Working at Two Similar Amusement Parks

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From the Windy City to the West Coast

Danny Messinger |
September 4, 2020

Bryce Ring is one of the newest members of the California’s Great America management team, and his decades-long love of amusement parks has taken him on a “Great American” road trip from the Windy City all the way to Silicon Valley.

Two Similar Parks in Two Very Different Places

Did you know that when California’s Great America was originally built back in 1976, it was constructed alongside a twin park outside of Chicago? For the first few years of these parks’ existence, they were nearly identical clones of one another with similar rides, shops, layouts and landmarks. They even had the same Marriott’s Great America name!

As the two parks grew, they installed different coasters and constructed different areas. For the past 30+ years, the two parks have taken completely separate paths. Today, the park outside Chicago is known as Six Flags Great America, and the Bay Area knows us as California’s Great America.

Bryce grew up near the Great America amusement park in Illinois, where he had his first job.

“When I was browsing through jobs available for 15-year-olds, I came across an opening for animated characters at the park,” Bryce says. “I was into theatre and was a musician, so a job in the entertainment world sounded awesome.”

Growing Up in the Amusement Industry

Bryce ended up staying with the Gurnee, Ill. park for a decade, working in “every corner of the entertainment department” along the way, he says. During a temporary break in work for his college years, Bryce says he really missed the creative outlet working at the park provided.

“I ended up opening my own haunted house during my time away from the park,” he says. “Initially, I was asked to manage the final anniversary year of a local haunted house. When the event was over, the props and decorations were just left in trailers. This awesome stuff wasn’t being used. I worked with a friend to bring everything out of storage and move it to the county fairgrounds, where we set up our own haunted house and operated it for a few years.”

“We made the experience interactive...kind of like a haunted house and an escape room combined,” he adds. “We ended up moving the whole thing one more time to Milwaukee, where we ran it for one final season. It was a great experience.”

Westward Expansion

When Bryce saw an opening for an entertainment management position at California’s Great America, he says applying was a no-brainer. And once he arrived, he noted that some of the similarities between the two parks were just as expected while others were totally jarring.

“One of the biggest similarities is that, in a general sense, all the buildings are in the same place,” Bryce explains, “but they’re all used for different things! At California’s Great America, what we use as a sky ride station is a funnel cake stand at Six Flags Great America. In employee areas, a space we use as a games prize warehouse is used by them as a show rehearsal space.”

As it relates to his new role as Entertainment Area Manager, Bryce says the most exciting difference between the two parks is getting to use show venues at California’s Great America that no longer exist at Six Flags Great America in addition to some venues that are still identical.

“Being able to use similarly built venues that I am already used to will be great,” he says. “I can’t wait to see how entertainment looks when the park reopens in 2021!”

The Best Part of the Job?

Bryce says that his favorite aspects of working in an amusement park are variety and never-ending excitement.

“Your day-to-day experience changes drastically depending on the season,” he says. “Spring brings lots of prepwork—getting things ready for summer shows. Changing lights, sound equipment and sets. In summer, I’m ensuring things go off without a hitch while also transitioning to Halloween Haunt mode… constructing, animating and building new Haunt experiences. Then, when Haunt starts, I get ready for WinterFest to open. We’re always one step, and one season, ahead.”

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