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Announcing the 2011 Theme Park Insider tournament details

By Robert Niles
Published: March 1, 2011 at 12:11 PM
It's March, which around here means that it is tournament time. (I hear that some other organization also runs a prominent tournament this time of year, too. Curious.)

For the past three years, we've hosted the Best Theme Park Attraction tournament here on Theme Park Insider. The idea for the tournament came from a reader, and we've had great fun with it.

In the years since we started our tournament, it seems that everyone and his or her dog, cat and ferret has started an online theme park attraction tournament, too. So I thought that it's probably time to shake things up a bit. We've already got a great system on the site for ranking top theme park rides and shows - we've been collecting reader ratings since 1999, and you can see the top attractions in four categories over on the right side of the page. (If you're curious, votes are erased two years after they're submitted.) So I decided that, this year, we should have a tournament that matches up things we *don't* rate and review around here on a daily basis, but that remain popular with millions of theme park fans.

Therefore, I'm proud to announce that this year's Theme Park Insider tournament will match the top special events at the nation's theme parks.

When I started putting together this bracket, I included just the hard-ticket events, but that left a pretty sparse field. So I added other top events at the major parks that included significant special programming, such as musical acts, food and attractions. Just redecorating the park for a holiday didn't make the cut.

Now, anticipating the inevitable complaints, Halloween events comprise many entries in the bracket, but I didn't include them all. I had enough with the hard-ticket events that I didn't feel the need to add others.

And the math of putting together this bracket didn't work out neatly, either. I ended up with 20 events, which any bracketologist can tell you means that some entrants need to get a bye somewhere along the road.

So here's how this year's tournament will work. The day before a schedule match-up, I'll reveal the entrants in a Blog Flume post, so that you can comment with your opinions about the two events, links to photos and videos you've taken, and tell the rest of us your pick for which event should win. The next day, we'll put it to a vote in another blog post.

We'll run two match-ups a day for the week of March 14-18. (Previews will start the Friday before, on March 11.) The six winners that get the most votes will get a bye to the quarterfinals. The remaining four winners will square off in two match-ups, on March 21 and 22.

The quarterfinals begin on March 24, with match-ups on March 25, 28 and 29. (The previews will run the day before for each.) The semi-finals will go on March 31 and April 1, and the finals run on April 4.

Voting will be open for 24 hours for each match-up, and the starting time will be announced in the preview piece that runs the day before the match-up.

The first round will pit events against each other in what I considered natural match-ups. (You'll see what I mean when the voting starts.) After that, each round will be seeded based on the number of votes the winning events got in their previous match-up. The event with the most votes gets the top seed in the round, and the event that advanced with the least votes get the bottom seed.

We've learned from these types of events that the winner often depends on who does the best job of GOTV (get out the vote). So if you've got an event you really want to see advance, please do your best to rally other fans, and convince the folks running the park's Facebook page and Twitter feed to link to the vote.

I hope that everyone will have fun with this year's tournament, and that we'll get to celebrate some really great theme park special events. So let's get ready to get started on March 11!

Readers' Opinions

From Joshua Counsil on March 1, 2011 at 2:30 PM
Thanks for changing it up this year, Robert. The old attraction-vs-attraction format was redundant considering, as you mentioned, we already have a ranking system.

Let the hateful debates begin.

From Andy Milio on March 1, 2011 at 2:31 PM
Awesome, can't wait!
From Mike Gallagher on March 1, 2011 at 3:06 PM
I hope to participate, but given my lack of experience with Disney and Universal's special events, I'll have to wait and see the brackets.

But considering I couldn't give a (bleep) about the NCAA's brackets, I'd rather do this...

From James Rao on March 1, 2011 at 6:11 PM
The new format could be interesting. However, I, like Mike, will have few chances to comment as my range of special events is limited to Epcot's Flower & Garden Festival (meh), Worlds of Fun's Halloween Haunt (outstanding), SFSTL's Fright Fest (awful), and the various festivals at Silver Dollar City (Christmas being the best of the bunch). I am gonna miss some of the fierce debates of the past, but at least all the controversy will be minimized.
From Joshua Counsil on March 2, 2011 at 4:57 PM
Like Mike and James, I have little experience with theme park events. In fact, I haven't been to a single one.

Still, just because you haven't experienced something doesn't mean you can't vote on it out of spite. Fanboys, unite!

From Robert Niles on March 2, 2011 at 5:16 PM
Since this is an area we haven't always hit comprehensively in the past, I'm hoping that the tournament draws out some lurkers who haven't felt compelled to comment before now, too.

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