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Boardwalk Midway Games Receive Brass Ring Award!

Games and Operations Department Representatives at the IAAPA Brass Ring Awards
Games and Operations Department Representatives at the IAAPA Brass Ring Awards (From left to right: Omid Aminifard, Chief Operating Officer/General Manager; Eriberto Zuniga, Inventory Control Supervisor; Aaron Lopez, Games Maintenance Supervisor, Hilda Chavez, Games Department Manager; Jessica Alfaro, Assistant General Manager and Director of Operations; Teresa Arellano, Games and Attractions Assistant Manager; and Justin Qualls, Games and Attractions Assistant Manager)

It’s an exciting time at the Boardwalk! On March 3rd, the Boardwalk was publicly recognized at IAAPA (The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) in Las Vegas with the Brass Ring Award for Best Midway Games. This prestigious award is given out once a year to one amusement park, and holds an honor of great esteem that the Boardwalk Games Department has worked hard to achieve. Midway games have been a tradition at the Boardwalk since its earliest days. Today, the Beach Boardwalk hosts a multitude of midway games that keep our guests entertained. We interviewed a handful of Games Department members to learn more about them and explore the factors that led to this achievement.

Midway Games

1930s Midway Game
Games Operator at Star Game on the Boardwalk, circa 1930s

The Games Department is largely managed by Hilda Chavez (Manager), Anilu Reyes (Assistant Manager), Teresa Arellano (Assistant Manager), and Justin Qualls (Assistant Manager). These hard-working and dedicated team members have played a major role in winning this award. Many have been with the Boardwalk for years, decades even, and worked their way up from Games Operators to their current leadership roles. A few other key players are Eriberto Zuniga, who helps manage the prizes as the Inventory Control Supervisor and Aaron Lopez, the Games Maintenance Supervisor, always ensuring the games are in proper working order for the guests.

Eriberto, Hilda, and Anilu
A few of the dedicated Games Department team members: Eriberto Zuniga, Hilda Chavez, and Anilu Reyes

The Boardwalk is home to a whopping 24 midway games. From Skallywag Shootout Gallery in the Casino Arcade to Bob’s Fishin’ Hole in the Cave Train Plaza, there is a wide variety of attractions that test your skills and award exciting prizes. As Eriberto put it, “you can enjoy a little bit of everything at the Boardwalk.”

Up For A Challenge

Jessica Alfaro, Assistant General Manager and Director of Operations, highlighted some important obstacles that the department has overcome since the pandemic:

Roll-A-Ball
Roll-A-Ball featuring its new Mario Kart theming

“The Games Department lost a lot of team members when we closed the park in 2020 due to COVID. When we reopened the park in 2021, most our hires were going to rides and we only opened 10 out of 24 midway games all summer. In 2022, we were able to hire more staff and opened most of the games, but our support teams (games maintenance and inventory staff) and management team were still being rebuilt. Due to having to rebuild the team and not having all the resources to care for the games, our games looked tired in early 2023. Hilda and I started working on a plan to improve the appearance of the games and we immediately started implementing it. The plan included visiting other parks and asking an industry friend and midway game expert to look at our games and give us some ideas. We agreed that we would focus on the appearance of the games, everything needed to look clean and freshly painted, the signs needed to be visible and tie into the theme of the game, the displays needed to be fun and full of plush, and the staff needed to be friendly at all times. Everyone got to work and made all that happen by Memorial Day weekend! That’s what makes this Brass Ring Award so special, it represents the hard work and resilience of many team members.”

Hilda Chavez
Games Department Manager, Hilda Chavez

Other challenges they have had to worked through include storage and inventory, product not being available, and as Hilda noted, “we had a rough start to 2023 with a lot of water from major storms that set us back.” That last one was a major challenge, but it didn’t stop them. With persistence, problem-solving, and hard work, this department prevailed and excelled, showing that they can provide a high-level experience in this industry for our wonderful guests.

Notable Projects

The Games Department put together a solid action plan to update and enhance the midway games for 2023. As discussed in our previous article, keeping the Boardwalk looking great requires teamwork across all departments. Maintenance, Arcades, and Technical Services, to name just a few, all had a role in making the games standout this year; everything from fresh paint, to new construction, to plush displays. Games team members highlighted some important projects the department worked on this past year including, new attractions, plush crowns, and improved displays.

Roll-A-Bingo
Roll-A-Bingo, a
Modern version of Fascination,
located inside Neptune’s Kingdom

Hilda highlighted the importance of theming when capturing guests attention, “we themed most of our midway games, but most noticeably, Roll-A-Ball was themed Mario Kart.” This proved to be a success as guests enjoyed the new take on a classic game. Another big project was the conversion of Smuggler’s Arcade “to showcase our new addition Roll-A-Bingo, a modern take on Fascination.” Fascination had a big following and those who were sad to see it go can now come and enjoy a game of Roll-A-Bingo right inside Neptune’s Kingdom!

Tiara Display on Bushel Baskets
The “Tiara Display” on Bushel Baskets

The prizes are a big part of what entices people to play these games, so the team focused their attention on improving the selection and presentation. Brian Gustavson, the Arcades Maintenance Supervisor, noted that they got “all the midway games displays to pop-out by adding what is called the ‘tiara display’ above the counters. “We have looked for items that will call and appeal to our guests, ensuring that we showcase and display items that are popular and trending,” said Hilda, whose favorite plush is the ever-popular Hello Kitty. Some other staff favorites include the seagull with a French fry and any kind of Squishmallow. What’s your favorite prize you’ve seen or won at the Boardwalk? The plush not only bring joy to the players, but as Anilu notes, “my favorite part about the Boardwalk is awarding the prize to the guest; the smile of accomplishment they have makes me feel happy.”

Legacy

The Team embodies the Boardwalk legacy of “always making it better” and is working hard on plans for upcoming seasons. Jessica gave us a sneak peek as to what we can expect in the near future; “we are currently working on a new 3-point basketball game that will be located near Dream Wheel.” Keep an eye out for that one, it’s sure to be a hit!

One thing that has always made the Boardwalk so special is the deep connection our guests feel when coming here to have fun and make everlasting memories. Hilda Chavez noted, “The nostalgia plays a big part. Knowing your grandparent, parent, and now your children enjoyed this place as much as you is a really special feeling.” Some of our readers may have had this experience with our oldest midway game: Milk Bottles. It has provided a fun and quintessential amusement park experience for multiple generations. Anilu added that this also her favorite game at the Boardwalk. Do you have a favorite Boardwalk Midway Game memory? Share it in the comments below!

Milk Bottles
Milk Bottles

We would like to celebrate the enthusiastic recognition of this IAPPA Brass Ring award, and commend the hard work and dedication demonstrated by everyone involved in this achievement. Jessica sums it up nicely, “I would like to thank Hilda Chavez for leading the games team during very challenging times. We could not have done it without her hard work and passion for the Games Department. I would also like to thank all the members of the Games Department and other departments in the Boardwalk that contributed to us winning this special award! Well done everyone, it is an honor to work with all of you.”

Enjoy some fun Midway Games & Attractions at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk this year! 

Cheers!

Ezra 

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