Silver Dollar City, an internationally-awarded theme park near Branson, Missouri, is built on history. The “City,” as many fondly call the 1880s-styled theme park, bases every ride, attraction, and festival on Ozarks history and culture. Hours of thought, research, and planning by Silver Dollar City staff go into a story line that envelops each state-of-the-art ride, show, or attraction introduced to the park. The Grand Exposition, a family and children’s area with an old fashioned carousel and a child-sized roller coaster, is themed around the great world fairs and expositions of the 1800s. Red-Gold Heritage Hall, a large theater and exhibition floor, copies the tomato canning factories that once boosted Ozarks economy. Homestead Ridge steps back into history with McHaffie’s Homestead, the Oak Trail School, and Wilderness Church.
The Giant Barn Swing is set inside—well, a red barn. Powder Keg roller coaster blasts off like a stick of dynamite, reminiscent of the mining days in Marvel Cave, the natural cave beneath the sidewalks, theaters, rides, and restaurants of Silver Dollar City. In fact, the Town Square is built on the site of the old mining town, Marmaros—a once bustling community filled with men mining bat guano from the cavern’s depths.
Naturally, the same planning and consideration went into Silver Dollar City’s 2015 launch of “Fireman’s Landing, an $8 million all-new area with six new family rides and four interactive play zones. Themed as an 1880s volunteer recruitment fair with volunteer firefighter training activities, the ten new adventures recognize the contributions of community heroes who serve as firefighters. The theme has historical background in the fiery blaze that gobbled up the town of Marmaros over 100 years ago. In creating a story line for the new area, Brad Thomas, General Manager of Silver Dollar City, says: “We fast forward to the fictional story of Fireman’s Landing—a place where the citizens share a desire to band together to prevent such an event (as the fire that destroyed an entire community)—to be ready with volunteer recruits who have trained to test their preparedness. (The training happens in fun on the rides!) The message carries that everyone can give back through volunteerism and community spirit.”
Kids love to meet Fireman’s Landing official chief rescue dog Lucky, a costumed character that encourages new recruits to have fun and be ready in the firefighter’s tradition of neighbors helping neighbors. He starts each day leading the Fireman’s Pledge.
Fireman’s Landing expands into a previously undeveloped region of the park. The new addition brings the number of park rides and attractions to more than 40 and increases capacity to the possibility of 21,000 total rides per hour—21,000 people riding one time—or fewer people riding multiple times. With this new area of play and entertainment, Silver Dollar City launches its biggest family year ever.
Centered around the headquarters of Fire Station #3, rides feature Firefall, an eight-story fire tower free-fall drop ride for the more daring “recruits.” Other rides include, Fire Spotter with soaring balloons for spotting fire dangers; Fire Wagon Frenzy, a bouncing ride for bucket brigade volunteers; Lucky’s Dizzy Dogs, a bouncy ride on Dalmatians racing around a fire hydrant; Up The Ladder, a smaller tower drop ride for junior recruits; and Fireman’s Flyer, a low-flying swing ride for little firefighters.
Attractions include Firehouse Splash Yard with squirting water jets and pump hoses for outdoor play. Inside Fire Station #3, which is enclosed and temperature controlled for season-long comfortable play, youngsters are outfitted with buckets, pumpers, foam ball cannons and targets for showering mock fires. (The foam ball cannons have been personally kid-tested by our great-grandson, Timothy!) Firefighter’s Fire Escape is an obstacle course of tubes, mazes, climbing structures and slides. And Firefighter’s Junior Fire Escape is a soft play area for toddlers. Fireman’s Landing has something for every age in every family.
“As we open a new area that salutes the spirit of community firefighters, we want to celebrate the real heroes who serve and invite them to make memories with their families,” continues General Manager Brad Thomas. “From the March 14 opening through May 3, the park is offering free admission to firefighters, and discounted admission available for their families.”
Fireman’s Landing Five-Alarm Grand Opening, with firefighters from around the country participating in the event, happens on April 11. The Showboat Branson Belle, a property of Herschend Family Entertainment, parent company of Silver Dollar City, is also honoring firefighters, offering a free lunch or dinner cruise, plus discounted family admission. Showboat Branson Belle launched its 20th Anniversary season on March 7. Details on how to obtain these tickets and offers are at www.silverdollarcity.com, under the special offers section, or by calling 800-831-4FUN(386).
Silver Dollar City hosts seven world-class festivals and events throughout its season, opening in 2015 on March 14 for select dates and for its regular season on April 9 and running through December 30. Throughout the year, 100 resident craftsmen demonstrate America’s heritage crafts—many still practiced in the Ozarks. Rides range from high speed roller coasters with names such as Wildfire, Thunderation, Outlaw Run, and previously mentioned, Powder Keg, to an authentic steam train ride. Music and entertainment with state-of-the-art sound and special effects happen in both indoor and outdoor venues. In a wooded, park-like setting, Silver Dollar City is a place for families and individuals to create memories worth repeating.
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Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com