It’s a 50th birthday party at SeaWorld
By Peter Covino
One of Central Florida’s oldest and most popular theme parks had a birthday last week, but it was the guests who got the presents.
The first SeaWorld in San Diego opened 50 years ago, on March 21, and SeaWorld Orlando, also opened on that same date in 1973.
For the next 18-months SeaWorld will be celebrating its anniversary called “Sea of Surprises” with new attractions and even the “SeaWorld Surprise Squad” who will roam the park each day, giving away, at random, prizes and special gifts, including exclusive access to rides, behind-the-scenes experiences, Shamu-themed merchandise, reserved show seating and more.
“I can’t tell you just what some of the surprises will be,” said SeaWorld Orlando Park President Terry Prather, during the birthday ceremony last Friday morning,“because it is a surprise.”
Invited guests for the ceremony included some SeaWorld “charter member” guests, who have had annual passes since SeaWorld Orlando opened.
While the anniversary event will feature some new attractions in the coming months, one thing that will probably be a crowd favorite throughout the anniversary celebration is the Bubble Blowout.
The machine, which looks like something out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, roams the park, creating bubbles of all sizes and shapes as it winds through Shamu’s Happy Harbor.
Among the attractions already open is The SEA Garden, a natural world featuring recycled items from the sea, as well as a place where guests can get close to rescued animals including eagles, spoonbills, opossums and more.
The SEA Garden is a special place for Sea World senior animal trainer and animal ambassador Corey Oxman.
Oxman’s passion for traveling and wildlife has taken her to the far corners of the globe. From Antarctica to Uganda, she is frequently on the move to new places to learn about the human influence on animals around the world.
Oxman, has many tales of encounters with animals during her 11-year career at SeaWorld, but none as special as her friendship with a hornbill. One particular member of the bird species, found in tropical and subtropical regions, chose her as the special person in its life.
“It’s really special when an animal chooses you,” she said. She and the bird had a long-lasting relationship. “He showed me the ropes,” of what it means to be an animal trainer, she said.
Also at SEA Garden are four giant sea life sculptures. SeaWorld commissioned environmental art group The Washed Ashore Project for a collection of larger-than-life sea-themed sculptures – many weighing more than half a ton. The material used to create these pieces comes from the billions of pounds of garbage – mostly plastics – that wind up in our oceans. The works of art point to the urgent need to protect marine animals from such dangers and preserve their ocean habitats. On display at SeaWorld Orlando are a parrot fish, sea horse, sea anemone reef and octopus.
Other daily occurrences at SeaWorld will include performances characters in sea-inspired costumes and props who will show up throughout the day at the park.
On June 21, a new nighttime Shamu show, “Shamu’s Celebration: Light Up The Night”, debuts. The high-energy show will include new, original music and production elements, as well as new killer whale behaviors.
These works of art point to the urgent need to protect marine animals from such dangers and preserve their ocean habitats. On display at SeaWorld Orlando are a parrot fish, sea horse, sea anemone reef and octopus.
As part of its continuing commitment to new technology to enhance the guest experience, SeaWorld’s celebration will include new ways for fans to connect to the parks and each other though digital devices. A new application, available for android and iPhones, is a guide to the park and much more.
Special ticket offers
SeaWorld will have several ticket offers throughout the event. Currently there is the 50 percent off Celebration Ticket —buy one ticket and get 50 percent off another. You can also celebrate the weekdays with SeaWorld’s $50 weekday ticket. Florida Residents also can take advantage of SeaWorld’s annual passes starting at $13 per month with EZpay.