When "America" became an afterthought

General discussion about Marriott's GREAT AMERICA
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Buzzy Bee
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Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:55 pm

When "America" became an afterthought

Post by JRobb » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:02 pm

My stories a bit different. My name is Jon Robberson Jr. And my history with MGA (Santa Clara) goes back to 1980. In October of that year my dads company Celebration Concerts began Joy Celebration... a Christian music night whereby concert attendees were able to stay later at the park. I was 8 years old and at that age you cannot imagine what seeing the inner workings was like for me. Suddenly the people at the top of The Log Ride and the people running Orleans Orbit were just that ... People. Granted some of the magic was lost but from that night forward I was able to eat in the cafeteria (employee tunnel near Honetown Square) yet at the same time grow through teenage years growing up at the park.

I love a sequence of memories in my mind; and they are REALLY POWERFUL!! And wonder, exactly when did the beautifully contained and maintained thematic control begin to wain? My favorite enclave was Yukom Territory and I actually witnessed red coated security tackle a shoplifter in from of the trading post.

I apologize for rambling but it took 3 weeks to be able to join the site and MGA is a huge part of growing up for me. My main interest is this: can someone elaborate on how such a beautifully crafted park denegrate into what bloggers write today? When did the "American " theme become a backdrop to BS corporatism? Also, anyone remember Joy Celebration?

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Re: When "America" became an afterthought

Post by steven » Thu Oct 31, 2013 7:58 pm

Hello, Jon,

I believe that the diminishing loyalty to the accuracy of the American history theming actually started near the end of the Marriott years. Even the Demon wasn't really a theming match for the old-fashioned County Fair. The American history theme and classic entertainment offerings such as the circus just didn't offer the pizazz that would keep people coming back again and again. So they turned to things that they thought would help bring in the crowds. This basic approach continued over the years, with each owner taking the park in the direction that they saw fit. Eventually, the unity of the original theming was pretty much dismantled by all these incremental changes.

I've written all of the above with Santa Clara in mind because that's the park you wrote about. While Gurnee has only had two owners, Marriott and Six Flags, Six Flags itself has had a parade of changing ownership and management. So the effect has been similar, although the evolution of the changes has taken a different path.

Under Cedar Fair, now that the Gold Striker "war" is over, there's a great deal of optimism for the future of the park. It will never go back to the way it was on opening day in 1976. And neither will Gurnee. Let's just hope for the best in building a strong future for both parks.


jimmy gimbels
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Re: When "America" became an afterthought

Post by jimmy gimbels » Wed Dec 11, 2013 2:24 pm

But wasn't Great America is Gurnee also under the Ballys and Time Warner brands for short periods of time?

I called it the "dark ages" when the park really began to fall apart and it was run just to chrun out whatever revenue could be earned. Even Six Flags ran it to the ground until attendace fell off and they started to add more attractons and clean the place up. Still, some of the buildings appear to be in pretty poor condition after 30+ years. Six Flags is only doing some patch jobs to keep them standing. Example:look how bad the ticket booths at the front of the park were left to decay. The peeling paint and rotting wood did not make a good first impression.

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