Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chinese Acrobats In A Wild West World

Twisting and turning, upside down and round and round, I love the thrills of amusement parks. This year is a kind of exciting year for Wichita Kansas; we have the start up of what is called the first Wild West Theme Park in the country. Wild West World opened its doors last month and my family was among the first to jump on the season pass specials offered for the park. For $50 bucks each we were able to get passes to the park that would allow us unlimited admission and unlimited rides. Of course the food and games would be extra but that would be okay, we knew a bargain when we saw one. It was the rides and shows we were after and man o man did I have experience with rides. I have several stories of riding rides so much where I would get sick, throw up, then get back on the rides and ride some more. I can tell horror stories such as the time I was incredibly sick at the Tulsa Oklahoma State Fair and was walking out through the food section when the sweet smell of Funnel Cakes caused me to get nauseous and I threw up all over the person walking in front of me as I couldn’t make it to the trash can in time. Yep, rides that twist and turn you, upside down and all around when enjoying the grease and smells of an amusement park can do that. Unfortunately my wife and family can tell you more stories about that with me than I would like to admit.

Wichita has a history of amusement parks, it also has a history of them not doing well it was a gamble when Wild West World decided to open but I think they have a chance of making it if they keep on providing unique and quality rides, along with quality entertainment. They have a number of rides I haven’t seen before and while a wet six months has them a little behind in the park development what they do have is unique and thrilling. From a roller coaster with seats that spin like a tilt o whirl to a ride called El Diablo a kind of open seat Zipper ride that has you twisting and turning in virtually every direction one can imagine. The log flume opened this week, and the Ferris Wheel has you sitting in a covered Wild West wagon for a unique time. There are plans for a larger roller coaster that will travel above and beneath the lake in the center of the park. The entrance to the park resembles a Wild West town and the park has gone out of its way to provide quality family oriented entertainment. While there are weekly outdoor concerts and various stage performances, the highlight is the incredible Chinese Acrobats.

One of the benefits of the season pass is that my family doesn’t have to go spend long periods of time at the park, although we always take time to ride a few rides and enjoy the time there. Yesterday we decided to go and catch for the first time the Chinese Acrobats. We were pleased to discover they perform three shows a day, 6 days a week, (Mondays are their day off) and each show has four acts that last approximately 35 minutes. Not bad for a theme park program. I had never seen the Chinese Acrobats in person but wanted to as they caused me to marvel when I had seen them previously on television.

We were surprised to find the building the Chinese Acrobats would be performing in was actually quite small, sitting no more than 200 – 250 people if they packed in. The building has a high ceiling with two poles that went up approximately 30 – 35 feet. On the inside, the building looked more like a barn than a theater. With seats no more than 3 or 4 rows deep, around a center section of carpet with the poles and staging area. It was impossible to not have a good seat.

After getting into the arena I was pleased as I knew we were going to have an up front and close experience with these marvelous acrobats and entertainers. I actually had to move my feet back a time or two because the entertainers were so close to me and the rest of the spectators during their performance. My front row seat was the best seat in the room as my wife and I were the first ones in the performance area.

I always thought these performers were exceptional from what I had seen on the television. I wasn’t wrong, if anything they exceeded my expectations, in fact, I was so impressed that I will be making several return visits just to see them again. The best way I know how to describe their unbelievable feats is to say it was like watching Jackie Chan live and in person. From incredible balance to life defying acrobatics these entertainers had obviously worked for years at perfecting their performance. What they brought to the stage was not only entertaining it was awe inspiring, not just for myself but the numerous others in attendance. It was so thrilling at one point I had to nudge my wife to get her to stop applauding in what must have been a five minute ovation from her, in the middle of the show.

At the end of the day yesterday and through today I came to the conclusion that sometimes people make tremendous sacrifice, and take tremendous chances in order to obtain their dreams. We are all blessed, just like we were all blessed when watching the Chinese Acrobats yesterday when people use those gifts to bless and inspire others. Not only had the Chinese Acrobats gone after this dream, but so has the developer and owners of Wild West World.

Many will enjoy the park this season and hopefully, future seasons. Truth is, there are some things the park could improve on. I love a good magician, and a park like this needs a Wild West show that features a gun fight and entertainment of that sort. I even contacted the park at one point about being a magician or entertainer for them during the season. Presently they have neither of these two things which would contribute to the theme and enjoyment of the park. Maybe they will take me up on my offer for the remainder of the summer or next season. Between my wife and I we would give them a great deal while doing something we love, her music, my magic and acting. There are other little things they could improve upon, like the development of new rides as the years go on, and an intercom system at each ride that saves the poor operators from having to repeat to every rider the rules of the ride, but all in all, outside of a few minor things, this park has promise. I love marketing and management, and when I did it in the past I did a pretty good job, I can guarantee I believe in the potential of this park. Of course there are already some good people there insuring the park gets off on the right foot.

From the kind ride operators, to the friendly workers helping clean the park, I haven’t met a single rude person at Wild West World. The entertainment has been first class and certainly inspirational, but the park has been more than that in the short season they have been open. Wild West World has also been a reminder of going for dreams and not being wishy washy about the things you go after, or the way you go after them. That point can be a reminder for all of us as we go after the things in life we long for, whether that be a ministry like The Virtual Pew, a license to be a beautician, a school teacher, or a specialized machine operator, we can observe examples all around us of what it means to go after dreams. We sometimes think that in the West, especially in America that we have a monopoly on dreams, I will challenge this is not the case. As I sat and watched up close the faces of several young men from China I could see the joy in their eyes as they recognized the joy in not only my eyes, but the 200 or so people in attendance. May we all see that look in the eyes of others we come into contact with and have the honor of serving no matter what we do. May we all experience the joy of knowing we have gone after our desires, and that our desires and efforts can please those around us. Thanks to all of those involved at Wild West World for helping me realize this at a time I needed reminded of this. Thanks especially to those young performers, the Chinese Acrobats for not only entertaining me, but for reminding me there are ways to find joy in this life as we serve others.

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