Going, going … almost gone!

Thunderbird First Flight Auction

Thunderbird First Flight AuctionYou’ve been meaning to check out our Thunderbird’s First Flight Auction for Give Kids The World, haven’t you?

But you’ve been busy. We understand. Boy, do we understand!

The deadline to place your bids for the First Flight on Thunderbird is just a few days away. We’ve got an incredible day planned for April 23 – plus the auction benefits the incredible Give Kids The World Village.

So here’s your video reminder (with some awesome Thunderbird footage) – and here’s the auction link – as time is running out.

A family tradition

Lori and Leah Koch on Thunderbird

Paula’s note: It was pure delight watching the Kochs ride Thunderbird for the very first time. Our owners – Lori, Lauren, Leah and William – were beside themselves as they scrambled to switch seats and ride again. Later that evening, I texted them to ask for a volunteer to continue Will’s tradition of blogging after riding a new coaster for the very first time. His middle child, Leah, grabbed her journal and captured her memories before they faded even by a few hours:

When Paula first asked us to write down our thoughts about riding Thunderbird our first time, at first I thought it wouldn’t be very interesting. I figured it would read something like, “WHOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAA!!”

Then I actually thought about it and started actually remembering the first ride.

First of all, before we ever got on, I looked like I had ants in my pants. Seriously. I was so excited I was dancing around.

I called dibs on Front Outside Left months before, so I claimed my rightful seat there, and Mom sat next to me.

Lori and Leah Koch on Thunderbird

Once in the seat with restraints ready to go, my mind started racing.

Suddenly, I remembered all of the concerns I read from fans on ThemeParkReview.com, and started worrying:

“What if the launch is boring? Or it doesn’t deliver as promised? What if the launch is good but the rest is lame? What if we’ve spent all this money, and I don’t like it? What if we’ve spent all this money, and our Guests don’t like it?”

As we rolled from the station and into the launch room, I cleared my mind for a moment, and allowed myself to enjoy what was about to happen. I was about to ride a steel coaster that my family and I chose to build. All of the agonizing over the name, our announcement video, and every little thing led to this moment.

First Thunderbird rides

Mom and I exchanged an excited, but nervous glance, grabbed hands, then placed them back on the restraint, knowing the launch was coming soon.

In the split-second before the launch, one thought came to the front of my mind: “Please let this be good.”

Then the LSMs catapulted us forward, and I knew I had nothing to worry about.

It is such a good launch.

I kept waiting for the intensity to stop, but it didn’t. Before I knew it, I was staring at the Indiana skyline upside-down for the first time ever (of course, I didn’t actually realize this until the second time around).

That’s when more thoughts started creeping in.

“Whoa that loop went quickly!”

“The supports themselves feel like a near-miss!”

“That tree in the horseshoe is awesome!”

“What a perfect day!”

“This is so smooth!”

I finally realized I would have all the rides I could possibly want to analyze this coaster, but only one chance to enjoy my first ride. So I shut the analytical part of my brain down for a second, took a breath of the spring air, and enjoyed it.

I enjoyed that the ride was beautiful.

That this is going to be a hit.

That all of our hard work is about to pay off when our first Guests get to ride.

That my family and I have worked so hard and endured so much, and finally our greatest tribute to my father is reality.

I snapped out of these deep thoughts in time to analyze the fly-through barn (it did not disappoint), and roll into the brakes.

My final thoughts as we rolled into the station? “Holy cow! That was awesome! Let’s do that again! Is Stephen taking pictures of us? What does my hair look like?! Meh. Whatever. Dad would be so proud.”

Thunderbird: All it takes is Will Power

Leah, Lauren and the Will Power sign

When we announced Thunderbird nearly nine months ago (I’ll refrain from any “giving birth” jokes, for now anyway), it was the start of an incredible journey.

At the same time, it was the last high-banked turn in a much longer journey – the realization of a decade-long dream to add a remarkable steel roller coaster to Holiday World’s line-up.

Will’s dream.

At our announcement in July, the crowd of a thousand or more made their approval known quite enthusiastically when Will’s daughters, Lauren and Leah, announced we would name Thunderbird’s “flywheel building” the Will Power building in honor of their dad, who passed away unexpectedly in 2010.

The time has come to put up the sign

Leah, Lauren and the Will Power sign

That’s Leah on the left and Lauren on the right in the photo above. They want to share a bit more of their dad’s legacy, including a look at the designs he’d worked on for a steel roller coaster back in 2008. We’ll also travel back a decade for Will’s unscripted response when asked during a CoasterBuzz podcast what he would want his legacy to be.

Will always got a big kick out of replacing our test dummies for the first live test rides of any new roller coaster, water coaster – or, really, any ride at all.

It’s tradition!” he’d proclaim.

And so, when son and namesake William was available to dash home from his university studies on a recent day, the family took their first ride on Thunderbird.

Koch Family's First Thunderbird Ride

It was a glorious day, as the sun was setting and Thunderbird launched into the sky over and over. In the picture above, we see William, Lauren, mom Lori, and Leah as they complete their first flight together.

Will’s true legacy.