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The People Behind “Lost Parks” and the Manteca Waterslides

Despite how it may look, there are many, MANY people who are involved in the production of “Lost Parks of Northern California.”

Without them, I would not be able to look as good as I do presenting it. With that, here are all the people it took to bring the Manteca Waterslides episode to life:

Al Garcia, Waterworld California: A big thanks goes to my longtime friend Al Garcia, who is the Marketing Sales Coordinator for the park. He gave us his personal stories of Manteca – in addition to allowing us to capture some unbelievable angles of the water slides in his park – including this particularly moist one. Visit his park (when it’s open) at: www.waterworldcalifornia.com

Roger Ross & Ryan Davies, California’s Great AmericaFor allowing us to film inside their Boomerang Bay water park and make that historical connection to the slides in Manteca, I am forever indebted to you both. Here’s hoping that we get to work together again soon, or maybe even catch a Sharks game together this season. Visit their park at: www.cagreatamerica.com

Mike Brown and the Entire Brown Family: Mr. Brown – thank you for giving us the opportunity to share your family story with us – and thank you even more for opening up to us about all the history you hold in your memories. I can always say that I hung out with the owner of the Manteca Waterslides, and bought him lunch, while we shared stories and went through old photo albums. We will wear our Manteca “Anniversary” hats with pride.

Debby Moorhead, Vice Mayor of Manteca: Debby was crucial to us tracking down and getting permission from the current owners of the slides, as well as a great interview and one of the few, genuine politicians we’ve ever met. Sounds like Manteca is THE place to be in the coming years…we can’t wait!

ProAM USA: There is no way we would have been able to capture some of the beautiful shots in this video without winning a Facebook contest from these guys. (Seriously, we actually won a Facebook contest and got a camera crane!) Our new DVC60 camera jib was put through it’s paces this episode and we cannot wait to see what else we create with it.

Oh, and we’d love to model some of your other products, by the way…

Robert Ingle: Those promotional photos of me in the slides “acting” were all captured by Robert – who’s got quite the eye for awesome photos. But, his real skill is to blend in so I don’t even realize he’s taking my picture. I think there’s a career for you at TMZ if you’re interested, Robert.

And for those of you wondering, it’s Robert’s face that closes out the first episode in the credit roll…

Taylor Evans: I’ve never had a script supervisor before – but if I ever can hire one, it would be Taylor. He kept me on track and motivated as best as the Costco hot dog I bought him for lunch. For such complex shots, he was able to let me relax and do my thing, while he made sure the script still made sense. He also was responsible for the “summer winding down” edit that we thankfully caught that day.

And finally, I’ve saved the best for last – and with good reason, too.

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Getting direction from Nicholas, with Taylor holding the sun reflector. (Photo by Robert Ingle)

I first met Nicholas Laschkewitsch a little less than a year ago – and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to partner with on this series.  We’re three episodes into this once “little” project – and he somehow continually finds ways to both amaze and astound me with his work, both as a cinematographer, video editor and field producer.

This, mind you – without any professional training or experience. Nicholas simply has an eye for good work – and I could not be more fortunate to have found him and work with him on this series. He is just as much responsible for the success of this series as I am in front of the camera and doing research. Here’s to many more fun projects with the best producer I could ever have asked for.

If you haven’t seen how all these people came together on this project – look no further!


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


We’re Presenting at the San Mateo County History Museum!

Great American Thrills is honored to announce that we’ve been selected as a presenter in the San Mateo County History Museum’s “Courthouse Docket” series, exploring the rich history of the region.

Come down on October 26th at 1:00pm and see “The Next Huell Howser” – aka Kris Rowberry – show you how you can still experience some of our bygone amusement parks…today!

Who knows, you just might learn something, too!


The Amazing People Behind the Scenes of “Lost Parks”

The forthcoming episode of the Lost Parks of Northern California was easily our most complicated – and yet it will be our most beautiful, too. But it’s not just me that makes it look good – it’s three talented individuals, Taylor Evans, Robert Ingle and Nicholas Laschkewitsch that make it (and me) look so good.

In addition – what you may not know – is that we’re not making any money on the project. In fact, we lose money on each and every shoot, whether from travel expenses, to material from historical societies – it all costs money. But, we think bringing these parks back to life is more about expanding our skills and more importantly, reclaiming our amusement heritage.

Without these folks behind the scenes, I wouldn't be able to complete this series!

Without these folks behind the scenes, I wouldn’t be able to complete this series! Photo by Ace Northern California, used with permission.

In addition, this upcoming episode would not have been possible without the efforts of the Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Manteca, Debbie Moorhead. Without her connections, we would have never been able to get permission to film at the slides final resting place. In addition, her interview at the Chamber of Commerce was just spectacular and was full of incredible information…

Wrapping up the interview with Mayor Pro Tem, Debbie Moorhead. Photo by ACE NorCal, used with permission.

Wrapping up the interview with Mayor Pro Tem, Debbie Moorhead. Photo by ACE Northern California, used with permission.

I knew working on this series would mean making connections to make it all work – I just didn’t think it would be so much fun to do it!

Producer Nicholas and I with our new favorite tool, a ProAm USA DVC 60 camera crane. Thank you Facebook contests!

Producer Nicholas and I with our new favorite tool, a ProAm USA DVC 60 camera crane. Thank you Facebook contests! Photo by ACE Northern California, used with permission.

Now, we jest need some production companies to sit up and start taking notice! C’mon guys, let’s hear from you sooner than later!


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Luna Park Video Continues to Amaze!

I had the fortune of meeting with Greg Baumann, Editor-in-Chief of the Silicon Valley Business Journal recently – and it turns out he loves learning about Silicon Valley’s history, too!

Thanks Silicon Valley Biz Journal

Let’s hope he enjoys all 23 of the other Northern California lost parks we’re aiming to cover – thanks, Greg!

If you haven’t already checked it out, view our complete “Lost Parks of Northern California” series here: www.greatamericanthrills.net/lostparks


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Lost Parks of Northern California – Episode 2 Preview

It’s finally here!

Episode 2 of the “Lost Parks” series is in the bucket and ready for release. So until the actual episode debuts, check out this quick preview of San Jose’s OTHER long lost amusement park – LUNA PARK!

Look for the actual episode to debut later this month!


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.