Wicker Man, the UK's first new wooden rollercoaster in 21 years, officially opened to the General Public with a Grand Opening ceremony on 24th March 2018.
Alton Towers originally planned to open Wicker Man on 17th March 2018, the first day of the new season. However, their plans were scuppered by a weather front known as "the mini Beast From the East", which brought snow and below zero temperatures to a distinctly un-Spring-like Staffordshire. This proved too cold for any of their major rides to run, so they were forced to put back Wicker Man's Grand Opening to the following weekend, with soft openings occuring a few days before.
The theme park gates opened around 9:30am on 24th March, and most guests headed down Towers Street and straight towards Wicker Man. They were greeted by some of The Boernen villagers, stilt walkers and fire jugglers. There was a bit of a delay before the ride itself opened, but within half an hour or so the first public trains were being sent around. The queue quickly built up to over 3½ hours.
The queue was slow going, with Wicker Man appearing to be having frequent issues. At one stage, more test trains were being sent around than trains of people - and these were only being half filled, with four rows near the back left empty on each train. Then, empty trains kept being stopped on the lift hill. With one train on the lift hill looking as though it was not going to budge, the announcement that nobody wanted to hear was made just before 12:30 ... the queueline was being evacuated. With most people having waited over two hours, there were a lot of disappointed faces, but staff were on hand to give out Priority Passes so guests could shortcut the queue on Wicker Man or another ride later in the day.
Wicker Man reopened just before 3pm, and managed to stay open for the rest of the day. There were still a few issues, with test trains being sent around at times and the rest of the trains only being partially loaded, but everybody who wanted a ride managed to get one (or two!)
The park closed at 6pm, and at 7:30pm the ride was still churning through people. Reactions were extremely positive - even despite the teething problems, guests were all very complementary and standing around raving about the ride. With flames leaping into the night sky from the giant Wicker Man statue, it seems that Alton Towers' gamble building a new wooden rollercoaster is going to pay off!
Crowds wait at Alton Towers' main entrance for the gates to open
Queues of people filled the newly refurbished entrance plaza
Waiting outside the Wicker Man entrance for the ride to open
A first glance at the flaming Wicker Man statue
Boernen villagers look on
Some of the Boernen try to replicate modern theme park geek technology
I got my photo taken ... with a stone???
Performers were on hand to entertain the crowds
The queueline opens and the first guests pour in
The queueline begins to fill up
Queuing ready to experience Wicker Man
An empty train takes a test run through the Wicker Man
One of the first trains of people
A partially loaded train reaches the top of the lift hill
Yet another empty test train
Channel 4 were in the park to film the occasion
A rare fully loaded train emerges from the Wicker Man statue
A train stopped on the lift hill
The queue time reached 3 hours
Another train stopped on the lift hill
Wicker Man broke down, and the queueline was evacuated
The rollercoaster falls silent
Guests in the queue were handed a Priority Pass to come back later
The Boernen were still hanging around, watching their ritual commence
A performer entertains guests
Did you know, Wicker Man features a lot of fire?
Some of the Boernen seem pretty tall
Up close with the Boernen
Waiting outside the entrance as Wicker Man reopens
Wicker Man reopens!
Four rows on each train were left empty for the rest of the day
Riders burst through the heart of the Wicker Man
The Wicker Man Shop proved popular with riders exiting the ride
People hung around watching the ride for the whole day
More Boernen villagers
One train ran empty the entire afternoon
Wicker Man's fire lit up the sky as darkness fell
Wicker Man kept running late into the evening
The station looked spectacular in the dark
The station at night
Despite the teething problems, Wicker Man proved a hit on its official opening day
Goodnight from Alton Towers