Podcast Episodes

Episode 009 — Workamping opportunity with Adventureland Resort

Today’s episode is going to look at one way workampers can help people have fun and make memories. It features an interview with three people from Adventureland Resort near Des Moines, Iowa.

Adventureland is a family-owned and operated theme park that features more than 100 rides, shows and attractions. It offers everything from roller coasters and kiddie rides to a full-size waterpark and live entertainment. It also has a campground and several retail stores as well as food service options.

Adventureland hires lots of workampers every year for a variety of positions. In retail, workampers check out customers and stock merchandise. They assist in operating the rides and run some of the games. They also work as cooks, food prep workers and servers. Some specialized jobs include lifeguards and first aid professionals

Bri Fors is the human resources coordinator who hires all the workampers. She is joined by two people who spent the summer working at Adventureland, Sherry Hicks and Lou Axt.

Bri describes all the jobs workampers can perform, and she outlines the benefits and perks of working at the park. Sherry and Lou describes their experience working at the park.

I have often said that if I wasn’t doing what I was doing right now, I would work in a campground. That also applies to amusement parks. I think it would be tremendously rewarding to help people have a good time and make memories of their own.

Working at places like Adventureland must be a lot of fun, too. People are on vacation. They are happy, eager to have a good time and to enjoy an adventure. I worked at an amusement park one summer outside of Minneapolis, and it was certainly an interesting experience.

It was interesting to hear about the Adventureland experience from the perspective of Bri Fors, Sherry Hicks and Lou Axt.

This would be an excellent summer job for families with teenagers who are looking for more opportunities to socialize with people their own age. Mom, dad and the teens can work helping others have fun, then enjoy the park amenities themselves.

Adventureland is hiring workampers right now for the 2020 season. So, be sure to check out their listings on Workamper News, or check out the employment tab at AdventurelandResort.com.

It’s a fun-family owned business, and I’d encourage everyone to check it out today.

Whether it is running a business from your RV or working short-term jobs for a variety of employers, Workamper News can give you information to help plan a course to live your own dream and get you on the road faster than you thought possible. For more information about opportunities to live, work and play in your RV, visit www.workampernews.com.

Tuesday, we’ll be chatting with a woman who lost her husband and decided she didn’t want to be sitting around her house by herself all day, so she started workamping and never stopped.

Note: We did have a technical challenge with this interview as everyone was using a speaker phone, so it may sound a bit different from other episodes, but the information is still valuable for people looking for a fun way to spend their summers helping others have a great time.

 

*** TRANSCRIPT ***

Greg Gerber:                     Thanks for joining us today, Bri. I really appreciate it. I understand that you work for Adventureland, which is out in Iowa corn country. Can you tell us a little bit about the company?

Bri Fors:                              So Adventureland Resort was founded in the 1970s with an amusement park and a hotel. We have quickly grown and added attractions. We also have a campground on property as well as a newer water park. So we have a little bit for everyone in the family. And we really cater to those families who want to get out of their comfort zone and to have a little bit of fun.

Greg Gerber:                     When you mention amusement park, we’re talking about a Disneyland kind of amusement park, right? This is a big deal there in Iowa. What kinds of things can people do at Adventureland?

Bri Fors:                              We have all sorts of things that at Adventureland So we have retail shops, we have games areas. We have over a hundred rides and attraction from rollercoasters to kiddy rides, as well as seven different food stands areas which have multiple food stands within each area. We have a waterpark with many water amenities including a waterslide, lazy river, wading pool and so much more.

Greg Gerber:                     Well, it sounds like an operation that big requires a lot of workampers.

Bri Fors:                              It sure does.

Greg Gerber:                     What are some of the things that they do?

Bri Fors:                              Oh, our workampers work in the retail department. They work in rides, games and food. Our retail is typically just checking guests in and out of the retail stand stocking merchandise from stuffed animals, shirts and little knickknacks. We have a candy store that they could purchase items from. Foods workers are going to be cooking food, serving food, taking orders, and checking people out on the cash register. Rides team members work on any given ride from kiddy rides to roller coasters being either the assistant or the operator. And then the game team members work in the little carnival games areas where they’re trying to get families and people to come over and play their game for additional money to win big prizes.

Greg Gerber:                     So those would be like midway games that we would see at a state fairs and things like that. Pop the balloons and throw the rings around the bottles, that type of game. So that’s a variety of things for people to do. Do you have any specific qualifications for folks to work at these jobs?

Bri Fors:                              No, we’re just looking for happy people who are wanting to work a summer position and make a stop in Iowa.

Greg Gerber:                     Okay. When is the amusement park open?

Bri Fors:                              So we opened for weekends in April and we opened full time right around Memorial Day, and then we go back to weekends only from end of August through the end of September.

Greg Gerber:                     Okay. So you’re almost wrapping up here in a couple of weeks.

Bri Fors:                              We sure are.

Greg Gerber:                     Very good. So, there are no specific qualifications. People don’t need a degree in ride management to be able to get guests comfortable in the ride and get it started.

Bri Fors:                              Not at all. We’re just looking for people who can communicate effectively with guests to exemplify happiness and joy and try to make our guests’ experience the best it can be when they’re working.

Greg Gerber:                     Very good. What kinds of things do you expect from the workampers? Are there any traits that you really would hope they would have when they apply? Besides being happy?

Bri Fors:                              We’re, we’re really looking for people who can show up to work on time and be there ready to work. People who are, you know, ready to learn new jobs every day depending on if they’re in a different food stand or if they’re on a different ride. They must be able to lift a certain amount depending on what position they’re working on. And there are other qualifications that I might not be thinking of right off the top of my head today. But typically, we’re just looking for anybody who would like a summer job in the middle of Iowa.

Greg Gerber:                     Do you hire people who have specialized skills? For example, you said you had a waterpark. Do you hire people who are trained as lifeguards or as emergency medical technicians?

Bri Fors:                              We sure do. Typically, first-year workcampers go to the four departments we’ve already discussed, but we do have first aid employees on property as well as lifeguards. And if they do have those qualifications, we would certainly be happy to talk to them about those positions.

Greg Gerber:                     I understand that you have two workampers with you today who have been with Adventureland all summer long. The first one is Sherry Hicks. Sherry, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been doing at Adventureland.

Sherry Hicks:                     Okay. Hi, this is Sherry and I’ve worked in the retail department for the last two seasons. What I like about working here is the great location. We’re close to the city of Des Moines. There’s lots of fun stuff you can do on your spare time when you’re off. There’s lots of restaurants which are within walking distance. There are stores that you can go to, there’s a Walmart, dog groomers, all kinds of festivals and things. The state fair happens every year, which is fun for everybody. We also get some area discounts, which is nice perk for our employees here. We’ve also had the pleasure of working with people from all around the world which has been really nice. We’ve improved our social skills. I know I have. I’ve been cross training in a few different areas during the last two seasons, which has been really beneficial. As I become more well-rounded, I wear different hats here.

Greg Gerber:                     Super. So when you are cross training that means that you’re training yourself or being trained to do multiple jobs. Is it all within retail or do you wind up on rides someday and on retail other days or in food service another day?

Sherry Hicks:                     So sometimes more departments are busier than others and we can obtain extra hours by working in different departments.

Greg Gerber:                     Very good. So what’s a typical day look like for you when working in retail? I’m assuming that you show up before the park opens and get the store ready. But after that, then what?

Sherry Hicks:                     First, we find out which location we’re going to be at. We never know because it is a surprise every day. I could be doing something with renting tubes for the lazy river at the water park to selling chain to get the train station to working in our clothing and souvenir shop.

Greg Gerber:                     How many hours a week do you typically work?

Sherry Hicks:                     I typically work at least 40 hours a week.

Greg Gerber:                     Wow. So it is really full time for you.

Sherry Hicks:                     Yeah, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s our second year. We can’t wait to come back next year. The only thing that I could recommend for anybody considering workamping here is to bring your smile and be sure to bring your jacket and your bathing suit. The weather conditions are all crazy here. We never know if it’s gonna snow or be 108.

Greg Gerber:                     I grew up in Wisconsin, so I know very well that you could be wearing a parka one day and need your bathing suit the next

Sherry Hicks:                     Right.

Greg Gerber:                     That’s super. So when you say we, are you workamping with a family member or with a friend?

Sherry Hicks:                     I’ve worked here with my daughters. My daughter is 20 and this is her second year here, too. We share an RV together and we live in a campground.

Greg Gerber:                     Well that’s neat. Is she also working in retail or does she work in a different department?

Sherry Hicks:                     No, she works in the food department and really enjoys it.

Greg Gerber:                     Oh, very nice. And how long have you been RVing?

Sherry Hicks:                     This is just my second year. So this was my very first workamping job.

Greg Gerber:                     Nice. Thank you, Sherry. The other employee that is with us today is Lou Axt. And Lou, how long have you been at Adventureland?

Lou Axt:                              Well, I’ve been working for Adventureland for six years and started out as a rides assistant and a rides operator, and now one of the managers. Basically, when we started the workamping jobs six years ago — this would be my wife and I — we came to Adventureland on a recommendation from someone we worked with at another workamping gig. We thought, well, we’ll try it for a summer. And we just fell in love with the place. It’s just so much fun to work here at the amusement park and there’s so much going on in Des Moines that there’s never a dull moment. There’s just many cultural things to do. And so we just really fell in love with the area as well.

Greg Gerber:                     I would imagine that it’d be kind of refreshing to show up at work just to help people have fun.

Lou Axt:                              Oh, absolutely. Not a day goes by here that isn’t a joy. You know, there’s always good days and bad, but it is by far the funnest job I’ve ever had. I’ve mentioned to many folks that I would consider doing something different for the summer when this starts feeling like a job, but it hasn’t yet.

Greg Gerber:                     That’s neat. And so as a rides manager, are you assigned to our particular ride or do you float around all the attractions?

Lou Axt:                              I do a lot of floating around. Typically my day starts where I’m probably one of the managers helping you to check in rides employees, which just involves them stopping by the ride desk. So we know they’re here and confirming what their ride assignment is for the day. Our normal scheduling allows for a weekly rotation and most departments offer some sort of rotation, so you’re not in the exact same assignment day in and day out. And it’s one of the things that really keeps things interesting here at Adventureland.

Greg Gerber:                     I would think that would be really nice to be able to go from a kiddy ride to a roller coaster. It’s a different group of people, different kinds of ride, different atmosphere in general. That would make it a lot interesting.

Lou Axt:                              You are exactly right. For every rides employee that just loves kiddy rides there is another one that doesn’t find it all that fun. But it’s never for very long before you’re working on another ride and, and it just always gives you something to look forward to.

Greg Gerber:                     Will you be coming back next year?

Lou Axt:                              For sure. My wife and I’ve already discussed it and we, as I mentioned, we just love it here and so we will be back next year.

Greg Gerber:                     What’s next for the winter? Are you heading back home to work at another job?

Lou Axt:                              Well, we’re, we’re going to be a avoiding the snow and heading to Arizona for the winter. Maybe pick up a little part time work there. But typically winter is our kickback time. We try not to pick up as many hours as we can during the summer here.

Greg Gerber:                     I can imagine they have the plenty of things to do in this park. Is it normally open from 9:00 AM til 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM?

Lou Axt:                              Well, it varies a little bit. As the season progresses, we’re open longer hours into the evening. Right now we’re on weekends only, so it’s a much shorter park schedule. But, for most folks, it’s a half-day shift and that usually is five or six days a week. And then once we reach the shoulder season, like we are now, it’s weekends only. I have all week to go out and explore. If you wanted to attend a show or a ball game, there’s plenty of that going on in the morning.

Greg Gerber:                     Super. Is there any advice that you would give to people who are considering becoming a workamper or what people can do to make it a better experience?

Lou Axt:                              Well, one of the things that my wife and I learned early on when we became workampers is that most of the workamping jobs like Adventureland are seasonal. And so you know, you’re really are playing the role of someone that’s there for so many months out of the year. And for a lot of workampers, it’s a difficult adjustment from say, being a manager or owner where you have more of a position of authority. And so my advice would just be to stay flexible and kinda go with the flow. One of the things that does make it enjoyable is there’s not a lot to stress as a workamper even as a rides manager. I don’t have a whole lot of decisions to make day in and day out. Bri takes care a lot of that. It’s a fun thing to do. And so as long as you keep in mind that most of the big decisions are already made for you so you just enjoy what is in front of you, it can be a whole lot of fun.

Greg Gerber:                     Very good. Thank you so much everybody. I have one last question for Bri. When can people start applying for next year?

Bri Fors:                              So I put up the application about a week ago. So the applications are ready to go and they can start signing up. And then I will be in contact with them to either set up an in-person interview at one of the three places that we will be going to recruit workers, or we can interview over the phone.

Greg Gerber:                     And what time when will you start making those hiring decisions?

Bri Fors:                              So we will start hiring in October for the 2020 season.

Greg Gerber:                     Oh wow. That’s quick. So you don’t waste any time. People can really secure a job now and then just show up in the middle of May and be ready to rock and roll.

Bri Fors:                              They sure can.

Greg Gerber:                     Super. If people wanted more information about the experiences that are available or the opportunities that are available at Adventureland, where could they get it?

Bri Fors:                              We have an employer’s page on the Workamper News site as well as our own website at adventurelandresort.com under the employment tab. My contact information is on those pages as well so people can email or call me. That way I can send them our 2020 workamper brochure.

Greg Gerber:                     Very good. Well, thank you folks for joining me today. Really appreciate it and I wish you the best of luck in the remaining days of this summer season and more luck next year for a busy time in 2020.

Bri Fors:                              Well, thank you very much for having us.

 

Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is a former journalist who covered the recreation vehicle industry since 2009. He started podcasting in 2014 and enjoys interviewing people about ways to live, work and play in their RVs.

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