24th October – 25th October 2015

Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Alton Towers
Adam King – Alton Towers

Wow . . . what a day!!! It’s been quite a while since I came back from a trip at Alton Towers and was generally overwhelmed by enjoying a genuinely fantastic day out. OK, I admit I’ve been to Alton more times than I have had hot dinners as its only just over an hour in the car for me, but this was a great day, due to the hard work and organisation of ECC members namely Paul Burton, Paul Samuels, Marcus Gaines and anyone else I’ve inadvertently missed out who made this day happen.

This trip to Alton was part the of ECC 21-100 weekend. The Club had been to Blackpool the day before (I couldn’t make it unfortunately) as was to celebrate two items 1) 21 years of ‘still’ the best inverted coaster in the world – Nemesis and 2) celebrate and acknowledge 100 issues of the industry leading coaster magazine First Drop.

The day started with members being given free priority parking. This was awesome in itself as we all ‘love’ that big walk from the Monorail station to the entrance when its not running. It was a lovely touch and this was just the beginning.

After meeting up with fellow members at the entrance we headed to the Towers Suite for refreshments. The Suite would also be open all day just for us to use a base, which was very nice. Justin had re-created the 1st issue of First Drop and was handing them out to members and also showing us the draft version of issue 100. We could also leave the piece of wood we had been asked to bring along with us here , the reason for this piece of wood will be revealed later below.

It was then time to make our way to the 21 year old Nemesis for our 1 hour ERS. It’s amazing that after all these years and all the rides that have challenged Nemesis, it is still one of the only rides where after riding it still gives you that special buzz, just like the first time you ever rode it. Needless to say the group enjoyed a great hour on Nemesis – it hasn’t aged a bit – it’s like a fine wine that gets better with age.

We then had an hour to ourselves before meeting back at the Towers Suite. We headed to the Dark Forest via the gardens (as the sky ride was not working) to ride Rita (which we could not do as it was down) so we went to do my personal favourite Hex (but couldn’t as it didn’t open until 11am) so we gave up and returned to the Towers Suite.

Back at the Towers Suite we had a presentation from Alton’s Pete Cliff and Chris Carter on the ideas and creative processes behind this years 2015 mazes. This was great insight to how the team have to continually come up with new ideas with the limited amount of space the park has to work with. A Question & Answer session followed before giving us the great news that we were to be given two pre public experiences of two of the mazes for free! Amazing! The mazes were the Haunting of Molly Crowe and the Terror of the Towers. Both were very enjoyable and very well done. They were a few members that chickened out, proving that even coaster club members are human afterall.

After the fun and excitement of the mazes it was time for our favourite time of the day… lunch! This took is back to the Towers Suite where a marvellous buffet lunch was served and a chance to recharge the batteries.

We then moved onto the celebration of 100 issues of First Drop, presented by Justin and Paul Burton. It was amazing to see how the magazine has progressed and grown throughout the years and hearing how the early copies were produced and distributed. Obviously the look of the magazine has changed immensely with technological improvements and when it went colour (yes, it was once black and white folks)! Justin gave us an insight to how long he works on each issue of First Drop (every minute of his life) and also his favourite issues and articles, which was interesting. Indeed both Justin and Paul commented on the ‘pre internet’ era where members had to do more manual work to find out information on new rides and developments, which over 21 years ago included Paul Burton doing some investigative work of his own to find out planning works for a certain coaster

John Wardley. Now that should grab your attention.  It was at this moment that John himself entered the room to also add his kind words to what First Drop has done for the industry and that it tells the truth to the theme park amusement industry, and therefore provides authentic feedback as ‘everyone’ reads it. Justin decided to remind Mr Wardley of the time Paul had described to Justin the layout of Nemesis, of which none of us who were there will now forget the image! Paul then presented his slideshow presentation of the construction of Nemesis, which had so many amazing pictures and memories.

It was a fitting tribute that John was there and this started a succession of gifts to Justin in recognition and for his hard work over the years for First Drop which included gifts from world leaders in the amusement sectors such as Liseberg (poster), Vekoma (engraved paperweight), Holiday World (letter & posters), Knoebels (an original Wing from the Flying Turns car engraved and signed by the Knoebels family of which Justin had been after for some time now) and from John Wardley, a full Set of original plans for Port Aventura’s Stampida. It was at this point that Paul and John announced that these plans were so that Justin could finally build that coaster at the end of his road, and to help him get started, we all gave him all the pieces of wood we had been so mysteriously asked to bring to the event. Justin was as oblivious as was the rest of us and I still don’t know if or how Justin got all the wood back home, or if he’s started building the woodie yet?

Justin and Paul then presented to Guy Brazier, Director at Alton Towers and John Wardley a plaque to celebrate 21 years of Nemesis and awarding it the status of being the best inverted coaster in the world. Many have tried to beat it, but they have failed.

John Wardley then very kindly gave a Q&A session and also signed copies of his book. The group then had the rest of the day to go and ride in the dark and enjoy the Scarefest attractions.

I can safely say that everyone who attended this trip was treated to a special day and I feel very privileged to have attended. Again a big thank you for those team members who worked so hard to make this day happen so perfectly. And here’s to Justin on producing the next 100 issues of First Drop!

The only other item that would have made the day more perfect would have been the confirmation of a woodie being built at Alton, but maybe that is being saved for another day…

 

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