The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 3, 2013

Dave Woods: Police run with outlaws on park's new coaster

By Dave Woods
Digital market development manager

BRANSON, Mo. — It was a beautiful Ozarks morning when I met Ron Buchanan. I knew his name from reading police reports in The Joplin Globe.

Buchanan isn't a scofflaw, however -- he is the law. A Joplin Police Department patrolman and detective, he and his law-enforcement comrades were honored at Silver Dollar City on a recent Saturday morning.

The event was a dedication of a 30-foot tall monument to "the good guys." Community police officers, county deputies, state highway patrol, local and federal drug enforcement officials and other first responders from around the region represented their noble professions during the ceremony in the park's town square.

It was a cool deal. The department representatives received commemorative plaques and were recognized for their enforcement efforts. They were also reminded of the good relationship and longtime cooperation between lawmen and cowboys.

Brad Thomas, the park's top guy, stressed to the crowd: "Even though the park's new coaster is named 'Outlaw Run,' at Silver Dollar City, the good guys always win."

The monument was important to highlight, Thomas said.

"We dedicate this monument to the men and women who aspire to be the good guys," he said during the ceremony.

The Sons of the Silver Dollar played, dignitaries spoke and the Haygoods opened the event with the national anthem. It was a heartfelt and patriotic experience.

Big party

After the town square party -- complete with music, ceremony and confetti cannons (I love confetti cannons) -- we walked down the hill to Outlaw Run. It was the official public opening of Silver Dollar City's new $10 million, steel-wheeled, wooden roller coaster.

The lawmen and a dozen or so local kids were recognized for inspiring citizens in their own Ozark communities. They -- all above 48-inches tall (minimum height requirement) -- were invited to take the first "official" trips on Silver Dollar City's 87-second whirl around the 1880s-themed park.

The coaster hits 68 mph during the breathtaking ride through the park's forest and hills.

Buchanan was impressed. I know, because I was in the stagecoach-inspired coaster's steel-wheeled cars following him. The new ride left my breath 16 stories above the park before the Outlaw Run cars dived 81 degrees, almost straight down. I recognized Buchanan's JPD uniform, and after I regained my coaster composure I hit him up to answer a simple question: "So, what did you think?"

"This is awesome," the officer said, scoping the horizon for his own children. "What Silver Dollar City did for law enforcement here today is great. We're about two hours away, so it's a big honor that they invited us."

Change of pace

Buchanan said he was happy for a chance to get off the mean streets of Joplin, its daily investigations and duties, and spend some time on the simpler streets of Silver Dollar City. There are gunfights and bad guys at the park, but it's a different kind of criminal element with which he would deal that day. At Silver Dollar City, the bad guys are at a definite disadvantage. Good guys abound.

"When they invited (Joplin officers), it was an opportunity to get out of the office and do something that represents the Joplin Police Department," he said as he corralled his own kids, laid down the theme park law, and watched as they dashed into the park. He laughed and then praised the young people also honored that day for their good deeds. He shared his run on the park's new attraction with an Ozarks kid who was a good guy.

"It's always great to see the kids come out and put their hearts and souls and work and efforts into their communities," he said. "It's a real honor, too. I was honored to ride with one of them today."

From talking just a few minutes to Buchanan, I know he meant it. As Buchanan kept a watchful eye on his own kids, he explained a little of his parenting philosophy.

"Sometimes they watch television and think it's all 'CSI' or 'Cops' on TV," he said. "I try to keep them away from the TV, but here, they actually get to see the other side of it, the good guys."

Plenty has been written in the pages of the Globe and J-Magazine regarding Outlaw Run, so I won't bore you. But the new park monument to the first responders and law enforcement officials of the nation is great testament to Ozarks history of fighting bad guys, moonshiners, Baldknobbers and ne'er-do-wells.

By the way, not all moonshiners and Baldknobbers are or were bad guys. It's a great conversation starter for families as they wait together to board Outlaw Run. Just a couple moments to talk about right and wrong; good and bad; and what it feels like during a triple barrel roll.