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Gone but not forgotten: 30 years since the opening of Drachen Fire at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

It was Busch Gardens Williamsburg's newest attraction in 1992, 30 years before the park's newest attraction, Pantheon.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Editor's Note: The above video originally aired on December 15, 2021, prior to the opening of Pantheon at Busch Gardens.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is stirring up a lot of excitement with the long-awaited opening of its newest world-class roller coaster, Pantheon.

While park visitors have had a chance to ride with the Roman gods since Pantheon's official opening on March 25, we thought we'd take a look back exactly 30 years ago to when Busch Gardens fans were getting excited about another new coaster.

Drachen Fire aimed to thrill anyone who rode it, after it officially opened on April 4, 1992. 

Like Pantheon today, Drachen Fire looked to offer up something completely new, featuring a 150-foot tall lift hill, six inversions, and a zero-gravity camelback element.

Busch Gardens actually first announced it the previous summer but without revealing its name. Hoping to rebound from a recession, park officials welcomed enthusiasts to check out a miniature replica of what would soon become Drachen Fire:

It opened the following April, located in the Oktoberfest section of the park near the Big Bad Wolf and Das Festhaus.

Opening-day reviews seemed positive, with 13News reporter Joe Flanagan declaring, "What a ride!"

But soon came reports that the experience was too rough for many of its riders. Even on its first day of operation, a member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) noted: "It's certainly one of the most intense I've ever been on!"

One of the inversions was removed after the 1994 season to improve ride comfort, but with low ridership spurned on by a reputation that it was still too rough an experience, Busch Gardens eventually conceded the coaster was a failure and shut down Drachen Fire for good in the middle of the 1998 season.

Busch Gardens hasn't made the same mistake again: newer coasters such as Alpengeist, Apollo’s Chariot, Griffon, and Verbolten have all become staples at the theme park.

Early reviews for Pantheon from coaster fanatics remain positive, but only time will tell if it, too, joins Busch Gardens' own "pantheon" of successful rollercoasters, an achievement which sadly, Drachen Fire was unable to accomplish.

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