Thunderbird launches in just one month

Eric, 14News Scott, andLeah

Ever since I was a little kid, I loved the 25th of each month.

Because the 25th ties in with Christmas.

“Christmas is three months away!” Always a thrill.

This countdown habit of mine continues to this day. And so …

Happy Christmas in March!

We are, as of today, one month away from Opening Day. Yes, Thunderbird opens on Christmas in April.

Two days before Opening Day is a big day, too: our Media Preview Day.

News directors are already scoping out how to provide great coverage:

Would you like to spend the day as one of our riders on Media Preview Day? There’s one way to make that happen – and that’s by placing one of the 20 winning bids in our Thunderbird’s First Flight Auction. Winners get to be the first riders on Thunderbird that morning, plus stay (and ride!) all day and receive free tickets for another visit this season. This auction is to benefit Give Kids the World. Learn more here on our Thunderbird’s First Flight Auction page. Good luck!

Who rides Thunderbird first?

Thunderbird First Flight Auction

Oh, boy. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked that question these last eight months!

The simple answer is: the Test Dummies. They ride first.

And they’re having a blast.

But for those of you who are truly interested in securing a seat for when the nation’s first launched wing coaster takes off on its very first public ride, we finally have an answer.

And the answer is: Thunderbird’s First Flight Auction.

That’s right, we’re launching (see what I did there) a charity auction to benefit the incredible organization Give Kids The World.

Give Kids The WorldGive Kids The World Village is a 70-acre, nonprofit “storybook” Village located near Central Florida’s most beloved attractions. There, children and their families are treated to week-long, cost-free fantasy vacations, complete with accommodations in the Village’s whimsical villas, transportation, donated attraction tickets, meals, and much more. At the Village, these precious children learn that dreams really do come true, as they and their families are immersed in joy, hope, and non-stop fun for a few unforgettably happy days. Since 1986, the Village has welcomed more than 135,000 families from all 50 states and more than 75 countries.

And after each family’s special week at the Give Kids The World Village, they receive a World Passport for Kids, which continues the special memories by providing free admission to theme parks and other attractions around the world. Here at Holiday World, we’re charter members of the World Passport for Kids program and have hosted hundreds of wonderful families over the years.

Tarry not: our Thunderbird’s First Flight Auction runs now through 11:59pm CDT on Wednesday, April 8.

Thunderbird First Flight AuctionWhat could you win?

  • Seats for you and a friend on Thunderbird’s First Flight (you choose the seats when you place your bid).
  • Your ride will kick off our Thunderbird Media Preview on Thursday, April 23. Who knows, you may get to ride (and scream) on live TV.
  • We’ll provide you with your on-ride photos of that first ride.
  • Oh, we’ll probably take a group photo for our Facebook page, too. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?
  • You get to ride all day and into the evening. And not just Thunderbird, The Voyage and Crow’s Nest, too. And even some time on The Raven and The Legend.
  • We’ll also give you and your friend a free one-day ticket to return for another visit during the season.
  • You’ll have the satisfaction of helping Give Kids the World.

Please visit our Thunderbird’s First Flight Auction page, pick out which seats you’d like to ride, and bid!

Good luck to all!

A look around for Louisville

Courtney from WDRB-TV

On Wednesday, we hosted a news crew from WDRB-TV in Louisville.

Courtney from WDRB-TV

You may notice I cropped the photo so that you can’t see how muddy Courtney’s shoes were. Between the rain and the melting snow and ice this week, it was a challenge to meander our way from Thunderbird’s maintenance building to our new roller coaster’s loading station.

Just as the interview with Matt and James wrapped, we shook our heads at the irony as a dump truck full of gravel arrived to provide the Sir Walter Raleigh treatment to the plaza area.

Click here to view Courtney’s report.

Did you know Season Passholders get to ride Thunderbird (and lots more) the evening before Opening Day? We’ll have five hours of fun on April 24. Head over here to order your Season Passes online. Although it’s T-minus-41-days for most, it’s T-minus-40 for Season Passholders!

Sweepstakes: Almost Launch Time!

First Test Launch for Thunderbird | Holiday World & Splashin' Safari

Thanks to everyone who entered our sweepstakes – our winner is Faith C. from Franklin, Ohio.

Faith wins four one-day tickets to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari plus two nights in a Christmas Cabin at Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort. Thanks again to all who entered!


You’ve been hungry for a steel coaster for years – and we’ve heard your bellies rumbling.

Since Thunderbird – our new steel roller coaster – opens next month, it’s time for a new sweepstakes.

And since Thunderbird is the nation’s first launched wing coaster, we’ll call this the “Almost Launch Time!” sweepstakes.

Thunderbird testing started a week ago. Here’s just a taste. An amusement bouche, if you will (and if you’re a Top Chef watcher.)

How to enter our “Almost Launch Time” Sweepstakes? Let’s start with a few necessaries:

  • You must be at least 18 years old to enter.
  • Employees of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort, Sun Communities, and Sun RV Resort (and the immediate family members of employees) are not eligible to enter.
  • Use the widget, below, to enter daily. There are lots of options, so you can earn extra entries by posting here on our HoliBlog, tweeting about this sweepstakes, and visiting us on our Facebook pages. The winner – chosen at random – will be emailed the afternoon of March 20. If you win this sweepstakes, which includes overnights in a Christmas Cabin at Lake Rudolph, please note you must be at least 21 to phone in your lodging reservation; cabin availability includes these dates: May 1 – 21 and May 25 – June 11, 2015.
  •  For the “post a comment on the blog” entry option, simply tell us who in your family is excited to ride Thunderbird. (Our comments are moderated, so as long as the content is HoliFriendly, it will appear soon.) Did you know you can subscribe to our HoliBlog so that you receive all of our posts (including contests) by email? If you’re using a desktop computer or tablet, look for the “Subscribe to Blog” sidebar at the top-right corner of this page. On a smartphone? Just scroll down a tiny bit more to find it.

Ready to enter? Of course you are: Simply enter our sweepstakes here from a mobile device; or if you’re using an immobile device, enter by using the widget, below. And not just today – enter daily through Friday, March 20, 2015 at 2pm CDT.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thunderbird opens April 25 – don’t be late for launch!


Matt photobombed by Thunderbird

Matt, our president, recently took part in an interview with Funworld magazine.

This was soon followed by a request for his photo. Since they didn’t require a head shot – and we finally had a sunny day – we headed out to Thunderbird territory for some pops of orange in the background.

Up until this year, we’ve been a wood-coaster park. There’s no surprise about test runs this time of year – when that Voyage lift chain springs to life, you know it. And as Legend’s train slowly ascends the lift hill, it’s just about impossible to miss.

So imagine our surprise when this bunch of dummies suddenly flew by …

Matt photobombed by Thunderbird

That’s right. No lift chain for Thunderbird. Instead, our new roller coaster (the first launched wing coaster in America) soars out of the station, reaching 60 miles per hour in just 3.5 seconds.

We stood – mesmerized at first – watching Thunderbird fly by us. (I could swear I heard one of the test dummies mock us, “Hoosier dummy now?” as we stood, transfixed, on one of Hyena Falls’ landings.)

Then suddenly I came to my senses: Let’s get the train in the background! Matt quickly turned around and Stephen took a few hundred more shots.

Photobombed. By a bunch of dummies.

“Film at 4!”

Courtney from WDRB

We keep a supply of hard hats for visiting news media.

We learned today we should keep some mud boots on hand, too. (VP James assured us we’re pouring lots of concrete for walkways this week.)

Courtney and Dave from WDRB-TV were very good sports as they put together a news story about our new roller coaster. Mud is better than snow and ice, right?

Courtney’s story will air on WDRB-TV in Louisville at 4pm EDT today.

And there are 45 days until Opening Day, when Thunderbird opens to the public.

Flick? Who’s Flick?

Isn’t it funny how the mind works?

(Advance apologies to anyone who isn’t an A Christmas Story aficionado.)

This morning, Matt and I had a pre-dawn appointment to head to Owensboro, Kentucky, to join Chad and Brett for a half hour on their WBKR morning show.

So at 4:45am, I was getting a cup of coffee and trying to resist looking at the weather app on my phone.

Because the number wasn’t positive.

If you know what I mean.

And rather than forcing my mind to think of something other than the brain freeze I was about to experience, suddenly the thought of just how cold Thunderbird‘s steel structure must be sent a chill down my spine. Surely no one would pull a Flick*!

*Another reference from A Christmas Story

You know, after some smart-mouthed kid “triple dog dared” him

A photo posted by Holiday World (@holidayworld) on

We had fun chatting on the air with Chad and Brett. Chad even modeled his new “Orange is the New Track” shirt and asked how soon he could personally replace one of our test dummies:

We’re 65 days away from Opening Day. Which are you more excited about: A ride on Thunderbird or a big piece of fu-u-u-u-dge?

Roller coaster countdown

Everybody loves a good countdown, right?

And when you’re building a launched roller coaster, it’s even more appropriate.

Confession time: Back in the summer, toward the end of our 66 Days at Sea teaser campaign leading up to our big Thunderbird announcement, I slapped this title on one of Leah’s blog posts without running it through the usual eight thousand or so filters noisily housed in my feeble brain: “T-minus 12 days” Seemed like a fun reminder that in less than two weeks all would be revealed. Only moments later, though, someone chirped up online with: “It’s a launched coaster! That’s the countdown to a launch!”


Following a moment of great discontent, though, I realized there had been so many clues mixed with so many red herrings over the two previous months that one person’s definitive clue would be another one’s proof that “they’re just messing with us again.”

And so, when I glanced at my wall calendar (which doubles as a countdown calendar) today, the number “66” jumped off the wall at me.

What’s your take on 66 days? For the Pilgrims on board the Mayflower it must have seemed interminable. For our 90 full-timers here at Holiday World, it feels like a just a few blinks away. And for all of us in the deep-chill of winter, each day closer to spring is the promise of hope for the return of budding trees, blossoming flowers and short-sleeved shirts!