Fresh off the Press: The June Herschend Happenings is Here Fresh off the Press: The June Herschend Happenings is Here
The Heart of Our Culture

The Heart of Our Culture

Our Heartspitality culture equation starts with LOVE. An unconditional love that comes from our actions. Love at Herschend is choosing to behave in a manner that makes everyone feel welcome, valued, and respected. Leading with love in all we do is the foundation our founders planted to grow Herschend more than 70 years ago, and it continues to guide our actions today.

Herschend Enterprise Annual Survey Herschend Enterprise Annual Survey

Annual Survey Coming Soon

On July 8, you will receive an email with a link to participate in the Annual Host Survey. This year, it will look a bit different because it’s coming from our third-party survey experts at Qualtrics. This method helps us maintain your confidentiality and have better insights.

Your participation is vital to our business's success because it helps us determine where to focus our efforts for a better future.


  • The survey window is July 8-21.
  • To access the survey, you will be asked to validate your ID number. This ensures that it is taken once and only by current hosts.
  • Names are not associated with survey results or comments. Qualtrics analyzes survey results and sends a confidential analysis to your property leader.
  • Managers or departments with fewer than five direct reports will not receive a specific survey analysis for that team; those confidential results are only visible to senior leadership.
  • Anonymous feedback can be shared anytime through Herschend’s BKD IntegraReport (Safe2Say) hotline at 1-877-209-3657.
  • Have questions? Connect with your HR leader.

Herschend GROW U. Herschend GROW U.

GROW U. Expanded Degree & Certs

Herschend GROW U. is one of many ways we support hosts’ growth company wide. Through GROW U., you can access fully and partially funded tuition and supplies for various degree and certificate programs. Since launching in 2022, we’ve helped over 500 hosts enroll in and complete degree and certificate programs.

Adding Environmental and Biological Sciences to our program catalog means you can now expand your skills in these fields of study at celebrated US higher education institutions while continuing your career without the burden of debt. Schools include Louisiana State University (LSU), Ohio State, University of Arizona, and Oregon State.

The best part? Herschend GROW U. is available to every host starting day one of employment! Here’s a quick look at Environmental and Biological Science options added to our catalog:

  • Associate in Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Geosciences, Biology, Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources, and Zoology
  • Master of Science in Environmental Sciences
  • Undergraduate certificate in Geographic Information Science

Newport Aquarium | Mermaid Visit Shriner's Hospital Newport Aquarium | Mermaid Visit Shriner's Hospital

Swimming at Shriners

Newport Aquarium arranged a special meet-and-greet for children receiving care at Shriners Children’s Hospital. Patients and their families were able to sing and play games with Mermaid Aphrodite, who brought much-needed joy and laughter to their day. They listened as she told stories about her life under the sea and the friends she made on her travels. Hospital staff thanked Newport Aquarium and the mermaids on social media for making this magical moment possible.

Dollywood's HeartSong Lodging and Resort Dollywood's HeartSong Lodging and Resort

Celebrating Hospitality Titans

Hospitality wishes two industry titans, Pat Kiel and Bonnie Hall, a happy retirement!

Pat Kiel

Pat Kiel retired from Callaway Resort & Gardens in March after 49 years. Pat was consistently one of the top sales producers at Callaway Resort & Gardens, and it would be almost impossible to place a number on just how much business and revenue she was responsible for during her tenure. She was also a patient trainer and mentor to many who came through the sales ranks, some of whom are still with Callaway and some who have gone on to very accomplished careers.

Bonnie Hall

After eight years of service, Bonnie Hall is retiring from Dollywood Resorts on June 28th. Bonnie began her career with Dollywood in 2015 as an opening member of Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa sales team. She quickly became the Associate Director of Sales, leading her team to tremendous results. In 2023, Bonnie attempted to retire, but with the urging of leadership and her team, she graciously continued as the Association Sales Manager, where she was instrumental in the opening of HeartSong Lodge & Resort.

No One Is A Stranger

Bethany in the costume shop shares how she got to Dollywood and why she feels "We are a big community here."

Why We Exist

Why We Exist

Our purpose of Bringing Families Closer Together by Creating Memories Worth Repeating® comes to life through our actions. It gives our work meaning and connects our brands and hosts to one another everywhere.

A Meet Cute Story

Caleb and Tamara Wheat still marvel at how the stars aligned just right on a day neither of them really wanted to be at Silver Dollar City.

Both lost their spouses to cancer about a year prior. Caleb’s late wife Sara passed away after a year-long battle with aggressive breast cancer just one month before Tamara’s late husband Arami lost a marathon, four-year fight with colon cancer. Two strangers who would meet and become a family of 14 on a day trip last August that almost didn’t happen. It’s an awe-inspiring story of how two families found hope in each other on a bench at their favorite theme park.

“Needless to say, Silver Dollar City is our family’s special place,” Tamara says. “Now, every trip is not only a fun day of adventure but also a reminder of how God is always orchestrating each and every step we take and turn we make! We couldn’t be more grateful.”

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Adventure Aquarium | Nile hippopotamus, Genny Adventure Aquarium | Nile hippopotamus, Genny

Hip-PRO Tip – Wear Reef-Safe Sunscreen this Summer

Adventure Aquarium’s Nile hippopotamus, Genny, creates memories worth repeating for guests every day. She recently went viral on social media for demonstrating how important sunscreen is while making a series of hippo kiss paintings. Guests went wild for Genny’s laid-back demeanor and adorable snoot, with over 28 MILLION views and counting.

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Popcorn for Pops

Kentucky Kingdom had an incredible time celebrating Father's Day on June 16! They kicked it off by giving away soft drinks and koozies to the first 300 dads through the gates. Next, kids made cards in King Louie's Playland, and dads enjoyed free popcorn at the Pop's food stand throughout the day. Kentucky Kingdom is grateful to be families’ chosen destination for life’s special moments like this.

Vancouver Foodster's 11th Annual City Taco Challenge Vancouver Foodster's 11th Annual City Taco Challenge

Something to Taco-bout

Holy Guacamole! In queso you haven't heard, the Vancouver Aquarium is the taco of the town! The Vancouver Aquarium's West Coast-inspired taco recently won 1st prize in the People's Choice and Media Judge categories of the Vancouver Foodster's 11th Annual City Taco Challenge. This signature taco combines Tempura battered, sustainable Pacific Cod, crispy pickled ginger, spicy slaw, and a warm flour tortilla for a flavour delight. The taco is available at the Aquarium's Courtyard Cafe for guests who visit. Well done, Chef David, Angelo Dela Roca, and the entire Food and Beverage team for this success!

Guide Rob S. takes a photo of a recent Make A Wish guest “These experiences make the Canyon a more personal Place."

Making Wishes Come True

PINK Jeep has been working with Make-A-Wish and Dream Foundation for several years. It’s a special relationship that highlights the importance of our purpose.

“The joy I feel working with these organizations is bittersweet,” said Tracy Moore, PINK’s Director of Operations. “Understanding that we are giving someone a tour of a lifetime and being part of making a dream trip come true is heartwarming, but knowing the photos and memories created will be cherished by those loved ones left to carry on is often heartbreaking. Our guides do a phenomenal job of caring for these families and delivering on our promise and commitment to bring families closer together. I imagine, at times, it is tough for them, knowing one of these people may not be with us within a year. There may never be an opportunity to repeat their memory, yet they knock it out of the park every single time. I cannot be prouder to be part of an organization and team that gives to others in this way – quietly, consistently, with love, and without fanfare.”

"When I first started at the Grand Canyon location, it was brought to my attention that we do a good bit with Make-A-Wish tours and Dream Foundation tours, and this made me really happy because I have a personal connection to Make a Wish,” said James Troutman, PINK’s Grand Canyon General Manager. “My Stepdaughter was born with a heart defect called Trilogy of Fallot. She had many surgeries, including a few value replacements. She was granted a wish years ago, and we still remember that trip and time as a great memory. She's now 22 and doing great. This foundation does great, amazing things in granting wishes; for some, it’s the last trip they make. It’s an honor to help with that. I speak for all of us at The Pink Jeep GC location, and I believe that we take the utmost care and consideration with these tours as part of our mission to create memories worth repeating for families."

The Results of Love & Purpose at Work

The Results of Love & Purpose at Work

Your love for one another, our guests, and our communities makes our purpose possible, leading to something truly spectacular – real impact and an infectious joy that spreads through our hosts to our guests and out into our communities.

Adventure Aquarium | Scuba Gear Adventure Aquarium | Scuba Gear

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Adventure Aquarium has many dive team members who use neoprene wetsuits and dive gear for in-water operations daily. In addition to dive staff, guests use wetsuits for Shark and Ray Encounters.

Neoprene wears over time, which dive operations repairs as needed. When wetsuits deteriorate to the point where they can no longer provide in-water exposure protection for divers and guests, they are retired. Rather than discarding them as landfill waste, Adventure donates retired neoprene material to be repurposed through Lava Lava Rubber, a local facility focused on upcycling neoprene products and other “hard to manage” waste streams. So far, Adventure has donated 40 wetsuits, totaling approximately 125 pounds of neoprene!

Adventure’s Collections, Conservation & Development Coordinator Alicia Longo hopes to inspire other facilities to introduce similar programs, so she submitted an article about the program to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Connect Magazine. Click below to read the whole story.

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Vancouver Aquarium | Ocean Week Vancouver Aquarium | Ocean Week

A Jaw-some World

The Vancouver Aquarium recently celebrated Ocean Week by raising awareness for local coastal areas and the importance of a healthy ocean environment for today and future generations. Vancouver’s volunteers and staff participated in Beach Bioblitz in partnership with the Stanley Park Ecology Society to count the various species on and around the beach nearby. Overall, 300 observations on iNaturalist were made, contributing to research everywhere, including at the Smithsonian, which has already reviewed it. Vancouver Aquarium also raised nearly $3,000 at admissions for Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition's Blue Schools Grant to help more local students experience the jaw-some world that is our oceans.

Silver Dollar City Foundation Silver Dollar City Foundation

The Gift of Sight

Silver Dollar City Foundation provides 14 school districts with Care For Kids grants annually to help meet vulnerable students’ physical needs. A story from Crane School District in Branson, Missouri, reminds us how the little things can make huge impacts.

Two brothers from a large family both failed their in-school eye exams, but without insurance, the family couldn’t afford an optometrist. “The boys could not see the Smart Board in the classroom and struggled to read.”

With the parents’ permission, Counselor Leslie Henry took them to an optometrist, who confirmed they both desperately needed glasses. Because the boys were out when lunch was served, Henry took them to a buffet, something they’d never experienced before. “They were amazed that they could eat all they wanted, and they did! Both talked about their experience for weeks.”

When the glasses arrived, the boys were ecstatic. When one walked into his classroom after, he stood in one spot staring at objects around the room, seeing things he’d never seen before. Their teachers also reported that both boys’ grades improved!

A Ping Pong Party

Wild Adventures hosted the 3rd annual Great Ping Pong Race presented by the Miracle League of Valdosta. The Miracle League of Valdosta is dedicated to helping children and adults with disabilities play organized sports. The organization sold numbered ping pong balls to support the League’s activities and athletes, and on June 15, 2,000 ping pong balls were launched down one of the slides of Bonzai Pipelines in Splash Island Waterpark.

The purchasers of the first 12 ping pong balls to cross the finish line won fantastic prizes, and the event raised more than $5,000. At the end of the race, the Miracle League mascot, Homer, took a ride down Hakini Rapids to cool off!