USA Today has unveiled its latest Readers’ Choice poll, and this time around, it focuses on the nation’s best theme park bloggers – something near and dear to our hearts. The pleasant surprise about this story is that Theme Park Adventure’s founder/editor, Rick West was chosen by the publication as one of the nominees for this particular poll!
10Best provides its users with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content on top attractions, things to do, and restaurants for top destinations in the US and around the world. The core of the site’s power is its team of local experts, a well-traveled and well-educated group who are not only experts in their fields (and their cities) but discriminating in their tastes. These local experts live in the city they write about so our content is more up-to-date than any guidebook around. Some of the venues reviewed provided complimentary services.
Narrowing down the theme park blogger nominees was placed at the hands of several well-known and established individuals: Arthur Levine, the Theme Park Expert at About.com since 2002; James Riley, who covers the theme parks for USA Today as the travel editor of Experience America; Steve Kalkofen, the editor and publisher of RollerCoasterPro.com; and Joel Bullock, known around the world as The Coaster Critic.
“It was a wonderful surprise to wake up to on a Monday morning,” says Rick West, founder and editor of Theme Park Adventure. “I had no idea this was a thing until our Twitter feed started going off this morning! I got a huge kick out of it; I’m not huge on poll contests, but I am truly pleased and honored to be listed in the poll alongside some of our oldest and best friends/peers within the community including Ricky Brigante (Inside The Magic), Lance Hart (Screamscape), and Robb Alvey (Theme Park Review).”
The 10Best poll describes this group of bloggers as having been so drawn to the themed entertainment industry that they’ve devoted their entire sites and careers to covering it. That couldn’t ring more true for West and Theme Park Adventure, which begins its 20th Anniversary this September.
“TPA sprang from the love I’ve always had for theme parks and haunted attractions,” Rick explains. “I grew up in Southern California in the ’70s and ’80s, and regularly visited parks such as Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and SeaWorld. I also was frequently taken to many places that aren’t around anymore, such as Lion Country Safari, Santa’s Village, and Movieland Wax Museum. As a small boy, I just loved it all – and that intangible something got under my skin and into my blood. I was a hard core enthusiast before I even knew it.”
In the late 1980s, West went to work at Disneyland as an attractions Cast Member at Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, Country Bear Jamboree, and the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes. In years to follow, he also worked at The Walt Disney Studios on The Disney Afternoon and then moved on to operations at Knott’s Berry Farm, Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 in San Francisco, and Excalibur Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
“Themed entertainment is something I have always loved,” says West. “Fresh out of high school, I started working at Disneyland and it all grew from that point on. I wrote for several Disney fan publications early on, and then decided I wanted to cover everything I loved, from defunct theme parks to the allure of the mega-resorts of the Vegas Strip. No one else was really doing that very comprehensively at the time, and so, we jumped in feet-first. That ‘ride through the past, present and the future’ has lasted two decades now, and I feel that TPA has never been stronger.”
In addition to being a well-known journalist throughout the themed entertainment industry, Rick West is also a professional creative director and show writer as well. He has worked with companies including Thinkwell, Wyatt Design Group, and BRC Imagination Arts on concepts including theme parks, casinos, resorts and even haunted attractions.
“The haunted attraction industry is something very important to me” Rick says. “Back in the day, Theme Park Adventure was the only fan publication truly interested in the real stories behind the men and women of Knott’s Scary Farm, which I’ve been attending since the early ’80s. Since then, TPA has showcased everything from Knott’s to home haunts, and our annual Halloween coverage of these awesome productions has helped bring a growing population of haunters and incredibly talented people together under one site devoted to the community rather than one or two big events. I’d say the heartbeat of TPA really does get its strength from the haunt community and the people we so enjoy that make it up globally.”
For the past two years, Rick West has been the Creative Programming Producer of ScareLA, a large-scale Halloween convention held in downtown Los Angeles. This year, ScareLA will showcase large presentations by Knott’s Scary Farm, Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor and Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights. The 2-day convention will also feature a thrilling “sliders” show, special tribute to Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, amazing makeup presentations by industry leaders including Larry Bones of Bone Yard Effects.
“I’ve grown up a themed entertainment fan, I work within the industry, and I feel that Theme Park Adventure has a 20-year-old connection with its fans that is very unique and special,” says West. “I’m proud as hell by what we’ve accomplished in first, print, and now online as a fan site. It sounds cliche, but just being included in this poll’s group of nominees is really satisfying and fantastic. The important thing to me isn’t how we place in the end; the fact that our peers thought highly enough of us to include me in this group, and the fact that so many of our fans and friends have taken the time to cast their votes for TPA – that is what truly is rewarding to me. It tells me we’re still on the right track and remain true to our core mission – to be a source of information for fans by fans; because first and foremost, that is what we are.”
Votes can be cast daily at http://www.10best.com/awards/new-media-awards/best-theme-park-bloggers/