amusement park lost stuff
November 2019

Secure Those Articles

Cell phones, hats are dangerous on rides

Always Amused: November 2019

By Erik Chalhoub

“Loose articles” — The term sounds like the name of a ‘90s-era grunge band or a poorly-fact-checked news piece.

Erik Chalhoub

In fact, it is a scourge that is afflicting theme parks across the nation, and it’s getting worse. The good and bad news? We are to blame. But that also means we can be part of the solution.

Loose articles refer to anything you bring with you: cell phones, wallets, sunglasses, hats, keys, change and any other knick-knack that is small enough to carry easily. When guests take these things on a ride without securing it in some fashion, it can become a problem.

I’ve caught flying hats while upside down on a roller coaster while zooming at 50-plus mph (impressive, I must say), I’ve seen cell phones come crashing down on the pavement (not only does it make a sickening sound, it could have been deadly if someone was standing there), and I’ve witnessed coins being flicked from the top of a 224-foot-tall drop tower (can easily take out an eye of someone standing in line looking up).

amusement park lost stuff
Photo: Erik Chalhoub. It’s raining coins, cell phones, cameras and stopping some coasters.

With the advent of the smart phone and social media, guests snapping selfies or shooting video of themselves on rides has gotten out of hand in the last decade. Despite pleas from ride operators, and the prominent signage everywhere you look warning guests to put away their phones, the message doesn’t seem to get through. I’ve been on many coaster trains that have stopped on the lift hill, because someone was caught pulling out their cell phone. Recently, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk added a looping voiceover spiel on the Giant Dipper’s lift hill, urging riders to please, do not take out that phone.

What can we do?

Follow instructions. I’ve written a column for Growing Up in Santa Cruz previously on this subject, but I cannot stress it enough. If it can’t fit in your pocket, it can’t go on the ride. Most rides have a storage bin before where riders can place their loose articles.

Speaking of pockets, I never go to a park without a pair of shorts/pants with Velcro, buttoned or zippered pockets. I can easily fit my phone, wallet, keys and sunglasses in them and be confident they will remain there for the duration of the ride.

If something can’t fit in your pockets or a storage bin, leave it with a non-riding member of your party. Or better yet, leave it at home.

If you absolutely need a photo of yourself on a ride, don’t take your own. Instead, many rides have on-ride cameras that snap shots which can be purchased at the ride’s exit. Parks such as California’s Great America now have both a one-day or season pass photo plan where for a one-time fee, you can download unlimited on-ride photos directly to your phone.

Purchase straps for your glasses. If you must ride with them on, the straps can ensure they will stay secured while you hit that exhilarating pocket of airtime on your favorite coaster.

Remember, not following the rules can not only get you ejected from the park, it can seriously injure you or those around you. Be smart.

Holiday Time

Even though this is the month of Thanksgiving, November kicks off the festive season for many parks.

California’s Great America, for the first time in recent memory, will remain open on weekends through November between the end of Halloween Haunt and the beginning of WinterFest.

WinterFest, now in its fourth season at the park, fills Great America with light displays and décor, live holiday shows, more than 60 rides and holiday attractions, ice skating and holiday dining fare. It runs select dates from Nov. 29 to Dec. 31.

Gilroy Gardens’ Holiday event runs select nights from Nov. 29 to Dec. 30. Light displays will brighten the park, as well as a live show, food and ice skating. A marketplace will feature crafts, local wine, craft beer and more.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s new tradition, Holiday Ice, runs Nov. 16 to Jan. 5. A 32-by-90-foot covered ice skating rink will be constructed in the main entrance, and guests can reserve a one-hour session that includes skates. The event also includes holiday movie screenings, crafts, lights and more. 

The Holiday Lights Train, operated by Roaring Camp Railroads, departs from the Boardwalk on select days from Nov. 29 to Dec. 23.

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