When Clint was first approached to be a part of a new amusement park show centered around enthusiasts; I was super excited for him. It seemed like the perfect fit for him. Not only is Clint knowledgeable about rides and parks, he also is outgoing and charismatic. This was going to be great! My feelings on this matter quickly changed once I was asked to join him on this show.
I have always had a love for roller coasters, even before I was brave enough to actually ride them. I also consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable about them; being able to identify manufacturers and styles at a moments notice. I’m sure that that doesn’t sound remarkable in the enthusiast community, but in the outside world, that was always impressive.
When Clint received the call to come to Dollywood to film the show, they immediately informed him that they would like me to come as well. Fear is the most appropriate emotion, and also the biggest understatement. Here I was, being asked to visit a park that I had never been to before, and being asked to talk about the park and rides ON CAMERA. Did I mention that when we got the call we had to leave within two hours?
Despite the nerves, I agreed, and we packed up the car and made the seven hour trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
We arrived in Pigeon Forge around 10:30 PM. Knowing that we were going to have to wake up early I thought we were heading straight to the hotel, but Clint had other plans. Clint wanted to go to the Island to watch a Fountain Show. You read that correctly, we were staying up late to watch water. It was actually way cooler than it sounds. As we were sitting there waiting for the show to start I was surprised by the crowds gathering, next thing I know I hear the strum strum of Some Nights by Fun, and the amazingness of spraying water and lights began. If you have extra time while in Pigeon Forge, I definitely recommend grabbing a seat and sitting in for a show at the dancing fountains. After the water show, Clint kept talking about this special ice cream place. Meanwhile we had passed about three ice cream shops. I was getting annoyed and started hoping that he would just pick a place. He walked up to a closed french fry shop and told me this was the place. No ice cream (or french fries) for us. Clint looked in the window and immediately recognized the guy behind the counter. Then, shockingly, the guy behind the counter recognized Clint and invited us both in. Without another word he starts piling ice cream into a weird contraption, which turned out to be a pasta maker. The ice cream came out shaped liked spaghetti noodles. Next he asked us what flavor sauce; cherry, raspberry, strawberry… We chose raspberry. Finally he placed the “meatballs” on the pile. The meatballs were actually Rocher chocolates, which was all I needed to make my night. He passed us the ice cream, letting us know it was on the house. This man was now my best friend. The ice cream was as delicious as it was unique and I was incredibly happy with Clint’s connections.
By the time midnight rolled around, Clint finally decided it was time to go back to the hotel to get some rest. After all we needed to be up at 6 am for filming, which of course was earlier for me, because unlike Clint, I don’t wake up looking pretty.
We arrived to Dollywood just as the sun was coming up and were escorted to the back of the park. We were immediately signing waivers and having microphones attached to us. I was nervous and shaking so bad but no one seemed to care. Before I knew it, it was time for the first ride of the day.
We got in line for Firechaser Express while the film crew hooked up cameras. Clint immediately started talking about the ride, without going into too much detail. He just kept repeating “family ride”, “multi launch”and “surprises”. I’m happy that he didn’t say much more, because once the ride started, my mind immediately cleared and my nerves relaxed. Once again, I was just riding roller coasters for fun and for the first time that day, I was excited to be at this new park.
We, of course, had to ride twice in order to film different angles. I was not complaining about that! Firechaser Express may be a family ride, but it’s definitely not one you want to overlook.
Next up on the ride list was Wild Eagle. To be honest, I wasn’t very excited to ride this one. I had been on Gate Keeper the previous summer and it left me yawning. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Wild Eagle. Not only was the view dramatically better; the ride was smoother and more thrilling too. When we pulled back into the station, I remembered that we got to ride twice, awesome, and without waiting in line, double awesome.
Our third and final coaster that we were filmed on was Mystery Mine. I thought this ride looked really cool and unique, then Clint compared it to Sponge Bob Square Pants Rock Bottom Plunge at The Mall of America and my excitement went out the window. Once again, I am thankful for the lack of anticipation because I thoroughly enjoyed this ride. I’m embarrassed to say that I actually let out a legitimate scream during the 95 degree drop. Not to mention, being a native to Kings Dominion, the incredible amount of theming that went into this ride was absolutely astounding.
After we finished riding Mystery Mine, it was time for lunch at Aunt Granny’s buffet. Since Clint and I hadn’t really eaten since the night before’s Spaghetti Ice Cream, we were definitely ready to sit down and enjoy some of Dollywood’s classic southern food. The food was great and it was awesome hanging out with the crew and hearing everyone’s background and stories. I mean it when I say that this was a great group of guys and girls who all have a bright future.
After our real lunch, it was time to film a fake lunch. Yes, after we had just eaten at an all you can eat buffet, we were handed giant turkey legs and corn on the cob and told to stuff our faces. And as delicious as that food was, I could hardly manage the baby sized bites I was taking.
After lunch part two it was time to film the talking scenes. That includes the introductions, farewell and ride discussions. It was definitely different being introduced to a man you had spent the whole morning with. On that note, I would just like to say that JD Scott is a truly talented, fun and charming guy. He is the right person to host the show and I wish him plenty of success.
One of our final scenes that Clint and I filmed was near the entrance of Thunderhead. Which was killing me, because out of everything that I was looking forward to about Dollywood; this was far and above number one. With only a few hours left I started to get worried we wouldn’t have time to ride the last three roller coasters. Once we were done with our shot, the crew member we were with told us to meet up with the rest of the crew at the front of the park. We were so close and now we had to leave. Luckily for me, I had Clint on my side, who knew how much I was dying to ride this coaster. Clint told the crew member that he knew the way and we were “fine to head up there on our own.” We started walking away and Clint said to me “as soon as we ride Thunderhead.” We practically sprinted away just to make sure we would have enough time to meet everyone.
Confession time; I have always been a goody goody and I HATE to get into trouble. As we were standing in line, I started to get so worried. The ride operators were moving at glacier speed and suddenly I was reminded that I was wearing a microphone. I was just hoping that they wouldn’t be too mad at us. Finally, I got to ride Thunderhead, which was incredible and quite possibly worth the risk of getting in trouble.
No punishments for us though, we arrived to the front of the park with time to spare. The last scene with us for the day was short and sweet and Clint and I were free to spend the last 90 minutes of the day doing whatever we wanted.
We managed to get on the final two roller coasters; Blazing Fury and Tennessee Tornado. Both of which are fun rides that I enjoyed. We also had enough time for a final ride on Wild Eagle, wrapping up the day very appropriately.
In conclusion, my day at Dollywood was certainly not a typical park visit. And between the giant cameras, blinding lights and back to back roller coasters I didn’t have a chance to take in the entire Dollywood experience. However, I definitely had a memorable visit that I wouldn’t trade for anything!