Let's start with Ghostrider, the once-beloved wooden coaster that dominates the land. Time had not been kind to Ghostrider, which - like many woodies - had grown so rough over the years that many fans had just given up riding it. So Knott's owner Cedar Fair called in Great Coasters International to retrack the ride. GCI also subtlety changed the profile of the track in a few places, further helping to smooth the once-jarring ride.
With a fresh, newly profiled track and no trim brakes, Ghostrider now flies. The cars still drop from the station, curving in front of the newly reopened "Pan for Gold" near the queue's entrance. From there, it's a quick pull up the main lift before Ghostrider drops you into a swift collection of turns, hills, and airtime moments. There's hardly a moment to catch your breath as the ride takes you out and back and out and back again, before finally braking and returning you to the station.
But Ghostrider's not the only fresh attraction worthy of your attention in Ghost Town this summer. Knott's has transformed the town of Calico into an interactive experience, creating a daily narrative for the land and populating it with characters looking to draw you into the day's events.
We met a deputy sheriff, fresh in the middle of a shave, who recruited us to translate a Morse Code message he'd received. He directed us to the Calico Post Office for help, where the postmaster set us up with a translation key. Here's how it went:
You can find many other interactive opportunities such as this throughout the land. Those rascals from Mayfield are trying to take over Calico, and the sheriff is recruiting help to make things right again. Whatever you end up doing, everything comes together for the big hoedown in the evening, when the people of Calico - including you - are invited to celebrate the end of another day.
Even if you don't want to play along with the characters, stop into the newly refurbished Calico Saloon for the Calico Saloon Show, which runs just under 20 minutes and plays five times daily.
Local theme park fans who still haven't forgive that park up the street for shutting the Golden Horseshow Revue will find a worthy substitute here, with its cheerful host and can-can girls. And the refurbished saloon is a delight. Grab a drink at the bar and head upstairs for the show. (And unlike at the old Golden Horseshoe, you can have a beer with this show.)
We've written about how theme parks are transforming from well-decorated collections on rides to narrative platforms, within which visitors can participate in ever-changing stories based on a land's theme. Ghost Town Alive might be the best execution of this concept yet — Knott's has flooded the land with characters and opened previously chained-off spaces throughout. The event gives the land an energy it's never had before, transforming it from a static exhibition space into something that fells much more, well, alive.
Finally, Knott's has reopened the attraction that started it all — Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant.
Gutted and completely rebuilt, Mrs. Knott's restaurant is serving the same recipes that Cordelia Knott started serving more than 75 years ago, but in a refreshed space that still feels homey while functioning much more efficiently. There's a full bar and expanded waiting area, not to mention dining areas that feel comforting without feeling worn.
And the food? Well, we helped ourselves to a provided buffet and thought the chicken and fixin's as good as ever, including the Boysenberry pie.
Ghost Town Alive will run only through the end of summer, but the refurbished Ghostrider and chicken restaurant are here to stay.
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Great job with this POV video.
Ghost Town Alive seems pretty good, and I'll be going back to the park on Sunday to check it out for myself. Hopefully this will prove popular and Knott's will bring it back every summer, as while it isn't a big new attraction it is definitely a unique offering in the area. The show looks good and fits nicely, though I'm probably a little more interested in the new stunt show. Lastly, I ate at the restaurant last week and everything there is excellent.
Robert, if you like the Calico Saloon Show, you have to visit Silver Dollar City. Their Saloon show takes these kinds of goofy vaudeville antics to "11"!
You don't apply the Iron Horse treatment to a coaster that was once a Top 10 ride. Instead, you do what Knott's did and re-track it. GhostRider should be in good shape for the next 10 years.
To be honest, I think what Knott's ultimately chose to do is much better in this case than an I-Box conversion. When RMC comes in, they sacrifice an old wooden coaster in order to build a new steel coaster as cheaply as possible using the same support structure. No matter how the ride may be marketed by the park, it is not what it once was and instead is a completely different attraction. As good as Twisted Colossus is, I would never consider it Colossus. Same thing with any other conversion. In my opinion, if Knott's had gone with RMC they would have wound up with a spectacular coaster, but it would not be GhostRider, and with the theme of celebrating the anniversary of Ghost Town that just wouldn't feel right. Instead, Knott's brought in GCI in order to restore the ride to its opening day condition. Is it identical? No, but it's very close and, in my opinion, is a much better fit for the park than an RMC would be. How will it be in 10 years? Nobody knows, but with proper maintenance it will probably still be much better than it was in 2008 (10 years after it originally opened).
As for the top ten coasters comment, according to the Mitch Hawker poll results GhostRider debuted at #7 and peaked at #4 in 2000 before eventually dropping to #62 in 2013 (the last year of the poll). For reference, here are the results of the pre-conversion I-Box coasters:
Texas Giant: Initial #2, Lowest #99, Final #89
Rattler: Initial #50, Peak #35, Lowest #170, Final #131
Medusa: Peak #54, Lowest #175, Final #130
Colossus: Initial #60, Lowest #151, Final #116
Cyclone: Initial #31, Peak #25, Lowest #122, Final #103
Twisted Twins: Initial #37/41, Lowest #151/155, Final #128/134
Roar: Initial #21, Final #68
So it is fair to say that GhostRider was initially considered to be a better coaster than many that received the RMC conversion ever were, and that even at it's worst many enthusiasts still considered the ride significantly better than most converted coasters were by the time they received the treatment.
RMC has a place in the industry, but it is not the best solution in every case. I am a fan of their rides, but it saddens me when a perfectly good wood coaster is ruined for a hybrid. Six Flags has done this at least once, and I hope no other company ever does so.
Also, I don't want to start an argument about coaster ratings as they are all suspect, but Mitch Hawker's poll started in like the mid 90's well past Colossus' prime, and it is a fairly complex process to rate and score. So all we can really know about the original Colossus is that it was the tallest and fastest wooden coaster in the world in 1978 and likely on most top ten lists (if there were such things) back then. And according to amusement today (of the golden ticket awards "fame"), the Texas Giant was ranked #1 for several years before it fell into disrepair. My point being that previous rankings have NOTHING to do with adopting an RMC solution - it is as you said: a factor of costs, preference, and/or contractual agreements, nothing more.
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I still dream about it.
I wasn't going to hit Knotts on my vacation this year... now I might have to! Ghostrider was already closed when I went in '14.