Ghost Town’s limited opening offers a taste of historic amusement park’s new era
Ghost Town in the Sky opened last Wednesday — sort of.
The once-popular amusement park in Maggie Valley opened its chairlift and a new zipline just in time for the July 4 holiday and is offering rides on both attractions.
“This is just a taste of what is to come,” said Alaska Presley, a Maggie resident and owner of Ghost Town.
Few other parts of the amusement park are currently operating besides the chairlift and zipline. The iconic Old West Theme town, once home to staged gun fights, shows by can-can dancers and other recreated scenes, is not open. None of the rides were open either as of Monday, July 9. The park has been working to get five of its rides up and running this year — primarily kiddie rides. But, the rides have not been inspected by the state, a process that would take at least 10 days at whatever point an inspection is indeed requested.
For now, visitors can view the mountains surrounding Maggie Valley and the valley itself as they ride the chairlift. Some arcade games are housed on the first level, and tours are being offered of the slowly recovering park. The gift shop at the bottom of the mountain is also open.
This weekend, a trickle of guests visited Ghost Town. Some spent $15 a piece to venture up the mountain’s chairlift.
“I think it’s great,” said Ron Barnhill, of Allentown, Ga., who fondly remembers his yearly visits to Ghost Town during its heyday as a major tourist attraction.
His wife, Pam, chimed in saying that the park will be a great place for young children.
Many others stopped into the gift shop at the mountain’s base and watched the chairlift in motion without actually taking a ride.
Joyce Shealy, a resident of Newberry, S.C., perused the shelves of Ghost Town’s gift shop with her two daughters but chose to postpone visiting the mountaintop until more of the park opens up.
“We are kind of looking forward to it being open,” Shealy said.
The famous Wild West Town, a popular and unique attraction on the second level of Ghost Town, will not open until 2013. It will feature the signature gunfights, can-can dancing and live salon music of Ghost Town’s glory days.
The third level of Ghost Town will be a Holy Land, complete with a large gold and white concert hall where people can hold religious events or performances and a mountaintop statue of Jesus, similar to the one in Rio de Janeiro. This will be a new part of the park, envisioned by Presley.
“There will be something for everybody at Ghost Town,” Presley said. “We will start at the base of the mountain and work our way up.”
Ghost Town has had a spotty track record during the past decade. It had been steadily falling into disrepair since the 1990s, and eventually closed its doors and went up for sale in the early 2000s. After three years of being closed, it was bought and reopened, but the new owners were short-lived. It closed again after a couple of years and fell into bankruptcy.
Presley bought Ghost Town on the courthouse steps for $1.5 million and vowed to revive the defunct park. Now, five months after her purchase, Ghost Town is partially open. Presley decided to do a partial opening this year in hopes of generating a little money to start covering her costs of revamping the park.
Because the rides sat uncared for through the extremes of mountain weather, they were purchased in even worse shape then they were left. However, Presley is confident that given time, the rides will look shiny and new once again.
“I am so excited to reopen our famous Ghost Town in the Sky and share our majestic mountain with our locals and visitors from all parts of the country,” Presley said.
New to Ghost Town are three ziplines currently operating at the base of Ghost Town, ending in the parking lot. The zipline is a new addition to the amusement park, aimed at drawing customers ranging in age.
“Ghost Town Zip Lines are great for families, because kids as young as 4 years old can participate,” said Mike Fischesser, owner of Beanstalk Builders, the Morganton-based company that built the zip lines.
Open for business
Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with limited attractions. For now, it includes only a chair lift ride up the mountains, tours of the Old West Theme town and museum with old theme park memorabilia. No rides are open nor is the Old West town operational. Cost if $14.95 for adults and $7.95 for kid (under 2 is free).
Ghost Town Zip Line is offered every hour for $39.95 for one turn, and $10 for each additional turn. For more information and updates on Ghost Town’s progress, visit www.facebook.com/gtmaggie and www.ghostowninthesky.com.