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What are YOU thankful for this Thanksgiving?

There are many things us coaster and park fans should be thankful for this holiday season, so I’ve attempted to narrow it down to the top five:

5.) A stabilized, improving U.S. economy:

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The economy always dictates just how much “fun” we can have…

While the economy continues to trudge around, improving slowly – we’re starting to see parks re-invest in themselves once again, with larger, more ornate attractions. While it’s true – you can’t (and shouldn’t) add a coaster each and every year – it’s great to see parks and chains aren’t scared off to build by credit crunches, slumping attendance or instability in the market.

Speaking of re-investment…

4.) The remarkable turnaround of California’s Great America:

Carousel Columbia at California's Great America. Photo (c) copyright 2013 - Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Still the tallest carousel in the world, Carousel Columbia makes for a stunning subject at night. Photo by Kris Rowberry, all rights reserved.

If you were to tell me five years ago that California’s Great America would still be open, let alone THRIVING in this new decade, I would have probably wagered a hefty sum against you. But, here we are in the ‘teens, and I couldn’t be happier to be wrong.

What once appeared to be a contentious relationship between Cedar Fair, the City of Santa Clara and the San Francisco 49ers (and subsequent de-investment in the park) finally improved. Even a minor spat over noise levels this past summer with neighbors couldn’t derail this parks’ epic climb back from it’s dark abyss of only a few years ago.

I have a confession to make: I have always had a soft spot for this park – my family took me there every summer for my Grandma’s company picnic. I unlocked my love of the thrill ride on a fateful launch of the Tidal Wave there in 1993 – to see a place I grew up in becoming healthy again; it should warm the soul of any long-time south bay resident.

For the first time in many years, the park has personnel in positions of power, who truly care about the direction of park and more importantly, what it means to the local community (and economy). From new paint and roofs, the return of themed park sound, upgraded shows and a truly stunning Haunt presentation – CGA has shown it’s fans and employees not only what it wants to be, but what it CAN be.

3.) The movement back to lap bars

Coaster Expert Kris Rowberry gets his thrill on

Getting my thrill on with the lap bar only “Superman: Ultimate Flight” at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, park fans saw an incredible amount of new inversions and combinations of ways to throw yourself upside down. However, it came at a caveat – riders had to be locked into restrictive OTSR (over the shoulder restraints).

But towards the latter end of the 1990’s, the industry began a switch – away from the sometimes painful “headbanging” OTSR restraints and into more advanced, sculpted lap bar restraints.

By immobilizing the entire leg – designers could now perform aerial stunts once thought unheard of without OTSR’s – and our heads and chests are still thanking designers for it!

2.) “@FakeThemePark” on Twitter

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Let’s face it – we all need a good laugh every now and then. This Twitter account does it’s best to pretend to be a an actual park, but with situations that would make any good park spokesperson have a heart attack.

1.) Camaraderie amongst park fans:

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Hanging out with “The Coaster Guy” at California’s Great America – best time I’ve had at the park in AGES! Photo by: The Coaster Guy

Despite the efforts of an isolated few in the amusement park fan community – I’ve found that our common love of parks and rides (not affiliation to specific sites) is still what bonds us together…and that the bond is stronger than ever.

After more than a year of working on growing this brand, I’ve been blessed to meet so many new acquaintances that I now can call friends. And isn’t that the point of having a hobby…to meet others that also share in your interests, and to in turn enjoy that hobby with them?

That is the sign of a true enthusiast community – and the mark of a thriving one. So when you sit down and enjoy your turkey and gravy with friends and family – know we’ve got a ton to be thankful for this year and for the upcoming year as well!

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