Lightning Rod Roundup 2

April 2, 2017

Lightning Rod Roundup 2

Over the weekend, Coaster Crew had its first event of the year at Dollywood in Pigeon
Forge, Tennessee. This event, Lightning Rod Roundup 2, occurred on Saturday (Dollywood’s
opening day). Last year, we had a very similar event, but unfortunately Lightning Rod was not
operating that day. We were really hoping that it would be open this time though.

The day began with breakfast in Red’s Diner over by Lightning Rod. The Dollywood staff had
different types of danishes sitting out for us to eat. We were expecting cinnamon bread, but read on to find out what happened with that. The breakfast also included coffee, hot chocolate, and drinks from the Coke Freestyle machine.

After breakfast, we walked over to Lightning Rod for a behind the scenes tour. Lightning
Rod was actually testing for a while, so we got to see it go through some cycles. We walked up
to the station where we were split up into two groups. One group walked under the track and to the back of the ride where most of the ride takes place. They got to take pictures of the second drop and other elements back there. This was a very cool experience because this area cannot be seen from inside the park. The only way to see it is while riding the coaster. Meanwhile, the other group got to go into the control room to see the launch mechanism, and they went into the maintenance area underneath the station where the transfer track sat. Everyone was allowed to take a piece of the old seat padding from the ride.

When each group was done with their part of the tour, they switched and did the other part.
At this point, the park was now open to the public. Dollywood gratuitously gave us all
free Time Saver wristbands to use during the day. This was different than most fast passes
because it had ten tabs (two X’s and eight butterflies) on the wristband that would be pulled off by a ride host when we used them. The X’s could be used for Lightning Rod and the new drop tower that had not opened yet, so we used both on Lightning Rod. The butterflies could be used on all of the operating roller coasters with the exception of Blazing Fury, and they could be used for flat rides such as Barnstormer. We were very grateful for these wristbands and would like to thank Dollywood again for offering them to us.

The next part of the event was lunch at Blue Ribbon Pavillion. They were serving hot
dogs, mac n cheese, baked beans, potato salad, chili, pulled pork, cookies, and Coke products.
While we were eating, a few announcements were made including some surprise birthday cakes being given out to Tim (our president) and others celebrating March Birthdays. There was also a raffle for some coaster related merchandise. Everyone was given a raffle ticket before lunch to make it fair. Overall, the food was amazing like usual. We expect nothing less from Dollywood. They always come through when it comes to food.

We were invited to go to the Mother Africa show at 3pm with VIP seating for Coaster
Crew members. Shows are a great way to relax and take a rest from walking around all day.
Dollywood always has phenomenal shows, so of course this one was excellent too. It was about
how people in an African township are celebrating how thankful they are to be alive. Thecelebration includes music, dancing, and acrobatics.

The rest of the day was spent riding roller coasters and other rides. The next meetup was
at 7pm at the tent by Red’s Diner. This was our evening social with snacks. We were not sure
what to expect as far as food. However, Dollywood went above and beyond and gave each person a whole container of cinnamon bread! We were shocked, but so thankful. If anyone reading this has never tried the cinnamon bread at Dollywood, we highly recommend that you try it the next time you go to the park. After we finished eating, we took a group photo in front of Lightning Rod’s entrance.

Finally, the best part of the day had arrived! We got an hour of ERT on Lightning Rod!
Everyone was so excited for this, since we were supposed to have ERT on it at last year’s event. We definitely enjoyed this hour riding the world’s fastest and world’s first launched wood roller coaster. We experimented by riding in the front, middle, and back of the train. We found that the front was the best place to sit.

Dollywood was nice enough to leave the ride photo booth open for about a half hour during ERT in case we wanted to purchase a picture. Some of our members took advantage of this and bought a photo to always remember this event. ERT felt like it went by so fast. This was probably because we were having such a great time. Finally, it ended at about 9:15pm, and it was time to leave.

The hardest part was saying goodbye to everyone. Coaster Crew is a great way to make
new friends who can eventually feel like family. We are so grateful for everyone who showed up
to this event and would like to thank Dollywood again for everything they did for us. We hope to
see you at our next event!

Written by: Jenny Fiedler

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