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40 Years of Thrills: Kings Dominion’s Anniversary Celebration

Copy 1974 Brochure (1)In 2014, Kings Dominion will celebrate the 40th Anniversary of it’s soft opening in 1974. This season will bring a lot of changes, including the resurfacing of some vintage Kings Dominion greatness, but first let’s go back.

At the end of 1972, Taft Broadcasting Co. and Top Values Enterprises began preparation for a new amusement park in Doswell, VA. Taft had opened Kings Island in Ohio earlier that year with prosperous results. In April of 1974, Kings Dominion opened as Lion Country Safari, a 120-acre drive through safari with over 100 different species of animals. Patrons who visited that year were also treated to a ride on the Scooby Doo roller coaster and a movie entitled “To Build a Happy Place,” which presented the company’s vision of what Kings Dominion was to become.

On May 3rd 1975, Kings Dominion opened to the public. It featured five themed areas, 18 rides, more than 10 shows and many shops and restaurants. Also, a monorail was added to the safari so park goers would no longer have to drive their own vehicles. In 1976, Kings Dominion was one of several parks used for the movie Rollercoaster. The thriller, which stars George Segal and Timothy Bottoms, features many of the parks classic rides and attractions including Rebel Yell, Vertigo and the Singing Mushrooms. Copy Singing Mushrooms

In 1993 the park was bought by Paramount and Kings Dominion became a place “where the magic of the movies meets the thrill of a lifetime.” The Paramount years lasted through 2006 and brought many new arrivals. A Wayne’s World section of the park was added in 1994 and an additional kids area, Nickelodeon Central, the next year. In 2003 the park installed what was at the time the tallest drop tower in North America, Drop Zone Stunt Tower.

Kings Dominion was bought by it’s current owners, Cedar Fair Entertainment Company in 2007. Cedar Fair, who added all the Paramount owned parks to their chain, has made many changes over the past 7 years. Kings Dominion is home to Intimidator 305, one of the tallest, fastest roller coasters in the United States. The park also now has an amazing children’s area, the Bigger, Better Planet Snoopy, that was just added in 2013. My beautiful picture

For King’s Dominion’s 40th season, they went to the fans, the people who have helped the park to thrive for all these years. One of the first things that people wanted was clear – they missed the Singing Mushrooms. The animatronic mushrooms and a frog smoking a cigar were a 1975 original and located in the Hanna Barberaland area of the park. They sang barbershop tunes, some of which incorporated the park’s characters at the time, Yogi, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy. The Mushrooms were removed in the early 90s. On November 13, 2013, Kings Dominion announced their return to the delight of fans everywhere. They will be placed in the newly renamed Candy Apple Grove.

Another Kings Dominion icon will be making it’s grand re-debut next year. Twenty years ago, when park goers returned for the 1994 season, something was missing – something they may not have even noticed. The Floral Clock, which sat at the end of center walkway near the carousel, had been removed. While it may not have made a significant difference to some, many were sad to see it go. During their 12 Days of Christmas, the park announced via Facebook the clock will return.

For the other 11 days, Kings Dominion shared their plans for the return of the Clown Band, which was very popular in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and blue ice cream which was Smurf themed in the good ole days. Also, Volcano and Anaconda both are receiving renovations on the off-season. Anaconda has gotten a new coat of paint and in a multi-season project, Volcano’s station is getting a revamp.Copy Clown Band

Not all the changes are based solely on the past. The park will begin a new pin collector program next year. Other parks, such as Disney and Universal have had a lot of success with similar programs. Also, Starlight Gift Shop (on International Street, just as you enter the park), is going to be turned into a 40th Anniversary store and sell all things retro. This combined with the new 10% discount for Gold and Platinum Pass holders will make for some amazing deals on modern day vintage Kings Dominion gear.

With all the additions, upgrades and blasts from the past, 2014 is shaping up to be the best year yet. This is especially true for those who grew up with the park and have a special place in their heart for the days of Yogi’s Cave and Apple Turnover. Not everything can return but there will still be “so many screams to scream and so many dreams to dream. Betcha can’t do it all!”

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