Let’s start with a caveat: The 70s were a simpler time.
Star Wars was huge. The world loved disco and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Grease and YMCA. It was arguably a very silly time.
Herschend Family Entertainment had purchased Gold Rush Junction in Pigeon Forge from Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell in 1976. And that began the process of recreating its very successful Branson, Missouri attraction Silver Dollar City right there in Pigeon Forge.
Is Blazing Fury the same as Fire in Hole?
Once the Herschends took over, future partners of Dolly Parton, one of the first things they did was take the world’s first indoor roller coaster that they’d built in Missouri in 1972, Fire in the Hole, and recreated the awesome ride right there in the future Dollywood, christening it Blazing Fury in 1978.
There had to be a few changes, of course.
Specifically, Fire in the Hole is built around some Branson local history that doesn’t translate to the wider world.
It involves the James Gang who were devil-mask-wearing vigilantes-turned-outlaws and a giant cave of miracles but without the local context, none of that makes sense in Sevier County.
So the Herschends decided to bring their best ride to Pigeon Forge. Did they hire a design team to come in and create Silver Dollar City’s first thrill ride? Nope.
They did what they had done in Missouri and found a few guys and designed it in-house.
I don’t care how smart you are. When you’re building your first roller coaster, you don’t want to overthink things. And again, it was 1978. A few thrills went a long way back then.
So they built a dark ride that takes a fairly slow, fairly mundane ride through a burning hellscape – much like Disney’s Small World but with fewer international cherubs and more Molly and Luther humor.
Molly dangles from a burning second-story porch as Luther waits hesitatingly underneath.
Luther: “Now, now Molly, I got a weak back.”
Molly: “Weak back or not, Luther, here I come!”
End scene. Still, it’s probably one of the most quotable lines throughout the ride.
Is Blazing Fury a roller coaster?
It is, technically, a coaster. For a long time, until the Thunder Express opened in 1989, Blazing Fury was also the only “coaster” in the park. Honestly, though, I never considered Blazing Fury all that different from the Flooded Mine, which closed in 1997.
It seems to me that the definition of coaster is pretty loose. Honestly, in today’s world with corkscrewing, wind-milling, looping roller coasters that defy gravity and good sense at great speed, I have a hard time thinking of Blazing Fury as a modern-day roller coaster.
In particular, it feels like more of a dark ride, winding slowly through the 1880s town struggling to control fire as it terrorizes the cast of characters.
When I think of a roller coaster, I think of something like Lightning Rod, the best coaster in Dollywood’s history. Sure, on your first ride, that first drop in the dark can get your attention. But after that, it’s an old hat.
Is Blazing Fury scary?
But how scary is Blazing Fury? For me? Not at all. It’s a piece of cake, a kiddie ride.
But I’m trying hard to be less judgmental in my old age. Just because it doesn’t scare me, doesn’t mean it won’t scare others.
My wife, for instance, hates it. She doesn’t much like dark rides, and Blazing Fury isn’t for her.
Likewise, my son will ride faster, and in my opinion, scarier rides but doesn’t like rides where the bottom drops out. Blazing Fury, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Frozen Ever After Ride at Epcot are all on his no-fly list.
Does Blazing Fury have any drops?
Blazing Fury does feature a drop in the dark at the end of the ride. The water feature at the drop, however, was removed from the ride in 2011.
And it is important to note that Blazing Fury is listed among the thrill rides at Dollywood and has a 42-inch height requirement.
How big are the drops on Blazing Fury at Dollywood?
Dollywood doesn’t list exactly how large the drop is. However, as far as coasters go, it is not very steep.
Most estimate that the drop is approximately somewhere between 15-25 feet.
Still, if you’re a veteran of roller coasters, I feel pretty safe in saying you’ll find Blazing Fury fairly low thrill. But that doesn’t mean it’s not amusing in a quaint back in time way.
In particular, I enjoy Blazing Fury as much for what it was as what it is now. It’s a connection to the history of the park, an important link on the road from the park’s 1960s launch as Rebel Railroad to the Dolly Parton mecca it is today.
You couldn’t have gotten from there to here without Blazing Fury and the role it played in the park.
And I like that connection to the past. It’s one of my favorite parts of going to theme parks or amusement parks, riding the carousel you rode as a kid, or the coaster that your grandparents took your parents on for the first time.
I’m a sucker for nostalgia anyway. And I like to imagine the families in 1978 with wide collars and polyester pants lining up for a sparkling new Blazing Fury and feeling the exhilaration of that unexpected drop.
People like my grandparents or my young adult mom and dad taking the 4-year-old me to a place of wonder. Rides like Blazing Fury help connect us to all those memories as sure as visiting our favorite spots in the mountains or national landmarks do.
Because of the name changes over the years, you don’t necessarily think of Dollywood as being older than Disney World but – to a certain point of view, it is.
From Rebel Railroad to Goldrush Junction to Silver Dollar City and on to Dollywood for more than 60 years now, people have come to Pigeon Forge to ride the rails and have a good time.
And since 1978, they’ve been coming to tour the burning town and watch as Luther never quite saves Molly, to see one campy scene filled with homemade characters after another and to hunt the same Easter eggs they’ve been finding for half their lives or more.
Ultimately, Blazing Fury isn’t a thrill ride. It’s a time machine, taking us back through the summers of our youths to 1978 … but without all the Disco.
Do you think Blazing Fury is a coaster? Do you enjoy dark rides? Let us know in the comments!
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