Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Scott And Carol Present - A Haunting We Will Go At Worlds of Fun

Well... it's fall and that means it's the Halloween season. Our first opportunity to get "spooked" was at that wonderful park on the western edge of Missouri. And, what a way to kick off the season.

Worlds of Fun gives park guests two sides of Halloween. During daylight, the tone is family fun with not so scary stories, a toned down maze for little adventurers, and several shows. Most of these activities are heavy on audience participation and pirates.

After the shows started, the park was inundated with pirate hats, tooting horns, and many little “screamster wannabees.” Some of them gathered to dance in Scandinavia and others giggled while gathering treats at the waterfront shops.

As the gloom gathers at Worlds of Fun, the park turns to the darker side of thrills. And, rather odd "guests" seem to appear from nowhere.

It’s finally time for the Haunt, a celebration of everything not cuddly and upbeat. Starting after dark, the family friendly attractions close and evil rules the night. The Overlord's Awakening signals the change from fun to fright throughout the park's many areas. It takes place in the square in Scandinavia.

As everyone waits, some street characters like the rat lady appear. Her live pets keep looking everywhere for their wilder brethren who are seen doing battle with black cats throughout the park. She invites you to pet them, if you dare.

Little Red Riding Hood never looked like this in your fairy tale book, and the Wolf looks rather warm and fuzzy.

When the stars begin to shine, the guests gather. The Overlord rises thirty feet into the coming darkness and exhorts all his monster friends to arise, and help him make the world suffer for all the injustices they have suffered at the hands of humanity.

The denizens of the dark start streaming in from all directions, passing through the crowd, sometimes pausing for one more scare.

This takes some time, for there were 300 denizens of the dark. Escaped inmates of behavior clinics mixed with some plaid shirted farmers at the opposite end of the spectrum from old MacDonald. It’s a major effort getting everyone ready for this monster bash. The makeup assembly line opens shortly after 2:30 PM for the show at dusk.

The trailer is jam packed with screamsters moving from one station to another until they are complete. When they gather in the square for the Awakening, it’s not for the squeamish. The Haunt is not recommended for guests under 14 years old after dark. The Overlord tours the park in his hummer, while the clowns have their own vehicle.

Over a thousand people witnessed the inaugural show for this season, and the crowd ohhed as one as the Overlord summons his minions.

One of the better mazes is Club Blood. New for 2009, it’s billed as the in spot for bloodthirsty vampires.

The musical beat thumps on, even as the hearts of some club visitors stop. Despite the lust for blood from the vampires, enough has been spilled to paint the club red.

This attraction seemed to never end, as the path leads you outside, and back inside again for an encore. An impressive pile of coffins, don’t you think.

The park has lots of seasonally appropriate decorations, features skeletons, rats, black cats, and spiders.

Even Elvis was there, who knew he has been living in Kansas City all these years?

And he even has his coffin all picked out, although Digger the Used Coffin Salesman will gladly sell you an accurate copy.

Dracula had by far the best tombstone, it seems fitting for a Count.

There were plenty of scare zones, complete with lots of fog and gruesome sights.We experienced the CarnEvil , with its killer clowns and games of unhuman skill.

We made our way through the thick fog to Moulin Rouge Theatre to see the Haunted Homecoming at Meat Cleaver High, taking the audience back to the 1960s...

...through the 1970s...

...and beyond, this is a ghoulishly wonderful classic rock review. Complete with Time Warp and Ghostbusters, the performers really rocked.

Our final haunted attraction for this year at Worlds of Fun was Bloodshed.

As you can tell from the meat display, some is eerily different.

As with most of the maze attractions, the experience lasts a long time, even though you are rushing to make sure you don’t end up on the table.

An impressive feast of the macabre, Haunt at Worlds of Fun offers two distinct experiences. With spooky, friendly fun by day, and frightfully intense fun by night, you make your choice and take the risk. And they still run the rides, except for the children’s rides, which seem to go faster in the dark. Speaking of things that own the night, that is when the Prowler hunts for its prey, and the new coaster really comes into it own after dark. But that’s a story for another day.

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Worlds of Fun for a spooktacular day!

Sabrina's Brochure Spotlight: Lakemont Park 2008

This week's adventure in brochureland takes us to a traditional Pennsylvania park which didn't quite make it into our August trip itinerary. It's a real shame that we missed Lakemont Park this summer, but at least we can live vicariously through all the smiling faces in this brochure!

Lakemont Park may be "old fashioned", but fun never goes out of style and neither do its classic rides. One such ride is the Skyliner, a John Allen creation which originally operated at the now defunct Roseland Park in New York. Don't let this coaster's stats fool you. What it lacks in height and speed, it makes up for with a great ride experience. Perhaps it was the Skyliner that inspired the catch phrase on the cover of this brochure!

In light of Lakemont's incredibly affordable pricing structure, you'd think there would be no need for additional incentives. But they offer 'em anyway! "Dollar Day" Wednesdays have become an institution at this park, although nowadays they are technically Three Dollar Days. Nevertheless, that's a steal for an All Day Ride & Slide pass! Earlier this year, General Manager Barry Kumpf told us in an interview that this promotion continues to be wildly popular among park guests. In 2008 the park also launched Free Soda Fridays, which entitles guests to free unlimited soft drinks every Friday.

As time goes on, more and more parks are realizing the value of hosting seasonal events and Lakemont Park is no exception. The park now hosts an annual fall festival as well as an elaborate drive-through holiday lights display which runs throughout the Christmas season.

Wow, you guys sure do look funny with your heads all tilted sideways trying to check out that map on the last page! [Just kidding. I have yet to perfect my patented technology for X-ray internet vision, but it's getting there. I'm just assuming you look funny. Really...]

That being said, neither superpowers nor state-of-the-art technology were required to identify my one major complaint about this brochure: Where, oh where is Leap-The-Dips?? I know the general public doesn't appreciate the world's oldest roller coaster nearly as much as we do. But to me, Leap-The-Dips is synonymous with Lakemont Park and deserves a rightful "brochure spotlight" of its own. I expect this situation to be rectified in all future brochures!

New Harry Potter Pics

Islands of Adventure had raised a large piece of the facade of Hogwarts' Castle into place in their new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It looks like it would be the part of the castle in the left of the above concept art.

Most of the facades for the new area were created off site and are being applied to the buildings already standing in the park. It's a pretty interesting process to watch unfold, I haven't seen an approach quite like it in recent memory. When complete, Hogwarts should be an imposing structure in the back of the Islands of Adventure theme park.

The Orlando Sentinel has some photos you can check out that were just taken today.

Starting To Look Intimidating

Kings Dominion has posted some new photos of Intimidator 305 under construction. As seen above, the base of the massive 300 ft. first drop is in place, as well as a large section of the ride's first turn.

You can see all the photos on the park's website for the ride.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Six Flags Blogger Call II

After Six Flags' first blogger conference call this past June was deemed a success, company President and CEO, Mark Shapiro, decided to once again let us pick his brains this afternoon.

First, I must point out how wonderful it is of both Mr. Shapiro and Six Flags to hold calls like these. The ability to candidly ask questions of the CEO of a company as large as Six Flags is hard to come by. Never mind the fact that the call is just for bloggers, not even for mainstream press! My point is, many thanks to Mr. Shapiro for taking his time to speak with us - he stressed that he likes to keep the lines of communication open and he's doing a great job.

What's Been Going On
Like last time Mr. Shapiro started with an update on what's been going on in the world of Six Flags. As expected, this summer has been pretty rough for the company. Combine the debt restructuring, swine flu fears, rainy weather, and the recession and you'll get a less than desirable year for amusement park outings. While families did search for staycations this summer, the corporate side of things wasn't so hot. Corporate bookings represent one third of Six Flags' attendance, and they took a big hit in that area this summer. The months toward the end of the summer have held their own when compared to 2008, and everyone is optimistic that good weather combined with slowly improving economic conditions will make for a strong Fright Fest.

In terms of overall improvement at the parks, well, Mark had plenty of items to list. Six Flags hired more people than ever before to work at the parks, they had new rides and attractions at all the parks, including popular free concerts, and their guest satisfaction surveys remained at or above all time highs. Ride downtime was slashed, new fireworks shows debuted, they hosted special events like the FAME tour, and started using the social media networks to reach more guests. They're certainly doing something right!

If all goes well, the company could be out of the debt restructuring phase by the end of this calendar year. Plans have continued to move forward, with a major hearing on the plan scheduled for early November. Emerging from bankruptcy at the end of the year would allow Six Flags a 'clean start' to 2010.

A Watery Mess
Mark also took special time to congratulate everyone at Six Flags Over Georgia in their tremendous effort to clean the park up after it's recent flooding. An unprecedented amount of rain fell last week and flooded a great deal of the park. When the water receded, it took some 14,000 man hours to clean, inspect, and ready the park's rides and attractions for the weekend. And they did it! The park was able to open and operate as expected this past weekend - and Mark was sure to point out that that level of commitment to the parks really speaks volumes about the 'new' Six Flags of today. I agree!

Saving You Money
A major point that Mark made was that season passes for the 2010 season have been discounted like never before. He offered up many examples of the cuts that have been made, for example last year a full season pass at Six Flags Over Texas cost $84.99, this year just $59.99. Six Flags is aware that families across the country are looking for affordable fun, and they're ready to help them out with that. With the length of time spent in the park by guests up again this year, and no blackout dates listed for season passes, the company has never offered passes with this much value.

Who's That Guy?
Licensing characters came up during the call, and Mark had some interesting points to make on that front as well. First, their Mr. Six character was the most popular one with their in park photo sales. His return to the parks has been well received on all accounts. As for other characters that can been seen at Six Flags, the D.C. Comics brand should continue to thrive in the coming years. The D.C. Comics company itself is under new leadership, and they have a slew of new major films coming out starring their characters in the next couple years. As Marvel expands under Disney's ownership, D.C. will also step up and fight back - and Six Flags has the benefit of being a part of that through the theme parks. Mark will be sure that the parks take advantage where they can.

Another item to look forward to is Six Flags plans to create and market their own unique characters and content. This allows them to own them outright, and that falls down the line to merchandise, goodwill, and more, much of which helps them extend the Six Flags brand.

That said, we still won't see the end of third party licensed characters in the parks, for instance, they just renewed their license to keep Thomas the Tank Engine at the parks.

But What's New In 20**?
I'd like to pretend I'm above wondering what's new at the parks, but I'm not! Mark was kind enough to detail some of the plans they've laid out, while still keeping plenty a secret.

2010: Six Flags America will build the largest Thomas Town the company has seen, in fact, it will be the largest expansion to that park since being branded in 1999. Great America will add the Glow in the Park Parade, and Great Adventure's Hurricane Harbor the Tornado slide. Six Flags Magic Mountain will add a new "children's ride" that they will announce in November. La Ronde, as we already know, will add an inverted coaster originally from AstroWorld.

2011: Six Flags will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in style. One of the biggest additions will be the rehabilitation of the Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas. The $10 million project will include what sounds like a full rebuild of the ride's track, brand new trains by Gerstlauer, magnetic brakes, more airtime, and one of the steepest "banks" of any wooden coaster. The 'new' ride will have it's work done by Rocky Mountain Amusements, a company that helped build El Toro and has worked on several industry projects. The new Texas Giant will also be a more immersive experience, as riders will now find theming as part of the ride, especially in the queue area. A farewell party for the current ride will be held at the park the weekend of October 30th.

Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom is already in the process of removing the Chang roller coaster, which will be replaced by a large water park expansion named Bonzai Beach for 2011. When I asked Mark about Chang he had an interesting response, explaining that he was always bothered by the ride, and felt it was a glaring example of what was wrong with the previous Six Flags management. You see, the ride's name was odd and didn't exemplify what the ride did or the fun you could have on it. It was just sorta slapped down without much effort and was never really a good fit for the park. When it reopens at another park (still a mystery) in 2011 (not 2010), expect it to be a whole new experience, with a distinct theme, story, colors, etc.

I'm continually impressed with Mr. Shapiro's plans for Six Flags in the coming years, as there's only good things to look forward to. As they continue to catch up with ignored maintenance of the parks from the previous owners, and add new rides and attractions, the future of Six Flags certainly does look bright. Sure, we won't be seeing massive coasters added to each park each year, but I'd take the long term survival of the company over those quick thrills any day.

Many thanks again to Mr. Shapiro for his time and I look forward to the next call!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Aerial Antics: Lagoon

Lagoon Amusement Park's slogan currently is "Lagoon - It's what FUN is!" Well, I've never been to the park but decided to make it the focus of this week's Aerial Antics because, well, it does look like fun to me. Really!

Located just outside Salt Lake City in Utah, Lagoon has had a long and colorful history, dating all the way back to 1896. Present day finds the park a full fledged amusement park, offering guests a combination of thrilling rides and attractions, a water park, RV park, campground, and more.

One of the park's oldest operating rides is the aptly named Roller Coaster, seen above. The wooden ride opened in 1921 and is a John Miller design. Due to the nature of the park's development, the ride is now a 'parking lot coaster' - but not in the Six Flags sense where it was done on purpose!

I won't say it this week, but since there's two coasters in this photo you know what that means! The coaster on the bottom of the image, Colossus The Fire Dragon, has always been of special interest to me. It's a portable Schwarzkopf double looping ride, exactly like Laser, formerly at Dorney Park, only it has an extra helix at the end. It's now the only one of it's kind operating in America.

At the top of the photo we can see the park's most recent coaster addition under construction. Named Wicked, the coaster was manufactured by Zierer and opened in 2007. It features a 55 m.p.h. launch directly up a vertical tower. It's also probably pretty comparable in size and scope to Kennywood's still unnamed coaster for 2010.

These rides are not really crammed in a row like this, I just wanted to condense things. This is Lagoon's set of coasters that aren't one of a kind, but still fun! On the left is the Bat, a Vekoma family suspended coaster that opened in 2005.

Now this middle photo is really special. First, it shows the park's classic Schwarzkopf Jet Star 2, but second it has a plane in it! Yes! People actually sit and look at Bing aerials to find stuff like this, and just by accident I found an image that has a plane flying through it. To paraphrase Sabrina, I got mad skillz.

Okay the last coaster on the right is the Spider, a spinning coaster designed by Maurer Sohne. We rode one of these at Waldameer this summer, and it was a pretty good time. Lagoon's version has a pretty unique color scheme, as well, with pinkish purple supports and red track.

Finally, we see the park's river rapids ride, named Rattlesnake Rapids. I've always thought this one looked very interesting, and this aerial only confirms that for me. I love how heavily landscaped the ride's 'inland' area is, and it features a nice assortment of rapids, water falls, and a tunnel to boot. It was designed by Intamin and added to the park in 1997.

If you want to check out the aerials yourself, here's a link.

Hurricane Harbor NJ 2010: Tornado

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, New Jersey, has announced a thrilling new attraction for the water park's 2010 season - the Tornado.

One of Proslide's popular water slides of the same name, Hurricane Harbor's is sure to please visitors next summer. Riders start some 7 stories above the ground as they board their unique clover leaf shaped tubes. Each raft, which seats a total of 4 people, then slips down a steep drop and into the gigantic funnel, which has a diameter of 60 ft. Riders then zoom up the sides of the funnel until ending with a splashing water curtain finale.

The ride is planned for a May 29th, 2010 debut.


I just realized that Sabrina's post below this one was NewsPlusNotes' 2,000th! That's quite an accomplishment. That's an average of just under 59 posts a month over the 34ish months we've been doing this!

I have to thank my co-publishers Sabrina, Carol, and Scott for all their hard work in making NewsPlusNotes as great as I like to think it is! And most importantly, thanks to all our readers for sticking around!

Here's to another 2,000.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cyclone Manager Gerry Menditto Honored

When most people visit an amusement park, they expect things to just "work". The blood, sweat, and tears that are poured into each individual ride on a daily basis are often overlooked or flat out taken for granted. New York non-profit organization City Lore isn't about to let that happen to Gerry Menditto. Gerry, who has served on the maintenance crew for the legendary Coney Island Cyclone since 1975 and currently manages the ride, will be inducted into City Lore's People's Hall of Fame at a ceremony that will take place on October 25, 2009.

The People's Hall of Fame was established by City Lore in 1993 to honor individuals who have made significant grassroots contributions to New York City's cultural life. Gerry is being honored for his dedication to keeping the "world's greatest roller coaster" up and running for all residents and visitors to enjoy.

Public media provider has produced an excellent mini-documentary on Gerry's involvement with the Cyclone, and I have embedded it above for your viewing pleasure. It features an interview with Gerry, some great footage of both the Cyclone and Coney Island, and quite a few behind-the-scenes geek shots for those of us who are interested in the "nuts and bolts" of it all. Interestingly, the man who lovingly maintains this famous ride day in and day out has never even taken a spin on it--Apparently he doesn't like drops!

For the full story on Gerry's selection, visit Amusing the Zillion. Congratulations, Gerry! Long may you maintain this treasured coaster.

Extra Scary Space Mountain

Disneyland has opened their new Halloween overlay of the park's uber-popular Space Mountain, aptly named Ghost Galaxy.

The redo is similar to the one done at Hong Kong Disneyland in 2007, but even more elaborate with additional scenes. A step in the opposite direction of Disneyland's usual non-scary Halloween activities, Ghost Galaxy is quickly becoming a bit hit for the park. From reports since it's opening the ride's line has been stretching to anywhere between one to two hours thus far.

For more information on the transformation of the ride, be sure to check out the OC Register's blog, and Mint Crocodile has a good video of the ride up on YouTube as well. (it's dark, but you can get the idea)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Kiddieland's Final Weekend

This weekend marks the final operating days for Chicago's Kiddieland amusement park. After 80 years, the park will close it's doors to the general public forever on Sunday the 27th.

Sadly, the closure of the park comes from a dispute between the owner of the land it sits on and the group that actually operated the park. The land owner chose not to extend the lease any longer, forcing the park to close.

One of the park's highlights, among many, was the Herbert Schmeck designed Little Dipper wooden roller coaster. Talk has already started of a new developer who may purchased many of Kiddieland's rides, but nothing is official yet. These aren't the greatest times for starting a new park, after all.

We need some good news to tip the scales back... lots of sad items to report on lately!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Daily [Halloween] Spin 9.25.09

Bag #3 of candy corn pumpkins has been opened, and I've already put a hurtin' on it. I shudder to think of the irreversible damage my teeth will sustain when I'm on staycation in a couple weeks with bags upon bags of unnaturally orange, sugary evilness close at hand. But I'll burn that bridge when I come to it. Right now, it's time for round 2 of random Halloween happenings!

Tonight, the "Overlord" will rise at Worlds of Fun. (It's kind of like the Great Pumpkin rising out of the pumpkin patch, only different.) This friendly-looking fellow appears to be straight out of the "All Your Fear Is Here" billboards that have graced many a Cedar Fair park over the past month. He will be overseeing the festivities in Kansas City, and he may need some help because there are a lot! This year's Halloween Haunt features six mazes, four scare zones, five shows, and a whole host of children's activities, including costume contests every Saturday and Sunday where the lucky winner receives $50 in "Beagle Bucks". Among the new attractions for 2009 is Club Blood, a vampire nightclub whose popularity at some of the other Cedar Fair parks last year had Worlds of Fun dying to get their own for 2009.

Darien Lake also kicks off its Halloween season tonight. There's no overlord at Fright Fest, but the park promises it will scare the yell out of you nonetheless! By night, Fright Fest features a number of haunted attractions, including a "terrorizing" bus ride called Fright Night Field Trip. (Do I need a permission slip from my mummy for that?) By day, the event caters to families with activities such as pumpkin painting and a corn maze. As with most Halloween events these days, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy quite a few rides as well!

We all know that Six Flags Fiesta Texas puts on some kick-butt Halloween shows, but wouldn't it be awesome if they had a haunted house too? Yes it would be, and in fact it will be! In addition to roaming the midways with his deviant sidekicks, Mayor Slayer invites you to visit his Midnight Mansion, where restless former tenants are said to arise when the clock strikes 13. (Coincidentally, the attraction will feature 13 rooms...) The Mayor will be available to greet you beginning October 3. Visit the official Fright Fest web site to find out what other sorts of tricks and treats await you in the Lone Star State.

For those who prefer to celebrate the season sans "tricks", head to the Sweetest Place on Earth for coasters, candy, and good old-fashioned fall foods. Hersheypark has never been known to kick up the fright factor for Halloween, but who needs artificial scares when you can have a screaming good time on rides such as Great Scare, sooperBOOperLooper, and FEARenheit? In addition to the rides, Hersheypark in the Dark features seasonal entertainment, a trick-or-treat adventure for children, and the Creatures of the Night exhibit at ZooAmerica. The event begins on October 16. If the following qualifies as a "fall food", count me in...

Two great tastes that taste great together? This is going to require further investigation...

JACKPOT! I had read about these mythical morsels on the internet somewhere, and last night I was finally able to confirm their existence. In a rather impressive show of will power, I have yet to crack open this bag. But you can rest assured that I will have detailed taste test results, backed up by voluminous charts and graphs, in my next Halloween round-up.