Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 3: The Amazement Park

My third day was spent with the history makers themselves. I woke up bright and early this morning and made the hour-long trek to Sandusky for my first day at Cedar Point. My day would be spent learning the ins and outs of the fabulous marketing department. Hurrying out of the windy gray weather into their corporate offices, I took a moment to admire the portraits of each former CEO.

Before long, I was met by Billy Clark. Mrs. Clark is the Corporate Director of Human Resources for Cedar Fair, the parent company that owns Cedar Point and 10 other amusement parks across the country. I was pleased to find that they had made me my own Cedar Point nametag and were giving me a copy of Cedar Point: Queen of American Watering Places as a gift!

Mrs. Clark escorted me to the marketing offices and introduced me to the various members of that team. We arrived in the office of Tim Walsh, head of Group Sales; he invited me in and shook my hand. Soon we were joined by several other members of the marketing staff -- Scott, Jason, and Tony came in and introduced themselves, teasing Tim about how two trains somehow ended up on the Blue Streak lift at once while he was operating. After chatting with everyone for a few minutes, Jason took me back to show me the rest of the office. There I met Kristy, one of the Group Sales interns, who I would end up spending most of the day with.

She started by telling me a little about herself: after spending four seasons as a ride operator at Top Thrill Dragster, she took this internship in the marketing office. She explained how the marketing team works, and shared a lot of interesting facts. Apparently very few tickets are sold at the front gate now; most sales are done in advance, and one third of the park's ticket revenue actually comes from group sales!

Looking at the back end of their ticketing system, Kristy showed me how they book group reservations and also make catering reservations. Each week, the entire marketing department receives an email with that week's schedule: events, special arrangements, group visits, job assignments, etc. A typical week would include time in the office, surveying guests, supervising events and catered meals, or leading VIP tours.

By the time 11:30 rolled around, nearly everyone in the office was headed out to a retirement luncheon for the outgoing General Manager, John Hildebrant. I was actually invited to attend, but I ended up missing it after getting caught up in the work Kristy and I were doing in the back. There were several bags of old files that had been removed from their cabinets, and it was our job to take the contents out of each file to be shredded. Some of the files were group sales records from as far back as the late 80's!

When we finished with the files, we took a look around the office for fun. We found several rooms full of archived videos, including commercials, B-roll footage, and promo videos for attractions. We would've tried to watch some of them, but they were all on VHS; we did, however, find a cool documentary on the science of roller coasters that we popped into the computer a bit later. There was also a lot of cool limited-edition merchandise in storage, as well as old press kits and photos that we took a look at. After a bit of exploring, I headed out for a lunch break - but not before getting my photo taken with Snoopy and Woodstock in the office's old Wildcat roller coaster car (Wildcat was demolished in 2011).

When I returned to the office after a quick jaunt into Sandusky for Five Guys, most everyone had returned and everyone was working on sorting Meijer tickets. You know the discount tickets you can buy at most Meijer stores? Well, whatever's leftover at the end of the season gets sent back from each individual store to Cedar Point. It's their job to open each incoming package, sort by ticket type, and then repackage to be stored until spring. It doesn't sound too bad, until you consider that there are single-day tickets, waterpark tickets, two-in-one tickets, season passes, platinum passes, and then about 2-3 designs or styles for each one of those ticket types. It ends up being a lot of sorting, so I was recruited to help. We spent most of the afternoon counting out stacks of 25 or 50 (depending on ticket type) and repackaging them while we watched that roller coaster documentary on the office computer and discussed our favorite roller coasters.

For being my first day, it was a coaster lover's heaven. Getting to spend the day with the Cedar Point marketing team absolutely reaffirmed for me that I must go into the business of amusement parks. I know I'm posting this several days late, but I'll have more blog posts up soon (with lots of pictures)! It gets better and better, I can't wait to show you what I've been doing.

More soon!


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