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Battle For Eire

This past week Busch Gardens revealed to local media the behind the scenes construction of their newest ride for the 2018 season, Battle for Eire.

The storyline of the ride is Addie, the heroine, and her dragon sidekick Ollie, are battling the evil Balor and his minions Sluagh for the Heart of Ireland.

If you haven’t heard by now, Battle for Eire is a Virtual Reality ride, the first of it’s kind at Busch Gardens. With the use of goggles, the VR give you a full immersive experience, basically surrounding you in the storyline and making you feel as though you’re there with Addie and Ollie. If you’re not a fan of VR, or are afraid it might give you motion sickness though, that’s ok. The park took that into consideration and has designed the ride so that it can be ridden with or without the VR goggles. If you choose to ride without, you’ll view the screen as a 4K video.

While in line, riders will pick out their headgear and put it on and tighten it down. Once on the ride itself, you’ll put the VR goggles on. The goggles attach to the headgear by three magnets so you literally just pop them onto the headgear.

I know there are a lot of concerns regarding the VR headgear and how it works vs cleanliness, and let me put those fears to rest right now. The headgear is perfectly safe and clean. Don’t trust me? Trust the park. Why? Because you trusted them over the years to keep the 3D glasses at Curst of Darkastle and the shows inside the Globe Theatre clean. The headgear will be cleaned in the same sanitizing machine those 3D glasses were cleaned in. And don’t worry, the park has purchased plenty of the headgear, literally THOUSANDS, to ensure they have plenty for a full days operation with cleaning and turnaround. But what about the goggles themselves? Don’t worry about those either, they will NEVER touch your face.

Just a few stats about the ride for those that don’t already know….

There are actually 2 ride ‘rooms’ with each platform seating 59 guests.

The estimated experience time is around 15 minutes from time in queue to the time you’re walking off the ride.

You can ride with or without the VR goggles. If you choose without, the screen will be the equivalent of watching a 4K television screen.

Speaking of TV…..the frame rate for the video will be 90 frames per second. The average television runs at around 30 frames per second.

The voices of the characters were done by actual actors in Ireland.

The characters based on Irish lore.

Battle for Eire is created by Falcon’s Creative Group, the same group behind the creation of Curst of Darkastle.

While no official opening date has been given out yet, the park is aiming for a spring opening.

Changes to 2018 Annual Pass Program

If you’re like most locals, you probably have an annual pass for either Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, both parks, or even the 11 park Platinum pass.  Last week, Busch Gardens announced their brand new MEMBERSHIP program for their 2018 operating season.  Yes, that’s right, Membership.  The new program has three tiers, Basic, Unlimited, and Premier, with prices starting at $10 per month, per person, or $120/year.

Let me break the new membership levels down for you.

The Basic membership gives you admission to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA, Howl-O-Scream, and Christmas Town, on select days, subject to blockout dates, 50% off general parking, guest ticket discounts, member sneak peeks, and in park discounts

Unlimited and Premier memberships both offer unlimited admission to Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, Howl-O-Scream, and Christmas Town, no blockout dates, free general parking, member sneak peeks, and in park discounts.  While the Unlimited pass gets you 2 free guest tickets, the Premier level gets you 3 free guest tickets and free preferred parking.

What are the blockout dates for the Basic Membership?  Pretty much spring break, holidays, and most Saturdays.  In other words, the busiest days of the theme park season.  While at first glance, this may be a huge deal breaker for most people, if you prefer to visit the park during the middle of the week when it’s not super busy, this may be the deal for you.  You still have plenty of time to visit the park, even during peak season,  and can still get your money’s worth of your membership.  For more information regarding the blockout dates, check their website https://buschgardens.com/williamsburg/annual-pass/blockout-dates/

Something I’m curious about with the new memberships, that the park has yet to disclose, is the member ‘sneak peeks’.  Will this be something similar to how local museums offer their members private invites to opening night events for new exhibits?  Will park members receive private sneak peeks to events like the Food and Wine Festival before it’s open to the general public?  Or will these mysterious sneak peeks be something else completely?  Only time will tell as the park hasn’t said anything beyond ‘more information will be coming soon’.

Probably my only complaint regarding the memberships and how they’ve been created, is the fact that we don’t get to opt in or out of Water Country USA.  I’m torn on this.  I’m not typically one for water parks, but I don’t hate them either.  But I feel it would’ve been nice to have had one more pass option, not including Water Country USA on it.  Not to knock the park, it’s a great park, but for those that absolutely don’t go to water parks, this portion of the membership goes to waste.  I would’ve liked to have been given a membership option for one park as well as the two park options, at a slightly cheaper price of course.  Maybe Busch Gardens will reevaluate their membership plans down the road and adjust their offerings to suit this need/want.  I know those Water Country USA only pass holders would appreciate the option as well.

Now, for those existing pass holders, I’m sure you’re wondering how these new memberships affect your current passes.  Well fear not, you have options.  You don’t have to switch over to the memberships…..yet.  If your current annual pass is paid for in full, you don’t have to switch over until the pass expires.  If you’re on the EZPay, you can keep your pass until you’re ready to switch to the membership.  If you want to switch to the new memberships now, anything you’ve paid for your current pass will be prorated for the membership.  It is currently unclear just how long the park is planning on allowing the annual passes to continue though.  It could be through the end of the 2018 season, it could be three years from now.  Originally the park had listed a January 2019 date that all passes must be changed over by, but since their announcement, they have removed that original date and are stating you can keep the current pass for now.

For more information on the new memberships, visit the parks website.  You can compare the benefits of the three tiers and decide which one works best for you.  . https://buschgardens.com/williamsburg/annual-pass/benefits/

ChristmasTown 2017 review

This years ChristmasTown at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, as usual, did not disappoint! I will go event by event with my thoughts.

Santa’s Workshop

Santa’s Workshop moved this year to the Darkastle location.  It is much bigger and just beautiful.  You really get the feeling you are walking through Santa’s workshop, with elves along the way to answer questions and even keep the children entertained while waiting in line.  You can see our interview with Santa at the bottom of the page.

 

 

 

Gift of Harmony

ChristmasTown’s newest  show is an accapella experience, located in the San Marco Theater in Italy.  The music was awesome, fun, and I have to give props to their beat boxer, who killed it.  All around great cast and vocal experience!

Gloria

Always a beautiful show with a mix of gospel and and classic Christmas hymnals, with a bit of jazz fusion in the Abbey Stone Theater.  Having a live orchestra really makes the show more full.  Powerful vocals make for an awe inspiring performance.

Deck the Halls

A traditional show with classic Christmas songs, is fun and great for dinner in the Festhaus.  Again, BGW brings in the live band to give it that full sound.

Twas that Night

The third year for this amazing ice show did what it always does, amaze!  An awesome cast led by Olympic medalist and world champion figure skater, Elvis Stojko, called for ooohs and ahhhs from the audience throughout the entire performance.  A great show and a must to take the kids.  You can see our 2016 interview with Elvis below.

Scrooge No More

Easily my favorite show that BGW has ever done, no matter the season!  The visuals, the cast, the music and design bring an amazing version of A Christmas Carol to The Globe Theater.  There are not enough words in my vocabulary to describe how much I love this show, and if I weren’t able to spend a whole day at ChristmasTown, I would go just for this show.

Rudolph Experience

My sons and I got to visit with some of the characters from the classic Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer claymation.   It is a blast to get to see life sized versions of the childhood favorites.

All in all, 2017 ChristmasTown was a great experience that just gets better every year!  See you all in the Spring, until then…

BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER!

 

My Fourth Season as a Scare Actor

Hey there friends!  It’s your friendly neighborhood scary dude, Cody.  I got the awesome opportunity to scare the pants off of people, yet again, at Haunted Hunt Club Farm in the Haunted Hayride.  This year, the overall theme was A Night of Possession.  Our hayride theme was classic monsters.

Jack and Jason, our managers, along with other actors, staff and friends worked from February until opening night to build an awesome playground for us this year.  A few stages had been taken down or moved, including moving the entire graveyard to the finale from the first zone.

The Scenes

The first stage was cut in half and Stanley, our talking skeleton was placed as the opening act.

The old graveyard area was turned in to the outskirts of town, where a warehouse and church were built, along with a house and a camp.  The werewolf, his mother or a victim, the hunter, and the priest were all featured here.

Just beyond the camp is the demon stage.  I was asked to paint the shadow demon, and I am rather proud of it!

 

You then come upon The Black Raven Inn, our biggest build this season.  Jason did 90%, if not more, of this build himself.  It is one of the most gorgeous sets we have ever had.  I spent the last 5 nights of the season here.  Across from the Inn was the garden, which was home to Gnomie, our living garden gnome.

On your left you meet our detective, who is trying to find the werewolf, after being attacked, and losing his mind in the process.

 

You come upon “Hidden” where our possessed lady is hiding body parts in the walls, while her friends scream and cry at the sight!

 

As you reach “town center”  you find it under the rule of the vampires, who are fighting the human resistance.  I spent the beginning of my season until the last week, here.

After town center you enter our famous tunnel.  This season featured the mummy, Akanummen, who was released by a foolish tomb raider, where the ancient evil begins to possess others and raise his henchmen.

Through our new graveyard, you come face to face with a partially resurrected Akanummen, who questions your motives in his land, and sends his minions upon the attack, at which point your driver hauls butt out of the hayride.

My Fun

I started out my season as Eleazar, the master vampire.  My character was rather upset that the humans allowed the ancient evil to return, and is leading the fight against the human resistance.  I really enjoyed the character, I was on a tall stage, in an area that looked really cool.  I have to thank Aunt Sharon for making me the awesome vest!

My last 5 days of the season were spent as The Keeper.  I was in the Black Raven Inn, where the souls of those I have possessed reside, constantly walking my endless halls, searching for your body.  I had roughly 18 hours to come up with the character as we had an actor go out with pneumonia.  I really liked the character and the lines, and it seemed well received by my peers.

The Cast

Now it’s time for me to talk about my fellow actors.  We had a great group of returners, who brought it like the veterans they are.   I love you guys and I hope we have a lot of returners next year!  I am really proud of our first years!  Awesome job!  i will let the pics do the talking!

 

The Crew

Now a little bit about the people who get you there and help try to keep us safe.

Mary, Josh, Matt, Nate and Robert were the drivers this year.  Things ran pretty smoothly from what I can se and I appreciate you guys for keeping things safe!

Annie, Chalane, Katie, Ricky and Teresa were the monitors.  Those fine ladies that help set the scene and keep telling you to put away your cell phones.  Each monitor has a different personality.  Miss Anne is the cackling witch that brings us joy!  Chalane was new this year, but brought a little punk rock to the hayride.  Katie was tough, but interacted with us, which is something I love.  Ricky is always smiling and seems to be having more fun than the guests.  Teresa is a pro, great interaction and the best lemon cookies ever!

Our ownership an front office staff work their butts off to make it easier for us in the back!  JD and Randi, thank you for giving us this space and time to let loose and get paid for it!

Travis and Holly kept the makeup flowing.  Thank you guys for throwing paint around and making people scary!

Jason
Jack

I cannot finish this without the most important people on our staff, Jack, Jason and Sandy.  You three are the backbone of the operation.  Sandy runs the office, she is the mom, nurse, confidante, and the sweetest hardass you will ever meet.  Jason can build anything you need him to.  It is amazing to see the progression from week to week, and I cannot wait to see what you come up with next year!  You are the quiet manager, but you have my respect and admiration for what you do and what you put in to making us this cool playground.  Jack, you are a makeup master!  Design, acting, dialogue, just and overall haunt wizard.  I look forward to working and learning with you in the offseason!  I always learn so much from you in the haunt, as a father and a man.

 

Thank you to the guests for coming out, and remember…

BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howl-O-Scream 2017 Review

Howl-O-Scream 2017 review

2017 brought in a new Terror-Tory, a new haunted walkthrough, and a re-vamping of a classic show.

Night Beats: ReVamped brought more casket and less “Casket Club”.  The overall theme of your Brad and Janet style characters, a la Rocky Horror, being musically stalked, and subsequently turned, by vampires was a different approach than years past.  The music was fun, and the dancing was decent.  It wasn’t my favorite version of the show, but Ulrich will forever be the measuring stick.

3 ½/5

 

Axe Alley is Howl-O-Screams newest Terror-Tory, replacing the often lackluster Wendigo Woods in New France.   The theme of Viking Zombies was rather unique.  I found the scares to be better, staffing was better, and the overall look and atmosphere were a big step from Wendigo.

4 ½/5

 

FrostBite has replaced Bitten as a haunted walkthrough.  What made Frostbite unique is the location.  You are walking through DarKastle, down along the tracks and through twisting areas.   The theme felt as a take on the Night King from Game of Thrones, even including dragon skeletons.  That aside, the scares were very good.  Use of shadow, animatronics, stunt sliders and zip-liners worked in the cold and rather well lit environment.

4/5

 

Now on to the returning attractions

Haunts

Unearthed

As usual, one of the best looking haunts I have seen at BGW.  It seemed a bit understaffed, but it still has potential to be wat it was it’s opening season

3 ½ / 5

Catacombs

The longest tenured haunt, now that Bitten has moved on.  It is a tight winding walkthrough, with some really good pop scares.  In my opinion, I would like to see something replace it, mostly because it is hard to keep returning guests scared/impressed when they see the same thing for so many years.

3/5

Cornered

Some changes were made, including the removal of the mirror area.  It is cleverly themed, and the addition of the audio whispers was very nice.  Most improved in my opinion.

4/5

Lumberhack

They reversed the path this season, but that is about all that has changed.  It is still a clever and fun walkthrough, but I would love to see some changes in pop scares and actor dialogue.

3/5

Circo Sinistro

A beautiful haunt, with one of the best rooms I have ever seen in a haunt, the ringmaster room.  The lack of traditional clowns, the turn of the century (20th, that is) feel of the circus, are well executed.  Still my favorite of the haunts.

4/5

Deadline

I need to be honest with this one, Deadline is dying.  The addition last year of the obvious projectors was a disappointment, as projectors should not replace actors.  At most they should be a distraction.  It was a bit lackluster from 2 years ago, when I think the haunt was at it’s best.

2 ½ /5

 

Terror-Tories

Rippers Row

I didn’t see much of it in action this year, as it seems the actors weren’t there as guests were exiting.  In the past, my favorite part was ending my HOS with a sit in 1866 White Chapel to watch the cast make people run.  I cannot give it a proper rating due to lack of experiencing the area.

Demon Street

The demons are great, we could do without the EDM party.  ‘Nuff said.

3/5

Vampire Point

The area lacked in actors, but those that were there new how to work around the crowd to get the target scare.  As an actor, we look for the most effective ways to hit the good ones.  These actors read their audience and attacked with stealth and the in and out technique, where you almost don’t see who just made you wet yourself before they disappear back in to the fold.  Well done!

4/5

Sideshow Square

So clever and understated.  Not overly decorated, but that is made up by the actors involved.  I missed the marionettes this year, but Wendy was back, and that is good enough for me.  BGW, do not let that young lady go, because I know a few haunts that would love to have her!  The fortune teller scare is always fun to watch.  Best Terror-Tory, hands down.

5/5

 

Shows

Fiends

Still my favorite show of HOS.  The jokes were ramped up this season, just really good.  The cast was on point, especially the return of Chandler as Igor (Eye-gor).  Always a must see!!

5/5

Starfright Orchestra

Unfortunately, my schedule did not allow another trip to the park to catch this show.  What did you guys think?

Monster Stomp on Ripper’s Row

Not much changed in this show, and that is a good thing!  Amazing vocals, dancing and especially percussion!  You have to see this show every year, or the haunt season is not complete!

5/5

 

Overall, Howl-O-Scream is always a blast, and though I had a few negative reviews, I know where the potential lays, and as someone who is around the business of haunts, I get the struggles, especially on the scale that Busch has to go to.  I give the whole event 4/5.  Thanks again to the BGW staff for giving us awesome access as per usual.  See you guys at ChristmasTown!

 

Please join the conversation here, on Facebook and YouTube.

 

Be Excellent To Each Other!

Opening Day of InvadR

On April 7th we were honored to be included in the media event for InvadR, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s first wooden coaster.  Before you say, “Yeah, but it’s not all wood”, we understand that.  As coasters do, wooden coasters have evolved. This ride gives you the wooden feel and the smoothness of an Arrow coaster.

David Cromwell, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA President, invited the waiting crowd to InvadR before being interrupted by Magnus the Red and his horde of Viking InvadRs.

Perhaps a nod to Nessie? Photo credit Andrew Stilwell, Coaster101.com

Upon leaving the queue you take a quick dip into a turn that takes you to the lift hill, up and over Le Scoot log flume. Another dip at the top helps you pick up speed that brings you to the small bump and into the tunnel that covers the top of the 74′ drop. Exiting the tunnel, you are face to face with a “head-chopper” (thanks for the term from our friend Andrew Stilwell at Coaster101.com) and under the service road that leads to Le Scoot.  You then proceed to the nine airtime hills and bank turns up to 55 degrees ending with a helix that drops down and back up to the finish.

This ride maintains it’s speed and feels faster than the 48 mph the park boasts.  The airtime hills will lift you off the seat, which caught me off guard.  InvadR is far more intense than I expected, and after four rides, I have to say, THE BACK IS THE BEST!  Riding in the back row feels like a smaller version of Apollo’s Chariot.

The theming to this coaster lacks nothing, in my opinion.  It is very well done, and fits very nicely into Trapper’s Village.

Do not pass this ride up when you visit the park!

BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER!

What the I 64 Expansion Means for BGW Visitors

Hi Chasers!  I wanted to take a moment to talk about the expansion of I 64 from Newport News through York County.   I do not want to make this an anti-VDOT post, I just want to give people a heads up on what is happening, as I think this will be a good thing in the long run.  As many of you may have noticed over the last year, work is being done to expand the interstate from 2 to 4 lanes starting afterf Jefferson Ave., where it currently goes from 4 to 2 lanes.  Those who take that drive to Busch Gardens Williamsburg know that bottle neck all to well, and dread the moments before arriving there.  I was up there today (Feb. 7th) and saw a ton of completed work.  From what I saw, all that needs concrete are the bridges and overpasses.  This is great news considering the VDOT website, that segment is not supposed to be finished until December of this year.  So what does it mean for BGW visitors when this segment is finished?

The bottle neck gets closer to BGW

i-64-segment-i
http://www.i64widening.org/learn_more/maps.asp

BGW is at exit 243.  As you can see here, the first segment ends just before exit 247.  That is roughly 3-4 miles before the BGW exit.  Those new 4 lanes will become 2 again before the Yorktown Rd. exit.  Expect heavy BGW traffic to get heavier around this area until the second segment is completed.  Where this will help is, we will have only a few miles of 2 lane interstate before it expands to 4, thus smoother rides home.  Those traveling 64 East will not be affected until the second and third segments are completed.

 

 

i-64-segment-iiSegment 2

The second segment has already been getting marked off and I saw work vehicles beginning to clear the path.  The website has a completion date of Spring 2019.  Yes, I know, that is 2 years away, but, once completed the 64 west route will be much smoother.  I still expect BGW traffic, but there will be less “interference” from vehicles passing through.

 

 

Segment 3easset_upload_file988_86491_e

The third segment will be a much bigger undertaking, as it has more bridges and overpasses, some of which are going to be replaced.  There is currently no start time on the website, so we will keep you informed when we can, as this will affect travelers from 64 east.

 

 

 

In conclusion, this construction can be a pain in the but for motorists for he time being, but in the long run, I believe we will have a better commute to our favorite park.

 

BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER!

 

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Offers FREE Pre-School Pass for Children Age 3-5

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In the last several years, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has offered what is known as the Preschool Pass for children ages 3-5. This year they are again extending that offer again. Preschoolers will get unlimited FREE admission to both Busch Gardens AND Water Country for the entire normal operating season, which for 2017 ends on September 10th. This pass does NOT include Howl-O-Scream or ChristmasTown. You can only get your pass by “purchasing” online, as it is not available at the ticket windows. Offer ends on May 31st, so get your pass now before this deal expires. Click the below image to sign up for your pass:

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Proof of age is required, so you’ll need to bring your child’s birth certificate or passport to redeem your voucher. School ID’s and Social Security ID’s will not be accepted. On your first visit to the park, you’ll take your voucher to the cashier to print your real pass. This is done on the first visit, after that, you’ll be able to go through normal park entry.

For the 2017 season, Busch Gardens Williamsburg opens March 25th, Water Country opens May 20th.

If your a parent, they also have a deal for you. You can get 2 Park Fun Card, which allows you to get unlimited visits for the same timeframe. Cost is $80 for this pass. This deal ends March 31st, so don’t wait.

Third Tour as a Scare Actor – Haunted Hayride 2016

This year on the hayride was one of change and excitement.  We had new management in Jack Chapman, our long time head of make up, and Jason Lingle, former assistant manager of The Village of the Dead.  Jack’s wife Sandy is on board as our HR manager.  With the help of some veteran actors, Billy Joyner, Paul McHendry, DJ Liles, Travis Chapman, Amanda Winteringham, Eric Sobotta and a few others, construction of Dr. Lazurus’s Woodland Asylum began back in June.  A new energy and excitement was running through the hayride, sparking fresh ideas and a desire to create something great.

I spent all of the time I could muster in the woods, helping where I could with my limited carpenter skills and my expert ability to pick up trash and branches.  I was dumbfounded every time I arrived in the hayride with the amount of work that was being done.  Jack, Jason, Billy and Sandy spent more hours out there than anyone, by far, creating an awesome playground for our actors.

With change comes new obstacles, and we experienced some resistance from mother nature.  We had a pretty bad rainstorm that dropped a tree in our graveyard area, but miraculously, it caused no damage.  The flooding was our biggest issue, but with help from some pumps we got it mostly dry.  That was soon followed by Hurricane Matthew, which was way worse than we ever expected.  We had several trees down, one that split but didn’t fall, that we were able to have cut down before it could cause serious damage.  The flooding washed away most of the graveyard, and left standing water everywhere.  We remained determined, and were still able to put on a hell of a show.

Our cast this season had a lot of new faces, my family included.  My oldest son, Talyn,  started his second season with more a full time volunteer status, missing only one night this season.  My wife, Amanda, and my younger sons, Jake and Hunter, joined us a few nights this season, catching the scare bug.

Asylum layout

I know I cannot remember every name of every actor/volunteer we had this season, but I will try!

First Stage: Guard shack

Guests hear how the asylum is in chaos as the patients are uprising after finding out Dr. Lazurus has been using the inmates for his own twisted experiments.  Actors: Gaylord Brown, Billy Joyner, Nate McGuiness, Patrick Wiley, Tom Dvorak, myself, Eric Baker

Graveyard

The asylums patients who have been buried here are rising from the grave.  Actors: Liz Rodenfels, Avery , Takoda Carter, Jakob Donaldson, Hunter Donaldson, Taylor Vogel, Nick Vogel, Paul McHendry, Amanda Donaldson, Bryce Hawkins, Mariah Cunningham, Robert Phillips, Jason Lingle

Stage 2: Mortician and Lucky

The guests are being warned of the presence of the smallest and most vicious of our inmates, LUCKY! Actors: Brandon Pierce, Tom Dvorak, Patrick Wiley, Nick Balovich, Justin Lee, Trey Pardue , myself

Stage 3: Pharmacy

The pharmacists offers relief to the passing guests.  Actors: Eric Sobotta, Tiffani

Stage 4: TV Room and Psychiatrist

The old man watches static on his TV as the patient and psychiatrist argue.  Actors: Stacy Turlington, Francine Miller, Drake Holland,  myself, Amin, Tyler Owens, Eric Sobotta, Robert Phillips

Stage 5: Solitary Confinement

Dr. Stanley explains the purpose of the confinement, and how some our disturbed patients may have escaped.

Stage 6: Cafeteria

Hungry?  Try some feetloaf!  Actors: Amanda Winteringham, Alan Swack

Maximum Security

The inmates are rioting, causing chaos and dismay for the doctors and guards.  Actors: Noah, Talyn Donaldson, Rachel Matthews, Tiffani, Takoda Carter, Trey Pardue, DJ Liles, Gaylord Brown, Skylar

Tunnel: The Lab

The story of how Dr. Lazurus is using the patients to find a cure for his own dark demons.  Actors:  Richard Bergstresser, John Dikun, Gaylord Brown, Takoda Carter, Nate McGuinness, John Aldridge, Talyn Donaldson

Finale: The Failures

Earlier in the season, the doctor told you that this was your end.  Later, the doctor is dead and the inmates are in charge now.  Beware the experiment!  Actors: John Aldridge, Nate Reep, myself, Tom Dvorak, Rachel Matthews, Francine Miller, Drake Holland, Justin Lee, Takoda Carter, Ashley Dennis, Avery, Brandon Lee, Eric Baker, Ken Gerlach, Kevin Lupton, Mariah Cunningham, Robert Phillips, Sandy Chapman, Jack Chapman

gniK

My Character this season was named gniK (pronounced “Nick”).  gnik is a maximum 15007877_10210726987067892_820723837_osecurity patient that could be seen throughout the asylum, and on different stages throughout the season.  I chronicled our season through his eyes on Facebook.  We were given a lot of freedom with our characters and the use of cutthroughs  that allowed us to attack the wagon in multiple places.  I think this freedom made it easier to put ourselves in to the characters.  I was able to adapt gniK to the psychiatrist stage, the guard shack, the mortician stage and the finale.  Our story line made it very easy to change around characters and it gave returning guests a different show weekly.  I found  a companion in “Clementine”, a pick ax handle that gave me something to “threaten” guests with.   On the first stage, gniK explained how there was an uprising, and he and Clementine took out the guard.  On the mortician stage, I got to introduce “Lucky”, our resident leprechaun played by Brandon Pierce.  This little dude is impressive, and he is one hell of a guy!  In the psychiatrists office, I played opposite a skeleton I named Dr. Spaceman (30 Rock reference), and I actually went crazy one night when I was “forced” to listen to “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” over and over for four hours.  In the finale, I explained how I had killed Dr. Lazurus and we have taken over the asylum.

 

I have to tell a story here.  One of our new volunteers, Bryce, was placed in the graveyard.  I was on first stage that night, and as I came around the corner I saw him laying on the ground.  I was curious as to why an actor would just be laying on his back, I stood and watched this…

I was so impressed I called him on it after the night was over.

Nate Reep, our veteran chainsaw runner and my forever brother, found a new apprentice in John Aldridge.  Mad respect to John who made his first year a huge success.  X gonna give it to ’em!

Alan, the kitchen cannibal, joined our lunch lady, Amanda, to create a disturbing scene in the cafeteria.  I loved seeing what they did next.

Ashley came in last year as a make up apprentice who got thrown in to acting.  She was very teachable and I have a lot of respect for her courage when the show started.

Billy has been an actor for a long time in Virginia Beach’s Nightmare Mansion as well as HCF.  His character, Patient 14, was super creepy and the addition of his puppet, Truman, caused guests to fear flu shots.  A true method actor.

Our “Jumpers”, Caveman Paul, DJ (Patient 09) and Travis (The Muffin Man), defied gravity nightly.  They constantly put their bodies on the line, and I cannot respect that more.

The “little ones”, Avery, Tiffani and Liz, caused a lot of surprise in their ability to climb wagons.  It was a joy to watch nightly.

Eric and Mariah brought the creep and energy every night!

Eric Sobotta, AKA Pinocchio, and Tyler Owens really stepped it up this year!  I am so proud, brothers!

Rachel, your cheery disposition kept a smile on my face ALL season long!

Francine, Richard and Drake are another family that brings the scare.  Richard being gassed every night was a highlight in the tunnel, while Drake playing the psychiatrist to Francine’s patient was a stroke of genius.

Gaylord…What can I say?  A good friend and constant form of comedy.  I love working with you!

John Dikun, the young doctor, had a good first season.  The tunnel is a hard place to work, and your first year was a success.

Justin is a walking ball of sarcasm, which I can relate to.  It was great working the finale with you.

Ken, for the time you were with us, you showed bravery in the face of adversity.

Kevin, dude, I am proud of you.  ‘Nuff said!

Nate McGuinness never quit.  When the mask came on, he was in character…wagon or not!

Doc, one of my best friends in the world!  I am so glad you were able to come out and play.  I am super proud of your first scare experience!

Patrick and Tom, you are always ready wherever they put you.  You are crazy in and out of character and I always have a blast working with you two.  I put you together because, as a trio, we have a chemistry in comedy.

Robert, you brought it dude.  Great athleticism and shear will to scare!

Stacy, you are one of the sweetest girls and a disturbing psychiatry patient…sooo good!

Shut up, Trey

Takoda, you were everywhere and always energetic.  It was fun watching you work!

TT, well done this year, little dude!

And lastly, my family.  Thank you for being out there and understanding when I wasn’t home when you weren’t.  Amanda, I am so proud and I loved watching your character come to life!  Jake, You just wanted to be scary and you achieved it!  Hunter, I haven’t seen a kid have more fun out there!  Talyn, you seriously earned your place this year, you really made a lot of people proud!

 

Alright, let’s get star…SQUIRREL!

We found a new mascot!  Henry is a young squirrel that seemed to have no fear of people

The Crew

Our awesome makeup team helped so much, especially with the fact that we had so many first year actors.  Jack Chapman, Ashley Dennis and Travis Chapman, thank you!

There would be no hayride without the “speed demons” driving the tractors.  Mary Mary,Tyler “Deere Slayer”, Robert “Deere Whisperer”, Nate “Bearded Rusty Wallace”, Evan “Tractor Pull”, Josh “Mario Andretti”.  You guys did an amazing job this year!

Our monitors have the task of making sure the guests know the rules, follow the rules and “put away your *%*&^$ cell phones”.  Witchy Poo Anne, Kate (The inmate that was allowed to come and go), Teresa (Queen of lemony goodness), Ricky “Sparkles”, Trish (Created an atmosphere of comfort and ease, *snort*), Elisa (the evil gas lady).  I love having people to interact with while on stage, and you guys really helped drive the show.

Of course, Jason, Jack and Sandy.  Thank you again for providing a place that allowed creative flow in a playground that we couldn’t have imagined!  Jack, you are a mentor to me.  I appreciate everything you have taught me and trusted me with.  Jason, this was our first year working together, and though we sometimes disagreed, we found common ground and I have a ton of respect for your skills in building, design and creativity.  Sandy, our momma, you set us straight when we needed it, got our backs when we had conflicts, and you were a shoulder when we needed one, I cannot thank you enough.

Every night, before the show, we would meet in the tunnel and get hyped, here was the final nights session:

I honestly believe this was our best season ever!  I love my hayride family!  BooRa!

Pics by Gary Horton:

Pics by Attraction Chasers

 

Be sure to watch this year’s video and BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER!

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes of InvadR! BGW’s Newest Roller Coaster

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There is a Viking invasion coming to Busch Gardens in 2017. InvadR, the new roller coaster, currently being built, is slated for a Spring 2017 opening. Last Monday, we were invited by Busch Gardens to check out InvadR’s lead cars before they head to the 2016 IAAPA Attractions Expo for the full reveal next week.

About the Trains

IMG_20161031_142832817If any of you have visited Busch Gardens Tampa, these trains may look a little familiar….they are the trains from the now torn down Gwazi wooden coaster. Gwazi opened in 1999, and was the first “Dueling Coaster” in Florida. It had 2 separate tracks and the 2 sides would “race” each other. As the years went on the ride got a little too rough, so in 2011, BGT revamped the ride and replaced the original trains with these brand new Great Coaster International “Millennium Flyer” trains. Apparently that still didn’t fix the rough issue and due to maintenance costs and guest lowered interest, the ride was closed for good in early 2015. Instead of scrapping these new trains, they sent them up to BGW in April of 2015 for storage.

Worried about them using recycled trains? Well don’t be, everything on them has been upgraded, refurbished or replaced. Here’s a list of everything that has been done:

1. Refurbished Chassis – The chassis were stripped down, sandblasted and re-painted. They also went through non-destructive testing to ensure the integrity of each car.
2. New Seats – The old upholstered fabric seats were removed by BGT before they were sent up to BGW. The new seats are form molded seats and are very comfortable.
3. New Wheels and Carriers – The wheels and the wheel carriers are brand new on these trains. The also added a maintenance “Lift Off” wheel, which will allow maintenance to lift the whole car off the track for wheel maintenance.
4. Harness Monitoring System – This is an upgrade that the original trains did not have.
5. New lapbars – The lap bars also will lock into place when in the upright position which will allow for the guest to use it to pull themselves up out of the seat.
6. Original Teak Wood Refurbished – The original teak wood around the front of the car has been beautifully reconditioned by BGW’s paint shop.

There will be two, 8 car trains that will hold 16 passengers per ride. There is also a front “Zero Car”, which will hold some of the ride’s themeing.

Most of the refurbishment is being done in house by the BGW crew. They are also getting assistance from GCI, the manufacturer of these trains. GCI sent a rep to assist in assembling the first two cars seen in the pictures. This shows that BGW takes their coaster builds serious and brings in technical experts to ensure there are no mistakes are made when building this new coaster.

In these pictures, you can see a lot of the new and refurbished parts for the InvadR cars. The first image shows the chassis on the right, and what looks like the seat uprights in the center. The other pictures show various parts, like the wheels, axles and more chassis parts.

 

Here are various images of the GCI “Millennium Flyer” train cars. It’s the two front car along with the “Zero Car”. The two colors I believe are to denote the “Vikings” car(Teal) and the “Villagers” car(Tan).

About the Coaster

Coaster lovers have long complained that the only type of coaster missing from Busch Gardens collection is a wooden coaster. Now that complaint is being answered. With Kings Mill being so close to the park, loudness was a critical part as to why a wooden coaster has never been built. Wooden coasters are known for being loud due to the lift hills and the way the wheels ride on the steel track. When I asked about the noise levels, Wayne Shelton, Supervisor of Rides responded with: “We have a system on ours, that’s going to limit the noise when the train goes up the lift. It’ll be somewhat traditional, but it’ll not be as loud.”.

This will not be a full wood coaster, it’s a hybrid. It’ll have the same wood tracks as a normal woodie, but it will have steel support beams. This hybrid gives you the feel of a real wood coaster, but saves a ton on maintenance costs.

InvadR is a family coaster, with a height requirement of just 46″. So this really will start to fill the gap between Grover’s Alpine Express(42″ HR) and the LMN(48″ HR). It has a 74′ drop through an underground tunnel and 9 “bunny hills” which will give you that weightlessness feeling most people enjoy on roller coasters. I have a feeling this will become many kids first coaster.

Some constructions photos of the track. The first is the station building with the track heading down toward the lift hill. The forth is a shot of drop that heads down into the tunnel that goes under the service road. The 5th, is hard to see, but it’s the exit track coming out of the tunnel. That’s back behind Le Scoot’s sawmill.

Themeing

Invadr_Concept_ArtThis coaster and it’s theme will fit perfectly into the Trapper’s log cabins and wilderness feel. It’s story concept is that the people of “Trapper’s Village” and huddled into their fort trying to ward off an invasion by Viking “InvadR’s”. They must defend themselves against the Vikings or they will perish. It seems as though the colors of the trains will denote the Vikings(teal) and the villagers(tan).

 

The first photo shows the exit area. The long structure will house the lockers, the tall building will be the ride photo building. You can also see some of the pointed logs of the villager’s “fort”.

 

Something Unearthed During Construction

Scarlett’s Unearthed House is not the only thing found at the back of the park. (2015 HOS Reference)

While we were talking near the construction site, Suzy Cheely shared an interesting story with me. During the digging of some of the foundations, the contractors found a “wooden structure” that no one knew was in that area. They called on one of the long time maintenance guys who was able to identified the structure as the “Ball Crawl” from the old Eagles Nest Village kids play area. The Eagle’s Nest area was a child’s play area that consisted of a ball pit(Ball Crawl), Cloud Bounce(bounce house) and the Punching Bag Forest. In the late 70’s, early 80’s this area was housed underneath the log flume. I’m not sure when it was removed. I guess parts of it weren’t really removed, but just plowed over and covered. Before the renovation of Le Scoot, some of the area paintings could still be seen at the base of the flume’s posts.

Here’s a pic of the 40th Anniversary sign for Eagle’s Nest(courtesy of Nora @ bgwmemories.com). There are some more pics of the Eagle’s Nest on BGW Memories FB page here. Also a few pictures of the Eagle’s Nest paintings from a few years ago, courtesy of Gary Terrell.

We want to give a big thank you to Nathan Warter and Ron Vample for setting up this visit. We truly appreciate all that you do for us. We also want to give a thanks to Suzy Cheely and Wayne Shelton for taking the time to speak with us about the ride.