The world's most authentic roller coaster and amusement park expert!

Posts tagged “#greatamericanthrills

Five Ways California’s Great America Can Make It’s 40th Anniversary Better

Photo by Steven Wilson

Can we talk?

California’s Great America is about to celebrate it’s 40th anniversary this year. And from the feeling I’m getting via their social media and press releases, it sure is starting to feel like the park is about to blow a major opportunity to celebrate it properly.

Yes, the park is getting a revamped 4D theater – but that’s all so far for their 40th season. A milestone season. A season many people didn’t think the park would ever get to the first place (if you know it’s history).

Maybe I’m nuts, but as a fan, here’s five things the park can easily do to make the 40th beyond just “good” – they’ll make it GREAT:

 

5.) Bring back the history museum:

One of the coolest parts of ACE’s Coaster Con for me two years ago was the opportunity to be involved in designing and curating the history museum at the park. It was hoped it would help the park do a better job of bragging about it’s history – and gave the park the excuse to dust off a WORKING model of their Flight Deck coaster.

Great America history museum

Photo © 2014, Kris Rowberry

Sadly, the very next day – it was closed to the public. All that work for less than 12 hours of total operation. If you’re going to celebrate your history – you better be prepared to be PROUD of it and COMMIT to it.

 

4.) Have roving, themed performers in the park:

Again, a highlight of Coaster Con a few years ago (for local park fans at least) was the apparent return of themed dancers and singers to Orleans Place. Even the general public stopped in awe. This piece of Marriott-era showmanship evoked Disney-like tones and really should be made permanent, rather than just used for one event and discarded.

Photo © 2014, Kris Rowberry

Photo © 2014, Kris Rowberry

 

3.) Bring back the Demon’s theming:

A sore spot with me for YEARS (Ha! It’s funny ’cause it’s an older Arrow coaster, get it?) I’ve got on at length about this before, so I’ll make it as clear as I can – the Demon MUST have it’s special effects brought back for the 40th anniversary. Bonus points if you re-create the “Turn of the Century” sign.

Demon Great America night

Photo © 2003, Kris Rowberry

Speaking of nostalgia…

 

2.) Retro merchandise in the gift shops:

Nothing is hotter right now than nostalgia – and theme parks tend to accumulate a ton of it in their lifetimes. Great America is no exception. If you’re looking for a perfect example of how to pull this off, take a gander at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, who’s most popular shirt this year – was for a ride that’s been gone for three seasons now (The Big Bad Wolf).

Busch Gardens retro shirts

Photo © 2015, Kris Rowberry

Admit it, you don’t just want a Sky Whirl, the Edge or Tidal Wave t-shirt now…

…you NEED one.

 

1.) Nix the fountains up front and bring back the swans:

Quick backstory: The fountains were added in 2001, to celebrate the park’s 25th anniversary. I think it’s time to revert the front pool to what it was originally intended as – a reflecting pool.

And what better way to class up the joint, than to bring back the elegant, trumpeter swans!

Photo by Steven Wilson

Photo credit: Steven Wilson collection, http://www.GreatAmericaParks.com

And yes, California’s Great America, I’m available for consulting – perhaps compensation via funnel cake is in order. Either way, you have my info…don’t keep me waiting.

What do you think? Are there any other things the park can do to help truly celebrate it’s 40th season? Leave me a comment below, or chat with me on your favorite social networks!

Advertisements

GoPro fail roller coaster photo goes viral for all the wrong reasons

San Mateo based GoPro learned the hard way on Tuesday that not every photo taken with their venerable cameras is the best to highlight to a larger audience.

On Tuesday, the company posted this photo to all of their social media accounts, from Gopro / coaster fan, Peter Win:

GoPro Ad Fail

Screenshot credit to our friends over at: http://www.ParkJourney.com

 

While the photo is quite spectacular – it’s also spectacularly against the rules to even attempt.

In addition to the selfie stick being a loose article aboard the ride – the dangers of smacking a low beam, hitting a fellow passenger or jamming part of the ride’s mechanical systems SHOULD have made it clear not to even attempt. Park rules clearly state this not only in line, but also as you board. We also heard reports of riders with mounted cameras on their body being asked NOT to wear them.

They don’t call those beams “headchoppers” for nothing.

So called, “selfie sticks” have damaged rides at both Disneyland and Disney World due to clearance issues, in addition to ruining the experience for everyone around the user.

The New Texas Giant – the ride featured in the photo – hits a top speed of 65 miles per hour with a first drop of 79 degrees.

Surprisingly, when you filtered out the inevitable spam, every single comment on the photo questioned why the company would post a photo that so blatantly broke the rules and endangered other riders. You’ll note I’m writing in the past tense – that’s because the company took the photo down just a few hours after initially posting it.

Let’s be blunt – they got HAMMERED with negative comments.

But I believe the hammering might be for the better in the long run, as it indicates something greater: a vast majority of people are finally recognizing that the “selfie stick” is not only incredibly annoying, it’s downright dangerous in many situations it’s being put into.

And it’s not just ride enthusiasts recognizing this. Many in the “general public” are finally seeing that extending a three foot pole on a ride moving at freeway speeds – all for a photo or video – isn’t the smartest decision.

In other words, there’s hope that the “selfie stick fad”  may be just that – a fad.

No Selfie Sticks

We can hope cell phone recording on rides goes away too, right?

 

What do you think? Will so-called “selfie sticks” eventually find their way to the trash heap? Or will incidents like this become more common? Tell us on our social media channels, or leave a comment below:


The Most Celebrated Amusement Park Insider Experiences

It’s good to know people. But it’s even better to know there’s all sorts of things inside our favorite amusement and theme parks that can make your day that much more special, IF you know them! Here now is my top six most celebrated amusement and theme park “insider” experiences as parks open up for full time operation this week:

6.) Dole Whip:

Once reserved for trips to Disney Parks, this sweet treat has been popping up at more and more regional parks every year.

The Dole Whip is heaven in a plastic cup. Don’t believe me? Try it and tell me otherwise…

Once only reserved for visitors to Disney’s Tiki Rooms, this Polynesian frozen treat is slowly making its way out from the mouse and into regional parks, to the delight of pineapple fans everywhere. If you haven’t experienced one yet – hunt it down or request it be brought to your park.

5.) The Rollback:

We ain’t talking about WalMart here…an exclusive experience to Intamin cable-launched coasters, this delightful event occurs when the launch isn’t quite strong enough to get you over the first hill, resulting in screams of euphoria from enthusiasts – and shrieks of horror from the general public.

In reality, it’s all perfectly safe and for the lucky riders, it’s like getting 1.5 rides for the wait of just one!

4.) The Round-Trip Skyway Ride:

These clowns took too many round trips...

These guests took too many round trips…

Because nothing’s better than watching all those people in line scratch their head over why you’re not getting out of your sky bucket. But, with so many of these rides being removed in recent years, plus the increase in overall park attendance (which means longer lines for rides) this experience has become far more difficult to cross off your list.

3.) The Track Walk / Evacuation:

While a rare event, a lift walk is one of the coolest things you can experience.

While a rare event, a lift walk is one of the coolest things you can experience.

A very rare event that you don’t necessarily want to root for experiencing for yourself. Why? Because it most certainly means the ride will be down for at LEAST the rest of the operating day.

But the experiencing of walking a coaster lift is most certainly a memorable one.

2.) The Last Ride of the Night:

Something about no one standing behind you in line that's really special...

Something about no one standing behind you in line that’s really special…

There is something oddly cathartic about knowing you’re the last person to experience all that fun. Well, at least until the mechanics come in tomorrow morning to start checking on things. this fun. But, until then…

And the number one most celebrated amusement park insider experience?

1.) Exclusive Ride Time (ERT):

ERT is the best benefit to being a member of ACE!

ERT is the best benefit to being a member of ACE!

The only thing better than the last ride of the night, is having the ride all to yourself or the group you’re at the park with!

Just think about it – no line and fast operations. It doesn’t get any better than that. Heck, it’s one of the biggest reasons I joined ACE!

Did I miss an experience? Do you have one to add to the list? Tell me about it on my social media channels or leave a comment below!


Five Ways to Have a Bad Day at an Amusement Park

1.) Forget to check about special events on park website:

Nothing will ruin your day faster at a park to find it overrun with cheerleaders for a regional competition or packed for a concert in their ampitheatre.

special events snip

2.) Wear sandals:

They might seem like a good choice for hot weather, but their lack of support and ability to fly away on certain rides will leave you more miserable than you think.

NoFlipFlops1024x768

3.) Dress incorrectly for the weather:

You can always bring a jacket to warm up, but you can’t take your pants off to cool down (it’s generally frowned upon). If the weather calls for rain, it’s probably best to re-schedule your trip to the park.

content_end-of-the-world-forecast_320x212

4.) Bring your iPad or tablet computer:

No one wants to be a Padhole. But, you’re risking damaging that $500 device every time you bring that dumb thing to a crowded place. Plus, it blocks our views during the show. Just bring a small point and shoot camera – it has better resolution, anyway.

1013512_10151491314507286_878723748_n

5.) Visit on Memorial Day Weekend, 4th of July or Labor Day Weekend:

Traditionally the three worst times to visit any park. Although, actual Memorial Day and Labor Day tend to be less crowded than the weekends preceding them.

Parish-Calendar-Graphic-for-website

Got any suggestions to add to this list? Tell us on social media, or comment below!


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

10951497_10206161660470099_182358528_n


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.

arrowbillboard_1958_2_gbooks

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


Insane Coaster Wars debuts new season, but still needs some off-season rehab

After filming all last summer, Indigo Films‘ “Insane Coaster Wars” debuted it’s third season last night – and I can’t help but comment on their latest “effort.”

The premise of the show, is a decent one – have people vote on specific aspects of certain rides, then rank them against other coasters around the world. Seems straightforward, right?

Experiencing a film date in St. Louis last summer.

At issue with most coaster and park enthusiasts (who make up a large number of the viewing audience) however, is the continued downgrade in quality of the traditional summer “coaster show” over the past few years. “Insane Coaster Wars” is just the latest in a string of low budget, low quality productions from powerhouses like the Travel Channel and Discovery. Just look at some of the reactions from last night’s debut:

Snip2 Snip3 snip4

So what can this show do to make itself better in the eyes of it’s core audience? Read on:

 

1.) Stop hiring actors and talk to real “coaster enthusiasts”

Original screengrab by Dan Hower (who's also in the second row with Alyssa Schipani). Used with permission.

Original screengrab by Dan Hower (who’s also in the second row with Alyssa Schipani). Used with permission.

SPOILER ALERT: Television isn’t what it always appears. Multiple sources have confirmed to this website that the “coaster enthusiasts” featured in each segment are actually…wait for it…local actors found on Craigslist, hired for around $300 each.

Yup, Craigslist. Home to “Casual NSA Encounters” and apparently beautiful & young roller coaster junkies. Didn’t you wonder why those featured riders always seemed to speak really good english…in the middle of Taiwan and Costa Rica?

Those “friends from college” who “visit the park all the time” – it’s usually their first trip ever to these parks. Yet, the graphic in the lower third clearly says they’re “Coaster Enthusiasts.”

Last night’s episode featured two “coaster enthusiasts” who had never been to Kennywood – and in fact, had not been to a park, “in years.” True enthusiasts don’t take years off – they rarely take months off.

What’s even more ironic – if the production company wanted to save  up to $1200 per segment (and it’s obvious they do) simply stop hiring actors – just call on the local region of the American Coaster Enthusiasts – not to just fill the seats, but to TALK on camera. Not only are many of our members familiar with being interviewed – we’ll do it for FREE!

Some of the phrases that are used by these actors must also drive park managers nuts. Things like, “I felt like it was about to fly off the track,” or “I can’t believe I survived,” really make PR Managers have GREAT days. Simple rule to follow: Never mention death or dismemberment on TV when referring to amusement parks. You don’t say “bomb” at airports and on planes…

 

2.) Compare rides “Apples to Apples” 

Outlaw Run and La Avalancha? How are those two rides even remotely similar? (They do both loop, but they’re built completely different). The best way I can describe it – it’s like comparing apples to oranges. It’s as if the people in charge took suggestions from people who actually knew what they were talking about – then threw those papers up in the air, and randomly pulled out rides.

 

3.) Be wary of those who make money off parks

Robb Alvey – who was once the  “host” of the program –  has now been relegated to a “Creative Consultant” production credit off-screen (which is a major improvement in my humble opinion). That being said, his wife was featured on the premiere show as a coaster enthusiast, along with one of their friends. I’d call them non-actors, but both he and his wife have agents.

Now, doesn’t this scream nepotism to anyone else besides me? Then again, at least us true coaster enthusiasts know she actually is quite knowledgeable about the subject.  Too bad the producers edited her in a way that ensured she sounded just like any other clueless park guest.

Don’t even get me started on how his presence on the production team could directly influence his view count (and income) on his commercialized videos on YouTube…

 

4.) Allow park experts or bloggers to vote, not the general public

Let’s face it – most of these Craigslist actors (and indeed other park guests) don’t even know about the other rides they’re comparing, so how exactly can you compare them if you’ve never been on them…oh wait, isn’t that how the Mitch Hawker Poll runs? : )

 

Conclusion:

While the show did make some minor improvements and tweaks, it’s still the same copy / paste generic “coaster show” that’s polluted the airwaves for far too long. Yes, the POV is good, but it’s everything around it that just brings the show down.

If you’re looking to support a quality roller coaster / amusement park program, consider sharing our “Great American Thrills” concept with your favorite cable channel or production company. We promise the enthusiasts we feature – will actually know what they’re talking about: