Reaper’s Revenge Haunted Hayride and Attractions is renowned for its first-class “acting,” larger than life scenes of grandeur, and immersive experience that starts the moment one enters through the ominous gates of “Reaper’s Mountain.” However, when one strips away the special effects, the Hollywood quality scenes and spectacular performances, at the core of this attraction, are the “tractor drivers”, “ticket staff,” maintenance team, support staff, and security team who serve as the “backbone” of the entire experience. Perhaps overlooked by customers, these dedicated team members ensure that every guest experiences a first-class show and plays a significant role in the safety of both customers and actors. In this edition of the Reaper’s Revenge Blog, we had the pleasure of interviewing Department Head Steve Gillette, Tractor Supervisor Michael Depew, and Tractor Driver Greg Budzinski.
Steve Gillette is a veteran staff member at Reaper’s Revenge, having started his tenure as a tractor driver, and quickly became an influential leader, taking on numerous roles throughout his roughly twelve-year tenure. Steve quickly took on a leadership role by developing the first tractor “safety” manual, has helped build scenes/sets, and is responsible for the timing logistics associated with customer flow through the 65-acre journey. Always embracing new challenges, Steve utilizes his abilities to solve complex problems and attention to detail in managing Parking, Security, and overseeing the Tractor driving departments. Steve is responsible for the hiring, scheduling, and day-to-day management of these critical departments that ensure first-class customer experience and, above all, customer safety. Another veteran of Reaper’s Revenge, Tractor Supervisor, and Michael Depew first started off as a “scare-actor” and is now responsible for its training, inspection, timing, and operations as a fourth-year supervisor. Depew, having understood the challenges associated with performing in a haunt, works with fellow supervisors of each attraction to improving tractor-timing and show quality. He is also responsible for addressing safety concerns and making changes “on the fly,” depending on each night’s show’s nature.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for everyday life and running an amusement operation, the size and scope of Reaper’s Revenge is a monumental task. Safety is a crucial component of all operations on the mountain. Before each show, Budzinski, Gillette, and Depew (and numerous other drivers/staff) inspect each tractor, conduct a safety check, and implement preventative maintenance protocols to address problems before they occur. Implementation of strict COVID-19 protocols have kept security on their toes, and every single employee is responsible for maintaining a high standard of safety associated with following protocols. Third-year, Tractor Driver Greg Budzinski, wears a mask and consistently sanitizes his tractor to protect himself, other staff, and his family. Gillette is responsible for ensuring that guests wear masks and follow the guidelines provided by Reaper’s Revenge management.
Depew monitors the show’s timing, which, depending on the evening, can be chaotic while others are smooth, as numerous unpredictable factors can influence performance. Each team member is focused on creating a must-see experience; Depew is always planning on how to efficiently fix and repair tractors that may break down and train new drivers to utilize a timing system that coincides with each night’s performance. Budzinski is committed to the safety of each guest and also understands the importance of timing so that guests can have an enjoyable evening filled with “thrills” and “scares.” It is important to stress that every position and role is essential to the entire show, and even the smallest problems can escalate without proper teamwork and focus. It is clear and evident that the Tractor Drivers and management are all focused on providing each customer with a memorable experience and work diligently from the beginning of the evening to the moment the last customer departs from the parking lot.
When we speak with staff members, actors, and management, the “customer” experience seems to be one of the most “rewarding” aspects of their respective positions. Steve Gillette spends a great deal of time around customer’s as he is focused on security and operations in the parking lot and travel through the attraction itself. Steve expressed that he always enjoys listening to the positive “stories” of each customer, to hear how far some people travel to experience Reaper’s Revenge and get the instant feedback expressed by customers is a reward for the hard work undertaken by his staff as well as other positions on the mountain. Budzinski thrives off the constant excitement associated with never knowing what to expect until the last customer leaves. His focus on safety and maintaining time schedules implemented with guidance from Supervisors and Management is a critical component to a first-class show. Proper timing gives each performer the chance to give their best effort and allows each customer to leave, having enjoyed an incredible night out at Reaper’s Revenge!
Reaper’s Revenge thrives on its “family” atmosphere, and each staff member interviewed expressed that they enjoy the people they work with and perhaps best said by Budzinski, “expect the unexpected!” For those interested in working with Reaper’s Revenge, various positions may fit their background and strengths, and fellow staff members will devote their time to train help new members join the welcoming “Reaper’s Family.” Every single team member is vital to the high standard set by public and critical acclaim received by Reaper’s Revenge every season, and the Tractor Drivers, security, and other non-acting staff members play an integral role in all aspects of operations.
Thank you again to Steve Gillette, Michael Depew, and Greg Budzinski for their time and information!
Written by Joe Rovinsky