Meet a Dollywood superfan

W. Va. college student simply loves the park
Mar. 18, 2013 @ 12:02 AM

Sure, you love Dollywood. But do you belong to an organized community of devoted theme park fans? Shawn Clisso does. The 20-year-old West Virginia college student helped found the Dollywood-focused web page DWfansite, part of the Coaster Crew network of theme park pages.

He answered questions via email in this edited interview.

How did you become a Dollywood fan?

After my first visit in 2007, I was hooked. The atmosphere, the level of detail with the theming and the wonderful employees blew me away. I’ve been back multiple times a year ever since.

How did DWfansite get started?

A friend approached me about creating a Dollywood site. A majority of the theme parks in the United States had fan sites of their own, but not Dollywood. We made the site public last May, but it didn’t generate the traffic we hoped for. So we asked the folks at the Coaster Crew, a network of successful theme park fan sites, to add us. They welcomed us, and we debuted the current version of DWfansite in December. Many improvements are to come!

Is your fandom mostly about rides?

As a theme park enthusiast, I focus on everything. The rides are what I focus on the most, but the entertainment, craft demonstrations, etc., are definitely something I look forward to.

What fascinates you about rides?

The incredible engineering, the thrill you get as you’re flying over hills and through inversions, the power they have bringing people together. You see all kinds of people riding these thrill machines, and having a wonderful time with one another. They have changed my life. They have helped me build so many new friendships and given me numerous new opportunities.

What are your favorite Dollywood rides ?

Wild Eagle [roller coaster] because of its sheer size, unique trains and amazing views of Dollywood and surrounding areas. Thunderhead [coaster] because it’s a very fast-paced experience, with numerous “airtime” moments that give you that out-of-the-seat feeling. Barnstormer [swing ride] is also a favorite because of that wonderful stomach-in-throat feeling you get while staring straight at the ground from 81 feet up.

How does Dollywood compare to other theme parks?

If you see it as a park full of thrill rides, it doesn’t quite measure up to major thrill parks like Cedar Point. But Dollywood has a niche. It’s focused on the whole family and incorporates a lot of theming into the rides, which you don’t get at Cedar Point or Six Flags. The quality of entertainment, food and hospitality is better at Dollywood. For its size, I think it is the best.

What it’s like, belonging to a community of theme park fans?

There are hundreds of thousands of us. We discuss parks on numerous sites all over the Internet, and in person. Enthusiasts report on new construction and policy changes, how staff treated them, and countless other things. You make tons of friends.

What else do you do when you’re in Pigeon Forge and Sevier County?

I love the Ripley’s attractions, Wonderworks, Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf, Titanic. Of the shows I have seen, Dixie Stampede is my favorite. My favorite hotel is Inn on the River — very nice, with courteous staff, a great location and a pretty darn good breakfast.