We recently had the pleasure to mix and mingle with some of the area’s coaster enthusiasts at the ACE event held at Six Flags Over Georgia [SFOG]. This event featured some great presentations from the southeastern region’s best and brightest amusement parks, some swag and trivia prize giveaways, and a tour of SFOG’s Hurricane Harbor’s construction site. Luckily, this event did not showcase the wintery [snow and ice] conditions of recent days in the Atlanta area. Instead, a little bit of sunshine and a day of gusty winds surrounded the eventful day.
The event really started off with a bang as parks unveiled its new 2014 attractions to the group. Cedar Fair was unable to make the event, but they sent along their park presentation information and some old school photos of Carowinds! Also, some attention was brought to Kings Island and their highly-anticipated opening of Banshee, the longest inverted coaster in the world. With Banshee’s media day set for April 17th, many ACE members have indicated their plans to travel to Cincinnati in order to give it a ride or two.
Later, the event’s host park, Six Flags took the stage. First up, Linda Jensen, VP of Marketing at SFOG, introduced members of her team, including a new PR and Communications Manager. Then, she showed a few teasers from Six Flags corporate about what will be new at each park in 2014. Highlights include the highly-anticipated Goliath [wooden coaster] at Six Flags Great America and Great Adventure’s Zumanjaro Drop of Doom [drop ride]. More swag was on its way – free front of the line pass for Zumanjaro! Once the video teaser concluded, Linda took extra time to explain just what Hurricane Harbor was going to include when it opens Memorial Day Weekend. Before turning the stage over to Park President Kaetzel, she explained that Hurricane Harbor is the largest investment in the park’s long history. Lastly, she took extra time to ensure us that Fright Fest has grown more in popularity, and the park continues to notice it. Last season, more was invested in the fall experience, and she promised that more would continue to be put into its production for this and for future years.
Park President Kaetzel reiterated Jensen’s energy and level of expectation for Hurricane Harbor, noting that this is a great time for the amusement park industry. All of the major parks seem to be doing a great job, and the popularity is up. As the Q&A session ensued, many questions were targeted towards just how Hurricane Harbor would operate, including operation hours, the path in which guests will take to get to the water park, and what it means for White Water. Kaetzel was kind with his time, showcasing his industry knowledge and passion. He fielded all questions that were thrown his way, and he reiterated the company’s focus on safety. After this Q&A concluded, a video mix from all of the Six Flags parks wrapped up their presentation, reminding us all that they “Heart ACE!”
The presentations concluded with Pete Owens, PR Director at Dollywood and part of the team responsible for the National Roller Coaster Museum (a traveling exhibit). He noted that Fire Chaser is on schedule for its planned opening this year, and 2015 invites even more promise to the park as Dollywood will be opening its first mega resort. Going back to the 2014 plans, Pete played the POV video for us and then went on to showcase the reverse POV video, highlighting the effects of the reverse portion of the ride. While Dollywood has some inclement weather over the past few weeks, crews were still able to work on the new ride and look forward to opening it to the public very soon! After some great Q&A, the attention turned to the museum. Dollywood just finished up its 2-year stint of hosting this exhibit, and Pete was proud to report that over 50,000 people got to see it while it was at Dollywood. Now, the museum has been packed back up and is heading back to Texas. Hopefully, it will resurface again very soon at a park near you!
The Varsity – What’ll Ya Have?
A day at the park would not be remiss without a high-quality burger or chili dog and onion rings, right? Well, the group broke for lunch, and the Varsity Truck was waiting for us. Although the group elected to just stay outdoors near the truck, this was a great time to mingle and avoid the wind. It is always great to chat with fellow coaster and amusement park enthusiasts, so we all took advantage of this time.
After lunch was over, the group wandered back to the Carrot Club in Bugs Bunny World to await the highly-anticipated park tour, guided by none other than SFOG Park President, Dale Kaetzel. This provided all of us a great chance to see the transition of the park from Fright Fest mode to maintenance mode [to almost ready mode]. Many crews were hard at work, crafting how the park will look for the 2014 season, from landscaping to ride maintenance to construction and park expansion. Dale kept a good pace but stopped along the way to point out great tidbits of information about what to expect from the park this upcoming season. Answering questions all along the way, Dale guided us all the way back to Hurricane Harbor’s construction site! He did an amazing job of painting the picture and the experience for us all, and he acknowledged that the public will ultimately determine the future direction and expansion options for the water park!
What a great day! It was our first ACE event, and we really enjoyed it. Thanks to all of the great coaster enthusiasts who were able to come out. ACE Regional Representative, Josh Herrington, sends out a big thank you to the attendees, the parks who were able to come and/or send presentations, and especially to the SFOG staff and leadership team – without them, this event would not have been possible! Well, opening days are just around the corner; who’s going to ACE’s Spring Fling? Be sure to check out many of the pictures from attendees; we have pictures some on our Facebook Page, and we encourage you to consider a roller coaster club today!