So far, the 130th anniversary season of Elitch Gardens has been a real brain drain.
Since opening day, initially slated for April 11, was indefinitely postponed over COVID-19, staffers, season pass holders and other amusement park fans have been waiting for the gates to open. Unlike Water World, which announced it wouldn't open in 2020 before summer even started, Elitch management still harbors hope as Colorado officials decide whether attractions can get back in the game.
"At this time, we are still planning to open the park this season," Elitch Marketing Manager Jolie DuBois told Westword on July 8. "We are working closely with state and local authorities, and hope to have news soon."
On June 26, Elitch General Manager David Dorman wrote to guests that he and his team have prepared to reopen, and are just waiting for state and city approval.
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"Our plan, a comprehensive and detailed 56-page COVID-19 operating strategy, includes guest and employee health screenings, greatly enhanced cleaning protocols, regular sanitization of all high touch surfaces, free and readily available hand sanitizer throughout the park, broad social distancing measures, proper use of personal protective equipment, a reduced hourly flow of guests into the park to eliminate congestion at our front gate and reduced in-park capacity to encourage easy social distancing and reduce guest density," he explained. "We even directly engaged one of the country’s top epidemiologists to review and advise us on our plan prior to submitting it to local and state authorities."
Despite this, the park is still unable to announce a new opening date.
"I realize how incredibly frustrating this is for our all our guests. For our current 2020 season pass holders, we will extend their season pass into our 2021 season for as many days as the park is closed this season. This extension applies to any 2020 dining plan already purchased, too," Dorman wrote.
In other states — including Florida, where COVID-19 has spiked — families are eager to get back on the amusement-park ride, and companies are obliging. Disney World plans to reopen its gates in Orlando on July 11. Six Flags in St. Louis, Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, and other attractions have opened around the country.
They're all following strict safety guidelines, though so far no American attraction has gone as far as Japan, where screaming has been prohibited on amusement park rides because of the risk of coronavirus transmission. (Reportedly, guests are having a hard time keeping their howls inside.)
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Other park reopenings are not lost on Dorman. In his letter to Elitch customers, he said: "To date, over 75% of the top U.S. attractions including brands like Disney, Universal Studios and numerous Six Flags parks, have either re-opened or have been able to publish an opening date. In our community, the Denver Zoo, Botanic Gardens and Museum of Nature and Science and Downtown Aquarium have all been allowed to re-open, as have gyms, shopping malls, casinos, churches, restaurants and bars. We are confident in our plan to open safely and expect to be treated fairly as we anxiously await approval from our local and state authorities."
Since he wrote that, Colorado has closed many bars and nightclubs again, as COVID-19 rates rose in the state and skyrocketed nationwide.
With Denver schools slated to open on August 17, some kids are already mourning an Elitch-free summer.
"It seems that now more than ever, our world needs a place like Elitch Gardens where friends and families can go to make memories together that will last a lifetime," Dorman wrote.