When "America" became an afterthought

General discussion about Marriott's GREAT AMERICA
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JRobb
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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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steven
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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.

Steven

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.

JRobb
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Re: When "America" became an afterthought

Post by JRobb » Thu May 02, 2019 12:14 am

Steven:
I cannot believe it has been five and a half years since I wrote my first post on this forum. The day I penned that first post I was sitting on a sound stage at Disney near downtown Los Angeles. I was on a kid’s show called Mighty Med (season one)

The subsequent posts about the arcade games were written two years later while I sat in an old Italian trattoria in Pasadena waiting for a plate of Linguini Tutte Mare.

Just a moment ago, I dropped 500-600 words that was just a stream of consciousness type “ode” to the theme park that belonged to us... to Bay Area people. In the first decade of Marriot’s (Santa Clara) the attention to detail was every bit as good as Disney imagineers. And that is truly a profound statement. As I’m sure you’ve discovered, very few theme parks outside the Disney conglomerate succeeded visually and experientially line MGA. I think it was a piece you wrote years ago that analyzed why the park failed to attain an explosive level of financial success? The thought being placement; a tad too far for day travel from Sacramento and Fresno?

Anyhow I wanted to write to you personally and thank you for putting the obvious love into this project that you have. If you ever need professional writing, or want to just spitball about design etc (I’ve been in film and TV for 20 years and currently produce a global cyber-stream video podcast ) my personal email is jonrobberson@protonmail or robbersonjon@gmail. I would be happy to interface with you offline. Oh, almost forgot, I LOVE the book. My dad (who worked with the park for 17 years) very much enjoyed it too!

If you want to read the piece I dropped a few minutes ago I think it’s under “what memories” date May 1, 2019. Man I can’t believe Admin cleared me to participate here over 5 years ago. Time is flying by scary-fast. Best wishes. Jon Robberson Jr

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