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California’s Great America’s Winterfest forgot New Year’s Eve

Yesterday, California’s Great America made their official announcement on Winterfest – a holiday-themed event that will extend the season nearly to the end of the calendar year.

And yet, the park appears to have missed out on a major marketing and event opportunity…New Year’s Eve.

For decades, the South Bay has tried to find its identity, beyond the shadow of San Francisco. For those of you not from the area, it’s actually a big deal to South Bay people, especially considering we’re the larger population area. One only has to look at the coverage for the recent Super Bowl for evidence of that. San Francisco also has a tradition of a massive fireworks show at midnight to commemorate the New Year.

In sharp contrast, the South Bay does not have a marquee New Year’s Eve show. Instead, we have to remind our residents not to shoot their firearms into the sky.

So, it was a bit shocking to me to see in the park press release yesterday that Winterfest festivities will end the day before New Year’s Eve, which this year falls on Saturday night.

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Are you catching my drift yet?

Simply put – how can you put on a first-time holiday event and not throw a New Year’s Eve celebration – especially if you’re already open the day before and more importantly, in an area DESPERATE to find such a tradition? Just imagine for a moment: an evening of fun capped off with one of the coolest new traditions in the South Bay – falling into 2017.

Wait, what?

You heard me right. New York says they “drop the ball” in Times Square, when in reality a computer controlled winch slowly lowers that ball down a flagpole. Why can’t California’s Great America use the park’s tallest “flagpole” – Drop Tower – and give 24 lucky people the opportunity to leave the ground in 2016, and “drop in” to 2017, all at the stroke of midnight?

But Kris – how are you going to ensure they drop precisely at midnight?

Easy! The ride has a manual mode – which allows the operator to release the cabins manually from the ground. When the clock strikes 12, all they have to do is push the button on the control panel and wheeeee here comes 2017, complete with fireworks going off in the distance (or even better – off the top of the tower itself).

And here’s the best part – the 24 seats could be auctioned off, with the benefactor being local charities.

Okay Kris, but what if the weather isn’t conducive to riding Drop Tower and what about families who may want to come? (I.E. rain and wind)

No problem – you simply move to the other “ball drop” – or in this case – “ball raise” – the Star Tower. It’s enclosed, also able to do manual modes and breaks down maybe once every other season.

That same auction could take place, albeit with more participants – and anyone can ride (with chaperone, of course).

To me, this seems like a no-brainer, probably because I proposed this very event all the way back in 2003. I was much younger then; a wide-eyed, new employee of the park who didn’t understand how corporations worked. The idea never made it past the suggestion box and I didn’t make it past my second season.

Nonetheless, if you’re going to make a new event stick in this industry, you have to go big that first year to make it beyond memorable. Otherwise, it won’t warrant additional capital for the next year and worse – people won’t come back.

Discovery Kingdom did it their first year by bringing in the world’s largest Christmas tree – what will CGA’s big selling point be?

To sum up – without a New Year’s Eve celebration to cap it off, Winterfest at California’s Great America isn’t really as good of an event as it could or more importantly SHOULD be.

Oh and since I’ve been giving away so much free advice in this article, CGA folks – you may want to A.) just hire me to do this full time for you or B.) check out several other ways how you can score big points for your 40th anniversary.


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 7

All this week, we’re been posting a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow’s history.

Today’s post is of Ron Toomer, Arrow’s first engineer and the man behind some of the most iconic steel coasters ever built. While the company may be best remembered for their rides – remember that without the people behind them, they would have most certainly never have existed.

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Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there tomorrow evening!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 6

All this week, we’re been posting a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow’s history.

Today’s post is of X at Six Flags Magic Mountain – the world’s first 4th Dimension coaster and the last coaster Arrow ever built.Day Six of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there on Saturday!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 4

All this week, we’re going to post a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow Development’s history.

Today’s post is of the Corkscrew – the world’s first modern looping roller coaster:

Day Four of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there on Saturday!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day Three

All this week, we’re going to post a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow Development’s history.

Today’s graphic features El Aserradero – the world’s first log flume. Built only using scale models and slide rules, the flume has become a mainstay of parks around the world!

Day Three of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there on Saturday!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day Two

Each day, we’re going to post a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow Development’s history.

Today’s post is of the Matterhorn Bobsleds – the world’s first tubular steel roller coaster. While it many not be the smoothest ride, it set the prescient for 55 years of roller coaster designs!

Day Two of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there on Saturday!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day One

The Legacy of Arrow Development, Day One

With the upcoming premiere of our documentary, “The Legacy of Arrow Development” we wanted to do something cool in the final week leading up to it.

Each day, we’re going to post a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels. It will feature the company’s “A” logo – and an important ride or person related to it.

Today’s post is of the Alum Rock Carousel – Arrow’s first ride and the moment the company shifted forever. The Legacy of Arrow Development, Day One

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres one week from today in the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets for the premiere are still available – get yours at: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there next Saturday!


What Happened to Lost Parks of Northern California?

Many of you have been asking, “When will we see another episode of “Lost Parks of Northern California?”

Well, “Lost Parks” has been on a bit of a hiatus this year – but there’s a perfectly good explanation for it:

We’ve been working all year on a documentary on the history and legacy of former amusement ride manufacturer (and Bay Area company) Arrow Development!

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But, don’t worry – the award-winning show will return – just as soon as we recover from the workload of the “Legacy of Arrow Development” project!


Fury 325: From Dreams to Screams documentary

I’ve posted in the past how coaster videos are shifting – from just POV to entire documentary-style video productions. One of the artists at that forefront is Devin Olson, whom I have immense respect for.

Yesterday, he debuted his latest film – a project nearly two years in the making…

Do yourself a favor – sit back, relax and enjoy this breathtaking look at the construction of one of the tallest roller coasters in the world today, Fury 325 at Carowinds:


Travel Channel’s Thrill Factor: Needs More Hosts, Less POV

I’ve written at length in the past about just how poor the current slate of amusement park shows are, but mid-summer this year, there was a glimmer of hope. A new show, starring former Mythbusters stars Kari Byron and Tori Belleci began filming and was being promoted on social media:

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“Thrill Factor,” produced for the Travel Channel by BASE Productions, seemed to have everything going for it – personable hosts with a resume of quality, entertaining programming.  So, has the show lived up to the lofty expectations of both theme park and Mythbuster fans?

Sadly, not for me.

Let’s begin with the premise…something tells me the elevator pitch for this show was: “It’s Mythbusters – at an amusement park.” And the segments with Kari and Tori are the best parts of the show – as you’d expect from seasoned pros like them.

The hosts test a different theory revolving around rides each and every episode – which sounds great, but I suspect they’ll run out of things pretty quickly. But then – just as the show is about to eclipse the lift hill into excitement – the show quite literally goes off the proverbial coaster rails and quickly transitions from the host segment into a new one, where POV footage (forward and reverse) is shown.

Now, I’m not sure if the show just ran out content and had to fill time – but the seemingly random cuts to POV give the show a manic feel, as if the viewer is assumed to have ADHD and couldn’t possibly focus for more than five minutes at a time onto the screen.

The POV segments take what could have been a fun concept – and just kills it, whereas focusing on both Byron and Belleci would have sufficed and indeed, made the show better, in my opinion.

If the content isn’t there to fill the full half hour – something’s wrong with the concept. Kari and Tori – who are very good at interacting with their fans on social media and are genuinely nice people in real life, too – deserve better after helping refine one of the most successful, educational and entertaining shows ever to come out of Discovery Channel.

According to the most recent IMDB rating – it looks like I’m not the only one who thinks the show could use some off-season work:

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FULL DISCLOSURE: Along with my producers on the “Legacy of Arrow Development” roller coaster documentary: Nicholas Laschkewitsch and Robert Ingle, we’re still looking for a partner on our own amusement park travel program, of which you can find our teaser trailer conveniently located below:

No wonder Travel Channel never called me back after my audition for “Travel Channel Star” back in February…this show was already in development…

BOTTOM LINE: Drop the POV segments from the show and expand the host’s time on screen – and you have the rare opportunity to have a “coaster show” that lasts longer than two seasons.


Roller Coaster Videos Moving From POV to Storytelling

There’s been a subtle, but noticeable trend recently when it comes to “roller coaster videos” online. And we think it’s for the better and far overdue.

While there are some that still continue to tape GoPros to the front of trains and then monetize (commericalize) their work – all without permits or sometimes without park knowledge – there is a growing trend among park fans to elevate the medium to a far more sophisticated level. What do I mean?

Well, check out this awesome, short documentary on Thunderbird at Holiday World:

Coupled with the work of Devin Olson Media, particularly on his “From Dreams to Screams” documentary series – the world of amusement fandom has gone from handheld ride footage to bona fide storytelling:

And we couldn’t be happier to see this trend. So, how can you help elevate the medium? Subscribe to these storytelling channels – while POV is fun, it’s telling a story that leaves a true mark on people.

Shameless plug: “Legacy of Arrow Development” documentary is still scheduled to make it’s debut later this year. Time to raise your game, everyone!


Jeremy Clarkson Rides a Roller Coaster With His Mum

It turns out adrenaline can transfer from the race track…to the coaster track.

While members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts are romping through the British countryside this week as part of their UK Tour 2015 – now seems like the perfect opportunity to share this wonderful BBC segment of former Top Gear presenter, Jeremy Clarkson and his mother…on Arrow’s (then) record breaking “Big One” at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Quite simply, it’s “brilliant!”

(Video credit: BBC)


Arrow Development documentary coming from Great American Thrills and American Coaster Enthusiasts

GOING HEAD OVER HEELS FOR SOUTH BAY HISTORY

Former ride manufacturer to be featured in new documentary from local filmmakers


MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – Great American Thrills® and Totally Twisted Media are proud to announce a historic partnership with American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) Worldwide, Inc. to produce a documentary on the former Bay Area amusement park ride manufacturer, Arrow Development. The film is expected to premiere at the IAAPA industry trade show in Florida this November.

Several of the most prominent and respected names in the amusement industry have already signed on to participate in the documentary. These include: Cedar Point, Irvine Ondrey Engineering, Silverwood Theme Park, S&S Sansei and Six Flags Magic Mountain, among others.

The documentary is being produced by the all-volunteer team behind the award-winning “Lost Parks of Northern California” series, with filming beginning shortly. Nicholas Laschkewitsch and Kris Rowberry are leading the project:

“Everyone knows Silicon Valley is famous for technological innovations,” said Rowberry. “But very few people are aware that the valley that gave us Google and iPhones also spawned the world’s first log ride and tubular steel roller coaster, along with countless other ride innovations.”

Joining Rowberry as Executive Producer on the project is Nicholas Laschkewitsch, Video Promotions Coordinator for American Coaster Enthusiasts.

“Arrow Development and its mechanical marvels have always mesmerized me and held a special place in my heart,” said Laschkewitsch. “The sheer opportunity to be able to tell the story of Arrow to the masses is a dream come true.”

Fans can keep up with the latest happenings on the project by following American Coaster Enthusiasts on Facebook and Twitter or by using the #RideWithACE hashtag. To join ACE, visit: www.ACEonline.org

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How You Can Be a Part of the Arrow Development Documentary

Many people have expressed interest in either helping out or participating in some way with our newly announced documentary on Arrow Development. So, here’s three quick ways you can be a part of history:

1.) Join ACE:

As a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts are all about the preservation and enjoyment of amusement parks and roller coasters. By joining, you’ll help preserve our incredible amusement heritage, while becoming part of one of the largest and most respected roller coaster organizations in the world. Learn more at: www.aceonline.org

 

2.) Contribute photos or videos of Arrow rides, both past and present:

Do you have some “vintage footage” of older Arrow rides? Maybe a photo of you and your family next to a defunct Arrow coaster? Feel free to send them to: socialmedia@greatamericanthrills.net and we’ll do our best to get them in the documentary – with proper attribution, of course.

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3.) Join us for a shoot!

We’ll be announcing exact dates and locations for shoots across the United States and Canada – so who knows – we just might be at your home park this summer! 529207_572552719484421_2065013057_n


ONE WEEK to the big announcement from Great American Thrills!

We are exactly ONE WEEK away from our biggest announcement EVER!

Have you figured out all the clues? Tell us on social media what you think the big announcement will be and be sure to come here at 2:43pm on 3/14/15 to find out what all the fuss is about…

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What’s Great American Thrills’ big announcement?

Something BIG is coming from Great American Thrills.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t figure it out before we announce it.

Head on over to our Facebook page, give it a “LIKE” – see if you can figure out the hints. Be sure to leave us a COMMENT with your guess, too. Like we’ve said before, “…no one saw this coming,” but if you can put together all the clues – you’ll be in the know before anyone else.

Let the speculation continue!

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Great American Thrills Celebrates Five Year Anniversary

Kris Rowberry at Six Flags Magic Mountain

Half a decade.

That’s the length of time it’s been since I decided to put my nose to the grindstone and dedicate a good portion of my life to the Great American Thrills® brand concept.

This month we’ll be celebrating all that we’ve accomplished with this little WordPress site, as well as the incredible future ahead of us. Thank you all for being a part of this crazy thrill ride called “life.”

Here’s to the next five years!

Kris Rowberry at Six Flags Magic Mountain


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Great American Thrills teases at major announcement

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Newest Lost Parks Episode Debuts – Frontier Village in San Jose

These are the days I look forward to the most. After several months of blood, sweat and tears, we are finally ready to pull back the curtain on our latest “Lost Parks of Northern California” – presenting San Jose’s beloved Frontier Village.

Be sure to LIKE and SHARE the video with all your friends, family and favorite television networks and personalities – let’s make this the biggest Lost Parks episode EVER, TOGETHER!


Lost Parks of Northern California wins at the 2014 CreaTiVe Awards

Pardon us if you’ve already heard the news, but…we think it’s worth bragging about:

Lost Parks of Northern California,” the series produced by ACE Northern California and Great American Thrills took home the award for “Best Community Access Television Series – Professional” on Saturday at the CreaTiVe Awards in downtown San Jose.

Accepting our CreaTiVe Award for Best Professional Community Access TV Series

Accepting our CreaTiVe Award for Best Professional Community Access TV Series (Photo by: CreaTV San Jose)

The show airs on both CreaTV San Jose and Peninsula Television here in the Bay Area.

We could not have done this without everyone who we’ve met along the way, contributed a video or photo at a lost park they once visited, or simply shared their experiences with us. Thank you for the opportunity to live history vicariously through you! Here’s to many more awards and celebrations.

And yes, you’re allowed to say, “We knew them when…”


What’s Ahead for Great American Thrills in 2015

Now that the calendar has been officially flipped over to 2015, we wanted to fill you in on what’s to come for the year ahead with the Great American Thrills® brand.

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Season Two of “Lost Parks of Northern California” continues, with two more episodes, featuring Frontier Village in San Jose and the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island. Both should debut in January and March, respectively.

Also, you can look forward to Season Three of “Lost Parks” debuting in late Spring, with episodes focused on Scotts Valley’s “Lost World” and Redwood City’s “Marine World Africa USA.”

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We’ll also be providing you content from our partner sites, such as The Coaster Guy, Thrills by the Bay and Park Journey, in addition to revamping our website to be more user friendly.

And finally, we’ve got something truly special up our sleeves for 2015. We can’t tell you what it is just yet – but we think that every amusement and theme park fan will enjoy it for years to come. Stay tuned to our social media feeds for the latest…as they might have you going around in circles!

So, as you can see, it’s going to be another fun filled and busy year for Great American Thrills®. Be sure to share us with your favorite cable channels, networks, friends and family – we’d appreciate it!

Here’s to the year ahead of us – let’s ride, everyone!


Bay Area Proud and “Lost Parks”

It’s crazy to think how time flies by, but this week marks one year since were had the incredible fortune of being followed for the day by Garvin Thomas of NBC Bay Area.

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Surreal, nerve racking, inspiring – all words that would describe us that day. But Garvin and his assistant kept us at ease – they never were intrusive, yet you knew they were there. They never got in the way, yet somehow always got the shot they needed. In case you missed it, here’s the story that Garvin produced.

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But Garvin didn’t just stop there. He went a step beyond. When a TV station tried to hire me away from my current gig, Garvin was more than happy to dish out advice – good advice mind you – that has served me well ever since.

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The motto at my high school was “Men and Women for Others.” I must say, after meeting with and working with Garvin – he is the living epitome of that phrase. I can only hope to someday return the favor. Maybe with a mention in an Emmy speech…or how about the CreaTiVe Awards if we’re nominated?

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The Emotional Connection to an Amusement Park

I debated long and hard about putting out this post – I tend to be an intensely private person at times, but I feel that if I can share, maybe you’ll make the same emotional connection to a park on your next trip to your local amusement or theme park.

Ten years seems like forever when you say it. Broken down, it’s 3,652 days…520 weeks.

And yet, the biggest, sentinel moment in my life still feels like it was yesterday.

On August 1st, 2004, around 8:00am – I lost my mother to an aggressive, rare form of cancer, acute myelogenous leukemia (Learn more about it, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acute_myeloid_leukemia)

I would be lying if I told you it didn’t mess me up for the rest of my life. Under the stoic, proud face I put on was a terrified young adult – lost in the world without the woman who had given birth to me and frightened. To this day, I am still scarred and probably always will be.

So why do I share this story with you on my amusement and theme park blog?

Every summer, my sister and I would look forward to visiting our local parks with our family – when we were younger, we couldn’t afford season passes; we made it out to our local parks at least once a year, so each trip was extra special for us.

The last trip we made together as a family was in March of 2004, two months before her initial diagnosis and four before she passed. I was working at the time at (then) Paramount’s Great America, and the park was holding it’s annual “Employee Day”  a week before it opened to the general public. It was basically a dress rehearsal to iron out any issues before the public saw the park for the first time that year.

That’s when we took this photo…(Dad was behind the camera):

No caption could contain the emotion that this photo brings back to me and my family.

No caption could contain the emotion that this photo brings back to my family and I. It still brings me to tears.

For me, this is the moment that I can argue how a park can become much more than just a place to have fun. It’s a repository of our collective memories; they’re time capsules into what makes us human. And despite being 3,652 days removed, the memories for me are still as strong as ever.

And so, ten years after the sentinel moment in my life, I was once again out at California’s Great America – having fun and enjoying myself with friends. Why? Because I know she wouldn’t want me to mope around – so I didn’t.

While this past week was a very difficult one emotionally, as it is every year on or around August 1st – I can take solace in photos and memories like these…remembering the good times, the smiles and most importantly the love. And that’s the true, authentic park experience for me – how about you?

I love you Mom – then, now and forever.


Lost Parks of Northern California on CreaTV San Jose tonight

“Lost Parks” fans – our latest episode is heading to a television near you!

Our 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition episode will be broadcast on cable channel 30 in San Jose and Campbell tonight at 8:30pm!

If you’re not in the Bay Area, or don’t have Comcast cable, you can also catch the episode here:

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