August 23, 2001

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

If I could only convince the boss, I think I may have come up with a good idea for a series of articles for the Outdoor Column. This weekend we traveled to Silver Dollar City and spent Saturday afternoon at the amusement park. I knew I was scheduled to be on the road pretty much the entire weekend so I knew there would be little chance to make any fishing or golf outings to write about. I planned to make a stop at Bass Pro in Springfield which is always good for a column. But I sat dreaming about the Fall Hunting Classic that was being held at the treasure land while I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic in Branson. As we sat motionless in the car my mind began to drift to work (don't tell my wife as she insisted I was not to even think about work while on vacation - fortunately I was able to hide the laptop computer from her). As is typical for me as Monday looms ever closer, I started to get concerned about what I would have to put in the paper. The Outdoor Corner loomed as a major issue since I didn't figure anyone would want to hear about sitting with screaming kids or four irritated spouses.

That's when the idea light bulb first began to flicker. Why not write about the amusement park? I'm sure there are lots of people that are looking for good places to spend their vacation. And isn't the park located outdoors? So as I began to convince myself of the idea I noticed the fuel light on and realized I needed to make a stop for gasoline quickly. This is when the idea got really interesting and even earned my wife's full support. Since I was going to write about the trip, shouldn't the costs of the excursion be tax deductible? It was business, correct? So why not charge my gasoline and the entry fee at the park to my business?

Now that I've made you wait to hear about the park nearly as long as we had to wait in traffic to get there, I'll earn my expense money and give you a little critic's review.

Since this is the first in the proposed series (and possibly the last since summer is nearly over as is my two-days of vacation that the boss lets me have each decade) I can't rate Silver Dollar City with stars or anything like that. I will say that the amusement park has a unique theme that is a refreshing escape from the barkers and money-swallowing games that are typical at most parks. Silver Dollar City instead offers a number of historical artisans performing demonstrations of such skills as black smith work, the creation of glass, pottery and other crafts. It was interesting to watch the artist create a glass vase, taking the 2000-degree material on the end of the rod and blowing air into the molten material to make the container.

However this was only interesting to the two youngsters for about five minutes until they were ready to head for the noisemakers and the excitement of the rides. I must offer a bit of a disclaimer, this park is a difficult match for anyone less than 42" inches tall or who is six months pregnant. That limited my wife and our 18-month old niece from enjoying most of the rides.

But for the sake of this column (and my sanity to get away from the hot, tired mob of babies and caregivers) I forged on to ride as many of the rides as I could for the readers. I must admit there are relatively few rides built for the older clientele. By older, I don't mean graybeards as I won't lump myself into the old crowd yet. There were basically half a dozen rides designed for adults. There were three water rides that were quite enjoyable considering the heat as long as you didn't mind being soaked the rest of the day. If you weren't into water but still wanted a thrill, there were a number of roller coasters with the crown jewel of the park being the new Wildfire.

I have to admit I'm a bit jittery when it comes to these things. I'm not really afraid of heights, just scared to death of falling from them. Of course Wildfire gets that fear out of the way immediately as you plunge straight down for like what seems a couple hundred feet at a speed in excess of 60 mph. Once your stomach comes back, the rest of the three-mile ride seams easy as you do numerous loops and inversions and other scary facts that leave you walking away dizzy, excited, scared and the rest of the gamete of emotions that epitomize a roller coaster ride. It was enough to make me go back for a second try. As we coasted up the ridge toward that enormous plunge I had to ask myself why I was doing this again, but then again why was I willing to go back and get in line for a third try?

Okay for all you searching for a vacation spot, I would say Silver Dollar City is a worthwhile experience. Just remember, it's not the typical park with hundreds of rides and games, but there are plenty of other interesting shops, crafters and artisans to keep you busy from sun up until sun down.

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