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The year that was – a look back at the moments that shaped 2018 at Kings Island

Don Helbig

Area Manager, Digital Marketing - Kings Island

The 2018 calendar year was truly memorable at Kings Island.

To commemorate, here's a glance back at 18 moments that shaped it:

ANTIQUE CARS RETURNING

Kings Island gave its guests what they had been asking for when the park announced August 16 the antique cars were returning in 2019. The announcement was made 14 years to the day of the Les Taxis giving its last rides in 2004. The cars, known as the Kings Mills Antique Autos, will be located in Coney Mall and feature two-third scale replicas of the 1911 Ford Model T that will travel along a quarter-mile long track. Though new, the Kings Mills Antique Autos will retain the vintage feel of the original antique cars, which operated at Kings Island from 1972 to 2004 and gave over 22.5 million rides.

FAREWELL FIREHAWK

In the fall, Kings Island announced a major attraction would be leaving at the end of October. After nearly a week of social media, industry fan site and news media speculation, the park revealed the Firehawk roller coaster would be headed to the grave. Final rides on the steel flying coaster took place on October 28. Firehawk gave over 6.7 million rides during its 12 seasons at Kings Island. Its record year was 2014, when 624,016 rides were given.

KINGS ISLAND WINS GOLDEN TICKET AWARD FOR BEST KIDS’ AREA; CHALLENGE IN OTHER PARK CATEGORIES

Amusement Today’s 21st annual Golden Ticket Awards, honoring the best of the best amusement and theme parks around the world have to offer, took place September 8 in Branson, Missouri with Kings Island taking home one award and a finalist in four other categories. The sole possessor of the Golden Ticket Award for BEST KIDS’ AREA IN THE WORLD since the category was created in 2001, Kings Island did it again this year for a 18th consecutive win. Kings Island had two of its rides ranked among the top 10 on lists: The Beast fifth among wooden roller coasters and Diamondback 10th for steel. Mystic Timbers, which received the Golden Ticket for BEST NEW RIDE in 2017, finished just outside the top 10 on the wooden roller coaster chart at No. 11 for the second year in a row. Halloween Haunt was a finalist for BEST HALLOWEEN EVENT for the first time since 2010, coming in at No. 4 while the return of WinterFest was a huge success, tied at No. 4 on the list for BEST CHRISTMAS EVENT with Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

HALLOWEEN HAUNT VOTED BEST THEME PARK HALLOWEEN EVENT

In October, Kings Island won the title of Best Theme Park Halloween Event in the Country. Travel and theme and industry theme park types teamed up with USA TODAY editors to choose the initial 20 nominees, with the top 10 determined by popular vote. In 2018, Halloween Haunt featured nine haunted mazes, four spine-tingling scare zones, three sinister shows, plus the thrill of 20 rides including The Beast, Banshee, Diamondback and Mystic Timbers roller coasters.

WINTERFEST VOTED A TOP HOLIDAY EVENT IN THE COUNTRY

WinterFest was among the 20 parks nominated in the fall by a panel of USA Today Theme Park industry experts as one of the best theme park holiday events in the country. With just one year under the park’s belt, it was an incredible honor to be nominated. Over several weeks, from mid-November through December 10, USA Today readers voted in this hotly contested readers’ choice poll. When the final results were revealed, Kings Island finished as the runner-up, which was a direct result of all of the hard work and dedication it took from so many people to transform the park into a magical event that has quickly become a new holiday tradition for families.

CONEY BAR B QUE RESTAURANT OPENS

Coney Bar B Que joined Kings Island’s restaurant lineup in 2018 and quickly became a favorite dining location for park visitors, offering various barbecue favorites including smoked St. Louis-style ribs, pulled pork, rotisserie chicken and Queen City Sausage along with a fresh selection of side dishes. Located in the Coney Mall area of the park, the restaurant’s architecture and theming pay tribute to the early days of Kings Island and Coney Mall.

JAMES MAJOR WELCOMED AS NEW EXECUTIVE CHEF

James Major, a two-time winner of the Food Network's Chopped reality TV cooking contest and contender on Alton Brown's Cutthroat Kitchen, took on the executive chef position at Kings Island in the spring. An Ohio native and U.S. Navy veteran, Chef Major previously served as executive chef at Great American Ball Park and Funky's Catering. 

KINGS ISLAND NAMED EMPLOYER OF THE YEAR

Kings Island was named Employer of the Year by the Warren County Board of Developmental Disabilities. This award was given in recognition of our longstanding partnership in hiring, developing and accommodating individuals with disabilities at our park. Creating a culture of inclusivity is one of the most important things we do as an institutional employer in Cincinnati.

JDRF ONE WALK RAISES $940,000

More than 8,000 people gathered June 2 at Kings Island, not to ride roller coasters like The Beast and Mystic Timbers, but to walk. The walkers participated in the 24th annual JDRF One Walk at Kings Island to share JDRF’s mission to find a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D). The walk at Kings Island is one of the largest fundraising walks in the country. Since 1994, JDRF has raised more than $13 million from the walks at Kings Island, including over $940,000 this year.

COASTER CAMPOUT RAISES $20,000 FOR BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF AMERICA AND CEDAR FAIR CHARITIES

The fourth annual Coaster Campout at Kings Island was held June 15-16 and had thrill-seekers screaming and snoozing under the stars, all for a good cause. This year’s campout attracted 375 campers from nine different states. By participating in the event, campers helped raise $20,200 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Cedar Fair Charities, Inc.

WEST VIRGINIA YOUTH SCORES 2 MILLIONTH RIDE ON MYSTIC TIMBERS

Eight-year-old Braydan Dunkley, of Poca, West Virginia, scored the two millionth ride on Mystic Timbers on July 15. Braydan, who was accompanied on the ride by his mother, Danielle Dunkley, was awarded a souvenir piece of wood from the ride, a Mystic Timbers tote bag, front of the line passes, complimentary blue ice cream, and tickets to return to Kings Island to experience The Great Pumpkin Fest and Halloween Haunt.

ROLLER COASTER FANS IN U.S., CANADA DESCENDED UPON KINGS ISLAND FOURTH ANNUAL COASTERSTOCK

Hundreds of roller coaster aficionados from 25 states and Canada gathered at Kings Island May 18-19 to ride roller coasters and share stories of their experiences riding coasters around the world. The attendees were offered exclusive rides morning and night on some of the park's most popular roller coasters, including the award-winning Mystic Timbers, Banshee, The Beast, Diamondback, The Racer and Vortex, and behind-the-scenes tours.

PEANUTS™ CELEBRATION OFFERED BRAND NEW FAMILY FUN

Charles M. Schulz’s beloved characters took over Kings Island June 1-17 for the new PEANUTS™ Celebration. In addition to being able to interact with Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang in the award-winning Planet Snoopy kids’ area, during the PEANUTS™ Celebration guests could find them all around in the park, for new character experiences, meet and greets, new whimsical shows, photo ops and deliciously themed treats. Among the highlights of the event for guests was everyone’s favorite messy pal, Pig-Pen, making his debut at Kings Island.

KIDS ENJOY GRAND ADVENTURE AT KINGS ISLAND

A Kid Again, a nonprofit organization which exists to foster hope, happiness and healing for families raising kids with life-threatening illnesses through fun-filled group activities and events, had its 23rd annual outing July 12 at Kings Island. The Kings Island adventure is an incredible day for A Kid Again families, allowing them to give illness a giant timeout. It’s an opportunity for sick kids to get out of the hospital, grab their brothers and sisters, their moms and dads, and come to Kings Island for the greatest day of the year – the day they can be a kid again. More than 3,800 A Kid Again children and family members from Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Indiana attended this year’s outing, making it the organization’s largest event of the year.

NATIONAL BLUE ICE CREAM DAY

July 1 at Kings Island was billed as National Blue Ice Cream Day, and the event was a sweet tooth’s paradise with blue ice cream themed foods galore, from fudge to cotton candy to funnel cakes to blueberry BBQ sauce for chicken wings. Contestants in the blue ice cream eating contest polished off two pounds of blue ice cream for a chance to win a prize package. The winner, Michael Long of Bellevue, Kentucky, finished the whole container in under seven minutes. Photo opportunities were available for guests in front of blue ice cream billboards, which made for great content for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat to show off their love of the classic treat.

CONGO FALLS CELEBRATED 30 YEARS IN 2018

Water and water-related activities have always been popular attractions at Kings Island. One of those attractions, Congo Falls, continued to make a big slash with park visitors in 2018 during its 30th anniversary season. Cool, wet and wild, the attraction is a great family ride in a beautiful setting. Since its debut in 1988, Congo Falls has given more than 22 million rides. Its record year was 1988 when 1.4 million rides were given.

SET, COSTUMES AND CHARACTERS TOOK GUESTS TO ANOTHER PLANET IN GRAVITY

Guests of all ages were mesmerized by the acrobatic performances in the new Gravity show. The 30-minute cirque experience show featured an incredible showcase of strength, balance and athleticism everyone in the family enjoyed, often being performed in front of standing room only crowds in the Kings Island Theater on International Street.

BRADY BUNCH KINGS ISLAND EPISODE AIRED 45 YEARS AGO

Can you believe it was 45 years ago when The Brady Bunch episode filmed at Kings Island premiered on ABC TV? The show featured stars Robert Reed, Florence Henderson, Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland, Susan Olsen and Ann B. Davis searching all over Kings Island for Mike Brady’s (played by Reed) architectural drawings for a park expansion project. Episode No. 106 -- "The Cincinnati Kids" -- was filmed at Kings Island over a five-day period Aug. 20-24, 1973, the second year the park was open. The episode airs a handful of times a year in syndication on TV Land and other channels around the world, and parts of it can also be found floating around on YouTube. It’s one of the most watched and most popular episodes of the series, which aired for five seasons from 1969 to 1974 and after its cancellation has been in syndication since 1975.

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Don Helbig

Area Manager, Digital Marketing - Kings Island

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