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Posts tagged “california’s great america

Great America Pavilion the pregame destination for San Francisco 49ers fans this season

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If you’re a California’s Great America fan – it’s time to start cheering. Literally and emphatically.

Yesterday, the park announced that in addition to becoming “the official amusement park of the San Francisco 49ers,” (as if there was any doubt) they will soon be opening the “Great America Pavilion,” an 18,000 sq. ft. multi-purpose facility that will be home to the Red Zone Rally pregame event for all 49ers home games, as well as other Levi’s® Stadium events.

“We’re very excited to be partnering with the 49ers on the Red Zone Rally pregame events,” said California’s Great America Vice President & General Manager Raul Rehnborg. “For 49ers fans and attendees of other Levi’s® Stadium events, Great America Pavilion will be the perfect venue to enjoy the game-day atmosphere, dine on delicious food offerings and easily access Levi’s® Stadium, which is located adjacent to the new facility”

“The Red Zone Rally will be a tremendous pregame destination for 49ers fans,” said 49ers Chief Operating Officer Al Guido.

During 49ers home contests, the Red Zone Rally at Great America Pavilion opens three hours prior to kickoff, features flat screen televisions throughout, San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush cheerleaders and alumni, an array of live entertainment, interactive activities and incredible dining options.

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And when the stadium isn’t in use – the park now has a completely upgraded meeting and dining facility, that can be divided into three distinct areas or combined into one incredibly large venue. Oh, and the first event has already been held in the nearly-finished facility…Coaster Con XXXVII.

So yes, it’s not a new hyper coaster or ride – but it’s more important than that – it signals (quite clearly) a fundamental shift in the relationship between the San Francisco 49ers and Cedar Fair. Specifically, this announcement has far-reaching implications for the long-term future of the park – all positive in nature. Gone are the days of Cedar Fair Corporate (Dick Kinzel in particular) berating and indeed SUING the 49ers over a litany of issues.

It’s quite obvious that new Cedar Fair CEO, Matt Ouimet, has seen the San Francisco 49ers not as the enemy, but rather as a lucrative and positive business partner – and that can only bode well for a park that many (myself included) wrote off only seven years ago. (Lord knows Dick Kinzel tried to literally write it off according to my sources).Resized - Pavilion-Rendering-6(1)So on the outside it may appear to just be an expansion of a picnic pavilion – but this announcement means the world to a park that’s on one hell of a kickoff return.

For more information on the Red Zone Rally, visit: www.49ers.com/tickets

For more information on Group Sales at the park, visit: https://www.cagreatamerica.com/group-sales


Coaster Con XXXVII in the Bay Area this week

All this week, Great American Thrills will be bringing you insider coverage from Coaster Con XXXVII – the biggest event on the American Coaster Enthusiasts calendar – and the first time ever the event has been held exclusively in Northern California.

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From behind the scenes tours, special VIP events and even a few surprises along the way…stay tuned to Great American Thrills as we update the site every evening.

You can also follow our social media accounts – as we’ll be updating LIVE as we can with these hashtags across all the platforms:

#CoasterCon

#GreatAmericanThrills

#LostParks


Aerial Ice Extreme Wows Guests at California’s Great America

Spotlights, trampolines, aerialists, giant hula hoops.

No, you haven’t gone to Las Vegas, you’re in California’s Great America, experiencing the brand new “Aerial Ice Extreme” show in the Great America Theatre.

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After the resounding successes of both, “On Broadway” and the surprise sleeper hit, “Blades of Horror” the bar was set quite high for California’s Great America and its entertainment department to outdo itself this season. Spearheaded by Entertainment Director, Clayton Lawrence, guests over the past few seasons have seen a resurgence of quality, entertaining shows once again grace the park’s theatres.

So – would this one continue the upward trend? Read on…

Initially making a splash on “America’s Got Talent” this past summer, “Aerial Ice” combined the majesty of both ice skating (on a synthetic surface) as well as aerialists overhead. And it made an impression:

While the mishmash of ice skating, acrobatics and aerialists may seem a bit improbable – it all works out. The show is bound to draw comparisons to “Cirque Dreams: Splashtastic” that performed at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom this past season.

But, unlike “Cirque” which seemed to have way too much happening at the same time at many points – “Aerial Ice Extreme” keeps the action frenetic – but at the same time, easy to follow. You never feel as if you have “lost” yourself in the action of the show (and that’s a good thing.)

The show’s location at California’s Great America also throws in an additional wrinkle – several choreographed transitions between the synthetic (fake) ice and the real stuff. Speaking from experience – there’s a difference between the two – and to be able to make it look seamless is nothing short of impressive.

What’s more exciting, is that the ice rink – absent for decades in this theatre – has been fully utilized now for several seasons in a row. Not only is it a great place to cool off in the hot summer, but let’s face it – it’s just COOL to watch!

With the park now open for full-time operation, be sure to check out the show schedule ahead of time, as there may be days in which the theatre goes dark.

Trust me – you don’t want to miss this entertainment event the next time you visit the park.


North Korea’s Great America?

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? Well, sometimes it’s not flattering – it’s just blatantly ripping off. Case in point: Kaeson Youth park in North Korea. Now, I’m pretty familiar with both entrances to the two Great America’s here in the United States (they were built as twin parks after all, back in the mid 1970’s…) They both feature a unique, double-decker carousel, which is actually just one carousel with two individual decks.

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Santa Clara’s (left) and Gurnee’s (right) nearly twin carousels. Santa Clara’s is a foot higher, but the perspective is off due to non-matching focal lengths. Photos © 2008 & 2013, Kris Rowberry.

And apparently, someone who was allowed to make decisions in North Korea was familiar with the (almost) twin carousels, too. So much so, they decided to pluck it . The similarities are just uncanny – and with the worn-down look of the Korean park, it’s downright EERIE:

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This is why knock-offs are never better than the original – no matter what the price!

Kaeson Youth Park Carousel Columbia

At least they got the staircases right – albeit, they put them in the front instead of the rear…wait – where IS the front?!?

This just goes to show the impact of Randall Duell’s design – a ride as iconic as Carousel Columbia was actually copied (albeit badly) thousands of miles away. Just don’t get me started on the abnormally long first drop of the coaster next to it – that’ll be for another post!


Beverly Hills Cop 3 Filmed at Great America 20 Years Ago

The mid-nineties were awesome. Nickelodeon was just hitting its stride. The Soviet Union was no more. And a movie studio had just purchased the entire Kings Entertainment amusement park empire – with the intention of turning them into THEME parks.

With Paramount at the helm, the former Kings parks became valuable assets in terms of new shooting locations for films. Considering the advertising slogan at the time, “Where the magic of the movies meets the thrills of a lifetime” – it would only make sense that a feature film would eventually be made inside one of Paramount’s parks.

And in 1994, that’s exactly what happened at Great America. Coincidentally, a film was being pitched to the major L.A. studios at the same time. Essentially, it was “Die Hard,” but at an amusement park. Paramount looked to their stable of franchises to see if the concept would work, and they found their answer with, “Beverly Hills Cop 3.”

The film is all but forgettable when it comes to plot – and its effect on the cinema landscape is minimal at best. In fact, it only has a 10% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was also a flop at the box office, losing $8 million domestically. It eventually made money after being released worldwide – but was still the least successful of the three “Beverly Hills Cop” films.

However, if you’re a fan of California’s Great America…it’s a literal time capsule into the Santa Clara park at the beginning of the Paramount-era. The scenic railway is still there, Vortex is still green! But arguably, the most memorable scene in the film features one of the most beloved attractions to ever grace the Great American skyline.

In it, Axel attempts to escape pursuing Wonder World security guards by jumping onto “the Spider” a large, three-armed Ferris Wheel that us locals know better as the “Triple Wheel.” (Gurnee fans know it as the “Sky Whirl”) However, one of the ride cabins begins to come loose, with two young children trapped inside.

Axel somehow exits his locked cabin, (through the magic of Hollywood) and slides down to the hub of the ride. From there, he ascends up the other arm, rescues the children and rappels down to the ground, just moments before the cabin smashes down.

Sharp eyed viewers will spot famous film director, George Lucas in this scene as well.

As for the Triple Wheel, the constant starts and stops required to get these exciting scenes may have contributed to the ride’s early demise. The attraction was designed to run continuously throughout the day – and the necessary re-takes and repositions were hard on both the hydraulics and motors. The Triple Wheel was dismantled after the 1997 season, to make way for Invertigo, which itself was removed after the 2011 season.

Currently, the site of the ride remains empty, however it is used for “Friday Night Flicks” during the summer.

Photo by: California's Great America

Photo by: California’s Great America

While the rumor mill is always churning out stories about new attractions coming to this area – long-time fans of both Great Americas always hold out hope that someday, they’ll round Hometown Square and hear that unmistakable whine in the park once again:


What are YOU thankful for this Thanksgiving?

There are many things us coaster and park fans should be thankful for this holiday season, so I’ve attempted to narrow it down to the top five:

5.) A stabilized, improving U.S. economy:

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The economy always dictates just how much “fun” we can have…

While the economy continues to trudge around, improving slowly – we’re starting to see parks re-invest in themselves once again, with larger, more ornate attractions. While it’s true – you can’t (and shouldn’t) add a coaster each and every year – it’s great to see parks and chains aren’t scared off to build by credit crunches, slumping attendance or instability in the market.

Speaking of re-investment…

4.) The remarkable turnaround of California’s Great America:

Carousel Columbia at California's Great America. Photo (c) copyright 2013 - Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Still the tallest carousel in the world, Carousel Columbia makes for a stunning subject at night. Photo by Kris Rowberry, all rights reserved.

If you were to tell me five years ago that California’s Great America would still be open, let alone THRIVING in this new decade, I would have probably wagered a hefty sum against you. But, here we are in the ‘teens, and I couldn’t be happier to be wrong.

What once appeared to be a contentious relationship between Cedar Fair, the City of Santa Clara and the San Francisco 49ers (and subsequent de-investment in the park) finally improved. Even a minor spat over noise levels this past summer with neighbors couldn’t derail this parks’ epic climb back from it’s dark abyss of only a few years ago.

I have a confession to make: I have always had a soft spot for this park – my family took me there every summer for my Grandma’s company picnic. I unlocked my love of the thrill ride on a fateful launch of the Tidal Wave there in 1993 – to see a place I grew up in becoming healthy again; it should warm the soul of any long-time south bay resident.

For the first time in many years, the park has personnel in positions of power, who truly care about the direction of park and more importantly, what it means to the local community (and economy). From new paint and roofs, the return of themed park sound, upgraded shows and a truly stunning Haunt presentation – CGA has shown it’s fans and employees not only what it wants to be, but what it CAN be.

3.) The movement back to lap bars

Coaster Expert Kris Rowberry gets his thrill on

Getting my thrill on with the lap bar only “Superman: Ultimate Flight” at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, park fans saw an incredible amount of new inversions and combinations of ways to throw yourself upside down. However, it came at a caveat – riders had to be locked into restrictive OTSR (over the shoulder restraints).

But towards the latter end of the 1990’s, the industry began a switch – away from the sometimes painful “headbanging” OTSR restraints and into more advanced, sculpted lap bar restraints.

By immobilizing the entire leg – designers could now perform aerial stunts once thought unheard of without OTSR’s – and our heads and chests are still thanking designers for it!

2.) “@FakeThemePark” on Twitter

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Let’s face it – we all need a good laugh every now and then. This Twitter account does it’s best to pretend to be a an actual park, but with situations that would make any good park spokesperson have a heart attack.

1.) Camaraderie amongst park fans:

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Hanging out with “The Coaster Guy” at California’s Great America – best time I’ve had at the park in AGES! Photo by: The Coaster Guy

Despite the efforts of an isolated few in the amusement park fan community – I’ve found that our common love of parks and rides (not affiliation to specific sites) is still what bonds us together…and that the bond is stronger than ever.

After more than a year of working on growing this brand, I’ve been blessed to meet so many new acquaintances that I now can call friends. And isn’t that the point of having a hobby…to meet others that also share in your interests, and to in turn enjoy that hobby with them?

That is the sign of a true enthusiast community – and the mark of a thriving one. So when you sit down and enjoy your turkey and gravy with friends and family – know we’ve got a ton to be thankful for this year and for the upcoming year as well!


Guiding “The Coaster Guy” around California’s Great America

Recently, I had the pleasure to give a “Grand Tour” of California’s Great America to “The Coaster Guy.” Kurt runs a very in-depth site that focuses on his home park, Six Flags Magic Mountain – but also covers other parks that he visits in his travels.

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Photo by The Coaster Guy – used with permission.

If you’ve never been to his site, I HIGHLY recommend taking a few minutes to go over there and peruse it.  It’s always great to meet up with like-minded enthusiasts – and especially ones who share the same passion for parks that I do. I just hope I didn’t make him completely sick showing him all the intense flat rides at the park!

Kurt, I promise that I’ll make it out to Magic Mountain – and look forward to a “smooth” free fall on Drop of Doom!

For more information or to see the Great America update, visit: www.theCoasterGuy.com


The Demon Song and Soundtrack

In honor of Halloween’s approach, what better way to theme your own, personal Haunt than by using the complete, original 1980 soundtrack from the line of the Demon at both Great America’s.

Yes, the “Demon Song” has been online for some time – but not the whole, nearly 30 minute queue recording, so enjoy!

A word of warning – this track is seriously corny!


Halloween Haunt 2013 at California’s Great America

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In only a few, short years, Halloween Haunt at California’s Great America has gone from two “hand me down” mazes from Knott’s Berry Farm to easily the de facto Halloween event in Northern California.

Now with eight (8) mazes, three dedicated “scare zones” and enough fog machines and tinted lighting to make any rock concert jealous – the Haunt is now worthy of being up for comparison to the event that initially spawned it in Southern California.

The entertainment begins just as you enter the front gate to the park. Fire cannons (yes, you read that correctly) have been installed along the reflecting pool of Carousel Columbia. Never did I think I would feel the heat of flames on a relaxing ride like Columbia – then again, this IS Haunt. Consider walking into Carousel Plaza your “baptism by fire” to Haunt. The only thing that would make it better would be to run the carousel backwards.

To the right of the carousel, lies the first of two new mazes this year, “Dia de los Muertos.” As you can imagine, it’s a Latin themed maze, complete with Spanish-talking zombies and dizzying effects. The artwork alone makes the maze worth going into (and we STRONGLY recommend getting a pair of 3D glasses for $1.00 at the entrance). Those 3D glasses can also be used in the “CarnEVIL” maze in Orleans Place.

At the back of the park lies Zombie High, the other new maze for 2013. The building, which lies behind the Grizzly roller coaster, was built specifically for this maze, but I imagine it will double as a Haunt storage warehouse in the off-season. Considering all the material necessary to pull this event off now – it would make sense to expand the “backlot storage” the park currently has.

“Zombie High” is modeled after Shows Director, Clayton Lawrence’s old high school, down to the mascot. Of course, I’m guessing he didn’t have all the zombies and blood, there. See if you can catch all the inside jokes and macabre humor – just don’t upset the Principal.

The eight mazes and elaborate theming in the park would have been enough to placate most Halloween fans – but then California’s Great America did something celebrated by park fans and observers…they didn’t stop there.

Back in March, Park Spokesperson Roger Ross stressed that, “Cedar Fair is committed to California’s Great America. We’re replacing roofs…there’s fresh paint everywhere.” And you know what? He wasn’t kidding. That same spirit and drive to revive the park to it’s former glory and true potential is clearly evident in all aspects of the Haunt this year. Did you really need fire cannons at the front entrance? Not really – but who the hell cares – they’re freaking awesome!

In addition to the two new mazes and amazing theming throughout the park, Great America now offers a pre-scare meal, dubbed “Madame Maries Voodoo Chophouse.” The $22.99 add-on to your admission includes: early entry to the park, an all-you-can-eat, cajun-themed buffet, single “Fright Lane” entry to a maze of your choice and apparently very exclusive ride time on Gold Striker!

Now, most buffets at amusement parks are well – not worth writing home about. But, this meal included: fried catfish, creole, biscuits, prime rib(!) and soft drinks among other items. There’s even a chocolate fountain, complete with fruit and other dessert options. It shattered my notion of what I could eat an an amusement park outside of the Disneyland Resort. The park also offers a “Fright Feast” for $13.99, with more standard, picnic grove food options.

But the two new mazes, elaborately-themed buffet and exclusive ride time on Gold Striker was NOT the highlight of the night. That honor was reserved for the masterfully choreographed ice show, “Blades of Horror.”

Yes, you read right – an ICE show at a Halloween event. Stay with me, people…

A combination “Cirque” style show with an intriguing storyline, “Blades of Horror” is easily the best show I have seen at California’s Great America, going back to the KECO days of the late 1980’s.

The talent is largely local and according to many staff members, the show was largely driven by the performers simply wanting to keep performing. It has the look and feel of a large budget show you’d catch in any Las Vegas resort – and yet it’s right here, in the middle of Haunt. The acrobatics, aerials stunts and exhibitions of these actors is nothing short of spectacular. The grand finale alone is something that simply cannot be missed and may never be duplicated again.

There you have it – not one, but no less than five incredible reasons to visit California’s Great America and their burgeoning Halloween Haunt event.

As the days get closer to Halloween, it’s best to schedule your visit on either a Sunday or better still – visit as soon as possible. The crowds will only get larger as the holiday approaches, and so does the cost of admission.

Oh, and don’t show up to the park on Halloween – Haunt runs through October 27th.

Halloween Heads – it’s time to get out to California’s Great America – and get your scream on.

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Learn more about Haunt and it’s incredible entertainment and food options here: https://www.cagreatamerica.com/haunt


Lost Parks, Episode 3: “Manteca Waterslides”

I am proud today to release our third episode in the “Lost Parks of Northern California” series, focusing on the “famous” Manteca Waterslides!

Learn how the modern water slide was born just off of Highway 120 in Manteca, where you can still go to experience pieces of the park today and why people still call the chamber of commerce, asking about the slides…nine years after the park closed for good.

This was on all accounts – the most difficult video we have produced thus far. The technical aspects alone were enough to make both myself and my producer, Nicholas Laschkewitsch throw a fit. But, we persevered – and are proud to show you our work of the past few months.

“The Lost Parks of Northern California” is produced in association with the American Coaster Enthusiasts, Northern California region. Learn more about them at: www.acenorcal.org


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Photo of the Day: Gold Striker at California’s Great America

After many years of becoming a park known for REMOVING rides rather than ADDING them, California’s Great America in Santa Clara, CA made a major statement this year with the addition of Gold Striker. Billed as the tallest, fastest (and certainly most intense) coaster in Northern California, Gold Striker is easily one of the top five wooden coasters I’ve ever had the privilege of riding – and should be under consideration for the Top Ten in the United States.

Despite some minor setbacks and delays in opening, mostly due to ongoing noise abatement issues – the ride is now roaring every operating day, to delighted and packed crowds.

A winner all around, this coaster is seen by many as the catalyst for revival at California’s Great America – and fans are loving every moment of it. But don’t take my word for it – check out Westcoaster’s recent review.

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Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/greatamericanthrills/sets

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Ride Review: California’s Great America – The Grizzly

Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry

When I attended a construction tour and park preview at California’s Great America this past winter, it was announced that the Grizzly (the park’s perennially basement dwelling wooden coaster) was completely overhauled and had, in fact, been sped up by nearly 12 seconds.

Understandably, there were grumbles and guffaws from the audience. After all, this was a coaster that had finished DEAD LAST in many coaster polls for DECADES. At one point, you have to think the park should have thrown a faux celebration at that dubious honor, right?

Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry.

Really?!? Grizzly is so boring you can text while on it? I disagree.

However, I am happy to report that the Grizzly, at the mid point to it’s operating season – is running smoother, faster and better than I can ever remember. (And I remember RIDING it in the 1980’s!)

But wait – there’s more!

It’s also moving so fast (from what it was before) that it’s actually placing some nice g-forces on riders in the lower turnarounds.

You read right – Grizzly, a coaster that was smoothed out from it’s original design to be more “family friendly” in the 1980’s – is becoming more and more forceful with every day she’s running. (And that’s a GOOD thing!)

Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry

Smiles, not grimaces now adorn riders of the Grizzly.

Will it ever compete with Gold Striker on thrills? Absolutely not – even with extensive re-profiling to match more closely to the ORIGINAL Grizzly design at Kings Dominion in Virginia – to compare Gold Striker and the Grizzly is unfair.

However, with two very re-rideable wooden coasters now in the park, the Grizzly makes for a perfect “starter” coaster for the enthusiast in training, who’s not quite ready yet to “strike gold.”

Now, if only the park could speed up dispatches by doing away with those unnecessary second and THIRD seat belts…


Gold Striker Closed Only Temporarily for Modifications

After two weeks of soft testing, a lavish grand opening ceremony and over a month of regular operation, the Gold Striker wooden roller coaster at California’s Great America is closed temporarily to allow for additional sound mitigation to be placed on the ride. But don’t hit your panic buttons – published news reports say the ride is expected to be back up and running by the July 4th holiday – NOT an extended, unknown period.

According to the City of Santa Clara’s “Smart Permit” website, Gold Striker had several criteria to meet in order for it to open permanently, the biggest of which states: “Should the additional testing reveal that the coaster is not in compliance with Condition 23 (amount of sound coming from the ride) or any applicable City ordinances, Cedar Fair shall undertake Remedial Measures, as defined in the Settlement Agt Agreement.” Apparently, the ride was just shy of making all those criteria.

Many industry watchers and local boosters see this addition to the park (and the subsequent work to ensure everyone is satisfied) as a serious commitment from corporate owner Cedar Fair, LP to both the park and the local economy.

“Cedar Fair elected to close the ride to install additional sound mitigation upgrades,” said Santa Clara Mayor, Jamie Matthews. “Those upgrades should bring the ride into full compliance with the previous settlement. I’m hoping to see it open here for the 4th of July.”

He added, “I am very happy with the way this is situation is working out – it shows responsible citizenship – that we can all work together and come to a solution.”

Noise Tests at California's Great America. Photo (C) 2013, Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills. All rights reserved.

A man with recording equipment and headphones monitors the noise coming from Gold Striker from one of Prudential’s buildings.

Since “soft-opening” in May, Gold Striker has seen major additions, most notably the addition of plywood walls and white foam along the sides and underside of the track. By coincidence, these spots pass closest to or face the buildings located on Great America Parkway. During initial construction, the park added what was dubbed an, “initial descent tunnel” onto the first drop of the ride. This feature was presumably added to mitigate the sound from the first drop of the ride.

Trying to build this ride has been quite the roller coaster ride in and of itself – the plans go back to 2007, when the park first began the permitting process. In addition to the standard permits, three hearings were held on potential noise levels – all of which were initiated by appeals from the owners of the buildings closest to the proposed ride.

Billy D’Anjou, a local roller coaster enthusiast, has logged 80 circuits on the coaster since it opened in May and is hoping to hit his 100th ride in July.

“I personally don’t mind more enhancements (to the ride) but I think the whole noise mitigation issue has gotten out out of control,” he said. “In the end it makes me worry what limitations Great America will have in the future. (Prudential) should expect noise from a theme park. It’s not a library or fine art museum.”

Gold Striker at California's Great America. Photo (C) 2013 Kris Rowberry & Great American Thrills. All rights reserved.

Gold Striker thrills riders on a recent operating day.

Gold Striker is the first wooden roller coaster built in Northern California since 1999. It boasts the tallest and fastest drop in Northern California and is the largest capital investment in the park in over a decade. The ride was built partially on the footprint of another ride, Willard’s Whizzer – a steel coaster that operated from 1976 to 1988.

The land that Prudential’s buildings sit on was originally an auxiliary parking lot for Great America. The land was sold in the late 90’s during the dot com boom. Prudential acquired the buildings in early 2002, according to a press release on their website.

Marriott’s Great America opened in 1976, as a celebration of America’s bi-centennial. The concept was to create a chain of parks to become an answer to Disney’s theme park empire.


Illegal POV Filming – When Will They Learn?

I hate to be a broken record – but if you’ve been reading my writings on illegal, handheld POV filming on rides – then watching this video should come as no surprise to you.

If you think filming on rides is harmless behavior – how would YOU like to be hit with a GoPro Hero3 at 55mph?

Thankfully, no one was apparently injured in this situation.

Here’s the kicker – while the ride starts well after the train has been dispatched and out of the eyesight of ride employees – the lift has not one, but TWO cameras on it. There’s got to be a better way of preventing this – and there is!


Season Pass Podcast Interview

We had the pleasure of being interviewed at the Gold Striker media day by the great Doug Barnes of “The Season Pass” podcast. Check out the interview about halfway through at the link below:

Can’t wait to talk up “Lost Parks” some more in the future, Doug!

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-season-pass-the-essential/id268430539

Direct Link:

http://traffic.libsyn.com/seasonpasspodcast/The_Season_Pass_235.mp3

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Star Tower POV (Point of View) Video

Need a break at work today? Then come along for quite possibly the SLOWEST point of view (POV) video that you will ever see of any amusement park ride on Earth – here’s the complete ride cycle for the 200 foot tall Star Tower at California’s Great America. That being said, you’ll see all of the major attractions of the park in action – a rare feat to capture in just one ride!


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Gold Striker Video – Rider Reactions

With Gold Striker now officially open to the public at California’s Great America – enjoy this on-ride video of myself and “Lost Parks” Producer, Nicholas Laschkewitsch (who is also the ACE NorCal Asst. Regional Rep) taking in a ride.


Gold Striker NOW OPEN at California’s Great America

Yes, it’s official. As of this afternoon, the Gold Rush has officially met your adrenaline rush – GOLD STRIKER at California’s Great America is now offically OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

Look for a full media review in the next few days – but for now, get out and enjoy Gold Striker at California’s Great America!

Gold Striker at California's Great America

Gold Striker is officially open to the public!

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Photo of the Day: Carousel Columbia at “Blue Hour”

Carousel Columbia at California's Great America. Photo (c) copyright 2013 - Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Quite simply, this is one of the best long exposures I’ve ever taken. Done with a Nikon D7100, 24-70mm lens and NO tripod – just stayed as still as possible. Columbia is still the World’s Tallest Carousel as recognized by Guinness World Records at just over 101 feet tall.

Carousel Columbia at California's Great America. Photo (c) copyright 2013 - Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Still the tallest carousel in the world, Carousel Columbia makes for a stunning subject at night. Now, if only all the accent lighting were working…

As always, a big thanks to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

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Gold Striker *ACTUAL REVIEW* at California’s Great America

Gold Striker - www.greatamericanthrills.net

“Wow.”

That’s the word most people were saying after they got off Gold Striker this evening. While not open to the public yet, California’s Great America invited people, including yours truly, to come out and participate in a promo shoot for commercials and still advertising.

Gold Striker - www.greatamericanthrills.net

Gold Striker looms large over Carousel Plaza and the front entrance to the park.

Folks, this ride is the REAL DEAL and is setting up to be a real “sleeper hit” across the country. Most people know Great America as a park that seems to enjoy removing rides rather than building them. Gold Striker might just make you forgive them (maybe).

The fun starts before you get to the lift hill (that’s right, BEFORE you get to the lift hill!) Folks in the rear seats will appreciate the incredible whip of the turnaround out of the station, which could be the tightest I’ve ever seen taken at speed before on a woodie) and those in the front seat will appreciate the airtime (yes, I said AIRTIME) on the bunny hill before the lift.

After ascending the lift, riders enter the “initial descent tunnel” and that’s where all hell breaks loose. The ride is fast, noisy and the effect of blasting out fo the tunnel is impossible to describe.

From there the ride does a VERY close flyby of the station stairs, giving wonderful photo / video opportunities. A floater hill and a few head choppers later, the ride finds it’s speed…and keeps it until the brake run.

I don’t want to completely ruin the ride for you, but know that there are many “pops” of air on this ride, usually to set you up for another element. Call it a “tag team coaster” because they work perfectly together.

Coming into the final turn, you hit the magnetic (it’s Silicon Valley, gotta have some technology) and then back to the station. Pictorium fans will be saddened to learn that two of the entrances have been demolished, but the building itself still stands.

Gold Striker - www.greatamericanthrills.net

“Millennium Flyer” trains harken back to the “Golden Age” of coaster design. The trains are Gold / Red, Red Gold – in 49ers shades.

To quote my ride mate for this marathon session, “Airtime is back with GCI.”

We squeezed in nine (9) rides before the park shut down the line. Average wait times were 15 minutes, shrinking as more and more of the general public left. This ride is NOT EASY to marathon, but for all the RIGHT reasons. It is INTENSE, BREAKNECK PACED and to be quite honest, many of us in attendance were pinching ourselves, wondering how we got this ride to come here in the first place.

So, in conclusion…

This is a winner all-around for a park more recently known for REMOVING rides than ADDING them. Be prepared for sharp transitions, “set up” surprises and well-timed elements. The ride is smooth with little attitude. This is not an, “airtime machine” but it has well over 8-10 (I kept losing count) pop airtimes. There are moments when you’re riding only on up-stops.

Now, you can take your kids on Grizzly as a warm up and test their (and your) mettle on Gold Striker.

In my opinion, this coaster could EASILY take on El Toro in national polls and in many cases it should WIN.

The ONLY thing missing from this ride…is YOU!

To learn more about Gold Striker or to purchase tickets to the park, visit www.cagreatamerica.com

Gold Striker logo


REVIEW – Halloween Haunt 2012 at California’s Great America

First off, my apologies for the delay in updating lately. Unlike some others in the theme park fandom community – I actually hold down full-time employment in a separate career…

In only it’s fifth year of existence, California’s Great America has taken their “Halloween Haunt” from a paltry offering that used “long retired” mazes from other parks – to a bona fide, macabre extravaganza worthy of a separate gate admission.

After parking the car and meeting up with my group for the night, I immediately noticed the attention to theme and detail. Carousel Plaza was lit up (and so were the teenagers I was surrounded by).

In Hometown Square my fellow “scared-y cats” and I gathered, awaiting the Overlord (the de facto leader of the monsters) to rise up from the depths and “plug” all the fun activities for the evening (literally as if he was plugging a product on the Howard Stern show) as well as command his minions to go forth, “…and terrorize!” The ropes were dropped and the night of fright officially began.

HAUNTED ATTRACTIONS:

Figuring the front mazes would be crowded at first, I made my way to the back of the park, where the familiar sounds of “Toy Factory” could be heard.

“Toy Factory” is set in it’s namesake – a not so abandoned factory inhabited by deranged dolls and other toys, who were more than willing to help unsuspecting guests join their ranks. Some of the best effects are found in the the strobe rooms, but if you’re claustrophobic – this is not the maze for you.

“Werewolf Canyon” was sadly at the bottom of my list this year, mostly because it was practically empty by all standards. While most of the mazes will will up nicely as we get closer to Halloween, I didn’t get one good fright out of the entire attraction – which is a sharp contrast from last years maze in the same location.

Next up was arguably the best of the mazes at this event, for several years now, “Cornstalkers”. Set in the back of the park, through the Picnic Grove and under the Grizzly, this maze had the best scares of the night, by far.

Not only does it feel like the longest of the mazes, but it’s use of open air and lack of soundtrack gives you the false sense of safety – which the talent in the maze use perfectly to their advantage. The addition of actors blending perfectly into the corn maize walls towards the end of the attraction adds to the suspense and fright.

“Madame Marie’s Massacre Mansion” is a new addition to the maze lineup this year. Built into it’s own building (ironically next to First Aid) “Mansion” is one of the best themed mazes I’ve walked through in quite some time. It also commanded the longest line of the night.

It was clear there was attention to detail at every level – it truly made you FEEL as though you were in a 1920’s (or so) mansion, that is, if you didn’t look up to the ceiling and see the shed you were actually in! This is in sharp contrast to most of the mazes at events like this, where it’s just painted particle board.

The effects were nothing short of impressive and the costumes were excellent, to boot. It’s clear that this maze took some serious investment to get it right – and in my opinion it was well worth the time and effort put into it. One can only hope we see it return next year.

Vegans beware! “Slaughterhouse Annihilation” just might make you sick. Based around an abandoned meat processing facility, this maze is one of the more gruesome of the bunch – and rightfully so. Expect to be thrown in a meat grinder in this maze at some point – and whatever you do – don’t show the pigs any fear!

“CarnEvil” is the reigning patriarch of the mazes at this event. Originally a maze down at Knott’s Berry Farm, “CarnEvil was the first maze to make it’s way to Great America when the Halloween Haunt debuted five years ago.

This maze is by far, the most light-hearted of them all, which attracts the multitude of fans to it. That is, of course, if you’re not afraid of clowns.

Built into the Rue le Dodge bumper car arena, “CarnEvil” is also a 3D maze – used to brilliant effect in the opening room. Just don’t walk too quickly or you just might run into a wall or three.

Herein again, I found the lack of talent inside to be the only disappointment. At previous events, it would have been impossible to throw a pie and NOT hit a homicidal clown. Instead, I was hard pressed to see more than 7-10 actors inside!

“Club Blood ReVamp’d” was sadly the one maze I was unable to get to in my time at the park. Though, from the scantily-clad zombie and vampire ladies that were going inside – I’m certainly regretting not making the time to get in!

As the night progressed and the temperature dropped, the scare zones (and the fog) only warmed up in terms of action. The purposely dimmed lighting certainly did its part as well. Nothing beats walking through the arbor arch at the back of the park and seeing about three feet in front of you!

ENTERTAINMENT:

“Blood Drums” is a high energy, outdoor show that’s best described as “Stomp” meets “zombie apocalypse.”

Set in the premium venue at the park (directly behind the Carousel Columbia) “Blood Drums” is a 3-4 member band in full zombie attire that uses metal objects and “industrial tools” to create music.

If you’re into loud, ear-splitting music – this is definitely the show for you. If you’re not – steer clear, hombre. Many times, I found myself reaching to plug my ears, as the volume was up so high it physically hurt – and I was standing about 100 feet away from the stage. How the guests standing at the front of the stage are not deaf today, is beyond me.

In fact, the best music the team played during their set, again in my opinion, was when they TURNED OFF the backup bass and drumbeats – and simply played live.

“CULTure Pop” is in the Showtime Theatre – and can best be described as “The Hanging” without the blood, stunts or punch of the actual hanging.

Cedar Fair Entertainment certainly seems to have a fascination with pop culture, to the point of being painful to watch. Expect to see pop culture “icons” appear throughout the show, with many of them that just don’t work. Cedar Fair also seems to have a fascination with effeminate men playing the supporting role to the “straight man” in the show…go figure.

There were some good moments though, including a cameo by a hairy “Honey Boo Boo” and a dismissal of the band, “New Direction.”

But the lack of a “finale” (I.E. someone has to die at these types of shows) and several VERY adult themed dance numbers (We’re talking full on groping and humping!) really hurt the overall entertainment value, especially for an event marketed to kids ages 13+. Have your scantily clad ladies, that’s fine – but tone down the sexual overtones – it’s shock value and really does not add to the show.

But what REALLY shocks me, is something that’s completely out of the parks’ control – the lack of understanding about what these events are all about. I’m talking about how I lost count of the number of STROLLERS and CHILDREN who were clearly too young to be at such a mentally-intense event as this.

The park certainly does their part to curb this; warnings abound on park literature and signage. Heck, even the security guards were warning parents – but it didn’t seem to dissuade the “Parents of the Year” from continuing their march towards the inevitable child psychologist appointments.

So, overall – I see nothing but good things for this event in the future. While it may not have the star power of the original Halloween Haunt at Knott’s Berry Farm, if it continues on this path that it’s on, I see no reason why it should not have the same staying power and clout as it’s namesake does.

If you have not already purchased a Season Pass for this park, what exactly are you waiting for? In addition to admission to Halloween Haunt (depending on the level of pass you purchase) you can receive free parking, free admission to Gilroy Gardens, as well as merchandise and food discounts in-park. (We saved $20 collectively on our dinner!)

Oh, not to mention Gold Striker, CGA’s first roller coaster in over a DECADE (yes, it’s been that long, people) and second wooden coaster!

Top Tips:

  • If you don’t like being scared – save yourself the trouble and don’t go.
  • Friday nights tend to be a younger crowd than Saturday nights.
  • Arrive at the front gate at opening to maximize your stay. You’re going to need as much time as possible to experience everything.
  • Take on the outdoor mazes AFTER the sun sets, focus on indoor mazes during the twilight.
  • Try to find the pockets of people and then avoid them – to keep lines to a minimum.
  • Go in late September or early October to avoid the expected, larger crowds as Halloween approaches.

For more information, visit: www.cagreatamerica.com/haunt2012