Sixty years of heritage, ten years of Magic.
These days, Alton Towers celebrates its birthday based on the opening date of the Corkscrew in 1980, when the park first became a pay-one-price amusement park. However, up until Tussauds took over, the park instead marked the anniversary of the year the house and gardens first fully opened to the public way back in 1928. The final such celebration was the Diamond Jubilee in 1988, celebrating 60 years.
We are now used to Towers Street being decorated at various points of the year for different events, but 1988 saw Towers Street gain what may well have been its first overlay, just two years after it opened. For the Diamond Jubilee, the street was adorned with banners for the celebration, and each lamppost was adorned with a diamond-style chandelier decoration.
The centrepiece for the year-long celebration was Henry’s Birthday Parade, an exciting new addition to the park’s entertainment line-up. The parade starred Henry Hound along with various members of his family and consisted of eight floats, mostly based on attractions around the park. The final float, however, was Henry the Hound’s Birthday Surprise and saw the park’s mascot riding high on a giant three tier cake, sponsored by Trebor’s Pick and Mix.
Meanwhile, Henry was a very busy hound, also appearing in a new show at Festival Park’s Open Air Theatre. Henry’s Celebration was a musical variety show, where Henry and Henrietta joined Red Sun, the park’s house band, for an all singing, all dancing revue. A programme of events and concerts occurred throughout the season to coincide with the 60th Birthday, culminating in a special fireworks extravaganza designed for the occasion.
But it wasn’t just new entertainment offerings the park introduced. The park also celebrated the ‘opening’ of three coasters during its Diamond Jubilee. At the start of the season, Bobby Davro cut the ribbon of BlackHole II, the improved version of the park’s indoor coaster, before joining the new parade’s line-up for one day only. Later in the season, Eddie the Eagle arrived at the park to open the Alton Beast, followed a few weeks later by Kylie Minogue, who was on hand to open the Alton Mouse.
The festivities continued into the closed season with the park’s first Christmas Festival. Originally conceived as the Diamond Jubilee Christmas Shopping Festival, over the course of the season the plans were expanded. By the start of the Festive Season, the Christmas Festival had morphed into a full-blown winter event, complete with the park’s first ice show, a mini-parade and a host of shopping options. No doubt the more ambitious event was buoyed by the success of the jubilee celebrations, and many decorations were reused between the events.
Whilst the Diamond Jubilee was only a year-long event, its legacy was felt for many years afterwards. Almost all of the new attractions introduced for the event returned the following year, bigger and better. Henry’s Birthday Parade returned in 1989 as Henry’s Festival Parade, featuring several new floats, and over in the new Festival Park Dome, Henry’s Celebration was expanded to become Henry’s Festival Spectacular.