SeaWorld celebrates 60th anniversary with new parade, ride

SeaWorld is throwing itself a 60th birthday party.

SeaWorld this week offered free cupcakes for visitors, confetti and stilt dancers to recognize a company milestone — its 60th anniversary.

The park was, for a moment, the dominant theme park player in Orlando and raised prices first before Disney and Universal did. It was also once owned by Anheuser-Busch, so the free beer flowed plentifully.

But the Orlando theme park dealt with tragedy with a trainer’s death and the controversy that followed from the anti-animal captivity documentary “Blackfish.” With that, the company’s attendance fell and the company later dealt with a revolving door of CEOs.

Just like Disney and Universal, SeaWorld’s gate closed for months during the pandemic and had to build up momentum again.

But through the good and the bad, SeaWorld has survived and has mounted a strong comeback with the steadiest executive leadership it’s had in years and growing attendance. SeaWorld has focused on opening new thrill rides every year. The company also has never wavered from rescuing animals, one leader said.

“Sixty years ago on this very day, our first SeaWorld ever opened in San Diego, California, marking the beginning of a journey that would touch hearts, inspire minds and protect marine life for generations to come,” said SeaWorld Orlando Jon “JP” Peterson during a ceremony Thursday as the park opened for Spring Break crowds.

The Orlando-headquartered company operates 12 parks across the country, including Orlando and Tampa.

To celebrate, SeaWorld is bringing back its nostalgic costumed character Shamu to lead the new “So Much More To Sea Parade”parade that starts May 24. The parade’s route is still being determined. For the festivities, the park is also selling special retro merchandise, food and $60 park tickets.

Peterson highlighted the latest changes at the park coming soon, with SeaWorld Orlando opening a new family-friendly roller coaster called Penguin Trek this Spring. Next month, the park will also bring back a new version of Rescue Tails, a fan favorite show starring rescue animals.

Throughout the 60 years, the company has rescued more than 41,000 animals, including baby manatees orphaned in hurricanes or sea life run over by boats. Before Peterson became a President of the Orlando park, he led the animal rescue operations.

“A lot of people have gotten on board with us and become partners with us,” Peterson said Thursday. “But SeaWorld has never stepped away from that part of our business, which is the incredible part of being the guy to get to run this park, to be able to say, ‘We are the best of the best in rescuing, rehabilitating and returning animals and telling the public about it.”

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .

One comment

  • Dont Say FLA

    March 21, 2024 at 2:21 pm

    Please reserve the old tank that was replaced so it can accommodate Donald J Trump’s pretty certain to be house arrest for at least 910 years.

    Make sure the underwater windows are still there so we call all saunter through, pointing and laughing at him.

    Once he expires, which no doubt, by appearances, will happen in pretty short order, just leave his carcass there in the tank.

    Let seagulls pick the flabber off his bones until a sad skeleton is all that remains in Sea World’s House Arrest Prison aka Hall of Presidents.

    Disney already got their Hillary in a Trump suit and a Trump wig in their Hall of Presidents. Obviously Trump needs his own Hall of Presidents because he would never be seen with Hillary like that.

    This giant empty tank at Sea Word is the perfect place for him.

    Save the tank for Trump. Please.

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