News Flashes from Tourist Attractions & Parks Magazine

Documentary to Focus On History of New England Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions

In New England there’s an industry rich with history. Stories abound from individuals who have helped shape a unique business and bring smiles and screams of joy to millions of guests who have visited their related properties over the years. Now, many of those accounts will be preserved for future generations in a documentary commissioned by the New England Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (NEAAPA).

“The concept (documentary) was on my mind for about six months prior to the 2007 annual meeting,” said David Daly, a NEAAPA past president and chair of the association’s film committee. “We needed to immortalize people’s thoughts and experiences, especially older members of the industry.” Daly spearheaded an initiative to conduct videotaped interviews during NEAAPA’s 2007 gathering in Portsmouth, N.H., securing the volunteer services of a professional videographer for the sessions.

Around 20 interviews were recorded during the course of the meeting, each lasting 10 to 15 minutes.

Into Storage

The tapes went into storage following the event, soon to be forgotten by most as the hectic spring and summer seasons set in. Daly, however, kept the documentary concept alive as he explored possible avenues of production and, most importantly, funding.

“People started asking about the footage and what we could do with it at board meetings more than a year ago,” he said of the process. At that time the organization was formulating plans for NEAAPA’s 100th anniversary, which is being celebrated this year.

“The board agreed on a standard we were looking for: an historic piece (documentary) for the association and one that could also be shown publicly,” Daly said.

With the association’s blessing to move forward with the project, Daly called on Jill Vickers, a producer for Dirt Road Documentaries of Bridport, Vermont. Daly and Vickers served together as Peace Corps volunteers in Afghanistan in the 1970s.

“David and I reconnected through this documentary I did on Afghanistan,” Vickers asserted. “He saw a screening in Boston and really liked what we had to say. We talked about how to take the concept of stories of individuals and put them together.”

Daly’s recommendation that Dirt Road Documentaries be hired to produce the film, once funding was secured, was accepted by the NEAAPA board, clearing yet another hurdle in the process.

More Interviews

Vickers and co-producer Jody Bergedick attended NEAAPA’s annual meeting late last March in Newport, R.I., and conducted an additional 16 interviews over two days, each lasting more than an hour.

During the association’s board meeting it was announced that NEAAPA had been soliciting the membership for funding of the project. Allied Specialty Insurance, Inc., of Treasure Island, Fla., had made a sizeable contribution earlier in March, the board reported, so actual production of a film was a step closer.

Other members have since rallied behind the project, driving film donations to more than $20,000.

 About The Film

“My goal is to get people to look at parks and attractions in a new way,” Vickers said of the film. “I want people to have a deeper appreciation of them. We’re letting people from NEAAPA tell how it (business) gets in your blood, how many of the parks were, and some still are, family owned. It’s all about quality family time.”

Member parks and attractions were also asked to submit photos and historic documents that might be weaved into the film.

Vickers and Bergedick envision the documentary tapping into the audience’s emotions by showing the extreme passion people in the industry have for what they are doing.

“They really care about putting smiles on people’s faces,” Vickers said of those interviewed.

The film will take viewers beyond the assumption that parks and attractions operate only for their bottom line.

“These properties do a lot to help in their communities. They have fundraising events, assist handicapped children – there are many little stories about how parks play roles in our society,” the producer added. “It’s really a fresh way of looking at this industry and that’s what we’re doing in this 30-minute film.”

First Showing

The documentary is targeted for a preview, or first showing, at NEAAPA’s Summer Meeting, Wednesday, Aug. 14, at Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, Conn.

Daly said other previews are slated during the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo in November in Orlando, Fla. The film will be shown at NEAAPA’s luncheon as well as at the annual Tom Morrow Social during expo week.

As for a formal premiere, that will be at NEAAPA’s Annual Meeting next March.

Though no title has been given to the documentary as yet, a number of ideas have been “kicking around.”

“We will probably make it available to all who want it on DVD and it can be broadcast, perhaps on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and member websites,” Daly said.

“Everyone in this industry is a magician,” Vickers said of the film’s closing. “There is magic about these places and making the magic happen.”

The fascinating thing, she concluded, “we didn’t make any of this stuff up!”

 Industry Legends and Experts Interviewed For Documentary

There are numerous legends within the amusement parks and attractions business and many of them have been affiliated with properties in New England.

In separate interview sessions over the past several years, the New England Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (NEAAPA) has captured priceless information from its membership, which will be preserved for years to come in a documentary.

Among the taped interviews of industry legends and experts are: Elizabeth and John Bowen, Whalom Park; Ed Connor, Riverside Park and Eastern States Exposition; Tony Pero, Ocean Beach Park; Alan Ramsay, CLM Entertainment and NEAAPA; John Frantzis, Quassy Amusement Park; Suzanne McHugh Piscitello, Canobie Lake Park.

Also, Jack Keough, East Coast Amusements; Ed Hodgdon, Funtown, Splashtown, USA; Chris Nicoli, Canobie Lake; Charlene Conway, Carousel Family Fun Center; Joe James, Hass & Wilkerson, Co.; Rory Byem Roger Williams Park Carousel Village; David Oberlander, Center Plate; Ron Gustafson, Quassy Amusement Park; Cory Hutchinson, Funtown, Splashtown, USA; Curtiss Gordon, Storyland; Joe Montalto, Rye Playland; Dave Sugrue, Ocean Beach Park; Jerry Brick, Lake Compounce; David Daly, Daly Cavanaugh LLP; Greg Chiecko, The Big E; Justine Brewer, Betsy Brewer and Cindy Brewer-Lavoie, Southwick’s Zoo; Rick D’Aprile, Allied Specialty Insurance; Jason Freeman, Six Flags New England; and Christian Gainer, Santa’s Village.

Contributions Toward the Project

Those who contributed to the NEAAPA documentary to date include: Allied Specialty Insurance, Inc, IALDA, Six Flags New England, Carousel Family Fun Centers, Galloway, Johnson, Tompkins, Burr & Smith, A PLC; Jason and Doreen Freeman, Daly Cavanaugh LLP, Anthony Berni, Bob Lawrence of Dream Machine Entertainment LLC, Dave Oberlander of Centerplate.

Smart Destinations Launches World’s First Mobile Attraction Pass, Virtual Go Card

Patent-pending mobile pass brings access to the largest mobile attraction ticketing network of over 450 top US attractions

Smart Destinations (, mobile ticketing technology company and creator of the world largest mobile attraction ticketing network of over 450 attractions, announced recently the launch of the Virtual Go Card. Delivered directly to a mobile device upon purchase, the Virtual Go Card lets travelers use one QR code to gain admission to all their preferred attractions. The patent pending platform also streamlines backend and operations management for attraction partners, limiting fraud and increasing destination traffic.

The platform features:

  • The first and only mobile ticketing validation system with access to over 450 attraction partners;
  • A virtual all-inclusive attraction pass that is easy to purchase and displayed on travelers’ smartphones for admission to the  top attractions in cities served;
  • One QR code pass that grants access to all desired attractions;
  • And, easy-to-operate proprietary hardware for attraction partners;

“Fifty percent of vacation spending happens after travelers arrive at their destination. With the new Virtual Go Card, we have created the world’s first and only mobile attractions pass, which enables attraction venues and travel companies to capitalize on consumer spending by leveraging the world’s largest mobile attraction ticketing network,” said Kevin McLaughlin, CEO of Smart Destinations.

“The Virtual Go Card is a significant technological innovation that brings convenience for travelers and a powerful platform for attractions,” said Terry Jones, founder and former CEO of Travelocity, chairman of and Smart Destinations Board member. “The real-time multi-venue mobile ticketing platform delivers a long-awaited solution for the in-destination traveler experience,” he said.

Founded in 2003 and based in Boston, Smart Destinations ( is a mobile ticketing technology company and multi-attraction pass vendor that partners with over 450 attractions and hospitality services to offer consumers discounts, special perks and travel recommendations before they reach their destination.

Special Tourist Attractions & Parks Magazine eNewsletter Feature

Healthy Foods: Top Tips for Success

When it comes to food service, progressive, customer-oriented leisure entertainment facilities of all stripes are wise to add a wide variety of healthy alternatives to traditional favorites. For while many guests still favor everything from burgers, hot dogs, pizza and fries to cotton candy, caramel apples and many other goodies, limiting the menu to salty, greasy, sugary options is sure to take a bite out of profits. Still, maximizing sales of “better-for-you” fare requires a dash of ingenuity. “Fresh fruit is a nice start, but people want to be accommodated more than that now,” said Liz Smethurst, global accounts manager, Subway.

Smethurst and other sources said the effectiveness of applying “out-of-the-box” thinking when devising healthy menus, in other words, refusing to equate “healthy” with “boring,” cannot be underestimated. At Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Ind., visitors can purchase staple healthy selections like grilled chicken sandwiches, but the venue consistently earns kudos for items consumers do not usually expect to find on a trip to a theme park, according to Jason Martin, director of food and beverage. These include black bean burgers, turkey legs, roasted turkey and baked, rather than fried, potatoes.

Touting new twists on foods that fall under the “healthy” umbrella can bode equally well for leisure entertainment operations.  Salads and wraps comprise a key example. A strawberry and feta cheese salad ranks among favorites of visitors to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. During the summer months, DiDonnato Family Fun Center in Hammonton, N.J., serves unique salads made from seasonal ingredients; on the menu for summer, 2013 is a grilled shrimp salad with strawberries, blueberries, grape tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers and balsamic vinaigrette dressing, reported owner Steve DiDonnato. At Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium, in Litchfield Park, Ariz., Dillon’s features a salmon filet, artichokes, tomatoes, chopped onions and parmesan cheese shavings atop a bed of crispy greens. Although Dillon’s menu focuses primarily on barbecue dishes, fish tacos with fresh vegetables and an entrée of blacked tilapia are available there as well. In variations on wraps, Almanor Bowling Center & Golf in Chester, Calif., recently added a spinach wrap to its repertoire. A teriyaki salad is also new to the menu. The items were introduced at the request of customers, many of whom come straight to the center and want light, rather than heavy, food prior to beginning their game.

Even healthy fruit desserts can be jazzed up and rendered more interesting without losing its healthy edge. At Kennywood Park, in West Mifflin, Pa., fruit cup is not a standard cup of fruit with orange and/or grapefruit slices; instead, it is sliced strawberries and blueberries in a cup, with a dollop of whipped cream if visitors so desire. Kent Precision Foods Group (formerly Precision Foods) now offers Foothill Farms ® Whole Grain Oat Topping Mix, which can be used with fresh, frozen or canned fruit. “Smoothies are” also “popular and profitable and continue to be in high demand by patrons in all foodservice segments,” said Jamie Schwartz, product marketing manager. “Operators can see a more than 50 percent gross margin on 16-fluid-ounce smoothies based on our recent research.” Schwartz added that the company has

also rolled out Frostline® Simply Smoothies, a dry-mix base that may be used to make smoothies by adding water, ice and frozen fruit or other ingredients.

Meanwhile, although adults remain an important target market for healthy menu options, providing “smarter” food choices geared towards children has become increasingly important. In Chicago, Shedd Aquarium has partnered with Sodexo and Healthy Fare for Kids, a national initiative, on a new healthy menu for kids ages 12 and under. Amy Ritter-Cowen, the aquarium’s executive vice president of marketing and guest experience, said the move was the “next step” for the venue given its history of educating guests on “seafood choices that are good for you and the environment.” The updated menu incorporates a seasonal Right Bite option of sustainable seafood. Shedd’s Bubble Net restaurant serves all-natural grilled chicken sliders with barbecue sauce and an accompaniment of celery sticks with organic peanut butter; as well as a low-fat, baked cheese quesadilla with salsa and a side order of steamed green beans. Both entrée/side combinations are available as a “Kids Combo Meal” with low-fat milk or water. In the venue’s Soundings Café, children can enjoy grilled all-natural peanut butter and banana sandwiches on a low-fat tortilla (accompanied by fresh fruit) or lean ground turkey Sloppy Joes served with sweet potato fries.

Kidspace Children’s Museum, in Pasadena, Calif., offers chicken soup, vegetable sticks, Sun Chips, grapes and cheese and pasta salad. Apple slices are an available substitute for fries, and made-to-order tuna and vegetable sandwiches are on the menu at Happy Tymes Fun Center in Warrington, Pa.

Finally, owners and operators should not forget about trumpeting the availability and range of healthy food choices at their facilities, suggested Smethurst, adding that Subway distributes point-of-purchase materials for this purpose. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari harnesses the dining page of its Web site to dispel the myth that it is not possible to obtain healthy food in a theme park. Visitors to the site can also download menus, and there is a restaurant-by-restaurant breakdown of healthy as well as diabetic- and allergy-friendly options.  DiDonnato Family Fun Center leverages Facebook as a platform for disseminating information about featured menu items.

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