We were all thrilled to be able to attend this event for TPR, and on a personal note I would like to give a HUGE THANKS to Robb for inquiring with Nick (Kennywood's awesome and incredibly friendly PR guy) about having my wife Erin and our two daughters attend as well! Seriously, that was very much appreciated, and you helped give our 3 and a half year old some extra special memories from the moment we told her....and she proceeded to jump up and down saying "Daddy, I'm SO EXCITED!!!"
Speaking of our lovely daughters, I'd like to introduce our special little riders that were the perfect audience to test out this new area. Our oldest is Morgan, an energetic toddler who loves rides and keeping us on our toes, haha! Our youngest, Molly, is almost 11 months old and seems to be developing the "riding gene" just like her big sister!
(**Feel free to skip this to get to the pictures!**)
Going to parks has taken on a whole new meaning for us, as we just love watching them light up with that special "magic look" in their eyes when we go to places like Kennywood. Truth be told, this is even more special for us considering their own backstory. Some of you may remember the story I shared years ago about our struggles to even have Morgan (Our Journey), which led to us calling her our "little miracle". Well, as it turned out, Erin got pregnant naturally with Molly (much to our surprise and delight!), but it was her birth that sent us on a whole new type of roller coaster.
Late in the pregnancy, Molly developed a condition known as HIE. Essentially, she was getting starved of blood flow and oxygen....thankfully, due to a weekly appointment, we were rushed to the hospital for an emergency C-section on Sept. 7th. Unknown to us at the time, Molly was unresponsive at birth and needed resuscitated "behind the curtain". She was then rushed to the NICU, where the gravity of the situation became all too clear for us. We were told about the HIE, and that she had suffered trauma, the biggest of which being damage to her brain. Our world was rocked to our core. After dealing with seizures that first night, she went through a body cooling process to limit the extent of her brain injuries. After an MRI revealed "moderate brain damage", we started a whirlwind journey of 5 weeks in the NICU! It was exhausting, frightening, and one of the most surreal experiences of our lives. This was where Molly earned her nickname of "Mighty Molly", as she battled and fought through every obstacle and setback! After her 5 week stay, she finally came home. Her massive team of doctors, neurologists, specialists, and therapists were absolutely incredible.....in fact, there's no question to me they saved her life!
Fast forward to now, and Molly continues to amaze us and defy all odds! She has a team of therapists that work with her weekly, and her doctors tell us that they are not used to seeing such progress for a baby with an MRI that looked like hers. She did suffer some substantial damage to her hearing as a side effect of the HIE, but thanks to amazing technology, she now has baby hearing aids that are working wonders! Other than that, we just have to wait and see what may lie ahead for Molly medically. In the meantime, we cherish every minute watching her grow and develop! Simple milestones take on a whole new meaning considering how far she's come!! We are incredibly blessed and fortunate! So yeah, as I said above, spending time with the girls and heading off to parks is just a magical experience for Erin and I!!
(**Enter here for the pictures!**)
So, without further ado, let's hop aboard for a photo journey to check out Kennywood's Thomas Town!!!
After scoping out the area from the outside, it was time to head over to the stage to officially kick off the day's festivities! There were some opening remarks from Nick, the aforementioned Kennywood PR director (and a couple other dignitaries), then we went back over to the entrance to "cut the ribbon" and OPEN Thomas Town!! They had a family there from New Hampshire that won a contest and their kiddos got to cut the ribbon officially.
With Thomas Town now officially open, we headed in to take a look....which for Morgan meant time to excitedly check out the RIDES!! Along with the re-imagined Kennywood Railroad that has now become Journey with Thomas, there are 4 new rides that kids and families can ride together! They are:
- Flynn's Fire Training - This ride is adorable, and Morgan's favorite! As the ride circles, people in the ladder bucket move up and down and can shoot water to put out the "flames" in the middle building!
- Diesel Drivers - Hop aboard a Driver for a relaxing couple trips around an oval course. Simple, but effective!
- Harold's Helicopter Tour - Another really cute ride, this one looks great and is plenty roomy for parents to ride with their kids! They can control their helicopter and raise it up and drop it down.
- Cranky's Drop Tower - This is the tallest ride in Thomas Town, and is the only one with a slightly higher height requirement at 42". I gotta say, this ride was SO MUCH FUN!!! It feels taller when you're on it, and it runs a nice long program with plenty of bouncy drops!!
Let's check them out, shall we?
Obviously though, the big star here is Thomas himself! The Kennywood Railroad was altered slightly to account for Thomas, including a new shell over the engine, some new/replaced track, and a rerouted queue where you now enter on the other side of the station after going over a new railroad crossing. This "infield" area is also where Cranky's Drop Tower resides, along with Tidmouth Sheds, which also has a show that plays a few times each day (we sadly did not catch the show this trip, but I've heard it's really cute!) After some morning hiccups getting going, Journey with Thomas opened up in the late morning/early afternoon, so we headed back to take a ride. Incidentally, the line for Thomas that day was consistently spilling out of the new (and much bigger) queue....if that's any indication, then mission accomplished, Kennywood!!
Taking a cue from Morgan, let's take a little breather and wrap up this first portion of our media event report! The second part (coming up soon!) will cover some other Thomas Town offerings, a little sprinkling of other Kennywood fun, and perhaps.......perhaps a little peek at a certain construction area in the back of the park! Hope you all enjoy this first installment! Part two is coming your way soon....stay tuned!!