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Theme Parks: Drayton Manor celebrates 60 years of family entertainment


Related: Double victory for Drayton Manor Theme Park / Drayton Manor appoints new park operations manager 

Landmark year marked by commencement of park’s biggest ever investment

The UK’s Drayton Manor Theme Park has enjoyed another successful season in 2010, its 60th. anniversary year, during which it also began work on the venue’s largest single investment to date.

The latest project in the park’s long history is a new, 150-bedroom hotel, which is scheduled to open in the summer of 2011. Featuring a wide range of family-friendly facilities as well as conference and banqueting options which complement Drayton Manor’s extensive existing function rooms, the hotel will provide visitors with an attractive accommodation option for extended stays. And for fans of Thomas the Tank Engine™ an added bonus will be the chance to stay in one of 11 themed Thomas and Friends™ rooms.

“The addition of a hotel has been something we’ve been planning for some time now, ” noted Helen Pawley-Tuft, general manager central services, “and it is appropriate that we have been able to start construction work in our 60th. anniversary year. We are attracting an increasing number of guests from around the country, many of whom will no doubt take advantage of the on-site accommodation when it is up and running, while the hotel’s conference and banqueting facilities will extend our offering in this area too.”

The past 60 years have seen Drayton Manor develop into one of the country’s leading theme parks and it has obviously come a long way since those early days when, in 1949, George and Vera Bryan purchased the run down, overgrown estate which had last been used by the army during the Second World War. They took on the challenge of clearing the site with the aim of opening in the spring of the following year and to their huge credit managed to do so, with a restaurant, tea rooms, three hand operated rides, rowing boats, pedal cars and a set of second hand dodgems.

Nowadays, of course, the park offers the most up-to-date attractions available and invests literally millions of pounds each year to ensure its continued growth and development. It is also famous for being the first park to have various attractions – such as the first and only stand-up coaster in Europe, the first tilting drop tower ride and Europe’s first fully fledged Thomas and Friends™ themed area, Thomas Land – so is at the forefront of attraction development too.

And, unlike many other family run parks around the world which have succumbed to the lure of the corporate giant, Drayton Manor Theme Park continues to be owned and run by members of the Bryan family, the third generation now overseeing the venue’s day to day operations.

“We are exceptionally proud of the fact that Drayton is still run by the family, ” said Helen Pawley-Tuft. “In these days when we see so many businesses being taken over by larger companies, either through necessity or otherwise, we are delighted to be able to continue making regular major investments in the park and to be running it as it always has been, as a family owned business.”

The park consistently attracts over 1.2 million visitors annually and with 2010 being the 60th. anniversary of the venue’s first season of operation, a number of special events have been taking place. These will culminate in a spectacular fireworks and laser display over the park lake at the end of the season (October 30 and 31), set to be the largest such display Drayton Manor has ever produced. Featuring a giant water screen and set to music, the 30-minute display will be themed Films Through the Decades, with images from the park during the past 60 years being projected onto the water screen, while fireworks and lasers light up the night sky.

A big summer feature of the Diamond Jubilee year was also the chance to win a wide range of giveaways, including one special package incorporating a night in the new Drayton Manor hotel (set to open in 2011), a season pass to the park and a host of MEGA Bloks toys.

New attractions in this special year have included the showing of Happy Feet in 4D in the 4D effects theatre, based on the Academy Award Winning, computer-animated comedy drama produced by Warner Bros. A new Dino Trail also opened in an area adjacent to the zoo and close to Farmer McColl’s Farm, offering a dinosaur based walk-through adventure for all the family. And while the park itself celebrates, it is also a significant year for the main character in Thomas Land, Thomas the Tank Engine™, who celebrates his 65th. anniversary on December 4th. Anniversary celebrations will be incorporated into the park’s Christmas opening period to mark this special occasion.

Drayton Manor Theme Park is one of the UK’s most popular family attractions with over one million visitors a year. This year, the park is celebrating its Diamond Jubilee. Drayton Manor was first opened to the public by the current owners, the Bryan family, in 1950 after husband and wife co-founders, George, OBE, and Vera Bryan, converted 80 acres of derelict land, which once belonged to the former British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel and his family, into a wonderful family attraction. Today, set in approximately 280 acres of beautiful woodland and countryside, the family owned and run Drayton Manor Theme Park features some of the biggest, wettest and scariest rides around, including Shock-wave, G-force, Maelstrom, and Apocalypse, as well as a 15-acre zoo, the hugely popular Thomas Land™ attraction, and a 4D Cinema.

About HIT Entertainment

HIT Entertainment is one of the world’s leading independent children’s entertainment producers and rights-owners. HIT’s portfolio includes properties, such as Barney™, Bob the Builder™, Thomas & Friends™, Pingu™, Fireman Sam™, Angelina Ballerina™ and Rainbow Magic™. HIT represents Chapman Entertainment’s Fifi and the Flowertots™ and Roary the Racing Car™ in North America  as well as Wallace & Gromit™, Shaun the Sheep™, Timmy Time™ and Aardman Classics from Aardman Animations.  HIT also acts as representative for The Wiggles® in the UK. Launched in 1989, HIT’s lines of business span television and video production, content distribution, publishing, consumer products licensing and live events and has operations in the UK, US, Canada, Hong Kong and Japan.  HIT is a part-owner of US-based preschool channel, PBS KIDS SproutSM, and international preschool channel JimJam, (outside of the US, UK and China). For more information, visit <> .

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