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Amateur Artist Designs Artwork for Big Rock Amusement's Himalaya Ride
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According to Justin Goodell, general operations manager at Big Rock, the 25-year-old from Alabama started following Big Rock Amusements on social media platforms, expressing her joy and enthusiasm for the amusement company and its rides. “She was really into what we were doing, and she started sending us drawings and paintings. She's an extremely enthusiastic young lady who said she had a dream to have her artwork on a ride, so we just got together and said, ‘let's do this,'” Goodell reports.

Herren, an Alabama resident, revealed major skill as an artist while corresponding with Goodell at Big Rock. “Her family brought her to see us in Tennessee,” Goodell reports. “She brought us a hand-drawn collage-like painting and she did a very nice piece of art about the Himalaya. I asked her what she would do if she designed the inside scenery for the ride. Then, after a year or so of getting it all coordinated, she was able to create a piece for the inside of the ride, and she also created artwork on our control booth for the Himalaya.”

Herren's love for carnival life is long standing, she relates. “I loved horses when I was young. My love for horses led me to ride carousels, when I had the opportunity each time the fair would come to town. This also led me to explore other rides at the fair. I first rode the Himalaya ride in 2010, and it quickly became my favorite. It is my favorite because it displays so many features, such as the flashing panels, lights, music, the fast speed at which it operates, and the colorful artwork on the scenery panels. I also like the way the ride is designed with the banner across the top and the rotation of the cars in and out of the tunnel. It seems that all these things bring the machine to life. Lively operators who interact with the crowd are a big plus also,” Herren says, adding that this makes the ride “extra fun.” She notes that this interaction is part of the experience riding the Himalaya, one that makes the attraction her favorite.

The artist made a second visit to the carnival in Mid-March. “We didn't receive the panels of her artwork back until Friday (of the week she was visiting), but we wanted her to see it in place,” Goodell explains. “So, we worked about 15 straight hours to be sure they were on the ride. It was a very long day to get the art up and the lighting back up, and make sure everything was ready there when she arrived.”

Goodell's effort paid off. “She was ecstatic to see it. It was really nice,” he says. “Hannah has become my family this past year. She's a great kid, and it was great to work with her.”

Herren terms the experience “a dream come true. I've always loved to make art. I often share some pieces with my carnival operator friends during each visit, but not everyone gets to see these that I bring to the carnival. Having my art on the ride allows me to share my art ability with others. I really hope everyone enjoys seeing my art. If anyone sees it, I hope it will brighten their day.”

Matt McDonagh, owner of Big Rock, describes Herren as “a big carnival fan. We've gotten to know her over the past two years, and she's drawn pictures of many of the rides or carnival scenes as well as caricatures of different employees, including myself.” He adds that “Her work is really outstanding, it's amazing because she's done much of it from memory.”

According to McDonagh, “Because she has always really liked the Himalaya ride, we asked her to draw up something specific, and then we were able to use it on the ride for the inside scenery. We had her work with the graphics department and with Denny's Electronics. We sent our scenery panels to Denny's, they took the artwork from her, and it was put on a vinyl wrap.”

It was a win-win for both Big Rock and the artist, he says. “When she visited us last weekend, we'd just finished it, and she had such a great big smile. She was very appreciative, but we were very appreciative of her for doing it. It was exciting for all of us to use her artwork.”

Herren hopes to have other opportunities to share her artwork. “I hope projects like this will continue. I do other forms of art, but creating scenery for the rides is my most favorite way to exhibit my art. I am thankful for each opportunity to share it and hope this trend will continue. This makes me feel connected to the carnival in a personal way.”

Big Rock operates thirty rides on a route that starts in Florida and traverses Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Michigan, before taking on a fair route in North Carolina, and returning to Florida come mid-November.

McDonagh appreciates the many fans the carnival has built on its circuit over the years, and he is especially appreciative of Herren. “She is very committed. I take it as a real compliment that she came out, she rode the rides with her parents, and she truly enjoyed herself. She has a great artistic talent, and we saw that from the other work she was showing us. It was great to incorporate it into one of our rides.”
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