Always Cedar Point: A Memoir of the Midway is a novel that was published by H. John Hildebrandt. He was the general manager of Cedar Point in the early 2000s. He worked at the park since the 1970s starting as a ride operator, working his way to marketing, and finally the highest leader position. He finally retired in 2013 and the position was given to Jason McClure.
He wrote this book which shares his experiences with working in the industry and with the park. In the story, there is excitement, humor, history, and disapointment. He shares his subjective views and real-world experience.
It focuses on how he branded the park as the world’s best amusement park with signature attractions like Millennium Force, Top Thrill Dragster, Magnum XL-200, and others included.
The book includes a lot of information – history of the park, business insight, and the story of John’s experience. He shares the lessons learned through his personal experience.
I had the chance to read this book and also get it signed at the Winter Chill Out event in February 2019. I thought it was an excellent book.
I found the cover very appealing as the design looks great. It is modern and just looks very appealing, especially with the colors chosen.
It was not only a great read but what I found most awesome about the book was how descriptive it was.
It gives a behind-the-scenes look at operations of the park.
Many stories and people are introduced in the park. The book would definitely appeal to coaster enthusiasts, former employees, and anyone interested in the park. Once I started to read, it was very difficult to put down!
My favorite part of the book is how it unfolds. He describes (in good detail) his experiences from starting out in the park which was over 40-years ago. Stories and descriptions of how the park changed are a major part of the book. Also, the day-by-day process with different details and perspectives in each chapter are another major part of the book.
The stories in this book are remarkable and can be pieced together to see why the park is so successful today.
A few unknown secrets are revealed in the book. The book is 430 pages and required a ton of time and effort. Mr. Hildebrandt said that he wrote the book in 2 years during 2017 and 2018. He said that during the Winter months was primarily when most of it was completed. He took breaks from it during the Summer months.
Park attendance patterns are described, the creation of HalloWeekends, dealing with press statements, and lots of other things that occured at the park during his time were described.
It is a great book to learn about the park because it does not contain facts about the park, but instead, it contains experiences of someone who worked there for more than 40-years. That is a long time, especially for the amusement park industry.
This book is also great for people considering a career in the industry. Details are provided about the experience and work-life too.
I really enjoyed the book and here are four of my favorite quotes from the book. I will also provide an explanation of why I found it unique to this book.
“The attendance growth in September and October was real enough. Scary sometimes. We were much better equipped to handle crowds in July in August, both in terms of guest service and revenue opportunities.”
I find the above quote to be very interesting and representative of the park. After HalloWeekends was introduced, attendance in September and October skyrocketed. It was very popular and it was unexpected that during the Fall months the park would still be very appealing. It also just shows how in the amusement industry, there are many successes and failures.
“Disaster Transport was indeed a disaster. It was a dog, in fact, a barking dog.”
The above quote about Disaster Transport, which was Avalanche Run (a Bobsled roller coaster) but enclosed in a building. In 1985, Avalanche Run opened outside as a Bobsled roller coaster. In 1990, Disaster Transport opened enclosed into a building. John is very honest in this book being willing to share that this was indeed a failure of the park and that is how the amusement industry works. Failures are used as lessons to improve in the future.
“The first year, and even the second, Dragster had unacceptable amounts of downtime…The guest had invested a day, or more, of his life, and his money to ride Dragster; but mostly he had invested his heart, his anticipation, his bragging rights, his fear, and his love of the park into riding Dragster.”
The above quote regards Top Thrill Dragster which is still operating at the park and will be for the 2019 season. It is a world-class, very popular ride. John shares and confirms that it is true – the downtime on the ride is not what was intended. Still today, the ride is normally closed for more than half of the time the park is open. The problems started before the ride even opened. The trains didn’t make it over the hill of the coaster. It wasn’t a “rollback” occasionally, but it was with every launch. Once the problem was solved the park has hope. This shows that record-breaking rides do not always turn out how intended. Yes, it is an excellent ride. But it is not up-to-standards like the park wanted and still does today.
“I don’t believe Cedar Fair purchased Six Flags Worlds of Adventure only to close it.”
Six Flags Worlds of Adventure (also known as Geauga Lake) was an amusement park in Aurora, Ohio. Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, who owns Cedar Point and many other parks, purchased it in 2004. The park operated until 2007 and then it was unexpectedly announced it would not open for the next season. People did not have a chance to revisit it again. Mr. Hildebrandt shares his opinion on this statement, he does not believe the reason Cedar Fair purchased the park was to eliminate competition with Cedar Point.
The book shares memories – good and bad. It also shares experiences with the park and working to shape Cedar Point to be known as the Roller Coaster Capital of the World or America’s Roller Coast. It also led the park to win the Golden Ticket Award for World’s Greatest Amusement Park from 1998-2013.
I absolutely loved this book and I HIGHLY suggest that you read it. It is a very good book full of interesting and informative information.