Europa Park, Germany
For Kevin Kruschwitz, his life has been a series of ups and downs. Not in an emotional sense. I mean literally.
He’s dedicated his life to running rollercoasters.
“I think it was the whole fascination of having such big machines entertaining people,” he tells me.
“Usually machines are built to work something, to produce something, but I think I really like the idea of rollercoasters producing fun.”
Kevin is young – in his mid twenties – yet he’s got one of the most important jobs here at Germany’s Europa Park. He is the Operations Manager, meaning he is in charge of the whole park on a day-to-day basis.
It’s the ideal job for someone like Kevin, who can’t remember a time he wasn’t obsessed with rides.
“In my childhood it was always a kind of dream to be in the theme park industry,” he says.
“First I wanted to be a fairman, in the travelling fairs with my own rollercoaster. Then later it ended up an interest for theme parks.”
“It was always fascinating, especially at first as a child.”
“I wasn’t allowed to go on the rollercoasters because I was too small but my parents told me – I can’t even remember this – but they told me I was always standing there when the fair came to our village and I really wanted to go after school just to watch them building the rollercoasters up.”
Europa Park is Germany’s largest theme park, with more than 4.5 million visitors each year. It has more than 100 attractions spread out over 13 European themed areas and employs about 3,500 people during peak season.
This all means a big job for Kevin, who studied theme park management to get this role (who knew there was such a degree?!).
He has to deal with mundane issues like maintenance, unexpected problems like injuries, and even some weird things that you just can’t plan for!
“When we had Easter, there was an event and we had rabbits over there,” he begins one story.
“Then after a while we looked at the rabbits and there was one missing because people just took it away. I can imagine there was a small child and saying to their father ‘I want to have it for my home’ and so people just grab things.”
“Everything that isn’t fixed down in the park, they will take it as a souvenir.”
On the day I visit, Europa Park is decorated for Halloween and that includes 160,000 pumpkins that the staff all put out one night. Kevin says each day about a thousand of these go ‘missing’ because visitors put them in their bags and take them home.
I leave the pumpkins alone as I run around the park like a little kid, trying all sorts of different rides.
Some of the new rollercoasters go so fast I need to have a little rest after each of them to recover and let my heart return to its normal pace.
Kevin Kruschwitz has been here for about five years, and I wonder whether the novelty wears off.
“The first impression of the park, like every first timer is amazing,” he says.
“It’s so huge and there are many many rides and sometimes it’s a bit confusing because there is so much to do in one day and you’re in a hurry and it is really amazing.”
“Now, as you get to know the product in more depth, it’s a more professional view… but still I have fun riding the rollercoasters.”
It’s nice to hear that. For a man who grew up staring starry-eyed at the rollercoasters being built, it would be a shame if working with them had ruined all their charm.
Sure, there are ups and downs, but that’s all part of the thrill.