Events: Back to the Classics

Kings Island takes WinterFest out of the deep freeze


The lights have been turned on again for WinterFest at Paramount's Kings Island

The frozen hearts in the corporate offices have finally thawed. After a 13-year absence, Paramount's Kings Island reintroduces WinterFest, which was discontinued when Paramount acquired the park in 1992. The theory was that the regular park season would run longer, not allowing time to prepare for the event.

After several years of research, it was obvious that area residents remembered and missed WinterFest. That convinced management it was time to bring it back. With the support of Paramount's corporate management for theme parks, Kings Island was allotted the necessary resources to transform the park quickly from creepy FearFest in October to the sweetness and light of WinterFest.

WinterFest for 2005 brings back attractions from the past and adds several new ones.

"If folks went to WinterFest in the past, I invite them to remember what it was like and multiply that by 1,000," says Maureen Kaiser, marketing communications area manager. "Folks will be totally immersed in festive holiday cheer from the second they walk through International Street."

The park's main thoroughfare will be garnished with twinkling white lights and other motifs, and gift shops offer creations by Midwestern crafters.

The Eiffel Tower is decorated as a large glittering Christmas tree. Each evening one family gets to kick off the celebration with the lighting of the Eiffel Tower Christmas.

The Royal Blue Fountain has once again been transformed into an ice skating rink, where Nickelodeon characters occasionally skate alongside park guests. An actor playing Ebenezer Scrooge rants about his distaste for the holidays at Scrooge's House, while kids can meet favorite Nickelodeon characters at the Holiday Tree.

The Kings Island & Miami Valley Railroad has been transformed into "The White Christmas." Performers dressed in period clothing simulate life in the 1940s and interact with guests on the platform. The train travels through a series of winter-themed scenes before arriving at a quaint snow-covered village.

Rivertown is also the location of holiday illuminations on Swan Lake. A huge Christmas tree is garnished featuring a state of the art light show synchronized to holiday music.

Santa Claus is putting in some serious overtime at WinterFest, keeping himself occupied in three new attractions. He's stationed at Santa's Christmastown in Nickelodeon Central with Mrs. Claus and some elves to assist him. He sits flanked by trees and gifts and listens to everyone's holiday wishes.

Additionally, Santa is one of the performers in Toy Factory Musical Theatre, a show at the Paramount Theater in International Street. It portrays the North Pole's secret toy workshop and stars Santa, some elves, dancing reindeer and singing penguins preparing for Christmas Eve. One busy guy, Santa also participates in the all-new daily Christmas Parade, featuring holiday music from the 1950s to the 1990s.

What's the holidays without some traditional foods? WinterFest Haus offers roast turkey, baked ham, mashed potatoes cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. International performers provide live entertainment with traditional holiday songs and dances from their homelands. There's also a "Yuletide Feast" at Bubba Gump's with the normal menu of shrimp and other foods — surrounded by tacky decorations.

If it's caffeine you're after, Starbucks will offer its normal array of energy-inducing beverages and pastries. And if you want some chestnuts roasted on an open fire or sugared pecans, check in with street vendors.

The Grand Carousel, the Hanna-Barbera Carousel, Pixie and Dixie's Swing Set, Top Cat's Taxi Jam and Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Castle (which has been temporarily transformed into Scooby-Doo and the Christmas Caper) are operating. Adults who feel nostalgic about Hanna-Barbera should enjoy these features while they have a chance — next year all of Hanna-Barbera Land except for Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Castle will be replaced by Nickelodeon Universe.

Good to see there's some respect for the classics.

WINTERFEST opens Friday and continues on weekends through Dec. 18.

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