By Christina Huynh
Arkansans will be able to enjoy snow in November this year when Wild River Country converts into a winter park, the owner said Thursday.
The winter park, which will be called Wild Winter Country, is tentatively scheduled to start its first season Nov. 22 and end April 1, according to Chris Shillcutt, the park’s vice president of operations.
An all-day admission pass, which does not include snow tubing, will cost $5.43 plus tax per person, he said. For those who also would like to tube in the snow, it will be $16.29 plus tax for a 90-minute session. No age restrictions will be set at the winter park, Shillcutt said.
“We thought this would be great, because nowhere in central Arkansas do you have snow-tubing,” he said. “We’re trying to make [Wild Winter Country] a family-type event — that’s what our motto is at the park.”
The winter park will feature a snow-play area, a snowball target area, a children’s sliding area, a fire pit for s’mores and four-to-six snow-tubing lanes. However, Shillcutt said, the number of snow-tubing lanes could change since organizers won’t know exactly how many will be made until they begin laying snow down.
The park will not have an ice-skating rink or a ski slope for its first winter season, Shillcutt said.
“I know Little Rock has [an ice-skating rink] by the River Market area, but we don’t plan on putting one in this year,” he said. “[We’re] not against it in the future.”
Shillcutt said he anticipates the park to be closed on Mondays, open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for group events, and open 5-9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday nights. For the weekend, the park should be open all day from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 or 7 p.m. Sunday.
Choirs and high school bands may play during the first inaugural season of the winter park, but Shillcutt said nothing has been set in stone. When it’s close to Christmas, the park will have holiday lights on the trees and Santa Claus decorations throughout the park, Shillcutt said.
“We’re going to make it a whole kind of festival thing — not just snow-tubing,” he said.
Shillcutt said the company has been consulting Stone Mountain — a winter park in Atlanta, Ga. — on how to implement a winter park in Arkansas.
He said they will build about a 2 1/2-half-foot compact snow base on top of their paved roads starting the first week of November. The snow base should work like “an ice machine,” Shillcutt said.
He said he doesn’t know exactly how much it will cost to convert the water park into a snow park, but estimated it should cost about $500,000.
Wild Winter Country employees will be chosen from the pool of the best summer employees to be trained as snow-guards, Shillcutt said. He estimates the park will hire between 30 and 60 part-time employees and three or four full-time employees.
“We hope [the winter park] is a hit,” Shillcutt said. “Sure, it’s going to be a learning curve for us, but we hope people in Arkansas come out and enjoy it.”
Arkansans Enjoy Snow Pit, Tubing At Wild Winter Country Opening
By Christina Huynh
After postponing its grand winter opening to the public Friday, a North Little Rock-based theme park kicked off its seasonal transformation Saturday morning.
About 10 a.m., Wild Winter Country — which features attractions for all ages, including a snow pit for throwing snowballs and building snowmen — opened its gates to the public. The park’s opening was delayed because rain that occurred Thursday night created holes — some about two feet in size, the winter park’s vice president of operations Chris Shillcutt said.
Shillcutt said he did not get much sleep the night before the park’s opening Saturday. He left the park at midnight Friday and returned at 5 a.m. Saturday in preparation for the winter park’s opening, he said.
Employees also arrived at the park early Saturday to fill in the little holes produced by Friday night’s rain, Shillcutt said. They had to “groove out” tubing lanes as well so customers would have a “smooth ride” down the snow-covered hills.
Wild Winter Country employee Asha Jones, 20, said she loves the theme park’s transformation, but said that the opening day of the winter season has been slightly stressful.
“You could tell that tensions are high seeing that this being the first ever winter session, and this is the very first day [of] opening,” she said. “But everyone [is trying] to stay calm and cool.”
Benton resident Crystal Waldorf, 33, brought her five children and husband to Wild Winter Country to attend a birthday party. She said she thought the winter park was fun and a “neat” idea.
“I didn’t really know what to expect actually [in] how they were going to be able to have snow when it’s not necessarily below freezing,” she said. “I was actually pretty surprised.”
Her 10-year-old daughter Hannah said she thought playing in the snow was fun and said her favorite attraction at the winter park was the snowpit.
“I like that it feels like real snow, and it feels like it’s actually a real snow day,” she said.
Customers’ response to the winter park this year will determine what will be added to the winter park in its next season, Shillcutt said.
“If we have a good reception this year from our guests, then what we’ll try to do is build this next year,” he said. “Our thoughts is to add an ice rink and have a big Christmas tree and make this into a festival.”
An all-day admission pass, which does not include snow tubing, will cost $5.43 plus tax per person, according to the theme park’s website. For those who also would like to tube in the snow, it will be $16.29 plus tax for a 90-minute session.
The park will typically be closed on Mondays through Wednesdays, and open 5-8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday nights, the website says. For the weekend, the park will be open all day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.