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Silver Dollar City to classic attraction: “You’re fired!”
Indoor roller coaster set to take last ride
Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers of theme parks!
Speaking of loving parks, one of my favorite places to ride coasters, gorge on some of the best food in the industry, see great shows, check out craftspeople plying their trades, and otherwise have a ball is Silver Dollar City. The Branson, Missouri themer is a decided step above typical regional parks, and all fans should consider making a pilgrimage to it.
With a lineup that includes Outlaw Run, the first wooden coaster to include RMC’s Topper Track, and Time Traveler, the superb launched, controlled spin coaster from Mack Rides, Silver Dollar City is rightly heralded for its thrill machines. Tucked along its midway, however, is one of parkdom’s more curious coasters, Fire in the Hole. If you’d like to give it a go, you’ll want to plan your pilgrimage sooner rather than later. The park announced that this will be the Grand Finale season for the classic ride.
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Opened in 1972 as the park’s first coaster, Fire in the Hole barely qualifies as one. A mostly gentle, indoor ride, its 12-passenger trains amble on through scenes depicting an 1880s town that’s been set ablaze. Electrical power propels the vehicles through most of the course, which makes it more of a dark ride. Because it includes three small drops, including a (mild) splashdown finale, Fire in the Hole is technically a coaster. To give you a sense of just how poky it is, it has 1,520 feet of track, which is very short (Outlaw Run, for example, is nearly twice as long), but the ride duration is just over three minutes, which is quite generous for a coaster.
The sets are delightfully primitive and remind me a bit of the Calico Mine Ride, a similarly charming throwback attraction at California’s Knott’s Berry Farm. At one point, a character can be heard admonishing Red Flanders, who gets caught in his long johns, to come back and put on his pants. There are lots of dark, slightly foreboding interludes punctuated by scenes of burning buildings. The Flooded Mine, another homegrown, beloved dark ride at the park, also has campy appeal.
Apparently, Fire in the Hole’s storyline is based on Marmaros, the Ozarks mining town that serves as the inspiration for Silver Dollar City. According to the park, a gang known as the Baldknobbers (insert your own joke here) actually torched the town back in the day.
“More than 25 million guests have been entertained by the Fire In the Hole adventure since the attraction opened a half-century ago,” says Brad Thomas, president of Silver Dollar City Attractions. “Today’s riders include grandparents who remember riding when they were kids, and now they share the fun and unique experience with their grandkids.”
While Fire in the Hole may be going the way of Marmaros at the end of this year, fans will still be able to ride Blazing Fury at Dollywood. It’s no coincidence that the Tennessee attraction is nearly identical to the Missouri ride. Both parks are operated by Herschend Family Entertainment, and the Smoky Mountain park was known as Silver Dollar City before Dolly lent her famous name to it.
Nothing official has been announced about what might replace Fire in the Hole, but the park is strongly hinting that something is on the way. In a press release, it acknowledges the attraction’s iconic stature and says that “what comes next must carry on the legacy.” It may be something entirely new, or it may be a renovation of the existing ride.
Whatever it may be, it will be part of an ambitious expansion plan that the park says will span the next ten years. Last year, Silver Dollar City confirmed that it purchased an 800-acre parcel of land. Like its sister park, Dollywood, I wouldn’t be surprised if an on-property hotel is part of the plan.
Have you braved Fire in the Hole? How about Blazing Fury? Will you be sad to see it go? What do you think might replace it?