KISSIMMEE – Here’s a riddle: how do you take something old, that’s been around for a while, and make it new?
According to Don Rousseau, the sales and marketing manager for Old Town, there’s a surefire recipe for doing that, and it starts with “Something New in the Air at Old Town.”
“We’re trying to make Old Town new again,” Rousseau said.
The best way to do that is to host special events, like this Christmas and holiday-themed celebration that kicks off on Friday.
The man in the red suit himself, Santa Claus, will be on hand Friday as the theme park on U.S. 192 near Kissimmee kicks off its inaugural “Old Town Christmas.” Santa will arrive at the theme park’s new Pepsi AMPventure Experience, then lead a parade of children to his workshop on Old Town’s Main Street. Santa’s aerial entrance will be at 5 p.m., and is the start of a nearly month-long holiday celebration.
“Our big Christmas event starts this Friday, where Santa Claus will be zipping over Old Town, and each of our blocks at Old Town will have different scenarios,” Rousseau said, including a Winter Wonderland with Jack Frost and his snow ferries at one block, and a nativity scene in another.
And, following another popular tradition, there will be snow falling – regardless of what the weather is like.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Rousseau said of the theme park’s plans for flakey soap falling and creating the look – if not necessarily the nippy feel – of snow.
“It’s very flakey-like soap bubbles, but fine in texture,” he said. “When the air hits it just right, it looks like a light snowfall.”
The falling snow is just one attempt to get the theme park’s visitors into the holiday spirit. There will also be carolers, story telling, and live performances at the various themed holiday blocks on Fridays and Saturdays from 5-8 p.m., through Dec. 23.
Children will have an opportunity to visit Santa’s Workshop, where they can take a photo with Jolly Old St. Nick and tell him what they want for Christmas, and there will be elves on hand helping Santa get ready for the holiday. There will also be special holiday gifts available at Old Town’s more than 75 specialty retailers.
As Rousseau noted, this is a part of Old Town’s efforts to bill itself an affordable alternative to the large theme parks that have admission prices and parking fees that can now exceed $100.
Admission to Old Town is free, and so is parking, Rousseau noted.
“With the new management coming into place, our intention is to bring the whole family back to Old Town,” Rousseau said. “It’s a cheaper option than going to the big theme parks.”
Old Town’s efforts to reinvent itself started this past summer with the introduction of the new PEPSI AMPVenture Experience, featuring a zip line and challenge course that calls on patrons to test their balance, strength and endurance on a series of rope challenges and rock climbing obstacles.
Then in October, the theme park hosted “Old Town Halloween,” featuring zombie walks, Florida Ghost Buster Fan Club appearances, Monster Mashes and Costume Contests.
Rousseau said the Halloween-themed event was a huge hit.
“It was a big free event,” he said. “It was so packed every night you could barely move. It was a home run. On a scale of one to 10, this was a 20.”
For the Christmas event, Old Town will also be a collection site for Kids Osceola, a non-profit organization that gives toys and other supplies to homeless families throughout Osceola County. Any patron who drops off a new toy for the drive will get half off the price of any ride wristband for unlimited rides all day on Old Town’s 14 attractions, including the AMPventure Zone.
Then at the end of the month, Old Town will host its traditional big New Year’s Eve bash, Rousseau said, with the band 70s Reunion performing. And for the countdown to the new year, there will be a unique twist, Rousseau added.
“We’re going to do a car drop,” he said. “Rather than the ball drop like in Times Square, a 120 foot crane will start lowering a car on the countdown. We’re looking at a couple of different sponsors right now. We’re not sure if it will be Chevy or a Ford.”
Old Town has truly been around for a while, almost as long as Walt Disney World, which opened in 1971. Old Town will be celebrating its 25th anniversary on Dec. 10, and that’s not going to be a one day event – but a 12-month-long bash.
“We’re going to do a year-long celebration,” he said. “We’ll kick it off on December 10, and then do the celebration all year long.”
It is, Rousseau added, part of Old Town’s ongoing effort to bring something new to the …. well, Old.
“The sky is the limit,” he said. “We’re just doing so many new things.”
For more information about the Old Town Christmas activities, visit www.MyOldTownUSA.com or check out Old Town’s Facebook page. Old Town is at 5770 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway (U.S. 192) in Kissimmee, and the park’s operating hours are Sunday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to midnight.
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