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Park News

ParkHoppin’ with Paul Ruben

Tennessee Trekkin'

It had been 22 years since the last time I visited Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It’s not easy for me to get to, so I kept postponing the trip. But this summer I went back, and I’m glad I did. It’s changed, of course, but it’s easy to see why it earned the Applause Award in 2010. Dollywood’s theming is beautifully imagined and it is pervasive, one of the best themed parks in America.

Of course there were new coasters to ride, too. Blazing Fury had been there when I visited before, but it remains a favourite combination dark ride and coaster. Great Coaster International’s Thunderhead woodie, the Gerstlauer Mystery Mine, Arrow’s Tennessee Tornado and L&T’s funky VeggieTales Sideshow Spin, a family coaster, were all new for me. VeggieTales was the smoothest and most comfortable, probably because it was the slowest. That’s Veggie Tales pictured behind me. It was very hot that day, so I thought I’d cool off in one of the park’s air-conditioned theatres. I forget how much good entertainment adds to the theme park experience. Thought I might find a country music show, since this was, after all, Dollywood. I was looking for a show with some country tunes like, Kissed Her on the Lips and Left Her Behind for You or My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend And I Sure Do Miss Him. Perhaps you’ve guessed by now that I don’t like country music. But I don’t mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means “put down.”

But instead I happened upon Dreamland Drive-In, a revue featuring chart-

topping hits of the ’50s and ’60s. Nearly an hour long with great singing and dancing, it was the best show I’ve seen in a theme park this year.

I cooled off the next day in Splash Country, Dollywood’s adjacent waterpark and finished with a night of Terry Evanswood’s magic at Wonderworks. Four miles down the road is Gatlinburg, one of America’s premier destinations for kitschy fun. Ripley’s has seven attractions here including the spectacular Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Mysterious Mansion haunted house is here, along with an observation tower, chairlift, earthquake ride and arcades. Who needs mountain scenery with all this? I love kitsch; who doesn’t? That night in Gatlinburg I went into a local bar, sat down, and asked a big guy next to me, “Wanna hear a good Tennessee joke?” He looked me over and said, “Well before you tell that joke, you should know something. I’m six foot tall, 200 pounds, and I’m a UT (University of Tennessee) graduate. The guy sitting next to me is six-two, weighs 225, and he’s a UT grad. And the fella next to him is six-five, weighs 250, and he’s a UT grad, too. Now, you still wanna tell that joke?” “No,” I said, “not if I’m gonna have to explain it three times.”


SkySpire US Thrill Rides reaches for the sky

Attractions inventor Bill Kitchen has conceived a dramatic new sightseeing ride which, in theory, could be built almost 1km tall. SkySpire by US Thrill Rides is a tower that can rise from to heights of between 250 to over 3,000ft (76 to 914m) providing passengers with unique 360-degree panoramic views as they spiral down around the outside of the structure.

The SkySpire is envisioned with one or more floors of enclosed observation and/or retail space at the pinnacle. Patrons will ride to the top of the tower inside fully enclosed climate controlled gondolas, or in a glass elevator through the centre of the tower. At the top they can exit to enjoy views, before spiralling gently back to earth.

“This is a totally unique and

affordable for attraction operators,” says Kitchen, whose earlier experience with broadcast antenna towers inspired his desire to build very tall observation rides with a smaller footprint to Ferris Wheels. “Most of all, SkySpire will be a guest experience that will fully deliver the value of any interesting view.”

Capacity will be delivered according to customer requirements, but gondolas will available carrying between 6 and 20 passengers and anything from 20 to 200 gondolas can be supplied per ride. Transit time is variable depending on height and speed, from 10 to 30 minutes. This will deliver hourly capacity of anything from 1,000 to 3,000 people per hour. There will be continuous walk-on/walk-off loading and unloading, on both the ground levels and observation levels. Several theme parks and other venues have already shown an interest in SkySpire, though Kitchen is careful not to reveal the location or timing of the first construction: “We will leave that to the direction of our developers,” he says. He does mention that his first SkyQuest suspended beam ride system has been purchased and will be going into the Indianapolis Zoo next year. The two new attractions follows US Thrill Rides’ patent pending SkyView observation wheel, now under exclusive licence to Circle Entertainment, which wants to build an Eye-branded wheel on International Drive in Orlando in partnership with Merlin Entertainments.

SkyQuest – coming soon to Indianapolis Zoo NOVEMBER 2011

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