If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, recognition by one’s peers is a close second.
For nearly 20 years, Amusement Today, the amusement industry’s go-to publication for the news within the industry, has been producing the Golden Ticket Awards. The so-called Oscars of the Industry surveys a panel of highly knowledgeable theme and amusement park enthusiasts, professionals and suppliers to rank what parks are the best in an ever-growing list of categories.
Dollywood first made its mark back in September of 2004 (the awards ceremony is always after Labor Day to help family parks and attractions get past their busiest season or to close for the year before the awards ceremony). Dollywood’s Thunderhead was named a Top 5 Wooden Coaster in the world and was a finalist for best new attraction. The following September, Thunderhead was named the Best Wooden Coaster in the World (won in 2005 and 2006) and Dollywood’s recognition began to grow. Since 2004, the Dollywood Parks (Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country) have been a finalist in more categories than any other parks in the world, now, I realize I’m horn-blowing for the park but Dollywood also has won more Golden Tickets than any other park during that period.
As I said, it is fantastic for folks who know the theme park business to recognize that Dollywood ranks right up there with the likes of Disney, Busch, Universal and Europa Parks. That is an amazing achievement for a little family-run theme park opened in 1986 by Dolly Parton and the Herschend Brothers. The innovative vision of that powerful combination of personalities has generated a total of more than 30 Golden Ticket historical wins but it also generated an incredible four more wins this year. Thanks to Amusement Today’s voters, Dollywood again has the Best Shows (nine years running), Best Christmas Event (10 years running), Friendliest Park (six years running), and is once again recognized for having the Best Food (four out of the last seven years)! The parks were also finalists in six other categories including ranking Third for Best Park in the World. Amazing!
Tim Baldwin is the one who is responsible for coordinating the actual awards. He explains why Dollywood is so highly thought of, “Dollywood is the whole package,” Baldwin said. “There is great food, entertaining shows, friendly hospitality and great rides. It’s little surprise to see them capture the attention of our voters. Each year our selected panel has an incredible amount of international experience so to be honored on a world-wide scale in so many categories is an amazing accomplishment.”
Kind words from Tim but Dollywood looks at the awards as a challenge. There is pressure to continue to win these awards and to be recognized but Dollywood puts added pressure on the park to constantly improve. Decidedly, the park is not the same as it was way back in 1986. It changes every year as Dolly dreams up more things and the park responds to an ever-growing and changing group of guests. If you have never visited the park, check it out. Try the cinnamon bread. Eat at Granny Ogles’ Ham and Beans or the Front Porch Café. Ride Wild Eagle (World’s Best New Attraction in 2012). See Dreamland Drive-in or Live from the Back Porch. Experience Smoky Mountain Christmas. You will be glad you did.