A family-owned theme park in Indiana with a long-standing reputation for cleanliness and a trio of top-ranked wooden coasters has become the first amusement park in the United States to set a post-coronavirus opening date.

Holiday World plans to open for the 2020 season on June 14 in accordance with Gov. Eric Holcolm’s Back on Track Indiana plan, according to Leah Koch, a fourth generation owner of the park.

“Summer is within our grasp if we can just be patient a little while longer,” Koch wrote in a message posted to the Holiday World website. “Now that we have a target date to work toward, we’re moving full-speed ahead.”

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Holcolm’s Back on Track Indiana plan allows amusement parks in the state to reopen at 50% capacity on June 14 in Stage 4 of the plan if key health principles remain positive. Theme park reservations will be required to limit the number of visitors in Holiday World at any one time. Restrictions on Indiana amusement parks could be lifted by July 4 when Stage 5 begins as long as social distancing guidelines remain in place.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced Holiday World to delay the planned May 2 opening date of the 2020 season.

“During his twenty-some years serving Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari as park president, my dad — Will Koch Jr. — never missed an opening day. Especially not when a new attraction was on the line,” Leah Koch wrote on the Holiday World website. “We do everything in our power to uphold his same standard — though circumstances this year kept us from our originally scheduled opening day.”

This summer, Holiday World’s Splashin’ Safari water park plans to open the new Cheetah Chase, billed as the world’s first launched water coaster.

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For two decades, Holiday World has received the annual Golden Ticket award from the Amusement Today trade group as the cleanest theme park in the industry.

“We’re going to do our best to keep the park as clean and as safe as possible,” Koch wrote. “Our small-but-mighty team is now excitedly working hard to get ready.”

Holiday World plans to institute a series of health and safety protocols in the post-COVID-19 era that include limiting attendance, frequent cleaning of rides and increased hand sanitizing stations throughout the park. Additional safety procedures will be announced in a few weeks.

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The family-owned theme park in Santa Claus, Indiana, prides itself on its collection of record-setting rides and an award-winning water park that’s included with the price of admission. The tandem parks offer free parking, soft drinks, sunscreen and Wi-Fi to every visitor.

In 1946, park founder Louis Koch opened Santa Claus Land to pay tribute to the town’s namesake elf. The self-proclaimed “world’s first theme park” featured a train, a toy shop, a few kiddie rides and, of course, daily visits by Santa Claus.

In 1984, Santa Claus Land became Holiday World with the addition of themed lands dedicated to Halloween, the Fourth of July and eventually Thanksgiving.

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Holiday World is known among ride enthusiasts for its world-class collection of wooden roller coasters. Three of the park’s rides are ranked near the top of Amusement Today’s annual list of the world’s best wooden coasters: The Voyage (2nd), The Raven (21st) and The Legend (26th).


By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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