Amusement Today bestows
2021 Golden Ticket Awards in 27 categories
ARLINGTON, Texas — Started in 1998, the Golden Ticket Awards were established by Amusement Today to shine a spotlight on the amusement park industry by recognizing the “Best of the Best.” Today, they are among the most sought-after awards among theme parks, amusement parks, family entertainment centers and water parks.
“It’s incredibly exciting to pay recognition to all these parks who have had such challenging circumstances these past two years,” said Tim Baldwin, Golden Ticket Awards Communications Coordinator, Amusement Today. “The climate last year caused us to step away from our traditional categories, but with the industry re-emerging this season, there is so much hard work taking place. It’s heartwarming to honor these places and the people striving to bring fun and smiles in a time when it is so desperately needed.”
On September 9, Amusement Today released the results of its international poll. In addition to 23 categories voted on by the world’s most experienced park aficionados, industry journalists and ride suppliers, four special awards were given to recognize significant contributions that exhibit perseverance and leadership.
“The Publisher’s Picks are always deeply felt by Amusement Today. These recognitions are for things that could easily go unnoticed but are a direct result of someone ‘doing the right thing,’” said AT Publisher Gary Slade. “Now more than ever, in times like these, moving forward takes courage, resilience and creativity.”
Three Publisher’s Picks were acknowledged. Universal Orlando was recognized as Park of the Year for its determination and positive direction in the pandemic. Six Flags Over Texas received the Renaissance Award for its reinvestment in two 1960s attractions, attention to detail and a refocus on the park’s storytelling. Scene75 not only weathered the storm of the pandemic but also a tornado itself. Recovering even stronger and continuing to keep guests coming, the chain of family entertainment centers was honored with the Turnstile Award.
Larry Bill of The Gravity Group was honored as a Legend, a lifetime achievement award, for his engineering work and involvement on an estimated 75 wooden roller coasters worldwide.
For its online awards announcement, AT presented the final results from the National Roller Coaster Museum and Archives in Plainview, Texas. Spotlighting many artifacts from the museum’s collection, viewers can gain a glimpse of the ongoing progress at the nonprofit facility.
In the ride categories, a new Best Dark Ride winner was revealed. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios not only took this category, but also Best New Family Attraction and Best New Ride Installation.
Awards for water rides remained in the tight grips of its perennial winners: Valhalla at Blackpool Pleasure Beach (Best Water Ride) and Wildebeest at Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari (Best Water Park Ride).
Hundreds of roller coaster devotees voted on their Top Ten favorites. The resulting figures found Fury 325 at Carowinds remaining at the top of the Steel category for the sixth time and Phoenix at Knoebels Amusement Resort as Best Wooden Coaster for the third time.
One of Dollywood’s four awards was Best Kids’ Area, an award it took for the first time in 2019. Others were Most Beautiful Park — a first-time win — Best Guest Experience and Best Christmas Event.
Among categories voted on by industry professionals, Deno “DJ” Vourderis of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park was recognized with the Leadership Award. His resilience at confronting the pandemic was matched by his compassion for his fellow New Yorkers.
Best Innovation was presented to The Gravity Group for its engineered precision-cut wooden roller coaster track refurbishment.
“New-for-2020/2021” categories resulted in recognizing very popular attractions. Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure roared into taking Best New Roller Coaster. Cheetah Chase at Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari took Best New Water Park Ride. Best New Show was presented to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Fun Spot America Atlanta was chosen as Breakout FEC of 2021.
Knoebels Amusement Resort remained champ at Best Food. Six Flags Fiesta Texas snatched Best Halloween Event of 2020 as a first-time winner.
Park categories saw SeaWorld Orlando keep Best Marine Life/Wildlife Park, Dutch Wonderland took Best Family Park for a second time, Schlitterbahn remained undefeated (23 years) for Best Water Park and Europa-Park held on to Best Park for the seventh time in a row.
In addition to Amusement Today’s awards, AIMS International, an amusement industry provider of safety education has joined with the Golden Ticket Awards platform to present Hugo Loyola of Fantasilandia, an amusement park in Chile, with its annual Safety Award for his recent work in Spanish-language safety education.
Amusement Today began publication in 1997, and the award-winning magazine is now a leader among the amusement industry. The Golden Ticket Awards were established in 1998 and are the direct result of votes cast from around the globe. More than 500 experienced travelers, divided equally among the nation as well as internationally, received ballots. Industry journalists and ride suppliers also have categories devoted to professional topics. A free downloadable issue containing the charts and full lists of finalists, as well as an online presentation of the awards, can be found at GoldenTicketAwards.com.