotel complex until a corporate apartment could be leased for my duration of six months there. The upscale resort featured some many wonderful features, including a ride-through of the bayou (In the 'Delta' section), indoor fireworks, countless restaurants & beautiful facilities. Indeed, I found Cafe Du Monde to be the perfect place to unwind after work with bengiets & chicory coffee, followed by a cocktail or two in the Dive Bar downstairs.
In the early mornings though, I'd walk a loop to the Opry Mills complex from the conference center back to my hotel suite. Every day, I'd walk past a grove of trees, just to the side of the parking lot. And I would get a chill - no matter how warm or cold it was out - walking by it.
This grove of trees was odd: Everywhere else around there was pavement - except for this one cluster of trees. And one morning, I slowed down, took my time, and looked around, and found that this grove of trees was hiding something. Indeed, it was a concrete trough, wide and with hydraulic elements in it... this was the remains of Grizzly River Rapids. The faux rock work remained in place, the water jets, the tubes to make the 'rapids' still intact - almost as if they could restart it at any time.
In the distance, I could see the tunnels that led to the twin lifts to the platform, and the twists of the old course which wrapped around the grove of trees. I walked around the entire grove, realizing that when they had demolished the park, the rapids ride stood almost untouched - with the old stanchions and rope fencing work that once graced a park midway towards CHAOS (The park's Vekoma enclosed coaster). The entrance paths still existed - though blocked only by two old trashcans that bore the Opryland USA logo on them - though faded & cracked from the blistering summer sun.
Every day I passed by it, I could feel the same sense of having something with me - a spirit that was trapped in the grove of trees - it had both feelings of great happiness - and of great sadness & despair. This ghost felt the emotions of the millions of people who rode GRR during its career at Opryland - and it wanted escape. The rest of the park was gone... yet this one lone remainder stood abandoned & alone. And I felt its sadness - the spirit of the ride lived on - but not in joy.
As I look through GoogleEarth, I now see that what was left of Grizzly River Rapids is now gone - sadly to become memories of what once was. I can only hope that in removing this last legacy piece of history, the spirit is now released; the ghost has been able to find peace. It is ironic though that on the same site now occupies an Events Center - with a slide tower now resting on the site. Soon a water park facillity will join this area too - though nothing will bring back the sounds of fun a river rapids once did.