When you consider Carowinds’ more than 4,000 employees, you probably think about the parking lot and gate crews, ride and game attendants, lifeguards or security staff. However, there is another group you’ve likely never seen on a trip to Carowinds. Allow us to introduce you to our carpentry team – some of the unsung heroes of Carowinds (though they’re entirely too humble to call themselves that).
Our carpentry team handles just about everything that needs to be built in the park. Over the years, they’ve made chairs, photo booths, SCarowinds mazes, outside décor, special event props, and even a hearth mantle. They also miantain the structure on our three wooden coasters.
To keep the park in shape for guests, they start work at 4 a.m., and every day begins with a safety meeting. From there, the general carpentry team tackles various work orders and the coaster carpentry team goes out to inspect the wooden coasters. Carpenter Josh Ford said they walk each wooden track every day to make sure the rides are ready when the gates open.
Not all their work is routine. Longtime Carowinds carpenter Josh Ford said one of the team’s most challenging projects was rebuilding a section of Woodstock Express. The third turn was becoming a little rough, so the team redesigned it, spreading the track out to make the turn less sharp. Ford said it was a complicated project, and the most satisfying part was feeling the smoothness of the ride after construction was completed.
"I knew riders were going to like it even better," he said with a smile.
Have you enjoyed the rocking chairs in Blue Ridge Junction? All 40 chairs were made right here at Carowinds! Carpenter Steve McCart said Carowinds originally had plastic rocking chairs, but they didn't hold up to weather and use. So the team decided to take matters into their own hands to make something more durable. It took four months to design the rockers, cut all the pieces and then put them together.
"We're glad people like them," McCart said. "Guests are in them all day long."
When the massive Blue Ridge Junction hearth was built, Carowinds’ V.P. and general manager Pat Jones asked for a mantle. Instead of choosing ordinary materials in the shop, carpentry manager Rob Starling brought in timber from a late-1700s York County home to create it. It's a beauty - be sure to check it out on your next visit.
Whenever they can, the team reuses old projects rather than starting with new materials. For example, when a photo booth they’d built was no longer needed, they split it in half and used each side to make two new kiosks for the park. When the carousel was moved, they discovered timbers and hard maple decking that couldn't be reused at the new site. Instead of tossing the wood, the team used it to create a Carolina wall hanging that's a showpiece in our administrative conference room.
One thing is for sure – there is no such thing as a typical day. In addition to their own work, the team helps other departments whenever they need a hand. McCart said they've done everything from laying pavers to assembling animatronic dinosaurs. But that’s just fine with them – they enjoy having a job that isn’t monotonous.
“I’ve got a lot of really good, well-rounded people that work for me,” Starling said. “They can jump in and do about anything.”
We’re not kidding when we say the coolest items in the park aren’t made by an outside company or mass-produced – they’re hand-crafted here. And though they’re often too modest to take credit for their hard work, the carpentry team gets a lot of satisfaction from seeing guests enjoy the results of their work, according to Starling: “At the end of the day, when you hear all of that laughing, screaming and hollering when you’re going out the gate… it makes for a good day.”