A Family’s Happy Story From Holiday World
Our reader Sheila M Lenkman Corwin was kind enough to share her family’s story about their special experience at Holiday World a few years ago.
“In 2015 my husband and I took our family to Holiday World to attend Holiwood Nights, a park event for coaster enthusiasts. My oldest son, who has Autism, was thrilled. He had been obsessed with coasters since he was tiny, and recreated every one he went on with various building toys. Friends of ours, who attended Holiwood nights regularly, encouraged us to take him. He researched the coasters there and spent the spring months avidly watching for construction news on Thunderbird, as well as watching the animated POV video they released. When the day finally arrived, he was nearly frantic to get to the coaster.”
Sheila continues her story:
“If you have never seen Thunderbird at Holiday World, it helps to know how it is attached to the park. It is way in the back, up a hill, and accessed by a long winding path. The coaster is launched from a second story platform that you can see as you make your way up the hill.
The first day of Holiwood Nights, they let us out into the park for the ERT just as the sun was going down. Everyone ran like it was the opening of a marathon towards the back of the park! As we started up the hill, the coaster launched in an impressive display of simulated thunder, smoke effects, and flashes of light. My son stopped in horror, and the rest of us gathered around him in dismay. He was afraid of storms. Absolutely terrified of storms. There was nothing in the promotional videos about storms with Thunderbird.
Long story short, he didn’t ride Thunderbird that night. The rest of our group went up the hill, while he sat miserably with me at the bottom of the hill and watched it.
The next day was Saturday, and we hoped he would try it in the daylight, when the special effects weren’t so dramatic. We got him close to the building but the first peal of thunder sent him back down the hill in terror.
Saturday night found us on the same bench, staring sadly up the hill. The rest of our group had just gone up the hill to ride again. My son noticed that the regular launches had stopped, and we were wondering what was going on, when suddenly my husband and another friend came running down the hill to our bench, grabbed my son and dragged him up the hill. It turns out that they had been telling the ride operators about the scared kid, and they called a manager, who called maintenance to TURN OFF THE SPECIAL EFFECTS JUST FOR MY SON! And they were HOLDING THE TRAIN for him!
They got him on, strapped him in, and Thunderbolt launched quietly into the night. I videoed it from the path below, and if you turn the volume up, you can hear him yelling with happiness from the first loop. I was crying so hard I could barely hold the phone.
When the train returned to the station, they asked him if he wanted to go again. They sent the train out again with no effects, and then after a brief pep talk with this dad and friends, he decided to watch from the station while they turned on the special effects again. From the inside, the “storm” wasn’t so scary anymore. He rode it a third time with the full effects, and has not had a problem with it since.”
Sheila concludes her story:
“We are so thankful that the staff at Holiday World took the time to help our child conquer his fears. They didn’t have to turn off the effects that were part of the ride, but they did it anyway. In the four years since then, we have traveled to many parks and he has ridden many coasters. We truly feel, however, that our experience at Holiday World was a turning point for him. If he had not gotten to ride Thunderbird, he might not have been brave enough to attempt the next big coaster. A big thanks from our family to the family at Holiday World”
Coaster Chit Chat wishes to thank the staff at Holiday World for providing this awesome experience to this family, In the Loop and American Coaster Enthusiast for the borrowed material, but most of all, we wish to thank our reader Sheila M Lenkman Corwin for sharing her family’s story with us.
Thanks for continuing to follow Coaster Chit Chat on Facebook and Twitter- Laurie