"Please remain seated until the ride has come to a complete stop. Exit to your left and down the stairs, and enjoy the rest of your stay here at Opryland USA."
Much conversation over the past week has centered around Opryland, so the natural and expected result of that is for me to do a blog entry about it.
Opryland is part of my heritage. When I was growing up, there for awhile, it seemed like we went there every summer on vacation. (That's probably because we did.) We went so much that my sister and I would complain and beg to go somewhere else. I guess we tired of it. But like a girlfriend you date for a long time and get used to, then you think it's getting old so you dump her, it's not long before you start to miss her and realize how special she really was. By then, it's too late.
If you visited Opryland, I'm sure you have your own opinions. If you never visited, I will try my best to describe it. Opryland wasn't the best theme park. It definitely wasn't the biggest. But to me, it was the perfect size, small enough that you could pretty much do everything you wanted to do in one day, but big enough that there was plenty to keep you entertained. And it seemed to do a better job than most so-called "theme" parks do as far as actually sticking to a theme. There were several theatres in the park that offered live shows throughout the day. The talent level was off the charts. Many country singers started out at Opryland. Lorrie Morgan, Diamond Rio, Chely Wright, Lonestar, and Ty Herndon are among those that come to mind.
My favorite ride was probably one of the water rides. The Old Mill Scream and Grizzly River Rampage would usually cool you off. There was a bridge that went over the bottom of the Old Mill Scream, which is how you would exit the ride. The cool thing to do (at least when you were a kid) was to stand on the bridge and wait for the rafts to come down. You would absolutely get blasted with water. (Or maybe I was the only one who did that. No, I distinctly remember other kids around.)
The first time that I was old enough to remember going to Opryland, one of my uncles went with us. He tried to get me to ride the Wabash Cannonball, but I chickened out. Then as soon as we left, I regretted it, and that's all I talked about on the way home. Other favorites of mine were the Flume Zoom, Rockin' Roller Coaster, and Chaos. It seemed like Chaos was often down or not working exactly right when I was there though, but the scariest part about it to me was just standing in line, because the entire ride was enclosed in a building and the lines were down these narrow corridors, and they had steam coming out of the walls sometimes and alarms sounding and such. The ride that always scared me the most was the skyride. I'm not sure if it had another name, but it was those little skyboxes that took you clear across the park on those wires. I was always afraid the wires would break or we'd get stuck in the middle.
Another good thing about the size of Opryland was that you didn't have to spend quite as much time in line for the rides as you do at other parks. It was rare that I waited an hour. And that was usually only for the newest rides. The Wabash Cannonball, Grizzly River Rampage, and Screamin' Delta Demon always seemed to have the longest lines to me. There was always good food at Opryland, too. And games. That is where I honed my nearly famous skee-ball skills.
Opryland's final day of operation was December 31, 1997. It was completely torn down the following year and the Opry Mills shopping complex was built in its place.
Anyhow, here are some links I've found over the past couple of days:
ThrillHunter.com - This is the quintessential Opryland page. One person's tribute to Opryland. Lots of pictures and info. A great site!
Opryland Timeline - A timeline of when rides were added and such.
Roller Coaster Database - Some pictures and info on a few of Opryland's roller coasters.
Old Indiana Fun Park - This is where several of Opryland's coasters went to die. Includes pictures of the Wabash Cannonball, Chaos, and others rusting away in a field. Sad.
Where Are They Now? - July, 2000, article from The Tennessean. Includes info on some of the old Opryland rides that were moved and reopened at other amusement parks.
Terra Server Image of Opryland, March 1997 - This is fun to play around with and see if you can pick out various rides and such.
Opryland Map Brochure from 1989 - It's interesting and helpful to compare this to the terra server image.
"Sometimes I don't know why this old world can't leave well enough alone..."