Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Memories of Opryland USA

Opryland USA, or just "Opryland", was a theme park that opened in 1972. It drew people from all over the country to Nashville. Here are some pictures that I took during the height of Opryland's popularity in 1978. These were taken with a 35mm camera, but focus never was my strong point. Click on any pic for a larger version.

The Wabash Cannonball was the third roller coaster to be built at the park. The ground under the loop was always littered with caps and hats that had fallen off. At its peak, Opryland had five roller coasters.

To get these shots, I climbed and stood on the rail of the exit ramp. It took three minutes before security chased me off.

The Tennessee Waltz. Wait one half hour after eating before this ride.

Opryland had many stages with live shows, and music was piped throughout the whole park. You can get the whole experience by listening to Opryland Radio USA on www.live365.com. You'll hear actual recordings of park music and shows. If you keep the sound in the background, it's like you're there! There's also an Opryland Yahoo Group here.

The Flume Zoom was a favorite. Many hats were lost over the drop.

There was a full mechanical arcade. Here's the basketball game. There were also animal games. I wished I'd gotten a pic of the Tic-Tac-Toe playing chickens.

Opryland closed in 1997, but many people didn't realize that. I worked weekly at CMT, and for an entire summer, I would see RVs and vans from all over America pull up to the entrance, just like Walley World. There were full time staffers at the gate just to turn people away. Was the park closed due to insurance concerns, the fact that Dollywood and Branson were luring away customers, or new ownership that just didn't care? The debate continues.


Anonymous said...

Opryland was a wonderful place and I have such fond memories of it. Sadly, Gaylord (the owner of Opryland) didn't care enough about the park and claimed they wanted to get out of the amusement park business. The crowds at Opryland were huge right up until the park was closed. As a result, Opryland died and Nashville's tourist industry died as well. Opryland was replaced by a mall, Opry Mills ("Shopryland"), as though Nashville needed another mall!

Anonymous said...

I worked at Opryland on the Showboat stage (red cast) in the summer of 1976! Still hold wonderful memories of the times I spent there. First professional gig! Wish you had pictures of that. Best. Ezra Buzzington (Jon Harris at the time)

Anonymous said...

I worked at Opryland as a seasonal employee for three summers when I was in high school. I remember sitting and watching the fireworks display every night at 10 PM as the park was closing.
Gaylord claims that they couldn't find seasonal employees to do the summer jobs. What about all the Nashville area high school and college students? I couldn't IMAGINE a better place to work and make friends.

Anonymous said...

We all miss thepark and thenobody would miss Garylord, who cares. They had a place for all time and pissed it off, along with the rest of the prople that loved it. Ashame to be so right about on thing in your life and and think you were wrong only to discover it once it was gone.