One thing I recall about growing up in North Texas is there was nothing to do during winter. It was cold, gray, and miserable for the most part. Thank the powers that be for the invention of home videogames consoles! After that, we just had to wait it out in the claustrophobic confines of our bedrooms.
My mind takes me back to a day when my friend Steve and I were sitting on his backyard trampoline during one of the rare warmer winter days. We were discussing what we planned to do for spring break and we both came to similar conclusions. As with everyone else from our geographic location within the same age bracket, we planned to beg our parents for a trip to Six Flags Over Texas! We went on to discuss our dream in great detail for hours. We loved that place.
Opening in 1961, Six Flags Over Texas was the original Six Flags theme park. Angus Wynne Jr., a local businessman in the Dallas area, fell in love with Disneyland and wanted to do something similar back home. Not known to many, Six Flags was only meant to last about five years before scrapping the place as a sort of get rich quick scheme, but the whole park took off like a rocket. Although troubled, it remains in business to this very day.
Why troubled? No one with any foothold inside the business knows and doesn’t really seem to care much about outsider suggestions. Still, I’m going to write in hopes someone important reads it. I know, it’s a tall order asking corporate goons to read something other than profit statements, but I’m doing it anyway.
Since Six Flags first came to be, it was mainly a summer attraction. They would open on weekends only in the spring and fall, but daily operations would begin and end coinciding with the local school schedule. Holiday in the Park started in the late eighties giving us all a little bit more fun around Christmas, but that was it. As children, the annual closure gave us something to look forward to. This is no longer the case.
Thanks to global warming and capitalism, many of the theme parks around the country no longer close during the winter. Granted, it’s a ‘weekends only’ operating schedule, but the rides now run year-round. This was always the case in the desert climate of California and the tropical meh of Florida for the Disney parks, but the Midwest of the United States has gone mad with the gradually increasing annual temperatures. Money is leading the way now rather than common sense. Why is year-round operation a terrible thing in my opinion? Let’s discuss.
- It’s mental overkill. It doesn’t give families anything to look forward to at a specific time of the year. Children no longer obsess over the upcoming ‘fun’ season because they can go in January or February. Same with smartphones, everything we dreamt about as children is now in the palm of our hands with rarely a waiting period. How can you long for something that’s always available? Can you imagine how much Halloween would suck if we celebrated it every day of the year? Just ask Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Also, I had a partner once whose grandfather played Santa Claus all year long. He was the official White House Santa and visited sick kids in hospitals accompanied by celebrities during the rest of the year. He’s even in the Santa Claus Hall of Fame in Michigan. Want to know something strange? He hated children.
- It’s a social media nightmare. Have you ever endured a bad meal somewhere and you couldn’t wait to bash the place on Yelp so others could share in your misfortune? Liar. Sure you have. The same thing goes for theme parks. When guests visit during the winter months, they encounter tons of rides and attractions no longer accessible to them. Most fail to comprehend why since they become overwhelmed with sudden sadness. Their favorite rollercoaster is shut down and they drove three hours while anticipating the thrills of freefalls and loops. Seconds later, those angry little thumbs are posting mean spirited photographs along with one sided explanation about how the theme park sucks. No one ever stops to think about the potential catastrophe of a failing brake or restraint system due to operating pneumatics during chilly weather. They also fail to realize how long it takes to ‘warm up’ those coaster trains when it’s forty degrees outside. Have you ever watched a rollercoaster valley? It’s hilarious for the spectator, but terrifying for anyone currently riding the coaster.
- There’s no down time. I recall visiting theme parks in the springtime, and they looked amazing. The three-month gap without guests allowed maintenance and landscaping workers the time to clean up the park, fix any potential ride flaws, and build new attractions without closing off entire sections. Regardless of which park and if you pay attention, you’ll notice now that the paint is peeling, the flowers are dead, rides are shut down without explanation, and any surprises offered by a new ride are spoiled ahead of time by YouTubers. Maintenace workers and ride operators are overworked and miserable. You can see it on their faces and hear it in their voice. Since humans are psychic sponges, we leave the park feeling the same way. Who wants to go to a theme park to feel like shit? We can do that at home with our smartphones and save the hundred and fifty dollars spent on parking, admission, and unhealthy food.
Are the people at the top seeing any type of capital gains by being open all year long or do they only see the income? Does anyone bother reporting the expenditures or thinking about the wear and tear on the equipment? Do they even consider the potential hazards to human lives by the attractions outlining past their maintenance windows? These are all issues with yearlong offerings, and the seasons are only getting warmer as time passes.
The one thing the corporate beasts aren’t thinking about are two little boys sitting on a trampoline discussing how much they love their park. They got their trip to Six Flags Over Texas that spring and got in trouble for spitting on a man’s head as he passed under the cue line of The Runaway Minetrain. It was funny at the time. Eventually, those two little boys grew up to be men. One of them had a family of his own and was disheartened whenever he took his kids and grandkids to visit his childhood fun spot. The other man took his own life twenty years ago in a police/hostage standoff brought on by bouts of silent depression. I’m sure this had little to do with the worsening downfall of his favorite theme park, but no one truly knows what goes on within the heads of others.
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