BARBOURSVILLE, WV (WOAY) – Dating back over 30 years, Billy Bob’s Wonderland in Barboursville, WV is an indoor entertainment center for the whole family.
It comes complete with a variety of old-school arcade games, mini golf, laser tag, and an authentic animatronic band known as the Rock-afire Explosion.
This week’s One Tank Trip takes us on the 1 hour and 35-minute drive to Billy Bob’s to get a look at all of the fun to be had behind its doors.
But such fun also comes with its series of challenges and upkeep, the Covid-19 pandemic only adding to that challenge.
“We were closed for 7 months through the pandemic so that really set us behind, so we’re just trying to catch up, we’re getting close to being caught up and then we will be able to get new games and stuff. But some of them are classics, like this Ferris wheel we have in the backside of the building, it has been running for 40 years,” says the manager and CEO of Billy Bob’s, Rex Donahue Jr.
Formally known as Showbiz Pizza, Billy Bob’s was rebranded to become what it is today.
But, one corner of the place still remains the same, and that’s where the Rock-afire Explosion performs. After a long process and luck on their side, it’s the last animatronic band from the 80s and 90s era left standing in the whole country that can legally claim to be an original Rock-afire band.
Donahue says it has become a unique staple, attracting visitors from all over the board to see a piece of a childhood gone by.
“It’s a labor of love,” he says. “Our main stage tech that has kind of put the band back together, he’s young but he’s been in and out of this building since he was a toddler. He just absolutely loves it, he did it as an apprenticeship with people who had them at their houses so he learned how to do all of that stuff. Since we’ve had it put back together, it has just brought so much joy to so many people and it rekindles their childhood from the 80s.”
The stage tech at Billy Bob’s, Braylon Giles, is passionate about the work he does to keep the band going, from technical maintenance, and programming, to even the mask-making for the characters.
After essentially growing up at Billy Bob’s and gaining an interest in the old-school animatronics fandom, he is happy he can bring his talent to the table.
“It’s pretty awesome actually because I never thought that I would be able to do this, it’s really like a dream come true, I’ve dreamt about this since I was a little kid, so it’s amazing to see how far I’ve gotten, and that I’ve actually gotten them back up and running and singing again,” says Giles.
You can find Billy Bob’s Wonderland on 5 Cracker Barrel Drive, Barboursville.