Article by Brandon Perkins, GOCC Member
Photos courtesy of Universal Orlando

Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure 1

Universal Studios has a history of record-setting attendance and revenue with their Harry Potter themed lands and attractions. The design of these magical lands is quintessential, making visitors feel as if they are right in the movies themselves. The disparity and distinctiveness of these lands appeal to a vast range of people. From roller coaster enthusiasts to the general public to diehard Harry Potter fans; the large majority of visitors are impressed by the detail and attractions found in the recreations of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. 

Nonetheless, when Universal Studios Orlando announced that a new roller coaster would be coming to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in July of 2017, suspicion and a lot of preliminary excitement were aroused. The resort waited nearly a YEAR AND A HALF before announcing any details, letting people try to predict and anticipate what the next great Harry Potter-themed attraction might be.

Construction could be seen in the park, where the former Dragon Challenge closed in September 2017. In late 2018, the park finally released details about the ride, which was met with huge enthusiasm and excitement. It was revealed that the ride, produced by Intamin of Switzerland, would have a 2-minute 55-second duration, a 70-degree vertical angle, a 17-feet drop, 5,053-feet of track and a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour. The ride cost $300 million to manufacture and install. Leading up to its opening, Universal described the ride as, “a highly-themed roller coaster that will take us into a different corner of the wizarding world, where guests will encounter some of their favorite characters and creatures.”

Early this year, the opening day was finally announced for June 13, 2019. The new roller coaster opened with a ceremony, featuring popular characters of the Harry Potter series in attendance to celebrate the attraction. Despite a lot of kinks that needed to be worked out, fans and other patrons waited upwards of 10-12 hours to ride over the first few days the ride operated.  For a while, Universal was opening the coaster later in the day to give the techs time to work out the glitches early in the morning. WIth a ride system so complex, it was clearly going to take a bit to get it up and going with minimal downtime, but they seem to have it running quite well roughly three months into its lifespan in the park.

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The ride experience starts with a pre-show in which Rubeus Hagrid (the groundskeeper and Keeper of the Keys at Hogwarts) takes Muggles (people without magical ability) through a Care of Magical Creatures class. He procures the help of Arthur Weasley to duplicate Hagrid’s magical flying motorbike to take it into the Forbidden Forest (an untamed forest on the grounds of Hogwarts school that is home to magical creatures). The motorbike is successfully copied. Then, Fang (Hagrid’s giant-yet-cowardly pet boarhound) releases cornish pixies and takes Arthur’s wand, burning the motorbike, causing it to explode. 

Harry Potter Talent Guests Ride Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

The ride then takes Muggles on a magical journey through the Forbidden Forest on Rubeus Hagrid’s motorcycle. 

Each motorbike plays music composed by John Williams for the Harry Potter films. The vehicle is modeled to closely resemble Hagrid’s motorcycle, with 7 rows and 2 passengers in each row. There is a total of 14 passengers per motorbike.  Interestingly, each row has one seat that resembles a motorcycle, handles and all and a second, slightly lower seat that resembles the sidecar. From reviews, it would appear the two seats offer a fairly different experience in terms of the feeling of the ride elements themselves.

Harry Potter Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

During the ride, you come face-to-face with several creatures of the Harry Potter world. You will travel as fast as 50 miles per hour encountering Fluffy the three-headed dog, cornish pixies, Devil’s Snare, a centaur, and the Blast-Ended Skrewt, which was never featured in the Harry Potter films but did appear in the books.

The ride includes not one, not four, but SEVEN launches! This statistic is very impressive and markets the ride as the roller coaster with the most launches in the entire world, as of September 2019. It features a 17-foot free-fall vertical drop, making it the second coaster in the world to do so after Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. In addition, it is the longest roller coaster in Florida at 5,053-feet. The ride features a catapult 65-feet in the air up a spike at a 70-degree angle followed by a reverse section of track.

When the ride was built, Universal knew they would probably not be able to get the main trio together to film again, as many of them have “moved on from Potter” in their own words.  Choosing to use the Hagrid motorbikes and the Forbidden Forest setting was a perfect match for what they were working with. 

In closing, Universal Studios did a wonderful job on this attraction! Even if you aren't a Harry Potter fan, the ride is thrilling for all ages.

Other than some general information, I didn’t want to give any spoilers for those who have yet to experience the attraction themselves.

Until the queue line is less than 4 hours,  here’s a POV video if you want to see the ride for yourself.

Video courtesy of The Potter Collector on YouTube.

Article by Michael Burkes, Photos by Michael Burkes and Bob Kilner

Traveling east on Interstate 64 or south on State Route 52, you come to Huntington, West Virginia.  The city of nearly 50,000 people has a hilly terrain, curvaceous roads and beautiful scenery. In other words, paradise for a photographer like me.

Within the realms of this region lies the state’s only amusement park.  Like Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, Connecticut, this park is/was a trolley park.  However, instead of being at the end of the line, this park was unusual in that it was built where riders traveling between Huntington and nearby cities would stop to change lines.  It has been around for over 115 years and you will know when you have arrived when you see a huge clown entrance sign point the way to the parking lot. With rides, picnics and fun for all, you have arrived at Camden Park.


Camden Park was established as a picnic spot by the Camden Interstate Railway Company and is named after former West Virginia Senator Johnson N. Camden.  The park’s first mechanical ride was a carousel that was built around 1903. In 1912, the first roller coaster was added. After a couple of owners came and went, Camden came into the hands of J. P. Boylin, whose family continues to operate the park and its attractions to this day.  The facility boasts more than 30 rides and attractions and features a variety of events throughout its season, including “Hot Summer Nights” concert series, “Children’s Fest” and Coca Cola days, just to name a few.

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The main reason that many visit Camden Park are for the coasters.  There are only three and while not that large, two of them are of significant importance.  These three coasters are the Big Dipper, the Lil’ Dipper and Slingshot. Two wood and one steel.  

The Big Dipper, Camden’s prize possession came on the scene in 1958. It replaced the first coaster at the park after it was torn down a year prior.  It is one of only three National Amusement Devices coasters still in existence. Like Thunderbolt at Kennywood, it features Century Flyer cars with working headlights and the coaster follows a classic figure-eight design.  The single train is three coaches long which can hold a maximum of six riders each, for a maximum of eighteen riders per dispatch. The ride’s name refers to the large initial dip after the first turnaround that measures the full height of the coaster.  There is a second shallower dip that leads to a long, enclosed tunnel from which the train emerges shortly before returning to the loading station.


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The Lil’ Dipper was also manufactured by National Amusement Devices.  It has one train with five coaches that can each hold two riders, for a maximum of ten riders per dispatch.  The structure itself is made of steel but the track is wood. If any of the old heads in this club remember, the defunct Geauga Lake had a similar model in their Kiddieland many years ago.  


The last coaster is Slingshot.  Manufactured by the SBF Visa Group, this model is a figure-eight spinning coaster.  Similar models can be found at parks like Beech Bend and Silverwood.


A fun fact about Camden Park that might be of interests to many Ohio coaster enthusiasts – Kings Island’s famous shuttle loop coaster known as “Screamin’ Demon” and later just “Demon” was relocated to Camden Park after being taken out of Kings Island in 1987. It was one of the first shuttle loop coasters that went forward and backward through a 360-degree loop.  It opened for the 1988 season next to the Skyliner Sky Ride and lasted for 11 seasons before it had to close permanently due to a circuit board malfunction.

In addition to coasters, Camden Park offers a decent selection of flat rides and children’s rides, many of which are of a vintage nature. Those rides include a Whip, Tilt-a-Whirl, Paratrooper, Dodgems, Scrambler and Flying Scooters.  The ride lineup also includes a miniature train, log flume, carousel, and haunted house, which is one of two gravity-fed pretzel rides remaining in the United States.

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So, if you happen to be traveling to or passing through West Virginia on an amusement park excursion, stop on in to Camden Park.  Don’t worry, it won’t bite you. It will be nice to venture out of your comfort zone and realize not every amusement park has to be so huge and overwhelming in order to have a good time.  Remember big things do come in small packages.

Written by Michael Burkes, GOCC Member and Contributor to The Streak

Hersheypark, the grande dame of eastern Pennsylvania and what has become the “Sweetest Place on Earth”.  A bastion of good times and great memories for everyone who steps upon its grounds, the park will be forever enchanted with its charm and grace.  From 1906 to 1970, this facility was like many other amusement parks throughout the country. A traditional green space that evolved into a major entertainment center, with rides and picnic grounds for patrons from near and far to visit, relax, and have the time of their lives.

In the early 1970’s, Hersheypark decided to begin their transition into a full-fledged theme park and from that point until 2019, the five distinct areas that originally made up the park became two and then two became one.  Starting in 2020, something brand new will take over exactly what brought this park a unique quality that in my mind, will be missed dearly. This post will concentrate on the areas that will be greatly affected by this change, including the picturesque scenery that will be severely altered in the years to come to keep up with the so-called times.

The theme areas that are being affected by this change were once known as Tudor Square, Rhineland, Carrousel Circle, Der Deitsch Platz (The Pennsylvania Dutch Place)/Animal Garden and finally, Music Box Way.  As the years progressed, these themed areas were changed to Founders Way and Founder’s Circle, then finally changed again to just Founder’s Way, celebrating Milton S. Hershey.

Tudor Square was the first land guests would enter as they came to Hersheypark. It was technically located outside the main gate.  Marked by a drawbridge and a tall guard tower, this land showcased classic English Architecture with steep pitch roofs and half-timbered framing.  These buildings were not facades with decorative fronts and non-descript backs. The buildings themselves were decorated with little motifs to give that extra European English flavor. The narrow walkways that sloped downward were lined with full-sized trees.  There was also a full-size restaurant where kids could eat with the park mascots, as well as a candy store, a retail souvenir store, guest relations building and restrooms. All of these structures lead to the grand castle, or in layman’s terms, the front gate.  

After entering the park, you were in Rhineland, a recreation of an 18th century German Village.  Like outside of the front gate, these buildings were also full-sized with half-timbered designs and steep roofs.  However, each of these buildings housed only souvenir shops or refreshment stands. The most striking building in this area of the park was a steeple-style tower that had a painted façade of a knight about to slay a dragon with the year 1432 written on it.  This area was laid on an upslope with narrow winding walkways, strategically-placed trees and stairs and at times can be very steep to maneuver.

At the top of the hill was an area called Carrousel Circle.  When you entered this land, it was the first place in the park where you would encounter amusement rides.  It was also home to the park’s Grand Carrousel, which was surrounded by several other kiddie and family rides. It was also in this section that patrons would see two, three and possibly four major roller coasters: Comet and Skyrush would definitely be in view along with the small bits of the tops of Great Bear and SooperDooperLooper.

What was notable about Rhineland and Carrousel Circle were three rides and attractions that were located here but were removed long before the new renovation was even thought of.  In the Rhineland section at the top of the hill and a little off to the left was one end of a Von Roll SkyRide station (similar to Cedar Point’s model) that took passengers over to a theme land called Kissing Tower Hill.  In front of the Grand Carrousel stood an attraction called Star Light Plaza. A lighted decorative circular structure placed on a concrete slab where famous persons had their names, footprints and handprints encased within the concrete.  Within Carrousel Circle to the left of the carousel stood the Intamin Giant Wheel, a double-arm wheel where twelve gondolas holding four to eight passengers were carried skyward for views of the park and surrounding areas. The placement of both the Giant Wheel and Skyride made it seem as if the cars were going to crash into other nearby rides and trees but there was ample clearance.

The last two lands were Der Deitsch Platz/Animal Garden and Music Box Way.  Der Deitsch Platz was a barn where the Craftbarn restaurant, Get the Picture Souvenir Photo Stand, a Subway franchise and a small petting zoo were located.  As the years came and went, this barn was more aligned with Carrousel Circle than a lone entity. Music Box Way is/was home to a musical venue as well as a loading station for the monorail and a couple of flat rides.

All these lands were separate destinations at Hersheypark until 2014, when they all merged into Founder’s Way.  The quaintness was still there, but the individual names were gone. So, when 2020 arrives, a brand-new look will come across this wonderful land of chocolate.  The new section of the park will be called appropriately enough, Chocolatetown. This section of the park will feature the largest themed restaurant, bar and patio in Hershey, a 10,000-square-foot flagship boutique store, an ice cream parlor, a 2,200 square foot Starbucks store, a kettle corn location that will be the largest at Hersheypark and the grand finale, a Bollinger and Mabillard hypercoaster.

For coaster and amusement park fans, we will all have to wait for 2020.  How will all these changes take hold and how will the park look? Only time will tell.  We all look forward to the new Bollinger and Mabillard coaster coming and fortunately the sweet smell of chocolate will not be eliminated from our senses.  Let’s all hope with ever growing enticement that Hersheypark will keep its charm but also expand its grandiose nature! Good fortune to you Hersheypark.

Written by Bob K., GOCC Editor

Yukon Striker Media Day


Logo Yukon Striker

On 4/24, Mary Jo, Billy and I had the privilege of being invited by Grace Peacock, director of communications at Canada’s Wonderland to Media Day for their new record-breaking dive coaster, Yukon Striker.  I’ve met a lot of park executives over the past years and Grace was among the nicest and most-welcoming of the bunch. Park gates opened around 10:30am, and despite not traveling together, both my mom and I and Mary Jo and Billy arrived at about 10:40am, parked and received our media credentials.  Unlike many media events, we weren’t lead back to the ride by any park workers and basically just walked back there on our own.

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Yukon Striker is located in the new Frontier Canada section of the park.  The new section is extremely well-done and is basically themed to an old-time mining town. Some parts of the area were still under construction – notably the Yukon Striker shop/photo area was still being built and workers were seen planting lots of plants down by the water underneath Yukon Striker’s first drop. The station is also one of the coolest looking in the entire Cedar Fair chain.

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After mingling with other guests for a few minutes and after taking pictures with various characters, Grace and her team held a brief ceremony where we were introduced to 13-year old Jack Conway, who told an inspirational story of his survival from some life-threatening illnesses and also fired the crowd up prior to the first rides.  The team announced that over $34,000 had been raised in the charity first rider fundraiser.  After a few other brief speakers, the first riders were organized into their trains and dispatched.  The screams and smiles spoke for themselves. Canada’s Wonderland has a real winner with Yukon Striker.

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After the first rider trains were sent, those riders were allowed to re-ride along with their family members for a bit before those with media badges were allowed on.  Our media rides were supposed to last from 1-5pm, but they let us on earlier, which was very cool of them.  I took my first ride in row 2, as I was riding with the team from Amusement Insiders and the Koaster Kids Canadian reporter Tyler.  They were recording their reverse POV on the GoPro, which was mounted in row 2.  Now typically on dive coasters, row 2 is the row that seems to have the least forces, the worst views, etc.  Not on Yukon Striker.  Throughout the day, I switched rows several times and all three rows were forceful and extremely fun.

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We were also given a food and beverage tasting card with some of the new food options available. We were allowed to get our card checked off at each booth and sample each of the offerings.  Available items included: burger sliders, mini gourmet sausages, chicken tenders and fries, poutine with Niagara cheese curds, crispy lemon chicken, fried tofu bowl, Gold Rush peach cider and Yukon Striker pilsner. I didn’t try the beverages or the fried tofu bowl, but all of the other offerings were fantastic. I am not usually a poutine fan, but the combination of the gravy, cheese curds and fries was absolutely delicious.

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One of the interesting things that was seen, but not yet active was the new bin system. It was active as of Passholder Preview Night two days later. Basically, you put your loose articles, bags, etc. into a bin as soon as you enter the station and a mechanism lifts the entire bin up over the top of the track and near the stairs on the exit platform. It is timed up with the trains and is ready for you when you depart the ride. If the system is mechanically sound, this is a great idea. I can’t see it being retrofit to many current rides, as the stations aren’t set up for it, but I could see it being used for future coasters in the chain for sure.

After lunch, it was pretty much walk-on for rides the rest of the day, with the exception of the GoPro row, which was only on one train. I got a couple more rides before we left at about 3pm to avoid the Toronto-area traffic (we still hit it a little bit, but not as bad as it could have been).

Thank you to Grace and Canada’s Wonderland for having us out for the day.  It was amazing being among the first people to ride Yukon Striker and I recommend that both new and repeat visitors head back to Canada’s Wonderland this year.


Kentucky Flyer Media Day

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The next day on 4/25, several members of our board and a few guests traveled down to Kentucky Kingdom for media day for their new family Gravity Group coaster, Kentucky Flyer.  That group included Mary Jo and Billy Aichele, Richie Anderson, Rob Cox, Dave Andrijowych, John Haag, Sean Cress and I.

We were led into the park right around 4pm, checked in and taken back to the picnic pavilions near the Ferris Wheel where the park had a nice layout of food for us including a mac-and-cheese bar, various desserts, bottled drinks, fruits and vegetables and some other items.

While we were eating, Jessi O’Daniel welcomed all of us to the event, gave us some information about the ride and introduced park owner and CEO Ed Hart who told us “you aren’t allowed to say the ‘R’ word today” [rain].  Ed talked briefly about various things, including thanking everyone for their support during the trouble with getting the approval for Kentucky Flyer. Jessi then introduced Gary Slade, founder and editor-in-chief of Amusement Today magazine. Gary reminded us that “good solid thrills don’t have to be in huge rides” and that having already ridden the ride, we would all love it.

A few minutes later, Jessi and her crew led us over to the ride. Like all rides in the park, you can bring loose items into the station with you and put them across the platform in small bins or in an area dedicated to larger items near the stairs.  Jeff and Logan from Koaster Kids were asked to be in the front car on the first train for their support of the park.  I’ll probably cover Koaster Kids in a future blog post, but let me say that Kentucky Kingdom lays out the red carpet for Koaster Kids day there, more so than any other park they’ve held an event at.

After waiting a couple trains, my friend Thomas from CoasterJunkee and I put on our goggles and got into the back seat.  Now, we were kind of laughed at for wearing the goggles when nobody else was yet, but as soon as we rolled out of the station, it started downpouring, so it worked out perfectly.

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I haven’t yet had the opportunity to ride any of the other Gravity Group family coasters like Wooden Warrior or Oscar’s Wacky Taxi.  Having heard great things however, I was expecting a great ride. The ride exceeded my expectations. The quickness of the smaller Timberliner trains, the constant cuts back and forth and the small pops of airtime you get were all amazing.  The ride has a short track length, but doesn’t seem that short when you’re on the ride itself.

While not riding, I ventured up the steps on both sets of waterslides for better angles of the ride in action. It was really entertaining to see the various faces riders of all ages made on each part of the ride. A big thanks to Kentucky Kingdom for not restricting us to just the ride area, which is not at all conducive to taking pictures of moving trains or riders.

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Congratulations to my friend Brian Lamm of @brianlammmedia (IG), who rode Kentucky Flyer as his 100th coaster.

I took three rides myself. I could have had a lot more but I wanted to get some shots and since we started rides at about 4:30, there wasn’t much time between 4:30-6 to take pictures AND ride again and again.

Around 6pm, there was a “last call” for people to ride and shortly thereafter, it started downpouring again.  The last couple of rides took place in a steady rain. We finished off the event with a group picture of GOCC members before everyone departed. 

As an aside, I started my 5 hour drive home by driving through 45 minutes of the hardest rain I’ve ever driven in. I’m just glad it started at the end of the event and not before or during it.

Thanks to Jessi and Kentucky Kingdom for inviting all of us out for a great event.  Another great addition to a park that continues to grow and thrill guests of all ages.