Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Monday, November 28, 2005

Winterfest - PKI

Paramount's Kings Island - WinterFest
November 26, 2005

Having grown up in Cincinnati, Ohio, I grew up with the tradition of going to WinterFest, and I don't think I missed a year of the original festival.  One of the first things that happened when Paramount purchased Kings Island was the announcement that WinterFest would be discontinued. It seemed at the time that Paramount was going on a fast road to alienating themselves from their customer base.  The last WinterFest was in 1992, which means its been 13 years since the festival last took place. The return of WinterFest has been rumored for several years now, to the point where the line got blurred between an honest rumor about the return of WinterFest and those just wishing to make it so.

On July 25, 2005, the announcement came that WinterFest would indeed be returning.  A buzz filled the air as those of us old enough to remember the original WinterFest were eager to return to its revival. I truly believe that the local area, for the most part is ready to embrace WinterFest again, but its up to Paramount to put on an event worthy of a revival. Sure, the event seems to be overpriced, and season passes would not be accepted, and then the whole business of being strong armed into choosing a specific date to attend. We decided to go with the "Good Any Day" tickets, purchased with the stern warning that "The event may sell out, and you may not be able to go on the day you want"

Well, now its November 26, 2005.  I check the weather forecast, and it will be low 50''s/high 40's with no rain and calm winds, I cant imagine the weather in Cincinnati getting much better for the run of WinterFest, so we make the decision to go to WinterFest.  I first call the park, and confirm that the event is not sold out tonight, and the tone in the Guest Services person voice implied "We're not even close to being sold out"  I had first checked the website to see if tickets were available for tonight, but the first weekend's specific day tickets were not available, and more interesting the FestHaus and Bubba Gump's tickets had also been removed, but International Restaurant tickets had been added.  International Restaurant will only be open a very few days during WinterFest.  

So Mom and I left Coasterville, Ohio around 3:15PM, arriving at the park around 3:40PM.  We pull up to the toll plaza and I note that special WinterFest parking rates have been put into place, general parking is an almost reasonable $5, and preferred parking is an outrageous $10.  We pulled up to the toll collector, and I hand over my parking pass, and learn that parking passes are not accepted for WinterFest.  For those of you who ignored the parking price the first time I mentioned it, well its $5.  Since there are technically no gold passes during WinterFest, the Gold Pass lot has been opened up to general parking.  We park the car and head up to the entrance plaza.

Up at the entrance plaza, I note that outside of holiday music on the sound system, not much has changed since the regular season.  I note that the Season Pass Sales building has been converted to WinterFest Ticket Sales, I think its for the same reason the tram circle has been removed, which is to ease the congestion in the entrance plaza.  I also suspect the metal detectors are the chief cause of that congestion.  As I go through the metal detectors I have to ponder why ice skates wit nice sharp blades are allowed past, and small pocketknives are forbidden.

We made our way to the front gate, and had no trouble entering the park using our pre-purchased good any day tickets.  ($19.99, $16.99 with a season pass)  Walking under the front gate, we picked up the special WinterFest park maps, and I verified that yes International Restaurant is open tonight.  A Montgomery Inn ribs and chicken dinner is available up there for $26.40.  

Coming out into front gate plaza, I make a beeline for the Toy Factory Ticket  booth to pick up our reserved show tickets.  The park has gone on a big campaign into scaring people that the event will be a sell out, and that it will be busy enough to justify trying to get people to prearrange their show time and the meal time. I approached the ticket booth where there was no line, and all three windows advertised that they were distributing tickets for the 4:30 show. Ah, but my preplanned visit (perhaps I read the Disney Unofficial Guide a bit too much) had me all set to take in the 8:30 showing of Santa's Toy Factory.  This is a human based ticketing process, so I ask if 8:30 tickets are available, to which the ticket distributor reached around back and produced 8:30 show tickets for me.  It is worth noting that you only need to send one person to the ticket office, and you don't even need to produce valid admission tickets to cover the amount of show tickets you are requesting.

Show tickets safely in pocket, I'd say that all the homework is done, and its time to see what the park has managed to arrange.  There wasn't a great influx of people in the park yet, and the International Street lights are not lit yet, so it looks pretty much the way it did on closing day of the regular season.  I do notice the barriers around the little tiny stage with the fanciful looking gizmo at the head on Internal Street is still there, and as I suspected this will be involved in the nightly tree lighting ceremony.  The Royal Fountain ice rink is set up and looks ready for skaters.  We start at the front gate and work our way up the south side of International Street.  

In the small gift shop next to Guest Relations, they have set up Box Office Gifts, whose major stock in trade is 2006 season passes, sold with the pitch that you can buy now, and not have to pay until April.  Continuing on, we go into what is normally Convenience Corner, and find that that store has been converted to the Trim A Tree store full of all your holiday decorating needs. Continuing on, the parks version of Build-A-Bear has signed on for WinterFest, which should be very popular.  In the store that is Girl Space in the summer has been remade into Hometown Gifts, which sells local sports related items. At this point you have to exit the gift shops, and we continue down past the open LaRoasa, and mini donuts stand.   I noted that the mini donuts stand has added alcoholic coffee drinks to its menu, Greater's was open, and a popcorn wagon was setup outside Graters  to round out the block.  

Proceeding to the second block the Spanish Building looks to about the same as it is in the summer, with the glassblower shop and candy store being the main tenenats. Stepping out of the Glassblower shop, I note the set for Scrooges House, which had been a feature of the original WinterFest.  I also now realize that I never returned to hear Scrooge's show.  I note that Starbucks is open, and I note a tree has been setup in front of the Emporium.  By this time I can see the first wave a skaters starting to take to the ice, and I can see the garland and decorations lining the International Street shops.

We continue past Starbucks, and I notice some elves doing some last minute work as they were replacing the regular summer park map with the WinterFest park map.  I also not the inner ring of Tower Circle has been closed. We make the turn towards Santa Land.  Santa Land is in the area that used to be called Hanna Barbera Land.  I note the Age and Weight game is closed as well as Chick-Fill-A (and it's not even Sunday!) Going past the Lost Parents office I note they have what are meant to look like old fashioned silver trees. Proceeding into Santa Land the railing are wrapped in that same silver garland, and the lightpoles are covered in neon green and orange decoration. For those seeking religious diversity in their winter time events I note a Hanukkah themed song on the PA system. I note the blue ice cream stand is closed, but the HB Carousel is open, yes with the HB Characters, and the park map still has it as the HB Carousel, so in effect the last HB rides will be taken during WinterFest.

Speaking of open rides, Top Cat's Taxi Jam is open, and I get excited at first because I see the sign only says you must be taller than 36", I see nothing saying y9ou must be shorter than 60".  Well that is still on the more detailed ride sign at the bottom of the hill, so I still do not have the Taxi Jam credit.  We continue through Santa Land, or that is we attempt to continue through Santa Land, but security is busy erected a barricade, two ropes set at most 10' apart.  Clearly there is a reason why they don't want you using the main path as they have posted THREE security guards to block this maybe 5-10' wide stretch of closed path.  

The guards do point out that you can cut through the Scooby Doo meet and greet area (which was open).  I'm sure Scooby is going to love having his area congested by all the people trying to get around Santa Land, as the Scooby meet and greet is not that big of an area.  We come out on the other side of the Scooby meet and greet and I note that the Pixie and Dixie kids swing ride is open, as well as Scooby Doo's Haunted Castle.  I also noted that the Boulder Bumpers façade is in the process of being removed.

There had been some buzz, including on PKI's own website, that Scooby Doo would receive a holiday overlay.  Well the outside of the attraction has the same WinterFest decorations as the rest of Santa Land.  I also noted the attraction signage did not read "Scooby Doo's Christmas Caper" as originally planned.  We entered the haunted castle where we found the queue area to be even darker than usual, then we were able to walk right onto the ride.  The ride itself, is in fact, the exact same ride as it is during the regular season, except for the fact that the background music seemed to be missing.  Nothing special.  We backtrack across Santa Land, again cutting through Scooby's meet and greet area, where I guess Scooby was getting major annoyed and was leaving his meet and greet area.  

We took a walk over to the Animation Station building which is serving as the Santa Claus meet and greet area.  We walked through the building to see the theming.  It's meant to look like an old time department store toyland.  Well, except the toyland here is along the back wall and the toys are not able to be played with, as they would be at an old time Toyland. I note a major queue area has been set up to wait to see Santa, and we then head out the back door.  

We walk towards Nickelodeon Central, where I note something very interesting.  You see up by Boulder Bumpers they have put fabric sheeting up to block off the midway, and also to obscure vision into the area.  Well back here by Nick Central, just regular metal crowd control barriers are being used.   This means that I can observe what is going on.  I was overjoyed to see that the Slime Zone Water Maze appears to be having a meeting with a bulldozer. The fences are set up so I can maneuver around and still see into South Pie.  Scooby's Ghoster Coaster is pretty much all removed except for the entrance façade, and sadly the kiddie whip is also gone, as well as just about everything back in the old South Pie area.  A crane is set up next to the station for Yogi's Sky Tours, so I snap a few pictures of the demolition of HB Land. On my way out from my little nook I run into a couple other coaster enthusiasts and then we continue on our tour towards Rivertown.  

I notice the fabric sheets are blocking off Atom Ant's Airways, so we walk back towards Busytown Grill.  Oddly enough I notice the HB water race game is open, while the flip-a-chicken game is closed.  A couple wire frame topiary like reindeer stand in front of the HB restroom building.  We make our way into Rivertown.  Immediately, the background music starts to take a country twang to it.  I note the Old Time Photos stand is open, and a popcorn stand is open. From the popcorn stand, there is absolutely nothing open in Rivertown until you reach the train depot. I am surprised that Wings is closed as Wings would add another indoor dining option, and bring life to the area.  I note along the fabric sheets blocking access to Nick Central there is a single "12 days of Christmas" poster.

We crossed the bridge into lower Rivertown, where I noted the basketball game was closed, as were the games up by Wild Thornberries.  I noted the train ride was not set to open until 5pm, and as such as it was only about 4:40 there were no trains and no crew in the train station.  We bought an order of fresh cut fries from Rivertown Potato Works ($4.50) We sat next to a portable heating pole and enjoyed our fries while waiting for the train ride to open.  At around 4:55 we joined the growing queue for the train ride, and I look around and I can swear those luminaire bags where not there when we first walked trough the area.  Rivertown's walkways are now lined with lit luminarie bags.  A close inspection of the bags reveals they are actually either battery or electric power. While waiting for the train ride, we were offered a free sample of a food product that consists of a lightly breaded apple wedge served with a little cup of dip made up of whipped cream and strawberry syrup.  I must say the free sample was a nice touch, and I note the Depot Sundae shop is open, which is a surprise because that stand seems to be closed during the summer.

Right at 5PM, the train ride opened. A big sign out front proclaimed the ride "White Christmas Express" The signs that usually read "Losantiville" now read "Holiday Junction" We go through the entrance turnstiles, and I note a cart loaded high with old time suitcases is sitting in the area right next to the waiting area.  As we enter the waiting area, I note that there is a soldier also waiting for the train ride.  You see, the White Christmas Express is loosely based on the movie "White Christmas", which you will not be surprised to learn is a Paramount movie. The basic storyline is that you are traveling with Bob Wallace, who is a WWII soldier on his way home, just in time for Christmas.   While we wait for the train to arrive we note the arrival of two other characters, a person dressed in a period train conductors outfit, who will be your emcee, followed promptly by a porter who rushes in with the luggage cart, mishandling the luggage by the way. The Conductor welcomes us, using a period microphone,  to the White Chirstmas Express, and talks about how its good to go home for the holidays, then ask if anyone here is on there way home.  This, of course is the WWII soldier (Bob Wallace) cue to answer loudly that he is.  The conductor allows Bob onto the platform and makes note of the fact that Bob is on his way home after several years of serving his country overseas.  The conductor also makes note of the fact that Bob is a good singer, and he chides Bob into singing a song for the people waiting in the train station.  Bob sings "White Christmas", just as the train is pulling in.  At the conclusion of the song, the conductor thanks Bob and then gives the safety rules for the train ride.  We are now allowed to board the train, and I note that both the conductor and Bob Wallace have also boarded the train.

The train departs the station and I note the conductor will be giving the narration using what is not a period appropriate microphone. As we round the corner by Tomb Raider, the conductor gives the ride safety speil again, ending with "No easting, drinking or smoking on the train, so you'll have to save those Ne-Hi's and Lucky Strikes for later.  The conductor then sets the whole solider returning home from war, making it home just in time to finally celebrate Christmas with there family storyline.  We also pass the one token lit tree along the entire train ride. As the train goes along the course, it passes several scenes which all contain a postcard telling the story for those fast enough to read, flanked by the picture on the other side of a small scene.  I suppose these are the postcards between Bob Wallace and his family through the war while he was separated from his family.  The conductor narrates the story, and at one point chides Bob into singing another song, this time its "Home for the Holidays" The song seems to timed so that just as the song is ending, you reach Bob Wallace's house, to which Bob shouts for them to stop the train.  The train stops and Bob runs up the lawn and is greeted (via recorded narration) with his family in a very emotional reunion.   The train then has to return to the station, and the conductor becomes a conductor in another sense as he pulls a conductor's baton out of his pocket and leads the train passengers in a chorus of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and then I note there are a couple other holiday lighting arrangements, one by the Boomerang Bay train crossing, and one underneath the White Water Canyon bridge.  The conductor leads the group into giving the next group waiting in the station a seasons' greetings, then we exit the train ride.  All in all I liked the train ride, sure it could have used a lot more lights to become a winter wonderland, but then maybe they wanted to me minimalistic with the lights and decorations in order as to not overshadow the message of the story.  I don't want to make this political, but in these days of action in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other world nations, the notion of soldiers from our armed forces wishing above all to be able to be home with their families for the holidays is a very real, very relevant wish in today's world.  It may have been a way to bring a Paramount movie into WinterFest, but it's also a nice tribute for the armed forces and those families here at home  who are today wishing for the exact same dream presented by the train ride.  All in all, its about a 12-15 minute experience, and they had both trains operating.

We continued our way around Rivertown, and I noted the Peach Basket game was open, and they have added a nice holiday touch by placing a wreath around the mouth of each basket.  Continuing on, I noted they had placed a wreath on the fabric covering over Tomb Raider, and that they had placed further coverings over the lockers in this area.  In the gift shop located directly across from Tomb Raider, they have set up Rivertown Crafters.  The shop holds a wood carver who will make signs for you house or deck or boat, or what have you. And also a candle maker.  Well he calls himself a candle maker, I call him a lamp maker, as the stock in trader is unique oil lamps that look a bit like fancy candles but are really oil lamps.  As the vendor said the benefit is you can use them and resuse them.  

We continued down past the open Beast Arcade.   (Sorry to get your hopes up but the Beast is sleeping behind is portable fencing barriers), and further past the open Rivertown Pizza.  I note the pathway up into Coney Mall has been blocked off by a Funnel Cake Trailer.  That must have been a pain to shimmy up that trailer, and from a side view, that looks to be exactly what they did, built a platform so the trailer could sit on a flat surface.

I note the time to be about 5:30, and I also not the first showing of Holiday Illuminations is set for 5:45, but to watch the 5:45 puts getting up to see the International Street Lighting Ceremony in danger.  So we bypass swan lake, and its Holiday Illuminations and head around the pathway that winds around the closed Italian Job. I note the Paradise Isle snack bar is open, and a big wreath has been placed where the Floral Clock usually sits. I looked up and noted another wreath on the backside of tower.  We walk as towards Coney as the pathway allows up before we hit the barriers right at the pathway to the Carousel. Looking back into Coney, it looks as if the games midway is lit up for some odd reason.  We head towards the Carousel.

The Grand Carousel is a true vintage antique, and has a wonderful history behind it as it was the carousel for the famous Ohio Grove: Coney Island of the West, in other words the forerunner of this park.  I can't resist taking a ride on the carousel, and it's only a one cycle wait.  I note PKI has not added safety belts to their Carousel, and the carousel seems to be turning faster than usual for WinterFest. I also note that while there is holiday band organ music being played, it is not coming from the actual band organ attached to this carousel, instead it is canned band organ music.   At the conclusion of the carousel ride I hear the announcement that the tree lighting is in 15 minutes.

In many ways this WinterFest is a return to the way this park used to run, what with live shows and special happenings all day long, and friendly announcements telling you what you can see "In just 15 minutes" We make our way up to the tower end of International Street and find seats on the seat wall right next to the bandstand.  I notice the lights are already on lining the International Street shops so as to give the area some lighting.  Gee, that’s a step towards returning International Street to the way it always looked at night.

Right around 6:00 an announcement was made that the tree lighting ceremony was about to begin.  For those who need to watch the actual ceremony the stage is at the front gate end of International Street.  We are introduced to the Mayor of WinterFest, and I presume this is going to be a very dignified tree lighting just like at Anytown, USA. What we receive is practically a parody of the tree lighting ceremony at Anytown, USA.  We are presented with a bumbling mayor of WinterFest, who can't seem to find the proclamation in his pocket, then thinks he has it but its actually the preamble to the Constitution, and then he finally starts to read a proclamation so boring he skips right through it.   It's an attempt to interject humor in a situation where humor is not needed.   The ceremony again turns serious as we are introduced to the WinterFest family of the day (which seems to get drawn via radio station promotions).  The family of the days task is to throw the switch to light the lights.  Just like any other tree lighting ceremony, of course usually the lights come on without a hitch.  Well not here, as the mayor tries to explain a very fanciful complicated piece of machinery to the family, and then the family fails several times to get the lights to come on.  The mayor finally pulls out a plunger, and the family uses the plunger.  As they plunge fireworks explode off the top of the Eiffel Tower, then the Paramount Stars light up (how corporate of them), then the strands of lights lighting the tower come one, then the tower itself starts to light up through he use of spotlights powerful enough to make it look like the tower has changed colors.  After the tower has been lit, the light sculptures and colored floodlights for the ice rink come on, bathing the ice rink in a sea of fanciful light.  Ahh, its so nice to see International Street all lit up again.  We wait for the trees lining International Street to light up, but they never do.

At the conclusion of the tree lighting ceremony, which takes about 5 minutes, we retraced our steps back to Swan Lake.  As we approached Swan Lake, I thought I saw guests walking in the grass to get closer to the lakeside.  As I arrived at the prime viewing area for Holiday Illuminations, it appears the park has opened the grassy hill alongside the lake as a viewing area for Holiday Illuminations.

Holiday Illuminations is an adventure in light, sound, and pyro. Yes, I realize that sounds a lot like IllumiNations at EPCOT, except that this one is done on a much smaller scale, several times nightly.  So we crowd around the lake, and at 6:15 the show starts.  Before the show foggers cover the lake in a think fog that with the slight use of the power of suggestion turn the lake into a snowy ice capped lake. It starts slowly with the trees lighting up one by one and then flashing to holiday music.  Then the snowflakes start to flash on and off to the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Faries" Other songs follow with other patterns of lights and the three Christmas trees on the show barge. The show comes to a big finale with a fireworks finale.  I admit I am a sucker for these kind of light shows, so I was mesmerized by this one and really enjoyed, it from my perch on the paved midway which gave a nice stadium like view over the crowd huddled down at lakeside.

Okay, so far I have enjoyed White Christmas Express and Holiday Illuminations, and yes the tree lighting ceremony was a tree lighting ceremony, eveni f it could stop trying to be funny. The stuff in Santa Land I am totally neutral about.  So to reitrerate I am having a fun time at WinterFest, and so we continue back to Eiffel Tower, again cutting around by the carousel as I think the hill is a lot less steep, and we turn into the Nickelodeon Holiday Tree Lot.  The Tree Lot, quite simply, is just a Nick character meet and greet area disguised to look like a tree lot.  I'm sure the unique holiday themed photo opportunities with your favorite Nick character was a hit with the children, but I'll pass on this attraction.  I can also report that my Mom wasn't the only one standing outside the Nick Tree Lot, scratching their head, asking out loud "Who would go to Kings Island to buy a Christmas tree?" After all a huge tacky banner is strung across the entrance reading "Christmas Trees For Sale"  I also found it fitting that the Charlie Brown theme was playing as I was touring this attraction.  You know as in the Charlie Brown trip to the tree lot?  I figure if it weren't for the big remodeling project going on in the Santa Land section of the park, this attraction would have been incorporated into Santa Land somehow.  I liked this area better as the site of the live nativity scene as it was in WinterFest of days gone by. Speaking of live animals, where is the horse and carriage ride? That’s another old WinterFest tradition that must not have made the cut.

I take the opportunity to go down and tour Bubba Gump's Yuletide Feast, billed to be a redneck Christmas. The eatery is advertised by totally tacky "used car lot signs", you now those big message signs with the flashing arrows on top.  What's more they wrote Christmas as XMAS on that sign, which is just one of my pet peeves. I peer into the Shrimp Shack, and there are a few interesting props strewn about, but overall it doesn't look like a bad place to eat, and thanks to the canvas walls, and the portable heater poles, it actually feels quite nice inside.  I also note that Lt. Dan's Backporch Bar is open. I also note the bar is festooned with nautical signal flags, just of the same sort I was suggesting a few weeks ago we use on the yardarm pole by Top Gun to spell out Top Gun.  Here, my handy field guide tells me they are just arranged in alphabetical order.

We leave Bubba Gumps and head back towards International Street.  I notice the airbrush shop has to share space with some arcade games, that the main funnel cake stand is open, then we come back to International Street.  We walk through what is usually the Emporium, but is now Crafter's Village. Inside Crafter's Village, we see a candy stand, a booth for a sponsor radio station to do live broadcasting, a portrait artist, fused glass maker, glass jewelry maker, blown glass artisan, porcelin ornament maker, pottery booth, and much more.  It has the feel of an upscale crafters fair.  We exit the other side of the Crafter's Village and go down the path to the WinterfestHaus.  I note the other wood carver (Name keychains) is open, and that at the end of the pathway there is another one of those tacky 'used car lot signs' pointing the way to Bubba Gumps.  

As I approach the WinterfestHaus I note the front looks to be nicely restored, and a Christmas tree stands where the little fountain once stood.  Signs outside tell me of the various food options I will find inside. We enter the Festhaus and I find booths for LaRosa's Pizza, Busken Bakery, Grater's Ice Cream, as well as a traditional cafeteria setup. An informal tour of the dining room reveals that most diners, as well as my Mom opted for the LaRoas's Pizza.  I opted for the more traditional holiday meal.  The park had advertised a special meal in here that includes an entire meal, including beverage and desert for $14.99.  Well, that package is now totally off the table, I suppose unless you already bought a voucher for it through  Instead the deal was $11.99 for your choice of turkey or roast beef (neither one hand carved), dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and a dinner roll.  When I asked about the deal to get desert and a beverage with it for $14.99, I was given a shrug of "We have no idea what you are talking about"  I have a feeling a lot of things about this event are being done on the fly, such as the opening of the International Restaurant (which is not on the park map), charging for ice skating (I could have sworn I heard that was going to be included in admission originally), the whole Scooby's Christmas Caper that never was, etc.  I opt to purchase a Coke, but decline desert.  So I stepped out of the cafeteria having paid just over $15, and feeling that while I received a nice meal, it wasn't all the park promised me on it's website.  I also note that any reference to the WinterFestHaus meal has been removed from the park website, and guess what, they just raised the admission price in a way.  It used to be tickets were $19.99 on the web or $24.99 at the gate, now you have to purchase at least three days in advance to get the $19.99 rate, if you purchase less than three days in advance the presale ticket is $22.99.  See what I mean about changing stuff on the fly?  This is the kind of stuff that is likely to upset potential customers.  I mean their prices are nearing what they were charging in post season for access to the entire park and its rides (minus Boomerang Bay) - which was $26.99 in post season.  

Well, anyway, I enjoyed my turkey dinner while watching some live entertainment on the center stage in the Festhaus.  I think their sound engineer is laboring under the impression of "The Louder the Better", and the light engineer is happily using the bright sopts which also serve to blind people sitting in certain parts of the dining room.  You have to watch that with a theater in the round style setup.  I think the webs tag "performers from every land" falls into the usual PKI overhype machine, but all in all I found the Festhaus entertainment to be nice enjoyable dinner music style entertainment.

We relax in the WinterfestHaus taking in the food and the live entertainment till its time to poke our heads out to see the parade.  We walk back up towards Eiffel Tower and find a nice gap in the wall of people watching the parade from right around the Bandstand.  I figure this will be a prime viewing spot as its usually a 'show spot' on he Nick parade.  Unlike what Jeff had told us, the parade starts from Santa Land and ends in Riverown  The parade is opened by the Mayor of WinterFest riding in one of the parks old antique cars, then the floats start interspersed by street performers. For example after the float about Santa's Workshop you see a crew where once guy is traveling by pogo stick, another by scooter, and another by bike.  After the candy factory float there are huge walking gumdrops, and I suppose sugar plum ferries who dispense candy to the children lining the parade route.  Walking snowman, walking Christmas trees, a marching band like group complete with flag twirlers and all The parade ends with Santa Claus himself who is busy making a list and checking it twice.   I thought it was a fantastic parade, PKI has really stepped out as being a park that knows how to put on a parade, and as the saying goes "Everybody likes a parade" I'd rank the parade as my second favorite attraction, of the major attractions. Also at the parade I noted guest behavior at a parade that is something so rude.  Less than 2 minutes before the parade started, I am convinced she encouraged her young child to run out into the parade route, which, of course she inched her way past the assembled crowd under the premise of "I have to collect my kid, then I'll come right back out"  She proceed to sit her child on the ground which is fine by me, small people should have the front seats, but guess what, when the parade started she totally forgot about that promise to move back to her original spot.   Also, guess who did a mad dive through the assembled crowd to get both herself and her child to the next attraction AS we were still watching the last float go past. I recall the last float was Santa.  I hope Santa made a note of her behavior and so forth.  I will also note that trying to go backward through the crowd is not the way to get out on an area that has just had a theme park parade.  Your best exit is to wait for the security rope to go past then exit FORWARDS into the parade route and walk backwards along the parade route.

After the parade we go down to explore the last International Street building.  I note the area where the caricature artists are usually setup has become a hot soup (in a bread bowl) and baked potato stand. The Nickelodeon Shop is still very much the Nickelodeon shop except that its Christmas themed nick stuff, and stuff like a Spongebob Squarepants themed televison set.  A Skyline Chili has taken the place of the Mexican food eatery.

We exit the store and spend about 20 minutes just relaxing alongside International Street just watching the ice skaters, and enjoying all the pretty lights.  The ice rink provides a continuous live show, where your fellow park guests are the performers. I note the ice rink setup has been flipped from the old Winterfest, with the skate rental and stuff like that up at the Tower end of International Street, and apparently the ice rink warrants its own generator.  We watch the skating till about 8:20 then get in line, per the tickets sitting in my pocket for the 8:30 showing of Santa's Toy Factory.  It appears the queue is ling, reaching almost back to the entrance of the International Restaurant, which I find odd since everybody should be using tickets for this attraction.  It seems they are not letting people off International Street past the stroller rental area to even get near the Paramount Theater until the doors open, and then only after presenting valid tickets.  

We enter the Paramount Theater for Santa's Toy Factory and take seats in the back of the house roguhly behind the engineers booth, so back central.  Wonderful seats for the show, in fact.   The show starts, and it’s a broadway musical style production telling the story of Santa's Workshop on Christmas Eve wo use a plot something similar to the movie "Elf" in that they can't get Santa's sleigh to fly because the Holiday Spirit Meter isn't all the was to the top. The show also makes a nice argument about how everybody wants the extravagant, expensive gifts and the notion that simple old fashioned gifts won't be appreciated.  Of course you know it comes to a dream sequence where a little girl is just ecstatic about receiving a teddy bear.   Its strange, I can almost swear I have seen this show, but its just a faint fuzzy memory.  Yes, I'm sure I have seen this show before, sure some of the lines may have been updated like asking for Xbox , iPod, and other things that didn't exist in the days of the original Winterfest.  And yes, they may have changed in some of the newer carols, but the main show from the sets to the general premise, I can swear I have seen before.  It's like a déjà vu moment where you it seems like "I've done this before" That's not to say the current cast of characters didn't do a good job with it, to the contrary the acting and singing seemed to be great, as witnessed by the applause the cast got between every scene. The show might be original, it might be a revival of the old Winterfest show.  I don't think it matters, what matters is that at least the audience of the show I was in seemed to just eat the show up.  They were loving it! They have added some 4D effects, like having it snow inside the theater, and having the characters rush up the aisles towards the end of the show apparently passing out candy was a nice touch. The show, is as its billed to be, the headliner attraction at WinterFest.

We walked past the last gift shop, Front Gate Gifts North, which is your official WinterFest logoed merchanside headquarters.  We have now come full circle, and  I take some more photos of International Street, and I notice that apparently taking family pictures on the tree lighting ceremony stage is permitted.  I ask the person assigned the job of watching the stage if she would take our picture.  She agrees to do it, so we have a great picture portrait of our day at Winterefest, at no charge.  Take that Keyhole Photo people, and yes Keyhole Photo is open.

We are about to leave the park, but it’s a Kings Island tradition to end the day with a funnel cake, and besides I didn't get any Festhaus photos.  So Mom and I walk back to the Festhaus.  We arrive at the Festhaus at 9:28, but unfortunately I learn that the Glockenspiel on the front of the Festhaus has been turned off for WinterFest.  I get mom seated inside the Festhaus, and she watches Jack Frost and his comedy magic/juggling act while I go to the funnel cake stand.  One funnel cake with powdered sugar please.  $6.06 later I am returning to the FestHaus.  Tonight I have gotten an education in why during the summer I don't eat in the park.  We enjoy our Funnel Cake, we watch the FestHaus entertainment close up show for the night.  We watch food service end at the Festhaus for the night, and some nice cheering going on in the kitchen which I can only imagine is for something like "We served "X" meals today!"  or "We made a mint of our guests today" something like that.   It was clear that we were the last to leave the FestHaus tonight, as I heard a food service team leader announce in a shocked voice "Hold it down, we still have two guests eating in here"

After we finished our Funnel Cake, and I get anal about making sure all the powdered sugar is cleaned off our table, we head towards the park exit.  In fact, we walk through the exit tunstiles just as the "Park is closed" announcement plays.  We take a brief survey before exiting out to the parking lot.  

As we pull out of the parking lot, we compare notes.  While neither of us can really find any flaws in Winterfest, I mean all the shows were great, enjoyed the train ride, and all the right elements were there, by that I mean crafters, ice skating, and holiday decorations, there is something intangible that is missing.  We both felt an empty void upon leaving the event.  Its like the event has all the right attractions, but it lacks soul, it lacks spirit.  The magic is not back, I mean yeah they are going through the motions, they have put a lot of effort into the event, and the attractions taken individually are all really nice, but there just seems to be something missing, and it bugs me that I can't figure out what it is.  If asked how they could improve WinterFest, I can't come up with anything they didn't do that would have made me feel satisfied.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy I went, and I look forward to WinterFest 2006, however like Wendell in Santa's Toy Factory, it just didn't do it for my personal Holiday Spirit Meter, whereas it seems like the old Winterfest was a holiday spirit overload.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ohio State Fair

Ohio State Fair
August 7, 2005

Editors Note: This marks the final trip report from Coasterville Dave this coaster season.  I wasn't going to write this one originally, but since I have just caught up my trip reports for all my other coaster trips this season, I thought I would write this one up for completeness sake.  The Ohio State Fair ran from August 3 - 14, 2005, so this report is purely academic.

I don't get to the Ohio State Fair often, I think my recent visitation record is something on the order of a visit every 4-5 years.  Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on the chance to check in on the Ohio Fair.  I grew up going to the fair on an annual basis when I was growing up, and for one reason or another we stopped going as often.

Mom and her friend were going to Columbus to see German Village, and they were willing to drop me off at the Ohio State Fair, so let's get it on.  By a strange coincidence, the weekend I was in Columbus, OH, literally just a few miles from Rideman's house, Rideman was busy entertaining guests at Paramount's Kings Island, which is in my part of the State. Call it a city exchange program.  We got a late start, and so I arrived at the 11th Ave "OHIO Gate" of the fairgrounds right around 12:15 pm.  I knew I would have to be back at this same drop off zone at 4:15, so it would be a brief visit to the State Fair, but hey a short visit to the Fair is better than no visit to the Fair.

I see they have made changes to the OHIO gate.  The word OHIO used to be written above the gate in big tacky block letters, it seems those have been replaced by a more classy looking ironwork sign.  The Ohio gate is the bus and car drop off zone, with the parking lot serving the Cardinal Gate (the state bird) on the north end of the fairgrounds.

I had planned carefully by purchasing advanced sale tickets at my local Kroger store.  This meant I would enjoy 2 off the regular gate admission of $8, and $3 off the regular midway wristband price of $18.  I would have the two for a total of $21, a combined savings of $5 off list prices.  

The Ohio State Fair (OHSF) is a pay one price show, yes they do offer ride tickets for $1 each, with rides taking from 1-3 tickets, but in reality with wristbands under $20, its mostly a pay one price show. Ohio is firmly in Pay One Price territory, with county fair patrons used to receiving free midway rides with paid general admission, and when I was growing up the OHSF was the same way, free rides with paid gate. A friend related a story to me of a season when the OHSF tried to not only discontinue free rides with gate, they also wanted to discontinue pay one price entirely.  He tells me it was a spectacular failure, culminating in the fair director getting on the nightly news standing in front of the round up on a deserted midway basically saying "My fellow Ohioans - We really screwed this up"  Ride wristbands have been a part of the OHSF ever since.

So I proceeded to take my free admission voucher directly to the ticket taker at the gate, but was informed that I had to take the voucher to a ticket window and exchange it for a real gate ticket.  So I dutifully go back and get in line at the ticket booth, when I get up to the head of the line, the ticket seller was just as confused as I was.  "What we have here is a failure to communicate" I explained the situation to the ticker seller, who kept my prepaid voucher and handed me a gate ticket.  I noted the ticket claimed it was good for "Courtesy Gate Admission"  I took the courtesy ticket to the ticket taker, and was finally allowed to enter the fair. Reports from friends who went to the fair said that they were all able to give their prepaid vouchers directly to the ticket taker, so I happened to get the one guy who was out of touch.

The Ohio gate is at the south end of the fairs main thoroughfare which runs clear through to the north end of the fair, where the Cardinal Gate is located.  Immediately to my left was the Kidway, and the fair is setup so most of the animal related facilities are along the western side of the fairgorund, along with the main commercial building, and the 4H youth exhibits. The fine arts, DoT, and model railroaders have buildings in the far northern tip of the fair.  The center of the fairgrounds where the grandstand used to be is now an indoor concert venue where the big name shows are held.  To my right as I enter the fair are the agricultural/horticultural exhibits, antiques and some commercial dealer space.  The eastern end of the fairgrounds houses the main rides midway, the disused Buckeye Building and the natural resources park.

I proceed down the main path and decide to take a shortcut through the commercial exhibit shelter.  Well you know what they say about shortcuts.  My way to the rides was first delayed by a vendor selling slot machines, but I was able to make it to the service road on the other side of the shelter, with the natural resources park right in front of me, I instead turned left and headed along the service road to the midway. The next interruption in me beeline to the midway was an exhibit that looked like a big petrified tree on a trailer.  Upon closer examination it claims to be a tree that has been hollowed out and made into a house.  A tour of the house costs only a freewill offering, with signs noting that "Admission is NOT free" Signs also indicate the money goes to support a charity, so I take a walk through the house.  Cute.

Next to the log tree house, is big semi trailer sized aquarium, the fair is offering bass fishing demonstrations with the fishing taking place in this big aquarium.  You can insert your fishing out of a barrel jokes here. A bit further along I reach the marquee that tells me I am at the Amusements of America Midway (with noted book ins by Belle City and Durrant) I proceed to the midway ticket booth and exchange my wristband voucher for a rides wristband, and walk under the marquee and onto the midway.

Ohio's midway is setup in a LARGE oval configuration with a huge service area in the middle of the oval.  I think it’s a clever way of disguising the fact that the midway isn't what it once was. A sentiment I feel about the fair in general.  Maybe its because I'm older but the fair just doesn't seem as big or special as it once did.

I pass the large ferriis wheel and start to just taking a walking tour of the midway.  I note I am on the western side of the rides oval, with rides to the right of me, and game joints to the left.  I note, in no particular order, that this stretch of midway includes:
  • Century Wheel

  • Trabant (dubbed "Rave-Up")

  • 2 Skooters (bumper cars)

  • Zipper

  • Rock-O-Plane

  • Orbiter

  • Tornado

  • Flying Bobs

  • Bonzai

  • Musik Express

  • Drop Zone (Fabbri free fall tower)

I do stop at Drop Zone for a view.  It’s a free fall ride, not much to say about it except that this one is unusual in that it only has seats on three of the four sides.  It’s a Fabrri so the seats are super huge, and I was soon on the ride with no wait.  The seats go slowly up the tower, pause for a bit, then come falling back down, its as simple as that. From high above I get a better appreciation for just how much dead midway space that service area in the middle of the oval is taking up.

I proceed to the end of the midway which is headed up by a Spin Out.  The eastern side of the midway contains, again in no particular order:

  • Spin Out

  • Tornado (#2)

  • Rock And Roll (Musik Express)

  • Scrambler

  • Cliff Hanger

  • Ring of Fire

  • Swinger

  • Crazy Mouse

  • Crazy Surf

  • Tilt A Whirl

  • Power Surge

  • Avalanche (Pinfari Zyklon)

  • Round Up

  • Musik Express (yes another one)

  • Raiders

  • Merlin's Castle (ride through)

  • Thriller

  • Ghost Pirates

  • Video Fun House

  • Mardi Gras

  • Arabian Daze

  • German Fun House

I take a couple of rides on Spin Out.  Hey its pay one price, Spin out is what you get when you take the cr off of an Afterburner and attach is to a taffy puling machine.  The whole thing rotates, then the claw starts twisting such that you get flipped upside down. It's an odd sensation, but it is a good wild ride to get things really moving into high gear. I was supposed to meet Don Flint at the Spin Out around this time, but suffice it to say we never did meet up with each other, mainly due to the fact that Don arrived at the fair very late and we were never both on the midway at the same time.

From the Spin Out I head down to the Crazy Mouse.  It has a bit of a line, what with being POP and all, but the crew was good at matching up riders and keeping the line going.  The Crazy Mouse may also be one of a very few rides where riders are instructed NOT to wear their seatbelts. The overhead drop down lap bars should be sufficient.  I am glad to report that my tub was loaded good and so we had a nice spinney ride.  I headed down the length of the midway still honestly in a looking for Don mode.

At the far end of the midway a tent grabs my interest  I never did go inside, but evidently the idea is that they put a lot of game system games inside a tent, and were charging admission to enter the tent.  I then started to do a comprehensive sweep of the midway.  I started at the Round Up, which gave a nice long ride, then I moved past the Musik Express which was down for maintenance, and took a ride on the Avalanche.  There was a bit of line for the Avalanche, and I'm sure we will get a better ride when we purposely overload the car on this thing at the MNSF.  I next come across Crazy Surf.  Its one of those platform rides were the platform goes around in circles vertically, yet never inverts, at a decent rate of speed.   This particular mode; had one long row of seats with individual shoulder bars which were backed up by long communal locking lapbars.  

I took a seat, and the shoulder bars came down, and I thought "Not a bad fit", then he big group lapbar came down, hard and tight.  Crushing the shoulder bar down into my shoulder blades.  I don’t think I have been dealt this much punishment by a shoulder bar since that ride on Quantum Loop up at Seabreeze.    Then ack, they had to raise the big lapbar to let more riders in.  Here I found out the shoulder bars do lock independant of the lap bar as there was to be no temporary relief to be had.  I did get the very compassionate loader, who before slamming down the big group lap bar again, asked me "Are you ready for this?" SLAM. The ride started, I could tell it was a fun ride, filled with interesting laterals and a little air.  Might have been enjoyable if I weren't in pain. At the end of the ride the compassionate ride operator unlocked the big group lap bars, and instead of releasing the shoulder bars starting at the end and working his way across, he went directly to me and said something like "Let's get you out first, I KNOW you must be in pain right about now" I thanked said operator profusely as I was walking down the exit stairs.

Time for a nice ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl.  Not many riding the Tilt, in fact I think there were only two of us on the entire ride.  Ohio, as a whole has done a lot this year to update their ride fencing and gating requirements, causing grief to both the traveling show and the fixed site park as they scramble to bring their rides up to the new code.  At the same time, this Tilt was operating with its exit gate wide open. As I exited I tried to close the exit gate, but the spring on it was such that it pushed the gate right back open.

I next headed to the Power Surge.  I had an entire arm of the ride to myself, which meant I had a very interesting ride once the tubs unlocked, then a very active ride that offered more insane action than the Spin Out.  At the end of the ride I came in almost upside down when the tubs locked again. A wonderful ride to be had.  I continues down he midway riding most rides as I came to them, with the exceptions of the Swinger which looked like it would fall over if I leaned on it, much less if I tired to ride it, and the Scambler which I never did see operate.  I took another Spin Out ride or two, then headed to the western leg of the midway, where I did most rides but skipping both the Zipper and the Rock-O-Plane as they were running No Single Riders rules.

From there I took a ride break passing through was passes for Challenge Park at the OHSF.  I see the BatCopter helicopter ride concession is still there, and there is a Giant Maze and a Euro Bungee trampoline experience, but no real extreme rides like slinghosts, skyscrapers, skycoasters, or bungee jumps.

It was a scorching hot day, so I took a walk through the main exposition hall.  Man the aisles get wider, the booths get larger and the food court in the middle gets bigger every time I come, seemingly to hide the fact that there isn't nearly as much in here as their used to be.  Some things never go though, like the guy demonstrating the telescoping flagpole.  

I grabbed a giant iced tea.  The OHSF has the vendors that specialize in LARGE containers of freshly brewed icea tea, at reasonable prices.  What's not to like? I walked through the Dairy building to see the butter sculpture, then walked through the Kidway just to check it out.  Wacky Worm coaster and a smaller kiddie coaster back there.  A smaller friend of mine had trouble fitting into their Wacky Worm so I didn't even try.  I was a bit disappointed that I did not see the Kite Flyer, I was wanting to try that ride face up.

Finishing my tour of the kidway, I did another tour of the midway rides then went to visit the Charmin Bathroom.  Okay its now just a bathroom, but at least its still air conditioned. In this northern tip of the fair, they were preparing the Budweiser Clydesdales for a parade.  Interesting that they would parade a replica vintage beer truck though a fairgrounds that prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages.  Time was getting short,  and I knew we were going to have a large dinner at the Golden Lamb Inn (Ohio's Oldest Inn) in Lebanon, OH so I skipped getting a snack to eat, instead taking my third and last trip around the rides midway, and then stopping at the water race game (about the only kind of game I play anymore), where I won a large stuffed Mighty Mouse, before heading back to the pickup area.  I did grab another GIANT iced tea for the ride to the Golden Lamb.

The meetup at the drop off area went flawlessly right at 4:15 and thus ended the day at the State Fair.

Note: This concludes all my summer season trip reports.  Glad to have you join my virtually for another season of trip reports, and I look forward  to next season.    Oh, and you might get a bonus Winterfest at PKI trip report in a few weeks.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Paramounts Kings Island Trifecta!

A Paramount's Kings Island Trifecta
Saturday October 22, 2005
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Sunday, November 6, 2005

"It's a PKI 3 for 1 Special - 3 Visits, 1 Trip Report"

This report endeavors to roll up my post season coaster activities, which all happened at Paramount's Kings Island, and roll them up into one big TR. This will save me from having to describe stuff three times in three different reports.  Until the post season started, I was starting to wonder if I'd get my value out of my season pass.  Sure I had been to the park 4 times this year already, but one was the March construction tour, then another was the Italian Job Media Day.  That leaves two visits, one of which was my company picnic.   I figure I have visited 17 different amusement parks, fairs, or FEC's this year, so it seems to have come at the expense to visits to my "Home Park", except that Coney Island, OH should really be my Home Park as it is closer.  But, not to worry as I make three more visits to PKI during the post season, and with using my parking pass a couple times, I have come out well ahead.

The first visit came on Saturday, October 22, 2005, as to best fit into Rideman's schedule, and considering the kind of weather we had on the 23rd, its just as well.  The park is scheduled to be open until midnight on the 22nd, so we figured we didn't need to awake with the chickens, but we didn't think we'd be staying up with the owls either when we started. We got started later in the day than usual with Rideman picking me up around 2 and us arriving at the park around 2:30.  But hey its cold outside, and its post season, and the parks open late.  We should still be able to have more than enough fun.  

Our first clue that it was going to be busier than we expected was when the lines for the parking toll booths was out to Kings Island Drive.  We used a parking permit and proceeded to park in the standard parking in the North Lot, and had a short walk up to front gate.  We decided we both needed to renew our season passes, and the lines were real short at the season pass processing center.  So we walked up to the tables, filled out our registration cards, then went to the ticket windows, paid for the passes then joined the processing line.  The line was just barely out the door of the processing center, so a very short time later we were having our photos taken, and I had a pleasant surprise as the photographer in my lane was someone I knew from when I worked at the park as co-workers.  Mind you I have not worked there in 10 seasons. We next picked up our passes and headed to the main gate.

PKI has or had one of the quickest most efficient main admission gates anywhere, but it seems that security has gone and messed that up by installing metal detectors.  The security checkpoint is about at the end of the group sales building.   The park said they removed the tram circle to ease congestion in the entrance plaza, I'd like to point out there was no congestion in the entrance plaza before those metal detectors arrived.  It also means that now that the tram pickup is way out in the middle of the parking lot, and you walk the rest of the way to the gate from there, which means that it is no longer a shorter walk to park in standard parking and take the tram.  I'm particularly peaved at the security checkpoint today as it seems like I got in "The Wrong Lane"  you know the lane with the ultra sensitive metal detector that can detect a scrap of foil torn from a chewing gum wrapper?  Everybody who was in the same lane as me got the third degree and I though surely I'll get in quick as I already have all my metal objects ready to put in the dish,  Wrong, I eventually had to remove my jacket, belt, turn my empty pockets out, get hand wanded and finally they decided that "Hey he really isn't carrying anything into the park"  

What’s next, Strip Searches? I mean I can get into an airport easier than this!  Then we learn that not all the entrance lanes are open so the entrance lanes are almost clear back to the security checkpoint.  I hope Rideman was joking, but he mentioned that it took us 30 minutes to get into the park.  This from the park that used to have the most efficient front gate around. We come out from the main gate onto International Street, and as you might expect we get stopped by the Keyhole Photo person,  "Would you stop and smile" We declined the request, I mean we just spent 30 minutes at the front gate, we want to get to a ride.

Okay, its time to go ride something, so we head to Delirum.  I hear that Delirium spent much of the summer sidelined, so I was glad to see it open.  The line was also reasonable with the queue just back to the $3 soft drink machines, and only s switchback open.  Delirium is a Giant Frisbee, one of those spinning pendulum rides that are so popular these days.  I see PKI has managed to find the shortest, lamest program they could find to run on Delirum.  Come on, this ride used to give a much better ride than this!  It literally takes them more time to unload and load the ride than it does to run the ride.  I think now you get 1 maybe 2 swings at full height.  Then again, the ride sat the last two weekends of the season out for mechanical problems.  I hope the warranty is still good on it! This ride used to be great, but that was underwhelming.  

After riding Delirium we made a strange move.  We decided to go to Hanna Barbera Land.  The reason is simple tonight is a Fear Fest night, and the park has been known to close Hanna Barbera land early on Fear Fest nights. We cut through the Festhaus where it looks like they may be starting to redecorate the place and we find it odd to see somebody sitting at a corner table with a laptop working away.  Right now the Festhaus is playing host to a walk through haunted house attraction, but we ignored that and headed to International Street.  The fountain is sporting a new wooden floor in preparation for its transformation into an ice skating rink.  We neared Hanna Barbera Land and find out that yes it will be closing at 7pm.

The children's areas of the park are decorated for a child friendly Halloween event called "Nick or Treat".  We noticed several rides sporting purple and orange bunting and some decoration like scarecrows scattered about the area. What caught our eye was one scarecrow, from a distance it looked like he was holding a cafeteria tray complete with disposable dishes.  My initial reaction was that some smart aleck thought it would be funny to add to the decoration.  Upon closer examination, however it was revealed that the tray was an intended part of the decoration.  Amazing what passes for theme detail these days.  We cut through the area and made our way to Beastie.  

Beastie is the parks junior wood coaster, and it is your basic standard PTC junior wood coaster. The line for it did not extend beyond the bridge over the track, so we decided to take a ride.  Some time later we were in the back car, with Rideman right behind me. The first part of the ride is a figure 8 shape ride where you leave the station, make a right hand turnaround to the lift which crosses over as you go up the lift, down the first drop, through the tunnel, then back up into the second turnaround, which is to the left.  Down the second drop, past the on-ride photo cameras, crossing over again. over a short bump, then up into the third turnaround to the right, then you go through a series of hills and dips in a straight line along the perimeter of the structure, the final turnaround to the right, one more dip, and into the brakes.  The ride has a mid course brake on the third turnaround, but today that brake was off so the ride gave a decent ride with some minor hints at airtime and some gentle laterals.  Why is it the junior wood coaster is the best running wood coaster in the park, for several years now?

After our ride on Beastie we decided to get our last ride on Scooby's Ghoster Coaster.  The park has announced the all new Nickelodeon Universe children's area as their 2006 attraction, which will effectively replace Hanna Barbera Land and much of Nick Central.  There is still some debate over just what rides are going, what rides are merely being rethemed and possibly relocated, and what brand new rides are coming, as details have been sketchy at best.  It was widely thought that Scooby's Ghoster Coaster was to be a casualty of the new Nick Universe.  While being one of the areas newer rides (1998) and being a fairly unique ride piece, it suffered from having an abysmal throughput.  Ghoster Coaster is a junior suspended coaster where you ride in 1-2 passenger individual cars that appear to fly around above the park.  Its one of those cases where part of the reason the ride was so cool, also contributed to its downfall.

We walked past a sign proclaiming the ride had a horrid wait and found the rides small queue area to be about half full.  But remember when the ride has 3 or 4 cars, each of which only carries 1 or 2 people at time, it doesn't take long for a long slow queue to build up, and it doesn't take much room to house the 100 or so people this ride can handle in an hour. It was a long wait, on the order of 45 minutes, and that’s when you have to be thankful for the gift of conversation.  I mean you get going on a good conversational topic, and you can practically get those hour long waits to just zing by. We eventually came to the loading area.  The cars which look like bats with a basket hanging down can either hold 2 children, 1 adult and 1 child, or 1 adult. Another reason the line moves slow is it’s a challenge getting into and out of the cars. Inside the 'basket' is a seat that looks something like a motorcycle seat, except that you just can't swing one leg over, because the other side of the basket has a solid wall going from about the height of the seat to the floor.  This means you have to swing one leg over, insert it between the sidewall and the seat and get it wedged in there in a position that kind of forces you to bend the knee.   Luckily all your weight is on your butt and none of it is on your legs during the ride. This serves as a guide when you lift your other leg up and rest it in about the same position next to the open side of the basket.  Slightly higher than the seat itself is a ring that goes around both riders with two protrusions that separate the front and back riders.  The idea is to put a ring around each riders waist so as to limit the amount of lean you have, and to keep you on the seat. Lastly a door closes over the other side of car which encases the other leg and forces it into the riding position, and closes the ring around your chest.  The ride has 4 or 5 cars, I think they were running 4 which would give them a car in unload, a car in load, a car waiting to go up the elevator, and a car on the ride itself.  The elevator speed is such that it doesn't take the next car up until the previous car is back in the station. I went first and wedged myself into a car.  (The wait time, and the challenge of getting in and out of the ride are the reasons we usually only ride it once a season, if that) The operator is nice enough to warn you of a sudden stop ahead as the car advances from the load area to the 'on deck' area.  Bracing is essential here to eliminate discomfort in certain parts of the male anatomy. A bit later the car advances onto the elevator with an even bigger jolt. You then go straight up the elevator which is positioned in the middle of the queue area.  You can wave to people, or have people staring at you wondering why you are riding a kids ride. The moment you roll off the elevator is one of the rides greatest, in that due to the shape of the ornamental bat above you can't see the track immediately in front of you. Therefore you can't be totally sure the elevator is lined up correctly.  Its those fun ride effects that play with the riders mind that are so fun. You roll off the elevator onto the monorail track and start with a slight drop to get some speed then a turnaround to the left to start soaring over the back areas of Hanna Barbera Land,  it s a fun ride soaring along at treetop level until you come to a straight section of track right before you get to the Red Baron's Biplanes. At this point here is a hard (BRACE!) and potentially painful mid course brake, the ride goes into a helix above the red baron ride and the track is banked so that it is evident the ride is supposed to go around the helix at a higher rate of speed, but with the hard brake, you kind of crawl through the helix leaning against one side of the car. Right after the helix is another mid course brake, then you turn right into the final brake.  You then get to extract yourself from the car, and for some reason I always seem to find getting out of the car harder than getting in.

We next walked through Nick Central around that great waste of space known as the green slime zone.  Today, they found some use for it as they have added cornstalks to turn it into a corn maze.  Sort of a child friendly haunted trail attraction. We verified that the Krusty Karb Snack Shack still does not offer Krabby Patties, then headed to Reptar.  The queue for Reptar was reasonable so we took a ride.  Due to the station configuration we found it easier and quicker to ride towards the front of the train.  Reptar is a Vekoma inverted rollerskater, and is becoming quite a popular ride for Vekoma. I'd call it kiddie inverted coaster, but with a 44" minimum height requirement, its not really a children's ride as much as it is a family ride. We enjoyed a fun quick ride on Reptar before cutting back through Hanna Barbera Land.   We noticed the area gift shops windows to be almost totally obscured with gift wrap.  I say almost because they 'accidentally' left the top part of the windows uncovered where most adults could stand on tip toes and look in. The shop is to become the "Visit with Santa" type attraction during Winterfest. To this point it looks like they have merely cleared all the gift shop stuff out of the building.

We continues around the HB Carousel and the Photo with Scooby attraction to visit Scooby Doo And the Haunted Castle.  The queue was just back to the indoor queue maze and not all the switchbacks were in use.  A short time later we were helping ourselves into a mini mystery machine.  I thought they used to have a grouper/loader person here, but I suppose we can trust people to group themselves. This ride is a Sally interactive dark ride, and for those that just finished reading my Camp Snoopy report, I can say I feel vindicated, I was able to almost triple Rideman's score.  Funny, Rideman used some of the same excuses I tried on Jerry, bad weapon, bad target layout, etc. I noted some of the mechanical stunts were not working, and we think we saw one stunt break when it fired and then failed to reset.

We walked up International Street, and I looked in the new Starbucks as I had not seen it yet. Attractive looking setting, but the line was clear back from the coffee bar, wrapped around the dining room, and out the door into the old dinig area for the Café Parisiane  I did mention it was pretty cold today, right?  We then looked at Chick-Fill-A, which is another new food stand this year.  It didn't look bad till we figured out that it would coast us more than double what it would cost at a regular Chick-Fill-A.  I tell you food prices in this park are beyond getting out of hand, they have gotten out of hand, and are getting further and further into space. We turned the corner by Busytown Grill and headed towards Rivertown.  We bypassed Wild Thornberries but did note the elephant effect seemed to be off. We continued past the closed for the season rapids ride, and further past the train ride which usually takes people to Boomerang Bay, but on this afternoon it it taking families back to the parks Pumpkin Patch, tonight it will take scare seekers back to the start of a new haunted trail located along the exit of White Water Canyon.  We also skipped Tomb Raider as neither of us really enjoy it, which brings us to Beast.

The line for Beast was just back to the bottom of the ramp between the 2nd and 3rd queue houses, and no switchbacks were in use.  A time later we were in the third seat, and we're off.  Beast is the parks signature wood coaster, it was built as the tallest, fastest, longest, badest wood coaster in the world. Well baddest is subjective, and by virtue of the fact that other parks build taller wood coaster that happen to run faster, the ride is left with Longest Wood Coaster in the world. It’s the kind of thing that makes me wish Holiday World would add about 900' onto Voyage so that we can just strip Beast of all its records.  The Beast also has a very loyal following in Cincinnati who consider it to be the ultimate roller coaster, which isn't helping the fact that its still one of the most overated rides around.

The ride starts with a turnaround to the right to come around to the lift hill which is set up parallel to the final brake run.  While you traverse the lift approach there is a nice piece of theming with a mine car and a mine shaft that looks nice but I can't remember what theme the Beast was supposed to have.  You then climb one of the slowest lift hills in existence, while you might get treated by some recorded beast roars on speakers located along the lift hill, or you may just get the safety announcements. At the top of the lift, you start down the first drop, the train then fights its way through the magnetic brake located on the first drop, then you go through what looks like an impossibly small tunnel at the bottom of the first drop that looks vaguely like that mine tunnel you saw in that theming piece at the lift hill turnaround.  Maybe that is the theme to the Beast, its really a big mine ride. You come out of the tunnel and make a turn to the left where you have a drop a hill a drop, and a hill up into a right hand turn.   Under ideal circumstances there can be gentle airtime in this part of the ride, but thanks to the magnetic brake located just before the second drop, they have pretty much insured that this part of the coaster offers a lifeless ride. When you round that right hand turn you enter what looks like a sideless tunnel, it has a roof but no sides.  This area was intended to be a safety brake for when the coaster had 4 trains.  The 4 train concept didn't last too long, and so there wasn't a need for a safety brake here anymore but they kept it in place as a trim brake.  When the park replaced the skid brakes with fin brakes a couple seasons ago, they also went with the maintenance free magnetic brakes for trims. Therefore this area which used to be a brake shed for skid brakes now contains mostly a long section of track, which I assume is meant to be speed track with the supports of the brake run structure enhancing the feeling of speed.  They did put a magnetic brake at the end of the old brake run, I mean we would not want the ride to get too fast now, would we?  

What happens next is a long prolonged shallow drop.  Its not a real noticeable drop but once the train leaves the track is getting gradually lower and lower picking ups peed all along until the very noticeable drop right before the second lift.  So you come off the shed, make a turn to the right and head straight into a tunnel.  There used to be a tunnel, than an exposed turnaround to the left, then another tunnel.  Now that middle section has been filled in to create one long tunnel around this turn.  After you exit the tunnel you make a turn to the right, and have a ground hugging section of track that follws the terrain nicely all the while picking up speed until you make the sharp turn towards lift 2.  You go up lift 2, where you get a nice view of the park, and both the audio recording and several signs warn you to keep your hands down. You make a left hand turn off the lift and go down a shallow curving drop that leads into the rides famous double helix.  Did I mention there was a magnetic trim brake on this drop, well there is. You then go around the partially tunneled double helix, and the make your way back to the brake run with one final dip before you reach the brakes.  Both of us thought that Beast was running incredibly rough today and we were glad to move along to something else.

We headed to Italian Job, which is the parks new ride this year.  We entered the line and were in line for about 5 minutes before the ride went down mechanical.  Knowing Italian Job to have prolonged downtime we bailed out of the line and decided to try our luck again later.  We exited Italian Job plaza, took a left and headed towards Vortex, but first a stop at the Flying Eagles.  Wait, not only are the Eagles not here, this site where 10 Flying Eagles were sacrificed for no good reason at all has been desecrated.  They have setup a Cornhole game in the area.  Cornhole, for those non-native Cincinnatians is that picnic game where teams throw a series of corn filled bags at a wooden board located some distance away.  The game gets its name from a hole in the board, scores like horseshoes, a bag in the hole scores 3, a bag on the board scores 1. The park is trying to run Cornhole like a carnival game.  

We next headed to Vortex, where the line was again a reasonable wait.  Vortex has been taken down from 3 trains to 2 as the park prepares for the winter, so the line moved slower than usual, but we held out hope that maybe with only two trains on, they might not use the mid course brake.   No such luck, they still practically stop the train, which means you hang from the shoulder bars in the corkscrew.  We took our ride in the second seat from the back in order to get a rare spot of airtime in this park , and I note the park has not added the silly belts like Cedar Fair is starting to do.  Vortex is an Arrow Multi Element with 6 inversions.  You leave the station, turn right, up the tall lift hill, a turn to the right, down the first drop (airtime in the back car) then up the second hill to start a long drawn out turnaround to the left which circles above Rivertown Pizza and brings ou in line to cut through the structure through the two vertical loops as you head back to a sharp turnaround to the right located next to the loading station.  You then go through the mid course brake where you are almost stopped before being allowed to drop down a short drop then go through 2 corkscrew turns as you are hung from the shoulder bars as you head towards the midway, then there is a boomerang element s(2 inversions) right next to the midway, then a helix and into the first set of brakes located behind the Shake, Rattle and Roll (Troika) then a right turn into the final brakes.

Exiting Vortex we took a look at the Paramount FX Theater, which is the parks facility for Iwerks ridefilms.  Looking at the marquee I noticed they were playing both Elvira's Superstition and Funhouse Express.  Well I had seen Superstition at other Fear Fest events, but I had not seen Funhouse Express, but it was used in a Discovery show special, so we went to see Funhouse Express.  I see they added a little but of haunted castle façade to the start of the ride queue, we made our way through the queue area which was sporting a collection of Phantom Theatre props and characters. It was about a 2 or 3 show wait for Funhouse Express, along with Phantom Theatre music and sound clips.  Iwerks movies are the kind of ride where when the ride moves it moves about 72 people at a time, but then there are long periods of at least 5 minutes where it just sits still. Eventually we were invited into the preshow area, they used to try to assign people to rows as they entered the preshow area, but tonight they admitted like 72 people, then let everyone figure it out based on white stars painted on the ground. Each person stands on a star, the stars in each row match the number of seats in that row.  There was a film loop playing on the televisions in the area that was meant to set the scene for you.  I say film loop, and the clip was about 20 seconds long and kept repeating.  The basic story is that you have arrived at some old guys "scariest fun house ride" the old guy looks for his ride operator who is not at his post "Where's My Ride Operator!!!!" the old guy bellows, saying that he should have sacked Jimmy about 20 years ago.  Must not be a good business relationship if this duo have been working this gig for 20 years and this how they get along. The old guy accuses Jimmy of sleeping on the job.  Well Jimmy is dreaming but he is not asleep, instead he is under the fun house with sketch pads designing his own fun house ride, and he lets us know he his starting to build it right under the old guys nose. We see sketched of parts of the ride,  take careful note when he shows us a flipbook animation of a stunt involving the riders car getting stomped on by a giant shoe, and also note that is the stunt he was drawing right before he gets interrupted by the old guy threatening him "If this ride's not running in ONE MINUTE…."

We watch that clip at least a dozen times before we were admitted to the auditorium.  Seated, seat belts checked, time for the feature. The film starts right where the preshow ended with you sitting in the dark ride car and Jimmy arriving at the operators console.  The ride starts and you go through the crash doors into the funhouse,  Far from the worlds' scariest fun house ride, the ride consists of carboard cutouts and looks pretty cheesy, you only have to endure about three stunts before the service lights come on right by the "spider falls on you" gag and then the old guy berated Jimmy for breaking the ride and fires Jimmy.  You are slowly brought backwards through the now lit funhouse where you can see its got trash strewen about and looks run down.  Jimmy says no I'll show you a real ride, and Jimmy and the ride console falls beneath ground, and then so does your ride car, and you wind up at the entrance to another dark ride "Clown Chaos" this one starts with a long roller coaster like tunnel, then an areas where it looks like you travel in suspended cars in a cave full of scary props then  it just goes crazy as there is no more track, and you negotiate a serried of hills drops, spins, bumps, and stunts that are far beyond any realistic fun house ride.  Rideman mentioned its kind of like the Halloween themed version of another Iweks movie "Smash Factory" Careful observers will note the last stunt before the ride ends is a giant shoe coming down on your car, wihch just barely misses your car, and cuases a seesaw like effect with a loose board, throwing your car back up to the loading area for the old guys funhouse.  Jimmy then gets rid of the Old Guy by sending him down to the basement, while he proudly unveils "Jimmy's Clown Chaos" Cute film, and we exit into the arcade which seems to have the Nickeldeon Parade theme music playing, we then make the long walk back to Coney Mall.

We reach Coney Mall and I notice the park has installed a double story water race game trailer.  I couldn't resist a try, and $3 later I was walking down the midway with Pirate Scooby.  We started walking towards Flight Of Fear and were almost down to Flight of Fear when we saw what looked like Italian Job testing.  So we turned back and headed to Italian Job.  Yes the ride was open, and the line was shorter than the line we bailed out of earlier.  Italian Job is the parks newest ride, and is themed to the Paramount movie of the same name.  The idea behind the ride is that you are a member of the stunt crew, specifically you will be in one of the mini coopers during the big chase scene towards the end of the movie.  The park has decorated the waiting area with parodies of road signs.  Stuff like "Congested Traffic Ahead (As if you didn't notice)", "No Line Jumping Zone", "Speed Limit .35 MPH" (Yep that’s POINT 3 5), a One Way sign with arrows pointing both directions, and "SLOW (As if you had another option)".  I thought the park used to have special ride related footage for the q-tv monitors in this area, but they seem to be getting the same loop as the rest of the park.  Michael Jackson's "Thiller" was playing while we waited, and soon we were up to the head of the line where they assign seats. We were sent to Row 5, and we climbed into the Mini Coopers.  The ride uses scale model Minis, licensed from BMW and everything. The cars feature Premier style lab bars, which considering this is a Premier ride and all. The cars also feature working doors, real mirrors on the sides, license plates, mini cooper trimwork, and well they used to have working radios and lights, but those features seem to have been disabled.  The safety announcement that used to play on the car radio while your boarded and right before you exited the ride are now played on the rides PA system. The three of us get into Row 5 (Rideman, Scooby, and myself) and moments later we are launched.  The launch on Italian Job is a lot more gentle than the one on Flight of Fear, and in this case it leads into a triple upwards helix themed to look like a parking garage, you then go down a drop and swerve between some police cars, complete with working lightbars.  As this is my first night ride on Italian Job I think the ride may look better at night. Speaking of disabled effects, I thought the cars were supposed to fishtail as they swerved around the police cars.  You then go through a severely banked turnaround, down a dip, and then rise back up, pass some billboards and into the subway stair drop.  It’s a drop in a tunnel themed to look like the entrance to the subway, and much buzz and excitement was made about how revolutionary special effects were going to make it feel like the car was actually rolling down a flight of stairs.  It's even on the promotional animations. I have yet to feel any such special effect.  You come back up a hill, pass a "Dead End" sign and come to a stop at a shipping company yard.  Ahead of you and to the left is a  menacing helicopter looking down and firing at your car, on either side are chimcial barrels getting hit and blowing up in the cross fire. (Some spraying water on the riders), gas pumps explode then finally a big gas tank right in front of you goes up in a big ball of fire. When I say fire, yes the park is using live fire effects for this, impressive. As soon as the big tank starts to explode the brakes release and the train is launched forward into a long dark curing tunnel.  You know this tunnel was especially cool when the train had working lights. Its about a 12 second long tunnel before you reach the other end, come crashing out of the billboard and go down the drop in the aquaduct into the splash down finale. It’s the sort of drop that just screams "Put your hands up, let the people in line see how much fun you are having" After the water effect, its just a turnaround to the brakes then the unload station.  The ride still seems to be a winner and a family favorite, but I worry about the upkeep on the theming.

We exit Italian Job and head back around to Flight of Fear.  We are a bit dismayed when we see people coming out of the Flight of Fear building through the entrance, but that is merely because the indoor hangar section of queue is just about full. It takes about an hour before we are seated in the front seat.  Talk about theming going down the tubes, I realize they can't use the Outer Limits stuff anymore, but the laser lights that used to play during the "Message from the aliens" amd the lights along the top of the UFO that used to strobe around in faster and faster circles in time with the animation of the UFO on the video (which is still there) don't work anymore. Its Paramount, we install attractions with great theming, we just don't maintain it. Anyway we are seated in the front seat of the train, which is our usual spot to ride Flight of Fear, ad I am sitting on the far side of the car away from the openings as the close side of the train has a raised floor panel that makes me ineligible to ride as it gets my legs up so high I can't get the bar down far enough.  The important thing to remember is that this is a tried and tested configuration for us.  We lower the lap bars, Rideman clicks his seatbelt, I reach with my seatbelt (which doesn't go around the rider, instead it goes from the back of the seat and hooks into the support arm of the lap bar), and not only can I not get the belt fastened, its nowhere close to fastening.  The loader tries stapling my lap bar but even with that its ruled a no-go, and I take the walk of shame.  A bit disappointed, sure, but I although I don't consider myself to be overly fat, I do know that I am larger than the average rider, and I have come to take that there are some rides I just don't fit on.  Maybe I gained a little this summer and Flight of Fear is no longer in the cards for me.  Another important thing to remember though, is that for me to get out of the train, Rideman had to get out of the train, which meant while I was being shown to the exit, Rideman got back into the train and slid across to the seat I had just vacated.  Rideman, who was cleared to ride on the other side of the seat found that he could not get the belt fastened on the seat I just vacated either.  Rideman shifted back to his original seat, but not before performing a little experiment and thus determined that the seatbelt on the seat I had just vacated was so short that the bar had to be significantly lower than the bar on his side in order for the belt to fit, a disparity made more significant due to the floor plate.

We headed down to Racer, which had a short wait, and soon we were in the first seat of the back car on Forwards Racer. (Backwards side was closed).  The three of us boarded and were soon on our way on the parks classic out and back wood coaster.  Not much to say a lift hill, a series of drops, turnaround, more drops.  This ride seemed to better than usual though, it actually seemed to have some airtime, and perhaps the turnaround brake was off.  All in all I had an enjoyable ride on Racer.

We entered into Oktoberfest where I noted that virtual reality thing is down to $1 a player, and still can't drum up business.   We pass it by and get in line for Advneture Express.  The line is only back to the bridge over the tracks, and so it takes almost no time at all for us to get into Rideman's favorite seat (the front seat of the rear car).  My, its been a long time since I’d ridden Adventure Express at night, the ride makes a very fine night ride.  Sure the usual cases of run down themeing are present here, but the ride is solid enough to stand on its own. In this ride you drop out of the station into an S turn to the right to enter tunnel 1 which is the track closed tunnel, after which you make your way to the right into a tunnel where if you are lucky the spears may decide to work and try to jab at you, the tunnel leads to the first lift.  The lift used to have speakers in the support structure that played sound effects like the lift hill was about to collapse.  That effect is gone now too.  At the top of the ift you make a gradual swoop drop to the right crossing under the lift into my favorite section of the ride, and that is where the ride does like a figure 8 series of turns low to the ground passing under a series of arches. Wild laterals and a wild ride, before going through the drop in tunnel three, then one last pass through the lower ravine before you enter the forbidden temple (tunnel 4),  The tunnel starts with a curve in the tunnel designed to block out outside light, which is usally a wasted effort as they often leave the service door open in the 4th tunnel.  The 4th tunnel contains the rides second lift hill.  It’s the rides thematic climax as you are slowly being brough up to the big chief at the top of the hill who is making threats about disturbing the forbidden temple, now you must pay, and he looks like he is going to dump a cauldron of molten lava on you while his underlings beat their drums on perches along the sides of the lift.  At least that is what is supposed to happen when everything is working.  So you have just had the built up for the ride to get really wild and crazy, I mean hey you just intruded on their temple, its time for bad stuff to start happening.  Instead you crest the lift make a turn to the right and head back to the station. Great ride, lousy ending.

We exited Adventure Express and managed to get around the chainsaw wielding maniac in a scare zone set up between Adventure Express and Delirium.  Rideman was being evil when he cornerd some squeamish scared girls by said chainsaw wielding maniac.

We made the turn into Action Zone, and having already ridden Delirium, we skipped it, walked past the parks go-kart track which was reduced to $3 from its usual $6, to bad its just a plain oval, and headed back to Son of Beast.  Well Son of Beast has already gone into hibernation it seems as the sign indicates that it is closed until next spring.  We head next door to Top Gun, but not before noticing that Extreme Skyflyer (Skycoaster) seems to have found a price point people are willing to pay - $10.

We enter the Top Gun queue, make our way down the stairs and through the tunnel which used to be the entrance to Fightertown, USA until Son of Beast came along and the tunnel entrance was changed to fir whatever loose theme that Son of Beast has.  The Top Gun entry tunnel has been painted with a wall mural of an United States Flag. We enter Fightertown, USA as announced on the sign along the wooden fence.  This is where the long entry path to Top Gun, the Top Gun exit and observation area, and the Son of Beast queue maze all reside.  It is another case of theming going bad. The model fighter jets are gone, the radar prop is gone, a lot of the little fighter unit flags are gone, it seems all that’s left in this part of the queue are the posters of scenes from the movie and a nautical style yardarm flagpole.  At least the Top Gun military division still has its flag on its flagpole, which is more than I can say for the crew down at Ft. Cooper.  (Flight of Fear) I wonder since they have the yardarm style pole, it would be a neat touch to spell TOP GUN in nautical signal flags on the two sides of the yardarm, sure the average guest won’t notice, but it would be a nice Easter Egg, you know something that Disney would do. There is a sign as you exit the tunnel under the service road announcing the wait time is 1 hour,  We quipped this is because it takes an hour to navigate the 2 mile hike back to the ride. In reality the line was just back to the stairs that lead down from this section of queue to the station area.   As you cross the bridge to the station house you pass by a giant billboard of an aircraft carrier with the sponsors logo on it.  It’s a nice touch at theme but a sore substitute from the really cool 3D aircraft carrier billboard that it replaced.

Before you say I'm being too harsh about the deterioration of the thematic elements in the park, the park has come out and said they want to by a Hollywood style park, just like its competitors down in Orlando, so if they want to be that caliber of park, I have to judge their theming on that level and not how I would that of a more local park. Also since this is a trifecta TR, I am getting all my theme rants out in the first part of this report, (I think) which means the other two days should be rant free.

Back to ranting about Top Gun, after the bridge you used enter an area that was sort of like the below decks section of an aircraft carrier, and you looked through chain link fence into various parts of the ship: the weapons magazine, communications center, bridge, etc.  Then you walked up a flight of stairs onto the flight deck.   Now that entire part of the queue has been closed for several years now and bypassed.  There are a couple of those military unit flags being used to obscure the view into that area of the queue. We climbed upstairs and entered the next level of the station. This used to be themed to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, and the signature effect, I thought was when the train was leaving the station blasts of artificial smoke came up from under the train.  That effect too, is history.  Luckily again Top Gun is a ride that can stand on its own without the theme package, sure it’s a short ride, but its got a good drop, and it does wat a Suspended Arrow coaster does best, lots of high banked turns which cause the cars to swing way out to the sides, and a good deal of speed to boot. The sponsor gets more play in the form of decals on the seatbacks, and in lift hill and brake run recorded announcements.  

We exited Top Gun, made our way past the closed Congo Falls (did I mention it was cold?) and headed to the last coaster in the park, Face/Off.  Face/Off queue was around the permimter of the queue maze, but no switchbacks in use, then we decided to wait for the front seat, so we know we wound up waiting over an hour for this.  Although Scooby went on Italian Job, Racer, Adventure Express, and Top Gun, I did not feel safe trying to carry him onto Face/Off so Scooby waited in the station. Why not it’s a single train station, and that platform is secured tighter than tight wile the ride is operating.  It has full height super queue gates that look like they could hurt someone. They tried to get me as the gate opened Rideman went through, and before I could get through it started to close in my face.  The park really seems to love me today, doesn't it?

Now, its been noted that PKI is the "Highest Attended Seasonal Theme Park in the World"  I ask, what is the "HASTPitW" doing installing a low capacity Vekoma Boomerang.  Sure its an Inverted Boomerang, but its still a Boomerang, in fact it may be worse that its an Inverted Boomerang in that the throughput seems higher on standard Boomerangs.  The Face/Off ride started and if proper ride posture is used the Invertigo can be a really fun intense little coaster. I mean it’s a fun ride, it just can't get the throughput the park needs for it, I think the park should have installed two of these.

Well, we didn't expect to be out late, but here it is 11:30, we decide to try to beat the big Fearfest crowd out to the parking lot, and so we make our way out into a parking lot that seems to be blanketed in fog.   I knew they went crazy with the artificial fog this year.  We made our way to IHOP and then made our way home.


Fast Forward to Sunday October 30, 2005.

The cast of characters is a bit different today, instead of Rideman, I am visiting the park with my cousin Rick. Ricky picked me up around 12:30, and after a bite of lunch at Culvers, we arrived at the park, I'd estimate shortly before 2.  We used my parking pass, and pretty soon we were parking in the North Parking lot, and making our way up to the front gate.  I can report no hassled with security, and with almost no wait we entered the park.

Following Rick's lead we headed directly to Italian Job via the now disused scare zone set up between the floral clock and Rivertown pizza   We hit good fortune arriving at Italian Job as the ride was closed when we first entered Italian Job plaza, but as we were debating what to do instead the ride opened so we were able to snag a ride with a very short wait.  We were sent to row 5, and yes the ride is just as fun as it was last week.  It’s a good family ride, and Rick seemed to like it.

From Italian Job we headed to Vortex, Vortex was a near walk on, and soon we were in the second row from the back (my favorite seat).  Up the lift, another good dose of airtime.  I thought I was going to lose Rick during the ride.  It has been established that he can't handle spin rides, but he had ridden Vortex before but now it seems that being flipped upside down doesn't work well for him.  Well I guess each rider has to know their own limitations.

We next headed to Funhouse Express, I would have rather seen Superstition, but only Funhouse Express was open.  It was a 3 cycle wait to get in.  It’s a cute movie ride, and Rick seemed to enjoy it so if that wait and all got his stomach back in order, that’s a good thing.

We next headed down Coney Mall, stopping in the Skeeball building, the main Coney Arcade, and the arcade that’s in the Sports Shop building.  We decided that the arcade game selection at the park is not quite what we like.  (I could have told you that at the total lack of pinball machines) We decided not to chance Flight of Fear for reasons stated above and the fact Rick claims to not like it.  We instead headed to Racer.

I was surprised to find both forwards and backwards tracks running.  We opted for the forwards track, and Rick opted for seat #3.  Unlike last week the turnaround brake was on, but Racer was still giving a pretty good ride.  Rick confirmed my feeling when he got into the train and comments about how tight the seats are.  He hadn't even gotten to the lap bar yet, he was talking about the seat width between the side wall and the seat divider.

We headed from Racer to Adventure Express which was also a walk on. We rode Adventure Express in seat three as well.  Hmm, now that I have had a recent night ride on AE, I think I like it even better at night, that’s not to say it’s a bad ride, no in fact its one of the better rides at the park.

After we left Adventure Express is when life started getting interesting.  We stopped in the Festhaus so that Rick could check the Bengals score, and he thought he would get a Coke.  Well, Cokes turned into a pizza and Coke snack for each of us.  That’s 4 slices of pizza and two Cokes, $17 please.  Yep, food prices have gone INSANE and INANE in this park.

We sit for awhile to let the food settle before heading out the back door of the Festhaus into Action Zone.  Here I get the bad news that Delirium is closed.  We head past the go-kart track and are heading to Top Gun.  I already knew that Son of Beast was closed for the season.  We are almost back to Top Gun when I see a big yellow sign proclaiming a special on Extreme Skyflyer (Skycoaster) - I can't believe it, somebody pinch me, only FIVE DOLLARS!!!! The persuasive side in me comes out and within about 5 minutes I have talked Rick into trying it. I go up to the window and purchase our tickets, then we get into what turns out to be about a 1 hour wait for Skycoaster. I can't fault the crew, even though they only had one side open, they were running it with ultra quick efficient operation. Sizing people up before they even got to the harness shelter so they could plan around their supply of harnesses, and then harnessing several groups at the same time. For a one tower operation, they were running people through about as fast as could be hoped for. The hard part for me was keeping Rick's mind off of what he was waiting for while we waited the time until we were invited into the harness shelter.  We were suited up in our matching harnesses then send to the next waiting area to wait to be taken to the flight area.  We were to be the third group to fly, but just then a second crew arrived to operate the second side. The catch was that they would not have a cameraman for the second flight area, so no videos would be available.  We were not interested in a video, and when they started asking the groups starting at the front of the line who wanted a video, we found that we were the first group in line not interested in a video, so we were sent over to Flight Area #2.    

We were invited to step onto the lift and were taken up to the launch area.  Flight cables secured floor going down partway, we fall forward.  The pre flight fall worked on Rick, he let out a nice scream. Launch cable attached, platform going down.  The winch started and we moved about 10' when the command was given to bring us back down.  Obviously they needed to recheck something, Hey, when its my life on the steel cable line, take all the time you need to check, double check, and recheck.  This got Rick a bit more scared and nervous, then we started up the winch again, this time we were starting to twril a bit from side to side.  Again, not a feeling I usually associae with  Skycoaster.  About a quarter of the way up, Rick announces I am no longer his favorite cousin, about halfway up Rick comments "It looks a lot higher from up here", about 3/4 of the way up I learn that Rick can cuss with the best of them.   We reached the top, and my evil side came out, did I pull the orange knob right on command.   No, I waited for a "Pull it Pull" <I pulled>.  The first time you do Skycoaster is the best because therer is nothing that can prepare you for that drop.  We crossed the tower then started to swing back and forth.  Rick started to admit that he liked the ride and that that drop takes the cake. We grabbed the loop and were brought down to the ground.  I think Rick was scared before we flew, but afterwards I think he is glad I talked him into it.  I think.  So I had to buy both tickets, it was a good investment.

We next headed to Top Gun, it was a walk on, so we were able to quickly grab a ride in the second to back seat. Rick was sort of unimpressed having just experienced "The Drop", and I admit that yes it is a short ride.  But it's a fun short ride.  

We next cut cross the park to ride the Beast.  Going through Festhaus it looks like Christmas decorations are going up, the main stage looks to be back, the stained glass window is uncovered and it looks like they are building a small round stage in the middle of the hall.  We make our way back to Beast.  Rick loves the Beast, and he really likes night rides.  At first I thought there was no chance of us getting a night ride with an 8pm close, but then the time changed this morning, so yep we can get a night ride.  We rode in seat 5 of the Beast, and I received a ride that was much better than the one I had last week.  Beast was, and is, (and will always be??) Rick's favorite coaster at PKI.

After riding Beast we headed through Rivertown.  The wait for Tomb Raider was totally inside the cave but neither of us have much interest in that ride, the train and rapids rides were closed, and as it was cold again, Rick said he would only ride Log Flume as the result of loosing a bet.

We walked through Hanna Barbera Land.  Rick  who is about 9 years younger than I wanted to have one last look at it before it gets totally renovated.  Seems that what he had heard was that everything was going to be ripped out and replaced.  As I don't think we quite know for sure, I don't think it will be quite that drastic, but then I can't really say for sure.  We took a nostalgic walk through Hana Barbera Land.

Some of my own memories:
  • Gulliver's Rub-A-Dub - sort of an outdoor dark ride in round tubs  

  • The original Enchanted Voyage, which is still the best dark ride the park ever had, if only for my personal nostalgia purposes.

  • Winnie Witch's Cauldrons

  • The Sunshine Turnpike

  • The crazy fountain which is where Ghoster Coaster is now

  • The House of Cards

  • Being used to pay per ride at LeSourdsville Lake, and the great experience of finding out that we didn't need tickets to ride the kids rides at Kings Island

  • Finding out I was too big for kiddie rides - it happened on Boulder Bumpers.

  • The yellow and orange castle turret garbage cans

  • Having my first ride on Scooby Doo (now Beastie) and developing a ride phobia I would not get over until 7th grade!

Ricky wanted to get one last ride on Beastie in case it went away, so we got in line it and while waiting in line I heard a few other people voice concern that Beastie was leaving. I'm fairly certain we'll see it next year under a new name.  We took rides in a middle of the train car.  They only had one train running tonight, and I was thinking that maybe they would still have the brake off.  Nope, it was on, Beastie is back to its usual self.  

We then headed to Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle but the line was backed up across the bridge, so we decided to just call it a night and head on home.

TRIP 3 - November 6, 2005

Well, it’s the third of the three PKI trips detailed in this report, and yet again we have a change in the cast of characters. The Monday Night RRC chat group (IRC Server: #roller-coaster) were making plans for PKI closing day.  We asked Paul Drabek if he wanted to come, and he politely declined.  The next day PKI announced their big closing week promotion where all season passholders could bring up to EIGHT friends free.  The conversation went something like this:

Us: "Do you want to go to PKI on Sunday"
Paul: "No"
Us: "We have free tickets"
Paul: "I'll be there"

So on Sunday morning Paul and his 5 year old son Bond arrived at Coasterville,, OH around 9:20 and we made it to the park in time to park in the North Lot, and get to the ACE meeting spot after the walk back group left, but before the park officially opened at 10:00.  The park made admissions a breeze with being able to just hand the email printouts directly to the ticket taker.  One of the neat things PKI has done for the coaster enthusiast for many years is to reserve the first ride of the day on Beast to ACE members. The way they manage this is to have a Guest Services Rep meet any ACErs in the park around 9:40 and escort them back to Beast.  For many years the meeting place was in front of the Glassblower's shop, but when they moved their International Street store layout around a bit, they decided to install a more permanent tribute.  Thus right out front of where the Glassblower used to be is a paver that reads "Paramount's Kings Island salutes the American Coaster Enthusiasts" (With both groups logos) It's not hard to find, when you enter the park look to the right, and you will see three flagpoles (American, Ohio, PKI flags), at the base of the United States Flag you will find the ACE block.

The time we had to spar before the barriers were dropped to head to the back of the park gave us time to take care of some matters, and look around at the preparations for Winterfest.  The fountain is further along in its transformation to being an ice skating rink, and it looks like skate rental buildings are being constructed.  Holiday decorations are already starting to appear on the International Street buildings, and right as you enter the park at the head of International Street a small stage complete with access ramp has been constructed.  I believe this will be the official stage for the nightly lighting ceremony.  In a move unusual for an amusement park, it looks like the park has closed almost all of its gift shops in order to inventory and remove their summer merchandise and to retheme and restock the shops for Winterfest.  Thus, the parks major gift shop, "Emporium" was closed.   Well, I think I have killed enough time for Rideman to arrive just a few moments after 10:00.  We exchange greetings and decide to head towards Beast.

We briefly meet up with a few of the other coaster enthusiasts in the park in Beast plaza before getting in line.  We get up to the station and all the seats except the very front and very back are walk on.  Its about a 3 train wait for the front seat.  We decide to take this opportunity to get a quick front seat ride.  First Paul and Rideman ride and I hang back with Bond, dutifully letting 4 people get in front of me so that when I board the Beast, Paul and Rideman have just returned and Bond can walk straight through the train.  

So, I board the Beast for a solo front seat ride. The ride runs especially nice in the front seat, and you get the full benefit of the views the ride offers without those bulky headrests in the way.  Having enjoyed our ride on Beast, we next headed to Italian Job Stunt Track.

The line for IJST looked about average, which meant it would be about a half hour wait or so. IJST would add the extra challenge of trying to do a "Small Non-Rider Swap" with two stop loading.  The way PKI does this is when you reach the grouper at the final turn before the station (where they assign seats) the Non-Rider and their companion waits near the place where the grouper stands.  So Rideman and I rode the IJST.  Its funny riding the ride with Rideman because Rideman adds his own soundtrack to the big hellicopter battle scene.  Rideman and I then exited, and we collected Bond and Paul went to ride IJST. Paul had not been on the ride since media day.  I was interested in hearing Paul's review of IJST and was glad to hear that his opinions of the rides current state matches what I thought.

Okay, we had just ridden two major rides, it was time to let Bond have some fun.  Bond reminds me of myself when I was his age.  Paul said that Bond had a traumatic experience with a children's ride at Six Flags over Georgia, sort of like I had a traumatic early childhood experience on Beastie (was called Scooby Doo then)  I rode Beastie early on in my life.  I was very afraid of rides for several years after that, and though I gradually got over it, I didn't get fully over my fear of rides until seventh grade.  So, Bond, I know what you are going through.

We walked through Rivertown, past Tomb Raider, then past the closed train ride, then past the closed rapids ride, then past Wild Thornberries River Adventure.  WTRA was open despite the cool day, but we did notice that the elephant's trunk had been covered over to ensure that he didn't squirt anybody.  We then entered into Nick Central, we looked at Reptar but kept moving on.  Bond did seem to have a great meeting with Spongebob Squarepants in the "Meet the Nickelodeon Characters" area.  Rideman and I confessed to not knowing who any of these modern era Nick characters are, so Paul pointed out some introductions.  Does anybody remember when the costume characters used to roam the park and there was the added thrill to finding the character then jockeying for position to get that hug or autograph.  Now it seems that parks position their costumed characters in designated meet-and-greet areas and set up queues and it’s a very organized and structured activities.  

We moved from the Nick Meet and Greet area to observe Ghoster Coaster's last hours.  Paul tried to talk Bond into trying it, but no luck.  Paul mentioned something about hand cars, and so Rideman and I showed Paul and Bond back past the Mini Whip (which I have operated, BTW), and then past the radio control cars and boats to the hand cars.  Bond got in line for the hand cars, and well unlike most riders, Paul made his way around the track like he was in the Indy 500 time trials.  In fact, Bond enjoyed the ride so much he rode it again.  Still undaunted, Bond would have gone for a third round but Paul put a stop to it.  

We walked to the end of this area of HB, to learn that Bond had no interest in the Red Baron's Biplanes. However also in this area there is a little miniature train ride.  The concept is simple its basically a dark ride ride system, except the entire thing is outside.  The 'cars' are themed to look like train engines. They train engines look like they can hold 2 children and 2 adults and the trains go on a curvy course through a field with really not much to look at.  There are some guesses that this will become Dora the Explorers Railway next year.

Bond was interested in riding this, so Rideman and I first held back while Paul and Bond got in line.  Then Paul had the wild and crazy idea that we get in line as well.  Paul found out that yes one child will get all 3 of us onto the ride. I know I could hardly keep a straight face as we walked through the line, I don't know how Rideman felt.  The only thing I did know was that the cars looked impossibly small for all 4 of us to fit into  Well the Green Engine came up to the load station, and the attendant ushered us in.  Paul choreographed our loading into the train car.  We put Bond in the child seat on the far side, then I got in and sat on the big seat on the far side, then Rideman sat next to me, then somehow Paul squeezed into the other small 'kids' seat.  Now if you have ever seen Rideman, Paul and I, we are not small guys in the least.  I think its fair to say every cubic inch of that train car was occupied by somebody's body part.  It was ridiculously absurd, but hey we are at an amusement park and silly is the order of the day, right? After we were loaded in, and yes the safety chain across the opening secured, the loader told us that there was to be no picture taking on the ride.

Well our Little Engine That Could made it about 3/4 of the way around the course, it made it up to the highest part of the ride and it was headed back down.  Then with less than 3/4 of the ride left, the unload station in sight just beyond the next bend our train car stops.  We look back and all the other train cars had stopped.  Seems the cars are powered electrically via a hot rail, and thanks to all the leaves falling and collecting on the track, the yellow engine that had just started its run got snagged up in some leaves, which blocked the brush for the electric pickup.  This means that we got evacuated off the kiddie train ride, but not before we talked the person evacuating us to take a photo of us all crammed into that train car.  

Coming out of the back reaches of HB, Bond was next interested in Yogi's Sky Tours.  Yogi's Sky Tours is the same general type ride as the train ride we just left, except that you ride in helicopters along a track that runs above HB.  It’s a cute ride, and it seems to be very popular.  According to the sign the wait from the bottom of the ramp is about 45 minutes, and the line was just about to the bottom of the ramp.  Paul, Rideman and myself got caught up into lots of conversation along the way up to the chopper boarding area and so that magical time speed up thing occurred.  While waiting in line I purchased some cotton candy from a street vendor who was working the Yogi line.  Bond is very aware of his surrounds, as while waiting in line, I took the cover off the cotton candy and started eating it when Bond looked straight at me and said "No food on the rides"  Paul is training him well.  So we shared some cotton candy and a lot of conversation until we reached the boarding platform.  Rideman demonstrated his competence in Dutch ride systems by pointing out all the electrical connectors that run along the track, and also the real nifty ride tool the attendants use.  On one end of the tool is a key to unlock the doors of the choppers.  The little 2 person helicopters have bars in the windows and the door locks, and can only be opened with a key.  Don't want anybody jumping out mid ride.  Anyway on the other end of the key is what I think is a magnet that operates a magnetically operated start button located on the side of the car.

Paul and Bond boarded a chopper and took off, then Rideman and I boarded a chopper.  One of the first things you notice is that only half the seat bench is cushioned.  I wqas lucky to get the cushioned half.  The next thing is the seatbelt which is shared between riders is fastened to the side of the bench with a strip of Velcro. You can imagine about how well that works out.  So the car starts and our legs reach for the pedals placed before each rider.  The presumed idea behind this ride is that your chopper moves along the track in a speed that is directionally proportional to how fast you pedal.  There is a safety system that will slow or stop your car if you get too close to the car ahead of you, aand their may be some speed limits.  Also, if you stop pedaling the chopper would stop, then the ride would nag you and if you still didn't start the car would start moving on its own.   At least that’s how the thing worked when I first rode it. Rideman and I first tried pedaling feverishly in an attempt to catch up with Paul and Bond, but when it became clear that no amount of pedaling was going to help us we first eased up on the pedaling, then Rideman wanted to cause the message to play to tell us to pedal the chopper so we stopped pedaling about midway through.  The chopper moved on along the track at about the same speed. Hey, there is no benefit to pedaling, so why put ourselves through a needless workout.  We lazed the rest of the ride back to the platform.  From there we proceeded to walk through HB put Bond didn't ride anything else.  

We walked around the Eiffel Tower and started to head to Action Zone, deciding to cut through Festhaus as a shortcut.  Holiday decorating is going on a a fast pace here, my reaction is that we are finally getting our Festhaus back.  It seemed to have been almost abandoned but we are getting it back.  In some ways it is even starting to look more like a German beer hall than it used to.  We managed to save Paul from paying absurdly high prices for mediocre park food, and headed into Action Zone.  Well, perhaps it should be called Non-Action Zone today. Drop Zone and Extreme Skyflyer were closed for wind, Congo Falls was closed for the cold, Delirium and Son of Beast were closed for mechanical reasons, which left the pitiful pay extra go-kart track, Face/Off and Top Gun in the area.  

I don't think we even bothered to look at the line over at Face/Off as its bad even on slow days. We headed back to Top Gun.  We made our way through the tunnel and just past the 1 hour wait sign stood the back of the line.  Well, we decided to stick it out and wait the hour to ride Top Gun.  I don't really think it took that long, but that may have been partly due to the magic of conversation.  There was a wish you had a camera moment when there was somebody who turned the disused stand for the model fighter jets into a rather comfortable looking easy chair.  

We made our way to the bypass where you go around the outside what used to be the aircraft carrier tour part of the queue.  There is one area where you can kind of see inside and along the back wall of the area is a HUGE United States Flag. We were stopped in a particular spot along the queue where I could see the fly end of the flag.  (The end usually farthest from the pole) The flag looks like it is really a tarp made to look like a flag, as the fly end had a row of grommet holes running at least one per stripe from the top to the bottom, and rope was passed through said holes lashing it to the nearby support column.  At least I had not seen that many grommets in a flag before.  There doesn't appear to be any along the top or bottom edges, but I made the effort to peer around and see the hoist end of the flag, and there was a matching column of grommet holes in the white header on the hoist end. It kind of reminded me of something from Survivor 2, this was back when Survivors could take one luxury item into the game with them.  Colby (who came in second) used misdirection to totally bamboozle the crew.  There was a rule that the luxury items can't be anything survival related. (tarps, knives, matches, that kind of thing)  Colby wanted to sneak a tarp into camp, so when he  was choosing his luxury item he requested to bring a very oversize Texas Flag, explaining to the producers that he was a Proud Texan and that he needed to have his Texas Sized Texas Flag with him.   The producers thought, that it would cause some confrontation around camp so they told him he could bring an oversize Texas flag.  Well, Colby went to a flag maker, and commissioned a special Texas Flag, oversized and made of the same material that tarps are made out of. He then had them install grommets all along the edges of the flag, and some in key spots in the center just like a tarp.  So the producers thought he was brining in an odd looking flag, but he was really bringing in a tarp that happed to look like a flag.  And in the first few episodes he used it as a roof to their shelter, but I think somewhere along the way the producers shut him down because I think by episode 3 or 4, the Texas Flag was being used on the ground as the floor of their shelter.  Of course later on in the season, Jeff Probst found a way to get that Texas flag out from the camp.  Since this tangent has run so long, I'll just go a bit further to say that on Survivor 4, they allowed Pashcal to bring a United States Flag, and he used it as a Unites States Flag, complete with pole, staked into the beach.

Where was I, oh Top Gun.  We made our way to the station and did another swap with Paul and I taking the first ride, and Rideman hanging back for the pass-and-ride.  Paul likes the old Arrow suspended coasters, as do I.  We received a fast and fun, if brief ride on Top Gun.  At this time, Bond needed a bite to eat.  The idea was simple Paul and Bond would go out to the car, then give us a phone call when they were ready to rejoin us.  

Well we met John Peck and his crew at about the same time in the front gate plaza.  Standing in the Front Gate plaza, I realized two things.  People were streaming into the park like crazy, and that the wind was starting to get bitterly swift.  Rideman and I decided to go out to assorted cars to change into warmer gear.  I first took the chance to get my discount season passholder ticket to Winterfest at the special $16.99 price that expired on November 6.  We went out to cars, noticed the swarms of people clogging the admission gates, the security checkpoint and season pass sales/processing. Was exiting the park really such a good idea?  The park still hasn't gone back to the UV "Magic Lamp" handstamps, and this year have just been using plain old ordinary handstamps.  Today's read "RIVERTOWN" We went to cars, we changed, I put my winterfest materials into Paul's car.  Paul and Bond had a quick bite, then we headed back to the park.

It took a bit of time to get through the metal detector lanes, then we went to the reentry gate, or what used to be the reentry gate.  It seems that one of the changes with the new visible hand stamps is that you can reenter through any open lane.  We look back at the long lines to get through the gates. Ugh.  We see an entry lane open up, and I decide to display some international flair as I queue for the main gate Italian style.  That’s right, I saw the new lane open, and forcibly ran over there without regard for fellow park guests and got our group through pretty fast.   It worked at the Coliseum in Rome, it can work here.  

We entered the park and headed to Coney Mall.  We noticed that Springshot was also closed due to winds, that Adventure Express had a line baked out onto the midway, and so we went into Coney Mall.  Racer also had a line backed out onto the midway, but at this time the switchbacks were not in use.  Therefore it was a relatively short wait and we were getting into the front seat of the back car.  Paul and I first, and I saw Paul get stapled into Racer.  Paul claims his Racer ride was painful, but I thought it was a slightly better than average ride, the return brake was on hard so the airtime it had reclaimed temporarily was gone.

We walked down a crowded Coney Mall, stopping near Italian Jobs back side so Paul could have some photos.   We decided against Flight of Fear when we learned it only had one train running and a long line.  We headed towards Vortex and didn't quite make it.  

We ran into several groups of coaster enthusiasts near Happy Days Diner and stopped to engage in that behavior where you stand around on the midway talking about rides when you could be riding them.  Well, if the park weren’t so crowded, anyway.  We add Don Flint and Jim Scudder to our ranks (and a few others).  Paul goes down by the Paramount FX Theatre to get some Racer pictures, then we head to Advneture Express.  We note that Racer is starting to use some of its switchbacks and the line is still out onto the midway.  The Adventure Express line is back to the midway, and we knew it would be a touch slower with only 2 trains running.  It took about half and hour to get on Adventure Express, this time Paul and Rideman rode first, and Bond and I came second.  Bond would have been eligible to ride Adventure Express but he chose not to.  As Paul and Rideman were leaving to enjoy their AE ride, Bond announced that he liked Rideman better than me.  I'm crushed, well being kid-friendly is not one of my strong suits, and I took some ribbing over that the day or two I worked HB rides.  I had a nice solo Adventure Express ride to meditate on the errors of my ways, but hey Adventure Express is one of the best running coasters in the park, even if I did get behind the group that has to scream at the top of their lungs from the second the train starts moving out of the station until it returns.

After Adventure Express we take another Nick Central break for Bond.  By this time the only way to describe Nick Central and HB Land is INSANE.  Huge lines for everything  Even the hand cars had a bit of a wait.  We let Bond take one or two more laps on the handcars before heading back across park to Vortex.

We get as far as Happy Days Diner.  Vortex had a line running back through Coney, even the Troika has a line backed out onto the midway.  Bond has a giant pretzel as a snack and after some more conversation the Vortex line gets reasonable.  We recall it only has two trains running.  

We get almost all the way through the Vortex line when Bond and Paul have to leave for some 'family issues', but the rest of use this time to get a front seat Vortex ride.  I nited Vortex has added a front wall to the front seat so you can't stick your legs clear up into the nose of the car the way you could before. Rideman and I rode together, and while on the lift I got an apprecation for the Corkscrew seatbelt probem, as I realized there was no way I could reach the (imaginary) seatbelt buckle secured with the shoulder bar the way I was.  All in all it was a fun last Vortex ride of the year, and we met back up by the Vortex photo booth and headed for Beast

The last few years, PKI has started the really nice gesture of saving the last Beast rides of the year for coaster enthusiasts.  We gather in Beast Plaza, and wait there until the park is almost cleared.  Shortly after 6:30 (the park closed at 6) we were moved to a behind the scenes area between tomb Raider and Beast to wait.

Jeff Seibert, the parks PR guy gave a closing day address to the assembled coaster enthusiasts, thanking us for our attendance, commenting on where time had flown.  He gave us some brief details about Nick Universe next year but nothing that hasn't already been announced except that Avatar is Not the Disk'O coaster that had been rumored but it will be a "Similar Experience" take that as you will.

You can tell the park is really excited about Winterfest as Jeff spent a great dealof time telling us about all the Winterfest attractions in a nice level of detail, allowing us to get a touch more detail.  Just about everything he said has made it to the winterefest web site.  
With that it was time to stop talking and start riding.  We were allowed to enter Beast station through an emergency exit which took us up a flight of stairs right up to the loading area, totally bypassing the queue maze.  Paul and I rode first while Rideman waited with Bond.  Beast may be overrated, but there is something special about ending your season on Beast.  Call it "Tradition!" There is something bittersweet knowing that its November and you are riding a roller coaster, but also in knowing that once the train returns to the station, amusement park season is OVER in Ohio.  Savor that last ride.

We return to the station and we do the swap off.  Since they were allowing re-rides, I yelded to Paul since he doesn't get to the park as much as we do, so Paul got a double ride while I waited with Bond at the ride exit.  We could have stayed a few more rides in the mini ERT session, but we decided to talk some more as we made out was past swan Lake where they were testing the holiday light and sound show that will be taking place on the lake before heading up International Street, with Carol of the Bells playing on the sound system. We made our way out to cars, I claimed my stuff out of Paul's car, and we wihsed Paul and Bond a safe ride back to Santa Claus, IN, and Jim Scudder, Rideman and I had dnner at Culvers before heading to our assorted houses to end the coaster season,

The coaster season may have ended, but I should have at least one more amusement park visit this year when we go to Winterfest.  Watch for the Trip report. Speaking of trip reports, this means I only have one more trip report to write, and I will be caught up for the summer.   Keep your eyes peeled for my Ohio State Fair trip report.