The Joplin (Mo.) Globe reports today that the Precious Moments Inspiration Park, located in the Route 66 town of Carthage, Mo., announced it will close several attractions because of a steep decline in bus tours.
Among the attractions slated to close and likely won’t reopen are the Fountain of Angels, Wedding Island, an RV park and Super Sam’s Restaurant. The company says it instead will concentrate on “core operations,” including the Precious Moments Chapel.
Park attendance is down only about 1 percent, from 205,476 visitors through 2005, compared to 203,053 through Thursday in 2006.
But the number of motor-coach tours had dropped about 21 percent in the last year, while the number of tickets sold at the Fountain of Angels had declined by about 15 percent, according to information provided by the park.
“Our traffic historically consisted of bus tours and people driving in cars. The people in bus tours wanted sit-down meals and booked tickets to the Fountain of Angels,” Huwel said. “Those in cars wander the grounds, stop at the chapel and gift shop and leave. To eat, they would either want to just get a sandwich, or choose to go someplace else.”
In response to the changing patterns, Huwel said Precious Moments is shifting operations “to mark sure the parts of the park that are visited most often are well-maintained and supported.”
The Precious Moments park was created by Sam Butcher, who came up with the popular, angel-like child figurines during the 1970s. The park is not on Route 66, but it’s such a big attraction that it’s inextricably linked to the road.
My wife and I visited Precious Moments park a few years ago. I feel bad for the 11 full-time employees and 29 part-timers that will be laid off. But it struck me at the time that Sam Butcher’s park was way too sprawling for its own good. Does it really need two restaurants? And what red-blooded American male would want to get married at a Precious Moments Wedding Island?
Another problem is Precious Moments’ audience. By a wide margin, we were the youngest tourists at the complex. By our reckoning, most visitors are senior citizens, plus a small fraction who read the irreverent Roadside America and admire/mock Precious Moments for its tackiness and kitsch.
We didn’t see any Roadside America hipsters at Precious Moments the day we were there. That leads me to believe that the park’s audience is starting to die off, literally.