This past Saturday Randy from Metro Atlanta Coaster Club attended the ACE Winter Warm Up at Six Flags Over Georgia.
Not only did this event include some great updates for the Georgia Parks, but for a whole lot of parks in the South including Alabama Splash Adventure, Dollywood, Six Flags Fiesta Texas and more.
There's lots to get to, so let's get right to it.
Written by Randy Dewberry
ACE Winter Warm-Up – The Pre-Show for the Season
Getting coaster enthusiasts through the long cold offseason isn't easy if you don't live in California or Florida. Local amusement parks are still weeks away from opening for the new season, and new attractions may be weeks after that. Fortunately, ACE has found ways to bring fans back together with their winter meet-ups, where they give parks a chance to provide updates on their upcoming plans, and occasionally reveal new information. The Southeast Region's event, Winter Warm-Up, returned to the Crystal Pistol Music Hall at Six Flags Over Georgia for 2018 to get a look at the park's upcoming new toy, Twisted Cyclone, and learn about other parks in the region. Thanks to the representatives on hand, who took that "new information" item to heart, the attendees got more teases than an 80s hair-band video.
The first tease came about 12 hours before the event, when Six Flags told its Twitter followers to pay attention to its feed Monday morning for a major announcement. As Six Flags officials welcomed the guests to the event, they brought up the tweet again. Turning the intrigue meter up to eleven, park officials said they would spill the beans to attendees, but asked them to not share it until after they themselves revealed it. (Author's note – you'll read it here too, which means if you actually are reading this, the embargo has been lifted and we have permission to share it.)
Instead of sending staffers, a number of area attractions sent ACE video updates and presentations to share with the guests. Carowinds gave us a status update of Camp Snoopy, its renovated children's area, and talked about two of their coasters – Lucy's Crabby Cabbie and Flying Ace Aerial Chase – receiving new names, Wilderness Run and Kiddy Hawk, respectively. Kings Dominion shared a recap of the 2017 season and a status report on its RMC makeover coaster, Twisted Timbers (the former Hurler), which included a reveal of the ride's second green train, which will run alongside the already-introduced blue train. Fan-favorite Holiday World introduced its new kiddie slide complex and talked about some off-season track work going on at Voyage.
Lastly, various attractions in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area provided updates of their own, including Anakeesta (the complex is open, but the single-rail mountain coaster is still being fabricated), Mountain Mile (a new shopping/entertainment center with a Stan Checketts-designed tower thrill ride and an adjacent mountain coaster) and Pigeon Forge Snow (an indoor snow-tubing attraction operated by the team that runs the popular Goats On The Roof).
Alabama Splash Adventure – The little park that could
Six Flags and Alabama Splash entered into a friendly wager on the college football National Championship Game (played just down the road from the Flags at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium). So, Byron Hughes, the park's marketing honcho, took this opportunity to gloat about Six Flags' other new coaster, Alabama Scorcher. Good-natured fun aside, attendees were treated to a series of videos from park managers Dan and Pat Koch as they introduced a number of new additions to the dry side of the park. Guests to the rapidly-growing Birmingham park will get to enjoy four new family rides – Scrambler, Yo-Yo, Tilt-A-Whirl and Rockin' Tug – while their kids will have fun on a new train attraction and a waterslide complex similar to the one its Indiana sister park is receiving. Everyone will get to enjoy a new high-dive show being constructed near the park's former log flume.
Before concluding, Byron revealed that Amusement Today has selected Alabama Splash Adventure as the host park for the 2021 Golden Ticket Awards. Aside from the fact that the park continues to grow and gain respect in the area, Byron alluded to another reason why they’ll host the awards then … a big new attraction is on the horizon. While not saying it was a roller coaster, Byron didn’t say it wasn’t, either. ;)
Dollywood – There are showstoppers, then there are SHOWSTOPPERS!
Pete Owens “flew” down to Six Flags for the day (he drove, but at a rate that suggests a pretty good flight plan) to talk up the Pigeon Forge park’s 2018 event-heavy season. Dollywood will be open a remarkable 264 days this coming season, and just about every one of them will have some special event or festival adding to the fun. The season begins with the long-running Festival of Nations and new-for-2018 Spring Mix concert series. In summer, food and fun go hand in hand with the Barbecue and Bluegrass festival, followed by Dollywood’s Summer Celebration, featuring tons of fireworks and superb limited-time shows. As the leaves change in the fall, the Dollywood Harvest Festival returns with award-winning gospel music, and Great Pumpkin LumiNights returns with even more family-friendly Halloween decorations, expanding from Mystery Mine all the way around to Craftsman’s Valley. Last but certainly not least, Smoky Mountain Christmas covers the park in millions of lights that must be seen in person to truly be appreciated.
One of the focal points for these festivals will be the new Plaza area, currently under construction on the former site of River Battle, in the Wilderness Pass section of the park. Dollywood is converting the site into a new open space that will change with the seasons, just as the park itself does. In the spring and summer, an animated fountain will keep things cool. For LumiNights in the fall, guests can take in a new animated pumpkin tree, with a giant LCD Christmas tree helping to transform the area in December to Glacier Ridge.
Pete Owens then talked about the park’s BPOD – the big pile of dirt – occupying a rather large chunk of land behind Thunderhead. Pete confirmed what it was, a big pile of dirt, and that it was a rather nice pile of dirt, at that. Pete also said that the BPOD was part of the largest capital expenditure in Dollywood history, and that details would arrive sooner (rather than later) this year. During a Q&A session prior to lunch, an ACEr asked about the Lightning Rod Run event and if it would return for 2018. ACE officials said there were no plans to run the event in 2018, but Pete noted that it might be better to have it in 2019, anyway. <wink wink> <nudge nudge>
Six Flags Fiesta Texas – Girl power
After a catered lunch provided by Atlanta’s legendary Varsity Drive-In, communications manager Sydne Purvis took the stage to give attendees a status update of their RMC Raptor coaster, Wonder Woman Golden Lasso. Sydne shared new renderings of the Greco-Roman theming being applied to the queue line and station building, which will suggest Diana’s home island of Themyscira. The first of three trains will arrive this week so they can begin testing in advance of a planned early March opening. One astute attendee did bring up just how long Fiesta Texas will be able to claim the superlatives attached to the coaster with its sister ride (RailBlazer at California’s Great America) hot on its heels. Sydne admitted they were indeed in a race to get the ride open … safely of course.
Other guests inquired about the ride’s loading procedures and potential capacity. Each train will hold a grand total of eight riders, and with three trains … well, do the math. The ride will utilize a “magic-
carpet” loading system, where the trains never stop moving. In advance of this, the park has been testing various loading procedures with its year-round employees in order to find the best fit for the attraction. Unfortunately, no information was available about how these procedures would be adapted for guests with disabilities.
Speaking out of the realm of coasters, Sydne expanded on the park’s popular Mardi Gras festival, which debuted in the spring of 2017. Guests seem to love the parade and the authentically-designed floats, so much so that two new floats were being added to the parade this year, along with a nighttime run. Foodies will enjoy New Orleans-style cuisine during the festival, too! In the summer, the Summer Nights Spectacular will return with more fireworks and effects projected onto the park’s quarry walls.
Sydne concluded her presentation with a reminder that the park’s Scooby-Doo interactive dark ride was retired and would be replaced by a new dark ride experience that would open up later in the season, but did not provide any new details.
Six Flags Over Georgia – Surprises everywhere
Park president Dale Kaetzel introduced their presentation with a warm round of thanks to the enthusiast community for their support and their constructive criticism that keeps them improving the product. Dale handed off hosting duties to communications manager Gene Petriello, who provided a status update on Twisted Cyclone, the RMC conversion of Georgia Cyclone. About 25% of the track had been
installed, with construction on schedule for a Memorial Day weekend opening. The coaster would be the centerpiece of the new Coastal section of the park, replacing the British theme with a more island/beach theme reminiscent of the Georgia barrier islands. The adjacent Johnny Rockets restaurant would also receive a more beachside theme to match the coaster itself. In similar news, the park’s French section (home to honestly nothing that’s French) will be renamed Piedmont, in honor of the north Georgia mountains.
As if that surprise wasn’t enough, it was now time to pay off the tease from before. Visitors put their phones away as the park unveiled a special surprise for the season kickoff – in honor of its 45th anniversary, the venerable Great American Scream Machine would run backwards for a limited time! After a very positive reception, Gene provided more details on the planned conversion. The old trains from the Georgia Cyclone would be used to travel the Scream Machine’s course in reverse; since both sets of trains carry 24 passengers each, capacity should remain basically the same. Gene and Dale both reiterated the “limited time” for the conversion, but there right now is no definitive ending date. They also would not rule out the ride remaining in reverse the entire season, but just the same, they did advise against procrastinating. And again, park officials exclaimed “but wait, there’s more!” as each attendee received a piece of the removed Georgia Cyclone structure, tagged in a limited 1000-unit edition.
After a short Q&A session, the highlight of the day arrived: a tour of the Twisted Cyclone site. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas, with frequent rainshowers turning much of the site into a soggy bog. Nevertheless, the hard-hat-clad attendees headed into the park and down to the site, where they got some of the first in-park pictures of the new steelwork and the other changes coming to the Coastal area of the park.
Big thanks to ACE Southeast Region, Six Flags Over Georgia, Dollywood, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Alabama Splash Adventure and all the other parks that made Winter Warm-Up an exceptional coaster event!
For more details on Great American Scream Machine Backwards, be sure to check out the full press release here.