While separately-priced after-hours theme park parties like Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights and Walt Disney World’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are sometimes referred to as special events, I prefer to think of them as hard-ticketed public events. They are often fun to work, but carry many of the same concerns and challenges as regular daytime operations, such as stressed-out guests trying to fit it all in and stressed-out team leaders trying to hit hourly counts.
When I think of working a special event, I think about the private parties. An individual or a corporation rents out part or all of a theme park for an invitation-only celebration, creating a unique opportunity for both guests and employees to experience the park in a whole new way.
Here are six reasons why I loved these events as a Disney Cast Member and as a Universal Team Member.
1. Party atmosphere
Private special events often feature catering stations and temporary bars set up along the walkways. If the rest of the park is still open to the public, the event area is roped off and guests must show some form of ID such as a wristband to be allowed inside. These touches create a sense of exclusivity and heightened excitement that is truly infectious. Being inside the ropes, smelling the food, and watching the bartenders create special concoctions is exciting, even if you are there for work and not for fun.
2. Fun-loving guests
While most guests that employees encounter throughout the day are having fun, many of them are also slightly on edge. The theme parks are huge and tough to cover in a day, and Central Florida weather is often hot, rainy, or both. During daytime operations, everyone seems like they are distracted and in a hurry.
Many private events are held at night, when the rain is usually over and the temperature is somewhat cooler. In addition, they are typically limited in scope, consisting only of a handful of attractions across a themed land or two. The guest list is generally small when compared to the number of people who fill that area during a typical day of operations. For these reasons, event guests know they have no reason to hurry or to stress out about getting everything done. They are with friends or family members, treated like VIPs, and generally in the mood to party. Their excitement sets a fun tone for the event that is easy for employees to mirror.
3. Relaxed coworkers
Working at a theme park is often tough, no matter how much you love your job. Conflicting priorities, cranky guests, ride breakdowns, and other unexpected challenges can make it hard for even the best employees to keep smiling. Special events, however, generally utilize more staff than is strictly necessary in order to provide the best possible show. Employees often work in teams, bouncing off each other to keep their energy up and flowing. With fewer challenges and more assistance with anything that does go wrong, the entire team is generally happy and relaxed.