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Beyond the Coaster: Tempesto


Tempesto, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s newest coaster, will open to the public on April 25th, 2015, to much fanfare that has already begun.  Tempesto is a fictional bicycle stuntman who left one of his stunts at the park.

The tale of Tempesto follows that of the legendary turn of the century Italian stuntman, E. Mephisto, also known as Diavolo.

In America we had J.C.Carter who took up the Diavolo mantle on the Forepaugh and Sells circus, as the main attraction.  Both men mastered the “Loop the Loop” on a bicycle, the only 2 out of the 300 who attempted it at the time.  Not much is found but a picture of Mephisto standing in his loop.  Most pictures and accounts come from Carter’s version of Diavolo.

Carter’s stunt was introduced to American audiences on April 2, 1902 in front of a crowd at Madison Square Garden, where the Forepaugh and Sells circus was being held.  The New York Sun printed the story the next day;

“If you see it in the Sun it’s so. The most remarkable feature of this year’s circus exhibition was of course that of Diavolo, the loop the loop bicyclists. There was generally a pervasive idea inside and outside Madison Square Garden that his first performance would be his last. Baker.2In fact there were two ambulances from the city hospitals present, one containing six surgeons who were anxious to have the first opportunity of examining the prospective corpse, and one filled high with air cushions on which Diavolo was to be carried in state, with so much life as remained in him, to Bellevue.

At about 10 o’clock the circus band began a series of long ruffles, which ended with the start of Diavolo for the bottom of his hair-raising convoluted incline. The rider, dressed in a suit of coruscating red scales like any unreformed devil, mounted a wheel high up under the uppermost incandescent lights which lined the roof of the Garden, and at a signal slid like lightning down to the tanbark and then, on the inside of an exaggerated barrel hoop 37 feet in diameter, up and around, himself upside down at the top and held to the track by the centrifugal force of his wheel, coming out right side up again on the down grade and caught finally in nets prepared to arrest his progress.”


Carter was injured while on tour in London when he skidded and went over the handle bars, missing the net and landing on the floor.  Nothing else was known about the injuries, but he was later replace by a young man by the name of Conn Baker.

These men led the way for the fearless to attempt the seemingly unattainable.  Without them we may have never seen the amazing stunts like the Motorcycle Cage of Death or the amazing tricks pulled off in the X-Games or by groups like Nitro Circus.

Tempesto can give you a taste of the thrill the daredevils get, without the risk they put their lives in every time they step in front of a crowd.


Le Scoot Sign - New France - Water Ride - 2014

Beyond the Ride: Le Scoot (Log Flume)

New France - Le Scoot - Water Ride - 2014

One of the most popular rides on a hot day at Busch Gardens Williamsburg is Le Scoot, located in New France.  A log flume ride is a staple for any theme park.

Log flumes were created to mimic the old mill rides and chute rides.  The first heavily themed flume was built at Knott’s Berry Farm in 1969, called the Timber Mountain Log Ride.

When Arrow Development built their first log flume in 1963 at Six Flags Over Texas, it started a flow of flumes throughout the world.  Until 1979, Arrow held the monopoly on flumes, building over 50 in 16 years, including a twin flume at Six Flags Mid-America in 1971.  Arrow’s engineer, Karl Bacon, studied hydrodynamics to understand how to better use water flow that we see in modern day flumes.

Timber Mountain Log Ride
El Aserradero – Six Flags Over Texas

Since Busch Gardens Williamsburg opened in 1975, park goers have enjoyed Le Scoot, and with the recent renovations, families will get to experience the fun for years to come!


England - London Rocks! - Show - 2014

Beyond the Stage: London Rocks! and The Globe Theater

England - London Rocks! - Show - 2014

In 2014 Busch Gardens Williamsburg really wanted us to know they had a new show.  London Rocks! promised flash, British invasion style music and projection mapping technology.  They delivered with an enthusiastic cast that were world class musicians, singers and dancers.  London Rocks! is shown daily in the Globe Theater in the center of Banbury Cross (England), but is a very real place in London.

The Globe Theater was built by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an acting troupe led by William Shakespeare, in 1599.  During a performance of Henry VIII in 1613, there was a misfire of a performance cannon that caused the building to catch fire.  The wooden beams and thatching went up, but no one was injured besides a man whose breeches caught fire and were put out by a bottle of ale.

The following year the theater was rebuilt, only to be shut down by the Puritans in 1642 and torn down in 1644 to make room for housing.  The new Shakespeare’s Globe was built 750 feet from the original site in 1997 and opened with a production of Henry V.

In the 1960’s, rock ‘n roll reigned and the British bands were moving across the pond to bring us their brand of culture changing music.  London Rocks! follows the journey of Lucy and Guy as they use the great music of the UK to tell their story of growing up, falling in love, having kids and the hardships of raising a family.

I want to give a little insight on the songs themselves:
England - London Rocks! - Show - 2014

Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple – 1972

Deep Purple tells the true story of recording in a mobile studio rented from the Rolling Stones in Montreux, Switzerland, along Lake Geneva.  Frank Zappa’s Band, The Mothers of Invention, was playing at a casino on the lake, when “some stupid with a flare gun” shot into the rattan covered ceiling, effectively burning down the whole casino.

It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It) – Rolling Stones – 1974

The best way to describe this song would be to let Rolling Stones from man, Mick Jagger explain, “The idea of the song has to do with our public persona at the time. I was getting a bit tired of people having a go, all that, ‘oh, it’s not as good as their last one’ business. The single sleeve had a picture of me with a pen digging into me as if it were a sword. It was a lighthearted, anti-journalistic sort of thing.”

Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles – 1967

Basically an acid trip song written for the TV movie of the same name.

What I like about you – The Romantics – 1980

The Romantics are actually an American band that formed in 1977 in Detroit, and hit #30 on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40.

Come and Get It – Badfinger – 1969 

The song was written by Paul McCartney for the movie The Magic Christian, and later did it with The Beatles.  Paul never gave an explanation of what “it” was, and it took only an hour to finish.
England - London Rocks! - Show - 2014

Wishin’ and Hopin’ – Dusty Springfield – 1964

Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote this UK chart topper, which was originally done by Dionne Warwick in 1963, only to be covered by Dusty Springfield the next year.

Wild Thing – The Troggs – 1966

Wild Thing is #261 on Rolling Stone magazines Top 500 Songs of All Time.  The lyrics speak for themselves

Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds – The Beatles – 1967

Lucy was written for the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band.  It was inspired by a nursery school drawing that John Lennon’s son, Julian drew of a girl he had a crush on, named Lucy.

Sunshine of Your Love- Cream – 1967

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included this song on the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

Gimme Some Lovin’ – The Spencer Davis Group – 1966

Also appeared in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers.

England - London Rocks! - Show - 2014

Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton – 1977

Clapton wrote this while waiting for Pattie Boyd to get ready for Paul and Linda McCartney’s annual Buddy Holly party.

For Your Love – The Yardbirds – 1965

One of the last songs the band recorded before the departure of Eric Clapton

Time of the season – Zombies – 1968

This song did not become a hit until a year after the band broke up.

Let’s Dance – David Bowie – 1983

Stevie Ray Vaughn played the final guitar solo on this track.

We Will Rock You – Queen – 1977

In 1977 at Birmingham’s Bingley Hall “We did an encore and then went off, and instead of just keeping clapping, they sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to us, and we were just completely knocked out and taken aback – it was quite an emotional experience really, and I think these chant things are in some way connected with that.” – Brian May

Come Together – The Beatles – 1969

“The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook; Come Together was an expression that Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t come up with one. But I came up with this, Come Together, which would’ve been no good to him – you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right?” —John Lennon

London Rocks - England - 2014 - Show

Octopus’ Garden – The Beatles – 1969

The idea came about when Ringo Starr was told how octopus’ travel the sea floor, picking up rocks for their gardens.

I am the Walrus – The Beatles – 1967

Loosely based on Lewis Carrol’s Walrus and the Carpenter.

Time – Pink Floyd – 1973

He (Alan Parsons) had just recently before we did that album gone out with a whole set of equipment and had recorded all these clocks in a clock shop. And we were doing the song Time, and he said “Listen, I just did all these things, I did all these clocks,” and so we wheeled out his tape and listened to it and said “Great! Stick it on!” And that, actually, is Alan Parsons’ idea. David Gilmour

Help – The Beatles – 1965

“The whole Beatles thing was just beyond comprehension. I was subconsciously crying out for help”. – John Lennon

Hard Days Night – The Beatles – 1964

The first song to hold the top spot on both the UK and US charts for 2 weeks.

We Can Work it Out – The Beatles – 1963

“In We Can Work It Out, Paul did the first half, I did the middle eight. But you’ve got Paul writing, ‘We can work it out / We can work it out’—real optimistic, y’know, and me, impatient: ‘Life is very short, and there’s no time / For fussing and fighting, my friend.” – John Lennon

Under Pressure – Queen and David Bowie – 1981

“It was hard, because you had four very precocious boys and David, who was precocious enough for all of us. David took over the song lyrically. Looking back, it’s a great song but it should have been mixed differently. Freddie and David had a fierce battle over that. It’s a significant song because of David and its lyrical content.” – Brian May

Strawberry Fields Forever The Beatles – 1967

Strawberry Fields was a Salvation Army Home near the place John Lennon grew up.  There was a annual party in which the Salvation Army band played, and it was always a happy memory of Lennon’s.

London Rocks - England - 2014 - Show

Space Oddity (Major Tom) – David Bowie – 1969

Written as a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey and lampooning the British Space Programme.

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen – 1975

The song took 3 weeks to record in four different studios and at some points was overdubbed 180 times.

All You Need is Love – The Beatles – 1967

“It was an inspired song and they really wanted to give the world a message,” said Brian Epstein. “The nice thing about it is that it cannot be misinterpreted. It is a clear message saying that love is everything.”

I think that about sums it up…ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!




England - London Rocks! - Show - 2014

Ireland - Celtic Fyre - Show - 2014

Beyond the Stage: Celtic Fyre

Ireland - Celtic Fyre - Show - 2014


Cead mile failte’!  A hundred thousand welcomes!  Since 2010, Celtic Fyre has entertained guests in the Abbey Stone Theater.  Irish folk music, step dancing, even some American style tap thrown in, make for a mix that is steeped in history.

Irish Stepdancing

According to Culture and customs of Ireland, the first step dancing competitions, or feis, were not until 1897.  The custom of keeping your upper body stiff derives from the fact that they had no hard stage to dance on, so many would unhinge a door and lay it on the ground, causing more attention being given to the intricate foot movement.

There are two types of shoes that are worn, a hard shoe (jig shoe) that is like a tap shoe, and a soft shoe (gillies), much like that of a ballerina.

Professional and competitive group step dancing rely on precision and timing between the dancers.  Solo dances are more about speed and skill.


American Tap Dancing

Tap gets it’s roots from Irish step and clogging.  It was a popular act on the vaudeville circuit and later became famous in movies starring Shirley Temple and mainstream entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr.

Tap involves special shoes with metal plates that cause a “clicking” sound as the dancer taps his feet on the ground.


Irish Folk Music

Dare we say “drinking songs”?

Here is a song by song breakdown of Celtic Fyre:

Streets of Dublin

The song comes from a short lived musical called A Man of No Importance.  It speaks of a man who doesn’t need the stage to see art, it is all around you in The Streets of Dublin.

The Voice

Sung by Eimear Quinn, and also made popular by Celtic Woman, “The Voice” is mother nature watching over the world.

Finnegan’s Wake

This is a traditional song that has been done by groups like The Dubliners and Dropkick Murphys.  It tells the tale of Tim Finnegan hitting his head, and as the wake goes on around him, he is woken up by splashing whisky, saying “Whirl your whiskey around like blazes, d’anam an diahbal (Your soul to the devil) do you think I’m dead”.

Wild Rover

Another popular folk song about a man who has traveled from his home to seek his fortune, where before he was a mooch.  When he comes back to town, he has money to spare and “Will play the wild rover, no never, no more”.

Parting Glass

Parting glass is a song sung from the perspective of a man on his deathbed, remember the good times and the bad, asking those around him to fill his final glass before he leaves this world.


The Fyre

Celtic Fyre has been a staple at Busch Gardens since it was first introduced and it is one of those shows that always attracts world class entertainers.  So, join everyone for the celebration of the newlyweds, and remember, if you want popcorn, they sell right in the back.  Stay Mighty!

Ireland - 2014

Beyond the Hamlet: Killarney (Ireland)


If you make a right at the crossroads between Scotland and England, cross the bridge and you find yourself in the hamlet of Killarney.

1280px-Killarney_Cathedral_by_ParideThe original hamlet that resided here was part of England called Hastings.  Hastings was much like the tournament grounds of old, with musicians and games.  Hastings was an original hamlet when the park opened in 1975, and became Killarney, the parks sixth country representation, in 2001.

 The REAL Killarney

The hamlet of Killarney is named for a very real town in southwest Irleand in County Kerry.  A popular tourist destination due to it’s rich history and landmarks.

St. Mary’s Cathedral is considered to be one of Ireland’s most important and best Gothic Revival churches of the nineteenth century.

RossCastleRoss Castle is the ancestral home of the O’Donoghue clan.  It was built in the 15th century and saw battles in the Irish Confederate Wars.  It was later lived in by the Brownes, who were exiled for their adherence to James II of England.  It is said that O’Donoghue jump from the window in the grand chamber atop the building, and disappearing into the lake below.  There is a belief that O’Donoghue lives in a palace beneath the waters, keeping an eye on his home.

One notable celebrity from Killarney is Michael Fassbender, and actor known for his roles in 300, Inglorious Basterds, Prometheus, and as Magneto in X-Men: First Class and Days of Future past.

 Back to Busch

Killarney is home to specialty shops, Annie’s for coffee, Grogan’s Pub for beer and conversation,

Celtic Fyre, Castle O’Sullivan and Europe in the Air.


During Howl-O-Scream, Killarney becomes a haven for Dr. Freakensteins evil experiments, with shows like Fiends and Igor’s Fright Feast.  The haunted attraction 13: Your Numbers Up takes place inside Europe in the Air and we can never forget the lovely ladies at the Innoculation Station.


During ChristmasTown, the hamlet returns to the quaint village of Killarney, complete with Douglas O’firs, a Christmas tree stand.


Oktoberfest - Mach Tower - Flat Ride - 2014

Beyond the Ride: Mach Tower

Mach Tower

You find yourself taking in the view of southeastern Virginia from 246 feet in the air, when out of nowhere you fall straight down at 50 mph.

800px-Viki-Markt.Maibaum The ever ominous Mach Tower, which stands tall in the heart of Busch Gardens Williamsburg, is the parks maypole themed drop tower.

In Bavaria, the maypole dates back to the 16th century.  It was a log, usually painted in the blue and white, Bavarian colors, decorated with symbols of the various trades of the region.  A Tanz in den Mai, or May dance, might follow the ceremony of placing the maypole, if it is in that area traditions.  In some places, the maypole is taken down at the end of the month and stored, in other areas, they keep it up year round.

New_York_RenFaire_2004_maypoleIn other areas of the world, there is a maypole dance, in which ribbons are tied to the top of the maypole and dancers circle around it in various ways to cause a pattern with the ribbons wrapped around the pole.  The maypole ceremony is still enjoyed in almost every country of the world.

BGW’s “maypole” can be seen all year round, standing proud in the middle of the park, awaiting to give riders a spectacular view and a thrilling plummet!


Griffon Water Splash - France - Roller Coaster - 2014

Beyond the Ride: Griffon


You are perched above a 90 degree drop, suspended for 5 seconds.  You count them off in your head, but you always count to fast because of the anticipation.  As you reach 5, you wonder why you haven’t dropped yet, only to start hurdling down from 205 feet in the air, reaching 71 mph, before the thought can be fully realized.

Griffin, Busch Gardens’ 205 ft steel drop coaster, is a spectacle to be seen.  Perhaps the most watched coaster in the park, spectators enjoy watching riders scream as the hang over the vertical dive, ever since it opened in 2007.

The story behind the name of this steel beast is that of legend.  It is a creature of Greek mythology that, from the shoulders back, is lion and the head, shoulders and forelegs are that of an eagle.

Griffin’s are known for being protectors of treasure.  They are seen throughout many mythologies.  In Christendom, the griffin is used as a symbol against remarriage because they were believed to mate for life and when one died, the other remained alone until it’s death.

The hippogriff is said to be the offspring of a griffin and a mare, thus being a mix of an terrestrial animal and one of Earth, so you will see a hippogriff as a representation of Jesus Christ as sculpted in some churches.

In heraldry, it is often used to represent the boldness and courage that is represented by the eagle and lion respectively.  It is also a symbol of military courage and leadership.


The griffin is used today as a symbol in many company logos.  The College of William and Mary adopted the griffin as a logo in 2010.

Through the years the legend of the griffin has stayed constant and strong.  This symbol of courage is fitting for a coaster of this intensity.  Do you have what it takes to soar on the wings of Griffon?


Beyond the Ride: Alpengeist


Since 1997, this coaster has loomed over Rhinefeld, with it’s twists, turns, inversions and very loud lift hill.  This inverted coaster is meant to resemble a ski lift, taking you high into the mountains, only to be chased by the Ghost of The Alps.  You take a turning dive and continue through 6 inversions at speeds of 67 miles per hour for over 3 minutes until you are returned to safety.  Alpengeist is a rite of passage for many young park goers.


The creature depicted in the rides logo is much like that of an abominable snowman or a yeti.  Creatures and demons in this area are often referred to as Krampus or Perchten, who serve as helpers to Saint Nicholaus. They threaten to punish or even kidnap naughty children when he visits on the evening of Dec. 5, ahead of the Feast of St. Nicholas the following day.

Many of these stories refer to people who dress as these creatures to drive winter away.  In these regions, warmer weather for crops is harder to come by, so the more warmer weather you recieve, the better your harvest will be to last through the winter.


Scary creatures are often used in naming a coaster to add a back story and help the adrenaline boost that comes with the anticipation of the ride.  Alpengeist fulfills all of this by creating an experience from the queue line, reminiscent of a ski lift building at a lodge, to the snow covered banks and little details like skis stuck in walls, or tracks from skiers on the roof of the tunnel after the brake run.  It can be a bumpy ride, but it is still a favorite for so many who love BGW.


The Battering Ram - Italy - Flat Ride

Beyond the Ride: Battering Ram

Battering Ram

It was asked for, and here it is.  The story of the battering ram.

At Busch Gardens Williamsburg, it is known that the most watched ride is Griffon, due to it’s perch before a 90 degree drop.  When it comes to flat rides, Battering Ram is right at the top.  It is a pendulum style ride, or a swinging ship style, meant to symbolize the swinging battering rams of the middle ages.  You can hear the screams from this ride, located in Da Vinci’s Garden, all throughout Italy, due to the ride operators prodding for the high side of the swing to yell.  ram1Battering Ram swings out over guests who are passing by, and at night you can see the glowing red eyes from the ram head.

The first battering rams were a product of ancient times, when a large log would be carried by a group of men, who ran towards a wall or door of a structure in which they were trying to lay siege upon.  Later, in the iron age, it was discovered that putting the log in a pendulum, held by rope or chain, was easier and you could use heavier logs.ram2

These pendulums were a crude structure to begin with and had to be carried into battle or built on site.  Later, they added wheels to the structure for better speed, and slanted or curved roofs covered in wet animal hides to keep the structure from being lit on fire and to keep the operators safe from attacks from above.

The writer Vitruvius described a battering ram used by Alexander the Great that was supported by rollers, as opposed to being slung by rope, to achieve greater speed and destruction.

Today, battering rams are usually a one person operation, used by law enforcement and military to break down doors.

Though our Battering Ram at Busch Gardens only seems to cause destruction to vocal chords, it still packs a punch for park goers, young and old alike.

Beyond the Ride: Loch Ness Monster

For thousands of Mid-Atlantic park goers, their first coaster was the yellow beast known as The Loch Ness Monster.  Nessie was first opened 1978 as the first roller coaster with inter-locking loops.  With her 36 years in service, the legend of her namesake is older still…

The Legend of the Loch 

Loch Ness is the largest body of fresh water in Britain and reaches depths of 754 ft located in he Highlands of Scotland.

The first sighting of Nessie was in 565 AD and was written about in the 7th century book Life of St. Columba.  

When a road was built along the loch in 1933, many sightings began to surface from the once isolated area.  George Spicer and his wife saw a creature cross the road roughly 4′ high and 25′ long with a neck that stretched the width of the road.  A motorcyclist named Arthur Grant almost hit the creature that same year.

The fishing boat, Rival III, caught an odd large sonar reading that seemed to keep pace with the boat for over 2600′ at a depth of 479′.

Over the years many sonar reading, pictures and film have been taken of the creature, most are attacked by skeptics, some saying they are seeing diving birds, an elephant, snakes or wake.  The most recent sighting was on Apple Maps.  Andrew Dixon was digitally roaming the loch when he came across an interesting scene.  Of course, this is highly debated, but no true explanation has come to light.


There may be no solid evidence of her existence, but the intrigue will go on forever.


Nessie in Yellow

Arrow, a roller coaster design company, built the legendary Loch Ness Monster for Busch Gardens in 1978  to a great amount of fanfare.  Today, you can still experience her 114 ft drop, interlocking loops and triple helix cave and you will be able to for a long time, as she is an ACE Landmark coaster.   I have to take at least one ride every visit, and my children and I enjoy repeated night rides to end our day at the park!