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Holiday World talks turkey about new coaster
Also, Hot Wheel coasters, Barbie’s beach house, and more coming to new Mattel park
It was overshadowed by Cedar Point’s major announcement last Tuesday about Top Thrill 2, the redesigned triple-launch strata coaster that will blast riders forwards and backwards when it opens next year. But on the same day, Holiday World in Indiana revealed its own new forwards and backwards coaster for 2024, Good Gravy! (To be clear, that exclamation point is part of the name of the coaster, not a grammatical indication of my unbridled enthusiasm for the new ride; to be extra clear however, I am quite enthused about the coaster and its cute, clever themeing.)
Good Gravy! will be a family boomerang coaster from Vekoma, the first such ride at a North American park. (Although the model has been in production since 2011, and there are more than 30 of them in other parts of the world.) Its single train will be propelled backwards up a dead-end hill using a tire-activated lift system. Coming to a momentary halt, it will drop forwards and hit a top speed of 37 mph. After cruising around for a few moments, it will climb a 77-foot-tall spike, peter out, and then fall backwards, retracing the course in reverse. The short ride will be a mere 1,500 feet and last a bit over one minute–even though it will make two passes through the course.
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At first glance, the ride may not seem to be particularly noteworthy. That’s especially true when it’s compared to Holiday World’s trio of wonderful wooden coasters, The Raven, The Legend, and The Voyage, and its steel launched wing coaster, Thunderbird. However, there would appear to be much to love about the new ride.
First, let’s talk about the name and the theme. Located in the Thanksgiving section of the park, the team behind the ride has embraced the fall holiday in all of its kitschy glory. Merely seeing or hearing the name, Good Gravy!, one can’t help breaking into a grin (at least, that’s my reaction).
It continues a long and proud tradition of silliness at Holiday World. In the weeks leading up to the announcement, the park has been engaged in a pun-filled teaser campaign with signs at the park declaring “Pumpkin to Talk About,” blog posts indicating that it would soon “spill the gravy on what’s happening,” and a mailing to journalists (myself included) that had curious items such as a whisk and an actual packet of gravy mix. It even created a phony, but funny, Good Gravy Co. Web site (which has since been converted to a site about the coaster).
Through the years, Holiday World’s past president, the late Will Koch, its longtime PR director, Paula Werne, and I bonded over our love of wordplay, including goofy headlines. We would trade texts and emails admiring each other’s latest michevious missives. Will’s children, fourth-generation owners Lauren Crosby and Leah Koch-Blumhardt, are carrying on that silly spirit in grand fashion.
The ride itself will revel in its corniness. The queue will wind through grandmother’s house, a note-perfect, mid-century modern abode complete with wood paneling and a vintage black-and-white television set. The train will feature impossibly cute cars shaped like gravy boats. Along the route, passengers will travel through a giant cranberry sauce can tunnel and past other oversized props such as a rolling pin and a bottle of milk from “Koch Dairy.”
You can get a sense of the coaster and its wacky vibe from the park’s delightfully campy preview video.
My buddies, Mike and EB at Coaster Radio, likened Good Gravy! to Slinky Dog Dash at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I think it’s an apt comparison. The two rides both have highly stylized loading stations and trains and include oversized props. Both are family coasters with 38-inch height requirements, which makes them accessible to kids as young as three years old. But, both rides include semi-thrilling elements not typically found on such young-skewing rides. On the Disney ride, it’s a magnetic launch system. On Good Gravy!, it’ll be a dead-end spike along with backwards as well as forwards motion.
That’ll give little tykes and folks who are otherwise thrill-averse bragging rights. The Holiday World coaster will be a great gateway attraction preparing young ride warriors and giving them a taste for more potent thrill machines such as The Raven.
Pegged to cost $10 million, it would seem the budget might account for the ambitious queue and the lavishly themed design elements as well as the relatively modest coaster itself. The project will also include Stuffing Springs, which will feature a children’s play area and a new Dippin’ Dots stand housed in an actual Airstream trailer.
In other news, let’s shift our focus to Arizona, which has not been known as a theme park hotbed (although it is plenty hot). I’ve previously reported about Mattel Adventure Park, the (largely) indoor micro park planned for the state near State Farm Stadium in Glendale. It was originally supposed to open earlier this year, but its developers, Epic Resort Destinations, announced yesterday that it would begin welcoming visitors sometime in 2024.
There wasn’t a whole heckuva lot of new information released. Among the featured attractions will be two coasters themed to the toymaker’s popular car brand: the 84-foot-tall Hot Wheels Bone Shaker: The Ultimate Ride and Hot Wheels Twin Mill Racer, a more extreme ride that will feature a double loop and two corkscrews. Both of the coasters will start indoors, which along with the rest of the park will provide air-conditioned comfort during Arizona’s furnace-blast summers.
Other attractions will include a Thomas & Friends: World of Sodor area with rides and attractions geared to the the youngsters who adore the cheeky train and a walk-through Barbie Beach House, which will include an encounter with a “holographic” rendition of the doll (who is currently having her moment in the pop culture spotlight).
The park will be part of Vai Resort, which is also scheduled to open next year. It will include a luxe hotel, a concert venue, a five-acre sandy beach (keep in mind, this is Arizona), multiple restaurants, a shopping complex, a nightclub, and a spa.
Do you adore the theme and vibe of Good Gravy! as much as I do? Have you been to the Indiana park? Might you return in 2024 to check out the new ride? What’s your take on the Mattel park?