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Column: Amusement park agenda changes with person’s age

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Looks like we are establishing a new tradition.

You know, in one way a “new tradition” seems like an oxymoron. How can something be new and at the same time be a tradition, which by definition is something that has been around a while?

Anyway, the family just spent a day at Holiday World for the second time in two summers, so maybe it is more correct to say we are in the process of establishing a tradition.


Holiday World is situated in Santa Claus, which is down by the Ohio River and about 3 hours south of our house. Last year we drove the secondary roads through Jasper, which is shorter and a more direct route.

This year we decided to take Interstate 65 to Interstate 64. It was longer in both mileage and time but took less driving effort than negotiating those curvy roads and small-town stoplights. Either way works, I guess. To-ma-to; To-mah-to.

The grandkids and their parents were waiting near the entrance when Becky and I arrived. The little ones could hardly wait to get started. Holiday World promotes itself as a family destination. It certainly is kid-friendly with plenty of activities to satisfy all ages. In addition, a separate water park, Splashin’ Safari, offers a welcome relief on those hot Southern Indiana summer days.

The 40-acre venue boasts reasonable ticket prices, free parking, free sunscreen, unlimited soft drinks (one wonders what New York Mayor Bloomberg would say), and food prices that don’t require a second mortgage. Compared to some of the big-name regional and national amusement parks, it is a great bargain.

Amusement parks exist for kids. Yes, grown-ups can and do have fun; but for children such places are fabulous and magical, full of variety, excitement and just a touch of danger. It is the faux-danger that attracted me when I was prime amusement park age.

I wanted the roller coaster to be high and fast and surprise me with twists and turns. I looked for rides that spun me around, flipped me upside down, jostled, jolted, shook and splashed me. These days not so much. I’d rather watch.

The four grandchildren are at the convenient to remember ages of 2, 4, 6 and 8, and with different ages come different stages of amusement park pleasures. The 2-year-old was happy to spend time taking a very gentle boat ride, and since the park wasn’t too crowded, she could more or less ride to her heart’s content.

She thinks everything — jokes, funny faces, peek-a-boo — is better the more it is repeated, so this worked out well for both of us. I found a comfortable, shady spot where I could monitor her.

I felt a little bad for the 4-year-old. He is quite adventurous but didn’t always meet the all-important “You must be this tall to ride” requirement and had to sit out while his older brother and sister climbed onto the next adventure. Oh, well, discovering that you must wait until next time is an unpleasant but necessary growing-up experience, I suppose.

The 6-year-old persuaded her mom to go with her on a ride that required adult accompaniment. It looked pretty benign: a tall center pole with swings that lift high while moving in a merry-go-round fashion.

I agreed to ride with the 4-year-old. As we adults sort of wobbled through the gate after the ride, we agreed we weren’t expecting the spinning to be so intense. I wonder if Mom is entering a new stage in the amusement park experience, more like the one in which I reside.

The 8-year-old was all about the bumper cars. Ah, yes. I remember the thrill of crashing my car into friends and complete strangers while trying to avoid getting knocked around. Controlled danger. He has had enough practice, he says, and is now ready to get his driver’s license.

If a good amusement park experience can be judged by how tired you are when it is over, our second annual Holiday World trip was a rousing success. I do believe we are on our way to establishing a family tradition.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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