New Patriot floorless coaster opens April 1

By | March 21, 2017

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – California’s Great America opens its 2017 season on March 25 and will introduce an array of new attractions, entertainment and dining experiences. Patriot, the first floorless coaster in the park’s history, will make its official park debut on Saturday, April 1.

Patriot will take riders to a nine-story height before plummeting them into a 360-degree loop and a series of hairpin turns. The floorless ride will include state-of-the-art blue and white floorless trains positioning guests with their feet dangling inches above the track.

To celebrate Patriot, all current and past military service members will be provided free admission from March 25-May 29 (with valid ID), along with special $30 tickets for up to 6 guests (available at the Front Gate).

“Patriot will be an outstanding addition to our family of roller coasters,” said California’s Great America Vice President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg. “We’re honored to provide active and past military service members free admission through Memorial Day weekend. They do so much for our country, and we’re happy to provide them fun family entertainment.”

One of the most notable changes for 2017 comes at the iconic Maggie Brown’s restaurant. Renamed Maggie’s Smokehouse & Fried Chicken, in addition to the legendary fried chicken, the restaurant will also delight guests with smoked tri tip, pulled pork and rotisserie chicken. Seasonally, Maggie’s will also serve beef and pork ribs in the completely refurbished interior.

Food Festival will also feature new dining options, including crab sandwiches and lobster rolls for seafood lovers, burritos and tacos, clam chowder bread bowls and highly popular Boba tea drinks.

Season Passholders can take advantage of the All Season Dining Plan that, for as low as $84, provides two meals per visit (4 hour interval between meals) and pays for itself in just three visits. This year the on property Panda Express and Subway are included in the plan.

The brand new Red, White & Brews festival will debut Memorial Day weekend and run five total days (May 27-29, June 3-4). Red, White & Brews will be located in Hometown Square, adjacent to Patriot, and features locally crafted beers, great barbeque and live music, all wrapped in a fun family atmosphere. The Taste of Orleans festival with Cajun cuisine, bayou music, themed fireworks and Mardi Gras atmosphere returns for two weekends (July 22-23, 29-30).

Other seasonal entertainment events include Opening Day (March 25), Fiesta Hispana (Aug. 13), The Great Pumpkin Fest (weekends Sept. 30-Oct. 29), Halloween Haunt (Friday-Sunday, Sept. 22-Oct. 29) and WinterFest (select nights Nov. 24-Dec. 29). Halloween Haunt will celebrate its 10th anniversary, and the highly decorated WinterFest will be back for a second season of holiday fun beginning November 24.

New live entertainment in 2017 features Vertical Impact in Great America Theater, a high-flying acrobatic display with trampoline artists and amazing choreography, along with The Great American Game Show in Theatre Royale.

Also new in 2017 is FunPix, the ultimate way to capture and share unlimited Great America digital photos on social media. FunPix is available for as low as $19.99 for a day-long pass or $39.99 for a season-long package. With FunPix, guests can digitally capture their favorite memories, whether it’s the classic family shot in front of the carousel, thrilling on-ride moments aboard Great America’s roller coasters or fun character shots with Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

Great America will open daily beginning May 25, and Boomerang Bay water park will open daily beginning May 27.

Dollywood celebrates “Year of the Family”

By | March 18, 2017

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — Dollywood today celebrates the opening of its 32nd season with a special preview of the excitement in store for 2017. The year offers special new events, new rides and the family-friendly atmosphere that truly makes the award-winning park home for the “Year of the Family.”

As Dollywood guests know, each season offers a completely new experience for families to enjoy, thanks to festivals and events which always provide exciting new opportunities to create lifelong memories. From world-class stage shows and two new attractions to a nightly summer fireworks display, the new Great Pumpkin LumiNights during the fall and the nine-time winner for Best Christmas Event, Dollywood offers seasons of family fun this year!

Dollywood welcomes the world during Festival of Nations (March 18-April 9), a fascinating multi-cultural celebration! Featuring traditional music, dance, food and art of nations from around the globe, Festival of Nations reminds guests of shared similarities while embracing unique, time-honored traditions. The headline show for 2017, Mother Africa, returns with a captivating look at the colorful cultures found throughout the continent. This season, Slask Song and Dance Ensemble, one of the most prominent Polish folk ensembles in the world, visits Dollywood for the first time. Major touring stage shows, internationally-known performance groups, various roaming musicians and more make Festival of Nations a fun, educational and exciting experience for families. It is an escape around the world without leaving the heart of the Smokies.

For families looking for an exhilarating way to spend Spring Break (April 10-22), Tokyo-based dance company enra comes to Dollywood with a high-energy, multi-media dance, light and video fusion show. Their cutting-edge performance routines will leave guests mesmerized as moving motion graphics displayed on a giant screen are incorporated into live dance, ballet, gymnastics, martial arts and more. The group was featured on America’s Got Talent in 2015 and has shared their unique blend of modern technology, music and dance with amazed audiences around the world. Dollywood also offers extended park hours allowing families even more fun during their spring break. 

Dollywood’s Barbeque & Bluegrass (May 26- June 4) launches the unofficial start of summer and combines the tastiest barbeque in the South with the biggest names in bluegrass. This year’s festival features an impressive bluegrass lineup with a multitude of free daily concerts from an amazing collection of talented performers. Rhonda Vincent and The Rage, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Dailey and Vincent, Blue Highway, Hot Rize and Steep Canyon Rangers are just a few of the headliners which make this one of the biggest bluegrass events around. This annual tradition wouldn’t be complete without pounds of saucy pulled pork, barbequed chicken and ribs by the slab. This guest-favorite event is music to the ears—and a treat for the taste buds!

Summer at Dollywood (June 17-Aug. 6) provides families even more of what they already love—time together to make memories. This summertime celebration features extended park hours, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, giving families a unique chance to ride Dollywood’s world-class attractions, including Lightning Rod and Wild Eagle all day and well into the night! For the first time ever, Dollywood’s park hours are extended to midnight on July 1 and 8. Kids will be amazed by the “unbubbleievable” tricks and fun of The Gazillion Bubbles Show, which returns to Dollywood this summer by overwhelming guest requests. To complete the day, the park’s festive nightly fireworks show is a colorful extravaganza set to uplifting music which celebrates the fun of Dollywood after dark!

Dollywood’s Rock the Smokies features inspiring music on stages throughout the park for an incredible time of praise and worship. Contemporary Christian hit makers highlight this day-long celebration. With a powerful combination of thrilling attractions and dynamic music, Dollywood provides the perfect location for this amazing Labor Day weekend event. Area student ministries should plan to cap off the summer with this energizing event.

One of the most beautiful times of the year is autumn in the Great Smoky Mountains. With a colorful patchwork of orange, red, yellow and gold painted throughout the hills and valleys of East Tennessee, fall provides the perfect backdrop for festive family fun at Dollywood. The park offers extended hours, until 9 p.m. each night, during Dollywood’s Harvest Festival featuring the Southern Gospel Celebration and Pumpkin LumiNights presented by Humana (Sept. 29-Oct. 28). Great Pumpkin LumiNights immerses families in fabulous pumpkin illumination thanks to spectacular pumpkin displays which glow with the fire of fall. Numerous lighted pumpkin displays throughout the park will delight families looking for a new and unique tradition. During the day, the Southern Gospel Celebration lineup includes some of the biggest names in Southern gospel music. Families will enjoy the soul-stirring sounds of beautiful harmonies ringing through the crisp air as free daily concerts take place on the park’s various stages. Visiting artisans from across the country share their talents through an array of handmade wares, spanning from functional to decorative. Each day is a picture-perfect opportunity for families to enjoy the traditional experiences of a Smoky Mountain harvest!

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana (Nov. 4-Jan. 1, 2018) has been honored for nine consecutive years as the Best Christmas Event at any theme park worldwide. Wander through the park’s more than four million holiday lights, spectacular holiday performances and warm Christmas atmosphere, and it is easy to understand why. From the cheer and joy of Dollywood’s Parade of Many Colors, to traditional holiday favorite performances like It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas in the Smokies, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas helps families create memories to share for a lifetime. Guests can experience the fun enchantment of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends straight from the children’s holiday classic. More than 20 of Dollywood’s signature rides and attractions operate in a festive environment sure to get everyone into the spirit of the season. From the award-winning shows and elaborate holiday decorations to the twinkling lights and Christmas-themed menus, Dollywood captures the essence of Christmas.

Knott’s to retire Boomerang coaster

By | March 17, 2017

BUENA PARK, Calif. — Knott’s Berry Farm says goodbye to the park’s veteran roller coaster, Boomerang on April 23rd. Riders will have one last chance to ride the reverse shuttle roller coaster starting now and throughout the duration of Knott’s annual springtime Boysenberry Festival which kicks off April 1-23.

The 27 year-old roller coaster has been a staple in the recently renovated Boardwalk area, replacing the historic “Roaring 20s Corkscrew” in 1990. Since its opening, Boomerang has taken thrill-seekers on an enthralling two minute ride forward and backwards on its 875-foot track.

Guests will have the opportunity to take a last ride on Boomerang during the popular Knott’s Boysenberry Festival, a celebration of Knott’s Berry Farm’s historic roots anchored by the flavorful boysenberry. Newly expanded this year to 23 days, Knott’s will be showcasing a unique selection of over 75 boysenberry-inspired items from tasty food creations and rare wines to one-of-a kind merchandise that commemorates Knott’s renowned history.

For over 75 years, Knott’s has created memories for families and park goers of all ages; the park has been home to multiple thrilling roller coasters and family attractions. The park’s team will continue to assist in strategically advancing the park’s development as it continues to grow throughout the years.

Family Entertainment Group goes “Hollywood” with the addition of Hollywood Park Family Entertainment Center in Crestwood, Illinois

By | March 14, 2017

ITASCA, Ill. – Family Entertainment Group (“FEG”), a market-leading designer, developer, and operator of world-class family oriented entertainment and amusement gaming facilities has recently acquired Hollywood Park Family Entertainment Center in Crestwood, Illinois. This transaction is one of many acquisitions by FEG and the third in the last twelve months. Hollywood Park joins other successful parks and entertainment centers owned by FEG including Bonkers Fun House, in Peabody, Massachusetts, Funtrackers in Corpus Christi, Texas, and GameRoom Sawgrass located in Sunrise, Florida.

Hollywood Park is a very successful family entertainment center located in Chicago’s south suburbs. The entertainment center features a fun collection of Hollywood memorabilia, a family restaurant, large, multi-level game room, bumper cars, electric go karts and two award-winning mini golf courses. 

Hollywood Park was owned and operated by Chris Paliga and his family since the mid 90’s and when the opportunity came to sell the business he knew it would be in good hands with FEG. Paliga commented, “I might not have sold my property to anyone other than George Smith and FEG. I have a commitment to this business, the Hollywood Park leadership team and the community – and FEG has the resources to improve on the park.”

According to Ray Smith, Director of Business Development at FEG, “The acquisition of Hollywood Park aligns with our strategy of identifying and acquiring high-quality, well-operated locations and driving the business to the next level.”

As part of the acquisition, Family Entertainment Group is excited to enhance the facility over the next year with a completely new games package, 4 lanes of mini bowling, restaurant seating expansion, addition of 4 new private party rooms, renovation of the façade and addition of outdoor entertainment elements. 

Family Entertainment Group is a recognized industry leader in game room design, development, consulting and operations. Owning and operating world-class, family oriented entertainment facilities both nationally and internationally since 2004, FEG provides services and innovative arcade solutions for a wide array of industry sectors including water park resorts, amusement parks, bowling centers, casinos, family entertainment centers, hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, retail stores, water parks and more.

Polin Waterparks Achieves R&D Center Certification

By | March 14, 2017

TURKEY – Polin Waterparks, which was founded in 1976 and recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, was recently certified as a research and development (R&D) center by the Turkish Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology. This certification, in part, recognizes Polin Waterparks for its qualified innovation expertise.

On 28 December 2016, Polin Waterparks filled an official application for certification, and the appointment of inspectors took place through 12 January 2017. On 19-23 January 2017, audits were conducted at Polin facilities. Following these inspections on February 21, 2017 in Ankara, at the capital city of Turkey, the company was officially awarded its R&D center certificate. The news of this prestigious recognition was announced on February 22, 2017, on the Turkish Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology’s website.

The certification required Polin Waterparks to meet strict criteria to prove its dedication to R&D. Specifically, some of the minimum conditions required were:

-Operate an independent R&D department within its organizational structure
Conduct research and development activities

-Employ experienced R&D designers and engineers dedicated to R&D who possess specific R&D background and competency and are located inside the company’s building or campus. (Polin Waterparks employs 46 R&D designers and engineers.)

-Polin Waterparks also has been recognized by the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM) as one of only 200 companies in the country that has invested the most significant funding in R&D both in 2015 and in 2016.. Polin Waterparks was honored as an export winner by TIM in 2015 and 2016 in the related category.

The R&D center certificate is earned by domestic brands in different sectors in Turkey. It is considered an important indicator of the investment the recognized institutions have made in the Turkish economy. Polin Waterparks already is recognized as a pioneer in the field of innovative advancement and application of closed-molded manufacturing technology in waterslide development. Today, the firm continues to focus on high-quality design and innovation patents.

109 Years And Counting: How Sweet It Is At Quassy Amusement & Waterpark

By | March 10, 2017

MIDDLEBURY, Conn. – Something old is new again at Quassy Amusement & Waterpark here as the landmark property opens for its 109th season on Saturday, May 6.

The park will officially unveil Bella & Bessie’s Sweet Shoppe & Pizzeria, located on the site of the former popcorn stand in the heart of the iconic lakefront venue.

What’s special about the new retail outlet is something quite nostalgic. The park acquired taffy-making apparatus dating back to the 1920s and will fire up the refurbished machinery to produce its own homemade sweet treats. In addition, Quassy will introduce two new rides: Skipper’s Clippers pirate ships and Up, Up & Away balloons. Both interactive children’s rides will be located at the lakeside kiddieland area. “Needless to say, it’s been a busy offseason for us,” park President Eric Anderson said of improvements. “We started on the new building shortly after closing last fall and announced the acquisition of the two rides in November during our annual trade show in Florida.”

Honoring Two Women
“The family (owners) really gave it some thought when it came to naming the new building,” Anderson said of the process which started after it was determined the old popcorn stand would be replaced. Considering the park’s heritage and 80 years of family involvement, the owners decided the new structure would be called Bella & Bessie’s Sweet Shoppe & Pizzeria.

Bella was Vasiliki Bolakaki, who came to the United States in 1927 with her new husband, John Frantzeskakis (Frantzis). They were accompanied by another married couple and close friends, George and Vasilia (Bessie) Terezakis. The women spent many of their first days in the U.S. at Lake Quassapaug, which had a small amusement facility overlooking the sparkling lake. That same year John Frantzis and business partner Mike Leon purchased the Chocolate Shoppe in downtown Waterbury, Conn., only a few miles from Lake Quassapaug.

It was in 1937 that John Frantzis, Mike Leon and George Terezakis, who had worked as concessionaries at the summer property, purchased Lake Quassapaug Amusement Park. Leon remained involved in park operations until his death in 1958. The Terezakis family eventually sold its interest in the park to Eric Anderson and his wife, Emily (Frantzis).

Today, Quassy remains a “family affair” as it is fully owned by the Frantzis and Anderson families with Anderson and George Frantzis II overseeing daily operations. The new store will have other sweet treats such as cotton candy and candy apples along with popcorn and other novelty food items. Quassy will also offer homemade pizza with a variety of toppings in the new structure. This season will mark the first time the iconic park has made its own taffy.

Adults Can Ride, Too
While considered children’s rides, both of the new attractions at the lakefront will also accommodate adult riders. “That feature (adults can participate), plus the interactive elements incorporated on both rides made them ideal fits for us,” George Frantzis II said of the rides. “The up and down motion of the pirate ships (Skipper’s Clippers) are controlled with joy sticks while music and a variety of sounds add to the experience.”

The Up, Up & Away balloon baskets have spinning action controlled by the riders. This marks the third straight year Quassy has introduced new rides within the park.

More Laser Action
The Quassy Quest Laser Maze, added as a special attraction inside the redemption arcade in 2012, will receive a major update this year with the addition of a Beam Buster program from developer Funovation of Longmont, Colo. “This will add another dimension to our popular laser maze,” Anderson said of the upgrade. “Beam Buster is exactly as it sounds: you try to break as many beams of light as possible during the allotted time. The more you break, the better your score.”

The laser maze will continue to offer its traditional programming as well, which has different levels of participation as players attempt to maneuver through a field of lasers without breaking a beam of light. “The new feature will be more thrilling for youngsters and those young at heart,” the park official added.

For game enthusiasts, Quassy has purchased a new water race game allowing 14 players to battle it out for a variety of prizes. The water race will be on the main thoroughfare leading into the park.

Dolly Parton announces Pigeon Forge’s newest dinner show

By | March 8, 2017

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn.  – After the success of Dolly Parton’s NBC movies about her childhood, Pigeon Forge’s newest dinner theatre attraction is telling a special story very close to her heart.  After months of work, Parton and her production team are opening a new show shaped by the life and family of the Smoky Mountain songbird herself.

“This new story is very special to me,” Parton explained. That is why during my first visit to the Great Smoky Mountains this year I will open a new show that celebrates my family before I was born.  With the success of my family stories Coat of Many Colors and Christmas of Many Colors – Circle of Love over the last two years, I knew this was a story I wanted to tell and the theatre in Pigeon Forge near the Island is the perfect venue.”

The production will debut this spring at the former Lumberjack Adventure theatre on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge. Jim Rule, CEO of World Choice Investments, LLC, said this new show is what the customers are asking for. “We will release more details about Dolly’s story soon.  We have been telling stories for 30 years and this new show showcases the world-class storytelling of Dolly and celebrates the Great Smoky Mountains and her family.”

Pre-purchased ticket holders for a Lumberjack Adventure show scheduled in 2017 should contact the box office at 844-322-4400 for re-ticketing.

SeaWorld Orlando Welcomes Spring with New Show “Dolphin Days”

By | March 3, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla.  SeaWorld Orlando will launch a new show called Dolphin Days, immersing guests into the world of the ocean’s most playful ambassadors. Dolphin Days, will debut on Saturday, April 1, replacing the popular Blue Horizons after an eleven-year run at Dolphin Theater. In the new presentation, the audience will learn more about the individual personalities of each Atlantic bottlenose dolphin while witnessing the special bond they share with their trainers. A soaring rainbow of macaws and other tropical birds will also delight guests, uniting the mysteries of the deep oceans with the wonder and beauty of the skies above.

The new Dolphin Days will also present an interactive opportunity for young guests. During each show, one lucky young volunteer will be selected from the audience to learn firsthand from the training team in an up-close encounter with one of the dolphins and a green-winged macaw.

As guests are wowed by the agility, grace and aerial bows of the dolphins, they will learn how they can help protect dolphins in the wild. The addition of Dolphin Days is the latest example of how SeaWorld continues to provide families with experiences that matter. Through up-close encounters and unique shows like Dolphin Days, guests will leave the park inspired to care about this amazing species, and take action to help wild animals and the places they live.

Dolphin Days won’t be the only place to learn more about dolphins.  The park’s new Dolphin Nursery will open in time for summer, offering an interactive educational experience for guests to see dolphins up close. The addition of virtual reality to Kraken and the new nighttime spectacular Electric Ocean round out an exciting line-up of new attractions and shows opening this year.

8th World’s Largest Swimming Lesson set for Thursday, June 22, 2017

By | February 17, 2017

OVERLAND PARK, Kan – The 2017 World’s Largest Swimming Lesson (WLSL) will take place on Thursday, June 22nd. This will be the eighth year for the global event and Team WLSL will be setting its sights on a new goal – reaching more than one billion with the message Swimming Lessons Save Lives by 2019. Local WLSL events take place at hundreds of locations in more than 20 different countries on five continents over the course of 24 hours. The purpose of the event? Provide kids and parents exposure to life-saving water safety skills and build awareness about the vital importance of teaching children to swim to prevent drowning.

The World Waterpark Association founded the WLSL event in 2010, and works with dozens of life-saving and drowning prevention organizations to support Team WLSL and their mission to spread the message Swimming Lessons Save Lives because:

• The problem is real: Per the CDC, drowning remains the leading cause of unintended, injury related death for U.S. children ages 1-4, and the second leading cause for children under 14; drowning is an even greater threat in other countries around the world

• Many lack basic swimming skills: In 2014, a survey completed by the American Red Cross found that more than half of all Americans (54 percent) either can’t swim or don’t have all of the basic swimming skills

• Parental supervision is key: According to Safe Kids Worldwide 2016 report, despite the fact that lack of supervision played a role in the majority of drowning deaths. less than half of parents (49 percent) indicate they remain within arms’ reach of their child in the water

We encourage aquatic facilities and trainers to help parents connect the dots between learning to swim and staying safer in and around the water. Join Team WLSL for this global, life-saving event by registering as an official 2017 WLSL Host Location.

NEAAPA Hall of Fame Inductee Justine Brewer

By | February 14, 2017

SACO, Maine – Justine Brewer and her family own and operate Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon, Massachusetts. Her company has been a proud NEAAPA member and she is a former member of the Board of Directors.

Justine will be inducted into the NEAAPA Hall of Fame on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 during the Annual Meeting Dinner, held at the Sheraton Springfield Hotel Monarch Place.