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Chaperones and More Security Measures for a Safer Amusement Park Summer
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With what they are somewhat euphemistically calling “unruly” instances of behavior, theme parks across the U.S. are responding to a spate of recent incidents by issuing guidelines, and in many cases, instituting chaperone policies for those under 18.

At California's Disneyland, the park website lets visitors know they are expected to treat others with respect, kindness and compassion. At Florida's Walt Disney World, it's suggested that guests “be the magic” they want to see in the world. Both parks have seen a number of issues over the last year, from fights over fireworks viewing spots to waiting lines for shows.

Despite the words about conduct printed on the Disney park websites, just recently there wasn't much magic at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom when an argument over positioning at a photo opportunity spot broke out. The disagreement led to a fight in front of the park's 100th Anniversary sign. The dispute apparently arose when one family stood in front of the sign, and another wanted a clear view of it for a photo. The ultimately physical altercation was captured on video and shared with a local TV station. Suffice it to say that Mickey and Minnie would not be happy.

But while Disney seems content – for now – with issuing gentle behavioral reminder statements, Cedar Fair has taken a more active role in dealing with poor visitor behavior.

After experiencing fights and chaotic behavior from teen guests, including one large incident that forced the park to close last July, Knott's Berry Farm in California has reinstated a chaperone policy first put into place last summer – all guests 15 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

After repeated incidents of “unruly and inappropriate behavior” according to the park, this year's chaperone policy asserts that not only must all guests 15 and younger admitted after 4 p.m.  have chaperones – but the chaperone must be at least 21 years old. A single chaperone can accompany as many as ten minors but must stay inside the park with those they are chaperoning. Unaccompanied kids are subject to being ejected from the park.

Following the Knott's Berry Farm incident last year, the park announced that “The safety of our guests and associates has always been our top priority. Over the past two years, there have been increasing incidents of unruly and inappropriate behavior across our industry and at other major entertainment venues." The website statement goes on to note that the park believes the changes implemented will assure a continuation of a “positive atmosphere… generations of families and friends can gather for a day of safe fun and good food. Millions of guests have counted on us for exactly that, and we will continue to deliver on that promise for generations to come."

While a chaperone policy established last July was later scaled back, this year, the rules are now clear, regardless of the day of the week, in order to be admitted to the park or to remain in the park after 4 p.m. local time, all guests 15 and under must be accompanied by a chaperone age 21 or above.

Carowinds in North Carolina and Worlds of Fun in Missouri have also set new chaperone policies in motion, putting safety first for both guests and staff members. There was a brawl involving over 100 teen visitors at Missouri's Worlds of Fun last year, which was the first park in Cedar Fair's quiver to implement the new policy. At that park, one teen girl refused to leave the scene and actually punched a deputy in the face. The park had seen other incidents involving unaccompanied minors earlier, back in April 2019, when a fight broke out involving over 300 people.

After Knott's and Carowinds' decided to follow suit, other Cedar Fair parks also put similar policies in place, including Kings Island, Kings Dominion, and Northern California's Great America. Dorney Park and Valleyfair also just announced new chaperone policies; only Canada's Wonderland, Cedar Point, and Michigan's Adventure have not implemented them as yet among Cedar Fair parks.

At Universal Studios in Orlando, since last year, a policy has been in place requiring those under 18 on Citywalk, adjoining the theme park, must depart at 9 p.m. on weekends, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian over age 21. Once again, this policy emerged following fights, which occurred on the walk last year near the parking structure. There is an exception made for guests staying at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel with a room key or those who have a ticket to the Universal Cinemark movie theater. In the latter case, teens are to be escorted directly to the theater.

Disneyland in California has a similar rule in place, with those under age 18 requiring parent or guardian for accompaniment after 10 p.m. in the Downtown Disney District. The only general rule for Disney parks themselves in Florida and California is that guests under 14 must be accompanied by another guest 14 or older in order to enter either of the parks.

Smaller parks are also tightening their rules. At Kennywood in Pennsylvania, the chaperone policy now requires those under 17 to be accompanied at all times by an adult who is age 21 or older. Security for the park has also announced that they will conduct bag spot checks and monitor fences along the perimeter of the park following an incident involving a shooting inside the park last fall.

While many guests are in favor of these rules for park safety, others find them restrictive; however, one thing's for sure, with bad behavior seemingly popping up all around the country, establishing new safety rules is hardly a surprise and may ultimately be necessary to keep the amusements parks a peaceful place of entertainment for guests.
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