Dolly Parton started the show under a dreary day with clouds threatening to pour rain on the crowd assembled for the opening of Wild Eagle, Dollywood’s new $20 million ride.
Dolly stated “I’m not riding because you don’t want to see what a bald eagle really looks like when I lose my hair.” For those not familiar with Dolly, she doesn’t ride much of anything.
An auction for the honor of riding the first official train raised $36,000 for the American Eagle Foundation. The Foundation hatches eaglets for release into the wild and operates largest sanctuary for releaseable eagles in the world.
Here is the inaugural riders leaving the station, their cheers traveled across the midway to Adventure Mountain.
Eric Berra, Head of Mechanical Construction for Bolliger & Mabillard, said he really likes how Wild Eagle soars above the park and uses the natural terrain on top of the hill. Most of the roller coaster is hidden behind the trees.
Eric was also proud of the “restraint assist” they developed for physically challenged riders. It helps to keep their legs in a more comfortable position as they encounter the four inversions and other features of Wild Eagle.
Here's a fish-eye view of the roller coaster from the base of Adventure Mountain.
Joel Manby, of Undercover Boss fame, was in attendance. He hopes “This ride should help raise Dollywood to the level of a national resort destination.” He also said “A good coaster always leaves you wanting more and we think Wild Eagle is a really good coaster.”
As a “wienie” that makes the trek up the mountain worthwhile, this sculpture is a tribute to the American Spirit and Joel says “Our company is founded upon traditional American values."
The station contains beautiful artwork and a series of 3 flat screens that show the animation of the ride as well as ride trivia. Best of all, it is shaded and contains a parent swap area.
Craig Ross, Dollywood Vice President & General Manager, said he likes how the coaster is “dramatically different in every seat.” He continues, “the station is designed to be state of the art, guests in wheel chairs can pull up right next to their seat for an easy transfer, and the new seats are easier for them to enter and egress. This speaks to priority to make our park as inclusive as possible for all members of our guests’ families."
With the opening ceremonies done it was time to ride and unfortunately time to rain. While the rain didn't stop guests from riding Wild Eagle, it did hamper our efforts to take the quality photos our readers deserve. As such we will return to Dollywood tomorrow, with camera in hand and the hopes of better weather.