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.
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:
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.
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? : )
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:
“Giddy” doesn’t begin to describe the thrill we get when we’re chasing down our local history. It’s more like “ecstatic.”
We’ve been given the rare opportunity to see a piece of San Francisco history – buried and forgotten for decades – so why exactly are we hunting down a 40 ton pipe organ? (And how do you bury something that big in a city that’s only 49 sq. miles?) After all, this isn’t “Lost Churches of Northern California,” right?
Behind the row of visible facade pipes, lies 39 tons of additional musical instrument!
Well, you’ll just have to follow us on social media for live updates throughout the day today and stay tuned for the debut of our second season, with the 1915 Pan Pacific episode debuting around Memorial Day!
You’ve seen the recent support from coaster fan sites for Great American Thrills®, now – we’re proud to have industry leaders Irvine Ondrey Engineering stepping up and sharing our idea for a better amusement park travelogue show!
You know you’re onto something when fans of the industry you want to highlight like the idea – but when companies WORKING in the industry you’re looking to highlight want to help spread the word – that gives you an extra-special feeling.
I’m fairly certain “Insane Coaster Wars” (by Indigo Films) or “Ride-iculous” (by High Noon Entertainment) don’t have that sort of support from within the industry they’re covering; but then again, neither of those shows are as “authentic” as Great American Thrills®!
Thanks again, Irvine Ondrey Engineering – and remember, we can’t do this without YOU! Keep sharing the video with all your friends, family and favorite television networks – let’s get Great American Thrills® on the air, together!
It looks like the Great American Thrills® pitch is really gaining steam! We’ve also been contacted by several other sites interested in interviewing both Nicholas, Robert and I about the project – so stay tuned and KEEP SHARING THE VIDEO WITH YOUR FAVORITE CABLE CHANNELS!
After months of planning and years of dreaming – I am proud to present the official “pitch” video for our Great American Thrills® concept:
But, we need YOUR help! We need you to share this video with all of your friends, family and websites that you visit, especially television social media pages, such as Discovery, Travel and Destination America. The more eyeballs that see it, the better the odds of it being discovered – so SHARE AWAY!
From our press release today:
NEW COASTER SHOW CONCEPT AIMS TO SHOWCASE AMERICA’S GREAT AMUSEMENT PARKS
REDWOOD CITY, CA: Today, Kris Rowberry and Nicholas Laschkewitsch, producers of the popular “Lost Parks of Northern California” series, are proud to debut the official television “pitch” for their Great American Thrills® travelogue show concept. It can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeIJ6Kd__M0
The show follows host, Kris Rowberry, as he and his crew – headed by Laschkewitsch – travel the country to find their next thrill, based on suggestions and recommendations sent to them via social media, using the #GreatAmericanThrills hashtag.
“We all know social media is a huge part of our lives now,” said Rowberry. “So why not use it to its full potential – beyond just getting something trending?”
“Other shows may use hashtags or handles, but we’re the first one to utilize the medium to this level,” said Laschkewitsch. “In the process, we’re getting the authentic park experience from the people that know parks the best – their fans.”
Contributors to the show have the opportunity to join in on the fun: if their post is chosen, they get an automatic invite onto the show – which offers the chance to be on TV.
“We noticed that most ‘coaster shows’ have featured the same three parks,” said Rowberry. “We want to tell the stories and meet the people of the other 99% of amusement parks here in America.”
“When coaster enthusiasts aren’t watching the current slate of ‘coaster shows,’ that should tell you something,” said Laschkewitsch. “Our concept is simple: Bring back the passion of enjoying the great American amusement park, with the latest in modern technology.”
“But we can’t do this show alone,” said Rowberry. “We need fans of coasters and travel shows to tell their favorite cable networks they want to see Great American Thrills® on the air this summer!”
Both Rowberry and Laschkewitsch are proud members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, an organization dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of roller coasters worldwide.
If you’re in need of a serious park fix in Northern California today, come on out and cheer us on at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk this afternoon.
We’ll be filming a “pitch” video for networks and production companies, hopefully to get the “GAT” concept on the air!
If you’re not able to make it out to the beach, you can still participate! Just tell us the next great ride you want us to ride by tagging your post on social media with #greatamericanthrills, just like this:
We’ll be using the posts in our post-production work – so POST AWAY!
The forthcoming episode of the Lost Parks of Northern California was easily our most complicated – and yet it will be our most beautiful, too. But it’s not just me that makes it look good – it’s three talented individuals, Taylor Evans, Robert Ingle and Nicholas Laschkewitsch that make it (and me) look so good.
In addition – what you may not know – is that we’re not making any money on the project. In fact, we lose money on each and every shoot, whether from travel expenses, to material from historical societies – it all costs money. But, we think bringing these parks back to life is more about expanding our skills and more importantly, reclaiming our amusement heritage.
Without these folks behind the scenes, I wouldn’t be able to complete this series! Photo by Ace Northern California, used with permission.
In addition, this upcoming episode would not have been possible without the efforts of the Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Manteca, Debbie Moorhead. Without her connections, we would have never been able to get permission to film at the slides final resting place. In addition, her interview at the Chamber of Commerce was just spectacular and was full of incredible information…
Wrapping up the interview with Mayor Pro Tem, Debbie Moorhead. Photo by ACE Northern California, used with permission.
I knew working on this series would mean making connections to make it all work – I just didn’t think it would be so much fun to do it!
Producer Nicholas and I with our new favorite tool, a ProAm USA DVC 60 camera crane. Thank you Facebook contests! Photo by ACE Northern California, used with permission.
Now, we jest need some production companies to sit up and start taking notice! C’mon guys, let’s hear from you sooner than later!
If you’ve gone around the site lately, you’ve noticed our new, spruced up banners.
Which one is your favorite? Be sure to comment below!
Special thanks to my employer, BorrowLenses for allowing us to take awesome camera equipment out on the weekends! All the photos you see below (except for the second to last one) were shot using BL equipment!
The wait is over – no more screen captures – this is the OFFICIAL trailer to the “Lost Parks” series! Look for the debut episode, featuring San Mateo’s “Pacific City Resort” to debut right here on March 29th, 2013!
It’s been a long time coming, but I’m happy to announce that our first episode has made it to the “rough cut” stage!
Folks, it almost looks like a proper television program!
Stay tuned for announcements on when the episode will debut…for now, here’s a behind-the-scenes screenshot of me describing why this lost park disappeared. (Hint – guests eventually POO-POOED the idea of ever coming back…)
There’s something about danger that makes our stories better, don’t you agree?
Case in point – Producer Nick and I were heading out to the SF Zoo this past Sunday to film a segment about the 1922 Dentzel Carousel. (It happens to be the only operating piece of the short-lived Pacific City Amusement Park at Coyote Point.)
Unfortunately, the park was beyond capacity, both in parking and general space, as they were celebrating Chinese New Year. With the weather as spectacular as it was, we should have known the park would be crowded.
We parked on Herbst Way, which turned out to be smack dab in the back of the park. Sadly, we were unaware of this, so…like sheep in a herd, we followed the pack of people who purported to know where the entrance to the zoo was.
Turns out, it was the entrance to the Great Highway and Skyline Blvd. (CA-35).
Now Producer Nick and I are all for excitement – when it’s in the controlled and safe confines of an amusement park. But when you have cars whizzing by at 55 mph and you’re carrying upwards of $6,000 worth of camera and video equipment – it makes for a hairy situation.
But it got me to thinking – even if this was a lame day to shoot video, it would still be memorable – almost legendary. And while we DID end up making it into the zoo without any problems, and filming went along smoothly – the one thing we’re probably going to take away from today was that crazy walk.
Funny how things work out in the end, huh?
Stay tuned for the ACTUAL video we were shooting for – the Lost Amusement Parks of Northern California…coming soon!
For most people, today is a holiday about love. For others, it’s about the over commercialization of a natural human emotion.
George Washington Ferris, Jr.
For me, it’s cause to celebrate – to hold my hat up high and say, happy 154th birthday to George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.!
One of the most recognizable names in the amusement industry – maybe only behind Walt Disney – Ferris is responsible for the engineering and building of his namesake, the Ferris wheel.
Debuting at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Ferris’ wheel was steam driven and used 36 cars the size of train cars to take 60 passengers EACH as moving observation decks.
The ride was never designed to be thrilling (the ride lasted about 30 minutes with loading) but rather, to be an observation attraction. The wheel was beefy in construction and simply dwarfed all other structures at the fair. It was meant to be an answer to the Eiffel Tower – and it delivered. The construction methods and engineering is strikingly familiar to the Parisian icon.
Even by modern standards – Ferris’ first wheel was massive. While most wheels today are transported via trailer and rarely break the 100-foot mark, Ferris’ observation wheel in Chicago was 264 feet tall. (That’s over 25 stories!) To this day, only a small number of wheels have eclipsed this number.
Sans the occasional upgrade to the passenger compartments, or the frightening concept of the eccentric wheel (Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Wonder Wheel) or the ultramodern spoke-less wheel (Big O) the general concept of the ride has not changed much in over 100 years.
It’s a true blast from the past that is in quite the renaissance – and we’re not talking carnival wheels, here. You see, the large wheel is making a huge comeback that would make Ferris proud.
Attractions such as the London Eye and Singapore Flyer have brought back the original concept – large, observation attractions. Four, count ‘em FOUR wheels over 500’ tall are either under construction or currently proposed in the United States alone, including a proposed 625’ wheel on Staten Island. Makes you wonder why no one out here in the Bay Area has called to build one yet. (Talk about scenery to see!)
Sadly, Ferris’ legacy is somewhat tainted these days – it’s become more fashionable to call them “observation wheels,” rather than the name which was connected to them. A “Ferris Wheel” it would seem, should only be found at a fair – an “observation wheel” is more likely to be found in a trendy metropolis.
His wheel met an unfortunate end as well. After being packed and shipped to the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, it was simply blown up – not popular enough to turn a profit. Ferris met an equally untimely death – he died of
The view from inside one of the 36 cars. Each one could hold up to 60 passengers!
tuberculosis at age 37.
So the next time you’re at your local amusement park and see a Ferris wheel, look skyward, and thank Mr. Ferris – for creating one of the most prolific amusement attractions in human history.
And maybe, just maybe – it IS appropriate that Ferris was born on what would become Valentines Day – what other ride allows you to make out with your sweetie in public – without almost anyone knowing?*
*Except the person sitting behind you…
A wonderful video collage of the Great Wheel while in Chicago:
After observing and working in this industry for over 15 years, I’ve found there to be two types of people that enjoy amusement / theme parks in this country: those who visit to enjoy themselves with their friends and families; and those who visit the park to criticize every facet of the park or people who enjoy attractions that they do not.
I’ve dubbed them, “enthusiasts and enthusi-asses,” respectably.
I bring this up because there is an event occurring over the next few weekends along the Jersey shore that highlights this disparity within the ranks of those who consider themselves as “fans” of amusement parks – and has re-affirmed my belief in humanity.
First, a little background –
Sandy brought devastation to several seaside amusement parks in New Jersey and countless billions in damage elsewhere in the United States. Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/U.S. Air Force/New Jersey National Guard.
Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, with millions affected. Some of the most visible victims were the traditional, seaside amusement parks of New Jersey. When the first photos of the damage came in, the striking photo of a pleasure pier – with rides partially submerged in the surf – became one of the many iconic photos of the disaster. Several other seaside amusement parks, including Keansburg Amusement Park fell victim to the same fate along the East Coast’s shore.
It was a dark time for the owners of these traditional parks, many of which have been in the family for generations. With the storm still wreaking havoc, some people took to the internet to thank the hurricane for destroying certain rides, as if they somehow deserved this fate.
They never seemed to post anything about the families who had invested so much of their personal savings to purchase and install the rides; Let alone the incredible financial burden that was sure to follow.
A person who “enjoys” a specific hobby and who seems to only care about themselves and not others – I’d describe that person as an “enthusi-ass,” wouldn’t you?
So now, we come to the other side of the spectrum, to the “enthusiast.” Once the damage was fully accounted for and insurance issues resolved – the New Jersey region of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) decided that they were not going to stand for stupidity. They took to the internet, not to flame, troll or degrade an already bad situation…
No – they sprang into action.
The New Jersey chapter of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) decided to use the internet for good, by giving back to the very park that gave to them, which makes them true “enthusiasts” in every sense of the word.
The region created a repeating event they dubbed, “Dig out the Wildcat.” Its purpose: to assist the family owned Keansburg Amusement Park in removing deposited sand around their Wildcat roller coaster.
People helping people. Via the internet. Not yelling or flaming one another.
What a novel concept.
What will happen in the small, family owned amusement park on the Keansburg shore over the next few weekends is proof-positive that there still are good people in this world. Over 20 people have expressed interest in the event.
Even better, that group of people – who share the common bond of enjoying amusement parks – can unite to help out the very people that allow them to enjoy life to the fullest.
They know that there’s no opportunities for rides, or the coveted “exclusive ride time,” no – they simply want to help out their fellow human beings.
True “enthusiasts” in every sense of the word. True enthusiasts talk with action. In this case, it’s with buckets and shovels.
At least now we can see the true enthusiasts use their hands for good.
I only wish that I could get out there myself and assist them.
Howser marching in a parade in California back in 2007. (Photo by Flick user, “Joits.”)
October 18, 1945 – January 7, 2013
Huell Howser is the reason I created / relaunched the “Great American Thrills” brand as a television concept. When I first saw him on television about five years ago, it gave me inspiration – to come up with my own concept in a vein similar to his – and to begin the search for a career where I could have as much fun as he seemed to be having. If I could live vicariously through a 65+ yr. old man on television, well damn it, that’s what I was going to do!
His myriad of series on public television covered state parks, fairs and quirky attractions – everything you wanted to do with your free time, but never seemed to have the commitment.
But Huell did. All 440 episodes.
His folksy attitude and seemingly endless excitement over what most of us would consider benign things, made him a popular target to be lampooned. But you know what they say – “…imitation is the highest form of flattery” and I guarantee any one of those lampooners would have killed to have a 20+ year career in television.
Hell, I sure would!
But, behind the twangy accent and endless enthusiasm, laid the brains of a businessman. Huell was brilliant at marketing his show beyond traditional mediums, even going so far as to manage the distribution of his DVD’s personally. He was a businessman, through and through. I defy you to find a grandparent of yours who doesn’t know the name “Huell Howser” or “California’s Gold.” That’s good marketing, my friends.
And that’s what I admire about him the most – this guy knew exactly what he was doing – and executed his plan perfectly.
I could only hope to have a career so inspiring and meaningful as his.
Rest in peace, Huell. You’ll always be “golden” in my book.
Your fearless host (and family) on the World’s Tallest Carousel (Great America, Santa Clara, CA)
Being a lifelong devotee of the amusement park,* I have always been fascinated with the historical aspects of the parks my family visited – especially while we were there.
Correction: I was not made AWARE of the incredible, historical aspects of the parks, until 1993.
For a wide-eyed ten year old, it was an ethereal moment to discover from your father that “the Demon” at Great America used to be sans loops. Or, that a ride could be called “Whizzer” and not have to do with a bodily function.
Even as I close in on the big three-oh, it always gives me a giddy feeling when I discover something new about the amusement parks I grew up with as a child.
In a way, it’s like an oral tradition that someday, God willing, I could pass along to my children.
Fast forward a decade and change, and the company I was working for was part of a battle for historic preservation. In that battle, the passion and spark for yearning to know more about how we all got here was re-ignited.
It certainly helped the project along when the company went under suddenly, too…
So in this new series, I hope to bring all of you on a journey – a journey back in time; to a place where time went by just a little bit slower; where people didn’t run into you on the sidewalk as they were texting on their cell phones; where the family outing to an amusement park was much more than just flashing your season pass – it was an adventure in and of itself.
Join me, as I try to seek out and re-discover the “lost” amusement parks of the San Francisco Bay Area and in the process, reclaim our colorful, amusement history. “Let’s ride!”
*Lifelong fan since my father forced me on the Tidal Wave at Great America in July of 1993.