VEKOMA | Dollywood
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Nestled in a valley of the Great Smoky Mountains awaits an oversized dragonfly, ready to scoop up passengers and glide over a babbling stream. The creation for Dollywood’s new “Dragonflier” suspended roller coaster came from the childhood daydreams of Dolly Parton herself.
“When I was a little girl, these are the things I used to dream about,” Parton tells Funworld. “I used to pretend I was flying out of the holler, flying to different parts of the world.”
With passengers’ legs dangling below the train—similar to a dragonfly’s legs in flight—planners thought the name was fitting for a roller coaster modeled after a flying insect.
“Dragonflier” starts using a drive wheel-style lift hill that quietly carries trains to the top of the 63-foot-tall lift hill. Besides the screams of delight from passengers, the ride itself is silent. Soon, passengers drop into a tunnel at the bottom of the first hill. Trains then emerge at 46 mph over a pond with water geysers, giving the illusion “Dragonflier” is skimming across the water’s surface. The suspended coaster then stays close to the ground, hugging the terrain, and at times, dipping slightly below grade.
“We wanted an attraction that could add some drama, like the Vekoma suspended coaster,” says The Dollywood Company President Craig Ross.
With a 39-inch height requirement, “Dragonflier” gives younger children the opportunity to ride their first big roller coaster.
“We were very specific and said, ‘What percentage of guests do we want to be able to accommodate height-wise on the coaster?’” recalls Amy Owenby, Dollywood’s vice president of product and planning. With its bright green track and forest green supports, Owenby says planners put “Dragonflier” in the back of Wildwood Grove to draw guests deeper into the new land at all times of the year.
With Dollywood’s season starting in mid-March and concluding after Christmas, heating units are suspended from the ceiling of the queue and station to provide warmth for families in line.
“That will continue to be our theme—a place that caters to families,” Parton says with a grin. “Every year at the park we try to do something a little better than we did the year before.”