The park's general manager since
Four rides were added in 2013, and two more -- the Jump Around Dune Buggies and
Nodding to the ocean, he said he remembers when only "one to two motels" operated on the beach in the park's view.
"It's totally different from day to night," Sipes said, "how the park transforms."
The Swamp Fox coaster -- reaching speeds into the low 40s in a figure-eight design, and named after
All four of those, along with the
A family that plays together ...
Many of these rides let parents and children, who are subject to meeting height rules for safety, take in thrills and laughs together.
In the same concourse as the Slingshot, the Pistolero Round-up, an interactive dart ride on rails, a shooting gallery for which scores are tallied, made its international debut at Family Kingdom, Sipes said, deeming it "a good repeat ride" with customers eager to go in for additional rounds.
Anyone with the drive to cruise in antique cars has two tracks from which to choose: electric-powered vehicles underneath part of the Swamp Fox course and Kings Model T's, fueled by gasoline, in the log flume area by
"This is why we have been here so long," he said. "
The park employs in peak season -- summer -- about 125 individuals, including many behind the scenes, such as ticket sales, food preparation, security, maintenance, video arcade staffing and in overnight property cleaning, while another 35 crew members man the sister
Through the years, with the park season running from about two weeks before Easter into weekends at the start of October, Sipes said the shoulder seasons before and after summer, stay steady periods for turnout, especially for local residents who might like lighter crowd volune. The bite of a new season hits in earnest for Sipes and colleagues about six to eight weeks before opening, he said, and
"Every day is exciting to us, especially to me," said Sipes, no matter what the day or time of year.
Even the music playing throughout the park -- including
Standing on a footbridge over Withers Swash, with its water depth shallow from the ocean's low tide, Sipes said watching people, especially youngsters' expressions, fill a portion of every workday.
Wildlife, celebrity perks
Other visitors on the property also catch Sipes' eye, such as a great white egret that stepped softly Monday evening before spearing a fish that soon went down its hatch, whole and headfirst. Seeing a duck brood grow and fledge over the summer, great blue herons stop by to find their own meals, and the streams of silver minnows making their own ripples in the tidal channel, as Sipes pointed out Monday, add to his extra sightseeing.
Corralling memories with
A native of
Family Kingdom provided settings for parts of the movies "Chasers," released in 1984; "Shag," 1988; and a "
Goolsby called actor
Sipes and Goolsby said Chesney spent "12 to 14 hours" in one session shooting takes for the music video to "
The park's Hurricane ride takes center stage in multiple scenes, and although Goolsby guessed Chesney's height at about 5 feet, 6 inches, the design of the videography, often looking slightly upward at him, made the singer look taller against the backdrop of his band and the clockwise rolling, illuminated ride in motion.
"I'm in the video," Goolsby said. "If you slow it down, you can see me."
Amusement prevails for her whenever coaster enthusiast groups visit Family Kingdom because she sees them eager to do every ride with rails they can, besides the Swamp Fox.
Goolsby, who said she appreciates seeing a nighttime reflection of the Ferris wheel in the swash, also summed up years of experience of what she has observed with families across the park: "If the kids are happy, the parents are happy."
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