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Dolly unveils new coaster for 29th season
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Clad in a bedazzling firefighter outfit, Dolly Parton greeted guests Friday to the opening of FireChaser Express, the nation’s first dual-launch family coaster that travels both forward and backward.
“We are excited about our 29th season,” said Parton. “I announced back in August we were expanding over $300 million over the next 10 years. Some people think I have that in my back pocket, but, of course, I don’t. I’m excited about my DreamMore Resort which will open later. But, today we are here for the opening of the FireChaser Express.”
Actual firefighters and their families were the first to experience the ride following an explosion of fireworks over the coaster.
Touted as a family ride due to its 39-inch minimum height requirement, FireChaser Express provides heart-stopping thrills.
Perched 12 stories above the park’s Wilderness Pass area, FireChaser Express launches twice, blasting riders forward and backward on a winding 2,427-foot track. The coaster is projected from the loading station traveling from zero to 16 mph in just 1.1 seconds. Near the end of the ride, a backward launch from zero to 20 mph in two seconds sends FireChaser Express hurtling back to the station in the opposite direction.
“My new FireChaser Express has folks goin’ in all different directions, and that’s going to be a lot of fun but it teaches an important lesson, too,” said Parton. “FireChaser Express celebrates our heroes – firefighters – and it reminds the rest of us that we can all be heroes if we’ll just step up and help others, whether it’s in a small way or a big way.”
After the initial launch, a 79-foot lift propels FireChaser Express through a “trick track” section where the passenger trains twist from side to side. Riders also encounter two helices and six zero-gravity moments on a journey that lasts 2 minutes and 19 seconds. FireChaser Express features three 14-passenger trains with an hourly capacity of 750 riders.
FireChaser Express celebrates the volunteer-based fire departments of the 1940s which protected the neighboring Great Smoky Mountains National Park. During this time, firefighting trains were a common sight throughout the park. FireChaser Express’ passenger trains are themed to celebrate all firefighters who bravely battle perilous blazes to ensure the safety of others.
Dollywood’s season No. 29 opened with a spectacular lineup of entertainment as part of Festival of Nations until April 21. Mother Africa and La Danza de Colombia highlight the festival, which includes impressive displays of cultural activities and authentic cuisine from around the globe.