Monday, May 4, 2009

I have been to the Emerald City of the Ozarks...

If you don't mind my bragging for a moment, I must say that my parents raised my siblings and I to appreciate the finer things in life. We delight in a good meal, appreciate the arts in all forms, and even dabble in them ourselves (in various ways.) There is, however, one seemingly less sophisticated pleasure that we savor... amusement parks.

Most self-respecting adults would probably not brag that they were a bit of a roller coaster junkie. Nor would they boast that they had been to Disney World over a dozen times. I apparently am missing that sense of shame and embarrassment because one of the first things that people are likely to learn about me, is that I LOVE roller coasters and amusement parks. (Disney in particular).

Now before you write me off as a no-class thrill seeker, let me explain where this fascination comes from. On my old blog, my sister once left a comment that very accurately described our Mothers introduction of Disney to us. She wrote: "mom never sat next to us during a Disney movie commenting on the cute and fuzzy bunnies, but instead said things like, “look how they drew the reflections on the water. That’s amazing!" It is so true, and that attitude extends to the Disney parks as well.

Disney parks are the full immersion experience of an idea. What I mean by this is that Disney not only creates an idea, but designs an environment that will evoke a desired reaction by a visitor. I love the concept that a company can be so committed to a story that it wishes to tell, that it will stretch the boundaries of creativity and technology to make that story a reality. The Disney experience is about more than just rides. That being said... I love a great ride too!!!

My non-Disney park experiences revolved around two other parks. The first was Boblo island. This was a smallish park guessed it... an island. When I was a young child the Boblo boat (similar to the Branson Bell for you Springfieldians), would take us to the island. I LOVED the Boblo boat because there was dancing. I don't think that I ever danced, but lets face it, a major draw of theme parks and that boat is people watching!

Once the boat pulled up to the island, my family would go have a picnic of cold fried chicken and sides and we would then hit the rides. They were tame by comparison to today's rides, but fun nonetheless. I have many fond memories of that time and if I should ever hear the 80's song "Electric Avenue," I am instantly transported there.

My other non-Disney park is Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. After Boblo closed when I was in grade school, this became the "it" park to go to. The draw of Cedar Point (or "America's Roller Coast") is that for a long time, they had the worlds tallest and fastest roller coaster called the Magnum. It was huge, a smooth ride, and a lot of fun. Other parks built taller coasters, so CP decided to build the Millennium Force. I don't know if MF is still the tallest and fastest, but I really hope that it is. When it opened, I remember that there was discussion in the media that this coaster could be pushing the line for major injuries and head trauma. (not a joke.) I haven't ridden that one. While Cedar Point has the thrills, it is lacking a real theme. It is all show and no creativity (but is still fun.)

This very lengthy introduction leads me to the real purpose of this blog post. As I mentioned, I have no shame about my love of amusement parks and so it is only natural that I had mentioned my desire to go to Silver Dollar City, our local amusement park in Branson, to my friends at work. When I put in my 4 week notice, my friends sprung into action and planned a day for our group at SDC. They know me too well, and I was grateful that a group of classy and chic women would indulge my childish obsession. (Though I think that they were excited too.) Thanks ladies!

So, last Saturday we ventured out to SDC. To be honest, I was expecting another Cedar Point. By that I mean rides, but nothing particularly special. I was pleasantly surprised! SDC chose to adhere to a classic Ozark hillbilly theme, and they did it very well. The park is actually quite pretty and is dotted with mature trees, hills, and free standing, themed buildings. The hillbilly workers were slightly disturbing, but they helped to create the atmosphere. All good.

We started with a fun and kicky little coaster called Thunderation. It gave you the option of riding backwards or forwards. Allison and I chose a cart that faced forward and I have to admit that it was a little weird to be looking at someone face to face during the ride. (And I prayed that they would not experience motion sickness, if you know what I mean.)
Next, we headed to the kiddie area so that Finnley could hit the rides. The park definitely tried to replicate some Disney rides. I saw teacups, a ride with pirate ships that looked oddly like those found on the Peter Pan ride, and of course this "flying elephant ride": (can anyone say Dumbo?)
Here is Jessica Bertholdi and Finn. I wish that you could see his face!
The oddest ride, well... downright perplexing was called "Fire in the Hole." This was the original Silver Dollar City coaster and Ashley insisted that we ride it. I knew that it was supposed to feature the Baldknobbers who according to the brochure had "set the town on fire!" When I think of the Baldknobbers I think of the oafs in the Baldknobber Country Jamboree (see photo from previous post.) I was expecting a storyline where the toothless guy has some kind of lighthearted mishap that causes a ride full of hilarity. While waiting in line, they even have a live Dalmatian for you to pet. (Thereby reinforcing my lighthearted hunch.)

Here is Eastan with the Dalmatian at Fire in the Hole!

The ride started out careening through dark hallways and a town indeed on fire. Imagine my surprise when the culprit turned out to be nothing like the toothless hillbilly, but a bunch of guys that looked like this instead:
Upon exiting the ride, I immediately asked: "Um, you guys, did I just witness some secret meeting? Was that a KKK themed coaster? What WAS that????"
(This is the part where they laughed at me.)
It turns out that the Baldknobbers were actually a vigilante group in the Ozark mountains in the late 1800's. The area was quite lawless at that time and so the Baldknobbers were formed to bring peace and justice to the Ozarks. That sounds like a lovely thought, but they were actually quite violent. According to "They would hang or beat a man to death for assault, disturbing the peace or destroying property." It also mentions that if anyone spoke against them, they might turn up beaten to death in the woods. And then there are those masks...
So after Fire in the Hole, I am haunted by two questions:
If they were such an awful group, A) Why is there a Baldknobber Jamboree show? and B) Why are they the subject of a roller coaster at Silver Dollar City?
The rest of the day was great! We rode another coaster called the Powder Keg that is pressurized so that it starts at 60 mph. FUN! We also looked at other things that SDC has to offer such as glassblowing,candy making, a candle shop, etc.
The best part of the day though was spending time with my friends. Some of the Squirrely Girls went: Carla, Allison, Ashley and Jessica Blake and then we also had two additions: Katie Towns (the Audrey Hepburn of the ACS) and Jessica Bertholdi who I actually replaced, but is a really cool girl and I am so glad that she came too! We were also joined by Eastan (Ashley's son) and Finnley (Bertholdi's son).
Since living in Springfield, I have been so lucky to have met a group of smart, talented, FUNNY, and caring women. Silver Dollar City was entertaining, but the fact is that when you have great friends, you can have just as much fun sitting around and staring at each other. Thank you so much girls! It was a fun day at the park, but for me, it was so much more than that! I will miss you all like crazy! -Carrie-