Well, that reply ended up being more of a discussion of the awards itself, rather than the actual awards that won. Here are some random thoughts on the actual winners:
First off, It's completely understandable that certain awards are pretty much a lock for the same parks year in and year out. It's not like those parks are usually dramatically improving or failing at things. If most enthusiasts think that Cedar Point is the best amusement park and Schlitterbahn is the best water park in the world, what's really going to change those opinions? Anyone who's bet against either park winning this poll (or just about any poll for best overall parks) is a fool. With the exception of IOA when it was fresh and new, there's never been any competition in either category, and it's fair to say that the VAST majority of enthusiasts would agree with them. Even if Schlitterbahn didn't put together probably the most incredible events in the industry!
It's also interesting to see that a bunch more people filled out the ballots this year. I know that hey added a bunch of new people to the panel. And maybe more people bothered to fill it out this year? While it didn't seem to change most of the categories, it definitely affected the coaster categories. Interestingly, in the other categories, it seemed to mostly solidify the positions of the top two vote-getters, as most of them gained anywhere from 2-20%, while the lower ranked parks and rides seemed to drop even lower in percentages this year. However, they also had a few more nominees preselected in most categories, which did spread out some of the percentages.
Best new rides weren't even close, as expected. Even if enthusiasts were stupid enough to go to Florida in the Summer, Cheetah Hunt was never gonna have a chance against the amazing new Texas Giant. The only new coaster even coming close in quality was Grona Lund's Twister, but not enough enthusiasts have eben to Sweden to give it a fighting chance. (I'd imagine that most of the 5% of the votes it got were people on the ACE Scandinavia trip.) And can anyone even think about competing with Schlitterbahn, besides Holiday World and Splashin' Safari? (Mainly because Splashin' Safari is one of the only water parks that many enthusiasts have been to, thanks to Holi-Wood Nights and other events there!) I just wish that The Falls had opened in tome for my visit in June!
I'm still amazed that Idlewild wins every year for best kid's park. Sure it's nice, but nice enough to get 2 out of every 5 votes? Here's where you're seeing heavy old-school ACEr influence in this poll.
While Sea World in Orlando has always been a lock for the best marine life park Can anyone out there think of any better place?), I was surprised to see Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk just squeak out a win after years of dominating the category. it lost 8% this year, which put it only 1% above Blackpool Pleasure Beach (which I honestly think deserves it.)
Knoebels for best food again? They probably should name this "best traditional park food", which I'd agree with. But can anyone even think about competing with Tivoli Gardens for best gourmet (and super expensive!) food? I mean, many people actually pay the huge park admission charge just to eat at their restaurants! Then again, since the restaurants are outside vendors, maybe that's not a fair comparison. (Then again, you could also say the same thing for Epcot, which is another contender for truly great food.) My vote perrennially goes to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, who still have some of my favorite ribs anywhere!
Will anyone ever beat Dudley Do-Right? It's just such a perfect combination of silly whimsey and solid overall ride. The only current ride that is better will never win, since it's in the UK. it's testament to Valhalla's quality that it comes as close as it does, given its huge handicap. After all, probably just about everyone on the panel has been on Dudley at least once.
Wildebeest has established itself as the best water park ride just in time to probably be unseated by its newer brother next year! Or will they split the vote, allowing Master Blaster to regain the title? Which is what happens now, with Schlitterbahn's three rides combined getting nearly half of the votes overall.
And the only park to beat IOA for best dark ride is... IOA! Even splitting the IOA vote, no one else even comes close. It will be interesting to see if Spidey's hi-def overhaul allows it to reclaim the top spot for Harry Potter next year.
Illuminations is untouchable, even if World of Color has dramatically increased the park's attendance. Poor Fiesta got hit with a fireworks ban, during ACE's convention add-on day, which surely would have otherwise gotten them a bunch more votes!
I really wish that they'd split the walk-through attraction into haunted and funhouse categories. They're so very, very different. Either way, all of the contenders in my mind are in Europe and Japan. Not even the excellent Frankenstein's Castle comes close. I voted for Grona Lund's amazing Lustiga Huset.
As for the coasters, it's interesting to see how the influence of the new people they've added to the poll has altered the top coasters. I'd imagine that a lot of them are old-school ACEr types, considering how the rankings changed. Not that that's a bad thing, but they have certain biases, which can been seen in the results. As always, the major ACE events and overseas trips by both ACE and the ECC will also affect the rankings, especially for overseas rides.
It's pretty clear that Six Flags really messed up with their remake of Superman into Bizarro. A lot of enthuisaists I know feel that it's really lost its charm, either due to the blasting soundtrack or the restrictive restraints. (And I'm sure that it doesn't help that taller people can't ride at all, either!) It has always been neck and neck with Millennium Force, swapping first place rankings. That a coaster in Massachusetts can even compete with the top coaster at the most popular coaster park in the world is testament to an incredible coaster design. But now, as more enthusiasts get back to the park and experience the new trains, it's not even close, with MF getting over 25% more points. Then again, Bizarro is really handicapped, when you consider that it had less than 2/3 of the riders as MF did on Mitch's poll.
Interestingly, those two coasters and Expedition GeForce are the only coasters in the top 10 on both the Golden Tickets and Mitch's poll.
Could someone please explain the appeal of Nitro to me? Sure, it's fast and fun. And it certainly has more forces than MF, which I'll never understand either. But surely there are at least a half dozen hypercoasters (and I'd argue more than a dozen) that are better than it. Maybe it's just that none of them have had as many riders as the older Nitro at a well-attended park in a coaster-rich area?
I figures that New Texas Giant was a lock for best new coaster, but to make #6 in it's debut year? Surely, this was helped by both a TPR event there AND the ACE Convention this year. But it's still damn impressive. Imagine once the masses have all ridden it? This could be a contender for #1 in a few years. It will be interesting to see where it ranks on Mitch's poll, which doesn't require a lot of riders to win.
I'm sure that some will complain about Intimidator 305 only ranking at #13. But that makes a lot of sense to me. For one thing, a lot of people haven't ridden it yet. For another thing, a lot of people rode it with painful restraints or with brakes or both (as I did.) Even without that, it's certainly a polarizing coaster. I really wanted to like it, but I only ranked it #42. (And it should drop a few more notches as a few new to me coasters knock it down.)
And Phantom's Revenge is a great coaster, but if it were anywhere but Kennywood, would it even rank in the top 20?
You can see the effect of the ACE Convention in Texas, their trip to Scandinavia and the ECC trip to Germany in a bunch of the results on both the steel and wood lists with big jumps for Titan, Piraten, Blue Fire, Superman Krypton Coaster, Olympia Looping, Lisebergbanan, Balder, Boardwalk Bullet (which jumped from 38 to 17, with nearly 5 times as many points as last year!), Troy, and Rutschebanen, many of which actually debuted in the top 50 this year.
Strangely, despite the ECC Germany trip, Heide Park's Colossos - the world's first Intamin plug and play -- dropped from 18 to 29 and even lose a handful of points, despite there being more voters this year. What happened? Is it running badly now? Admittedly, you can't take much form the lower ends of the poll, where it can take only a few votes to dramatically move a coaster. But still, it's one of the few coasters on the poll to lose points.
On another international note, T Express finally joined the top 50 woodies at #39. Nothing like it's tied for #1 showing on Mitch's poll, but quite good for a coaster in North Korea, where so few enthusiasts have visited.
As for wood, Voyage dominates, as expected, with nearly 20% more votes than either Phoenix or El Toro, which had a very tight fight for second. (So tight that one more #1 vote and a #4 vote for El Toro would have put it ahead of Phoenix.)
In fact, the wood poll is where I think that the old-school enthusiast influence of a lot of the new voters on the panel shows. Both Phoenix and Twister got a ton of new votes, enough to push Phoenix just above El Toro and to propel Twister up from #32 to #20 with over two and a half times as many points as last year! As much as I love Phoenix, it will never be a top 20 coaster for me. but old school fans absolutely LOVE it. It's probably the ultimate classic coaster. I suspect that El Toro's drop isn't to be attributed to any drop to it's quality as to a slight shift in the poll panel's demographic.
Beast used to be great. ut since the brakes, and since they've built so many more great woodies, is it even remotely a top 10 coaster any more? Apparently a ton of people still think so. I don't think is just nostalgia. So many enthusiasts simply love it. Ask them, not me, why!
Raven and Lightning Racer finally drop out of the top 10. Raven hasn't run as well as it used to in years. And it's still a short ride. And let's be honest, it's been completely overshadowed by Voyage. And I've never understood LIghtning Racer's perennial place in the top 10 here. Sure, like Phoenix, it's probably one of the most purely FUN coasters out there. (Or should I say TWO of them?) But top 10? Hardly!
Their drop allows Shivering TImbers and Prowler to jump back into the top 10. Is Timbers running better, or is it just that many of the new people on the panel remember it from when it was great? But Prowler may not be in my top 20 (just), but it's my favorite GCI.
Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks that Hellcat in the Dells hasn't aged well, since it dropped from #19 to #30 and is another one of the few coasters to lose points with more voters in this year's panel.
Could someone please do a major event at Alabama Adventure? Robb, are you listening?
Maybe along with next year's Deep South Bash? Rampage may not be a #1 coaster, but it's far better than #32. At least on Mitch's poll it's #15, which is better, but nowhere near as good as my personal ranking of #5.