March 27, 2024, 10:38 AM ·

Rocky Mountain Construction’s first indoor roller coaster reimagines Silver Dollar City’s iconic dark ride in the new Fire In The Hole, which the Branson, Missouri theme park today previewed for invited reporters.

The old Fire In The Hole entertained visitors to Silver Dollar City for 50 years and sister park Dollywood copied the attraction for its Blazing Fury ride. But with a new Fire District land across the park, the temptation was just too much to do another take on the ride, on a bigger stage with more modern technology.So on Saturday, Silver Dollar City officially will open its new Fire In The Hole to guests. But today, I got the chance to experience it.It’s refreshing to see a park that’s not part of an entertainment conglomerate lean into storytelling to drive an attraction. Sure, this is an RMC, but don’t come to Fire In The Hole expecting the wild coaster elements that has won RMC fans throughout the coaster community. The new Fire In The Hole remains, at its heart, a dark ride. A few relatively gentle coaster elements enliven the experience, but it’s the story that makes this ride special.Let’s take a deep dive into that backstory. As the sign that welcomes you into Silver Dollar City says, “You Have a Great Past Ahead of You.” The park is set in the 1880s and Fire In The Hole plays with one of the conflicts of that era. As a former slave state that did not join the Confederacy, Missouri’s history in the late 19th century can be summarized as “messy.” Many of the settlements on America’s former Western frontier operated as clan-based communities. But as homesteading and the nation’s westward expansion brought more residents, things couldn’t be kept “in the family” any longer.That created conflicts – legal and violent – out of which emerged various gangs devoted to set things right. Or, at least, “right” in their view. One of those, in the southwest Missouri communities around what is now Silver Dollar City, was the Bald Knobbers.(Another, far more infamous gang of the same period, that decades later spread from the old Confederacy across the nation, continues to be known by its initials, which might also be used to designate three strikeouts in baseball.)Silver Dollar City has embellished the story of the Bald Knobbers burning of the town of Marmaros that drives the story of Fire In The Hole, but the use of the real-life gang’s name helps reinforce that these ride villains are boogeymen to be feared.

Fans typically think of “IP” as movie and television franchises. And history can’t be copyrighted, so it is no one’s property. But the messy history of the Ozarks offers a rich, emotional backstory for Silver Dollar City and Fire In The Hole. Like a Wizarding World visitor who’s read every Harry Potter book and watched all the movies, people who grew up in or have been coming to the Ozarks will carry their emotions about this past onto Fire In The Hole. Even if you’ve never heard of the Bald Knobbers before today, the ride will fell a bit more authentic because it is based upon a legend developed and refined over decades. Whether this is technically IP or not, that is the power of building upon established and popular narratives to drive the story in an attraction.Physically, the new Fire In The Hole reuses quite a bit of show scenery from the old version, plussing it with modern tech. A few screens embedded within the stage sets provide touches of animation while other lighting effects help push the drama, especially with the many fire scenes. The RMC track provides a smooth experience throughout, save for a point in the back seats when you feel the motor kicking in. But it’s at a thematically appropriate moment in the ride, so I first thought that sensation was intentional.
Photos courtesy Silver Dollar CityIt’s all a master class in production design and stage trickery, with plenty of detail to entice your attention in each scene as the Bald Knobbers set the town afire, and then the authorities come to the its rescue.Make no mistake. This is not a story about the bad guys. It remains a tale about heroes – the heroes who stop the bad guys and save the day, whether imagined or real. Take a ride with me:And if you want the solo experience, enjoy my full on-ride POV from the front row (which is where you get wettest, by the way).Update: Here’s a view of the outside of the show building, demonstrating how Silver Dollar City has decorated it to fit within Fire District.In the queue, you can meet the three primary antagonists in the story: Ruben Powers, Orville Finster, and Wayne “Bugs” Dunn. Fans of the old ride might remember Red Flanders, the poor chap who’s hanging out a window without his pants. (Which the Bald Knobbers stole.) He’s got a storefront on the Fire In The Hole facade now.And down the road, you now can visit the actual store, Flanders Dry Goods.Where among other Fire In The Hole souvenirs, yes, you can buy Red’s pants.Fan service, and much appreciated.To keep up to date with more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider’s weekly newsletter. And to help support Theme Park Insider while saving money on discounted theme park tickets, please follow the ticket icon links our Theme Park visitors guides.

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