by Andrew Rybarczyk
It's no secret that Dick Kinzel is by far my favorite person in the amusement industry. I can remember clearly the first time I met him at the 2009 First Rider Auction of Shoot the Rapids. Since then I've become fascinated with not only his history with Cedar Fair but also with his leadership style and pivotal decisions. When I discovered that there was an official biography written about his life, it was with great enthusiasm I purchased the book.
If you are looking for a quick look into his life, Dick Kinzel: Roller Coaster King of Cedar Point Amusement Park provides the reader with that and more. Everything from his coaster creations, to his career in the industry, through his life after retirement is chronicled. Each focal point is highlighted by a number of quotes and recollections from Dick himself. Too see his perspective on many of the stories I had already known was insightful to say the least.
The book has a number of major themes but the one that comes through the most is Dick's love of Cedar Point and amusement parks. His philosophy is made abundantly clear through these pages: bring the guests in with huge steel thrill rides and do whatever you can to keep them happy from the time they enter the park until the time they leave. It is this belief that I believe has made Cedar Point into the greatest amusement park in the world. The constant innovation and creation of the biggest and best rides on the planet drew me to Cedar Point each season, but it is the customer service that makes me want to go back multiple times each year. The book also delivers some information that hasn't been widely known. First, the revelation that he had planned another Giga coaster for Cedar Point floored me. In numerous conversations with friends and during episodes of Uncut, I always asked "where's Dicks big goodbye to Cedar Point?" Maverick was great when opened in 2007, but I always thought there was to be one more. This revelation at least put my mind to rest on that question if also being a bit disheartening.
The book also chronicles Dick's dark last few years. It was also a surprise of how much a toll a number of situations took on Mr. Kinzel. I understand business is business, but after dedicating his entire life to the park and chain, it seemed that his last few years were a bit much for anyone to bear. At the very least, the park gave him a huge send off in the classic grand dance hall of the Coliseum in the place he had become so connected to.
It was fun to get insight into Dick's personality and life. The author does a fine job of capturing the many facets of his life including his personality, his work ethic and his commitment to God. It was also fun to find out that he had an obsession with finding the perfect trash can, which we all know are quite ubiquitous at Cedar Fair parks. In all, this book solidified my belief that there will never be another CEO of Cedar Fair like Dick Kinzel. His impact on all of our lives is unquestionable and in fact none of us would be reading this article if not for his vision and desire to push the limits of roller coasters. He is also responsible for so many good memories of friends and family that I have. I greatly enjoyed reading about his successes and troubles and I'm sure you will as well.
Valravn has been a fairly controversial topic of discussion for the past couple of months. The new Cedar Point addition breaks multiple records, including the tallest, fastest, and longest dive coaster in the world. Valravn will tower at 223 feet tall, drop down 214 feet at a speed of 75 miles per hour. The statistics certainly sound great for any coaster, so why would someone not be anticipating this coaster? Let us take a look at some of the points of criticism.
Cedar Point has had a long history of breaking records. Gemini, Magnum XL 200, Millennium Force, and Top Thrill Dragster all opened as the tallest and fastest roller coasters in the world. Other Cedar Point coasters broke records for the type of coaster they are, like Corkscrew, Mean Streak, Raptor, Mantis (now called Rougarou), and Gatekeeper. In September of 2015, Cedar Point unveiled their new attraction for 2016, called Valravn. Valravn will be joining the second list being that it will break all dive coaster records. Some are arguing how Valravn is barely edging other the other record holders. As of 2015, the tallest dive coaster is Diving Coaster in Happy Valley. Diving Coaster stands at a height of 213.3 feet and it is a clone of Sheikra. However, it is not the fastest dive machine. Griffon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg narrowly edges out Diving Coaster with a top speed of 71 miles per hour. It is easy to see that the records are not being "shattered," but Valravn will still stand as the 3rd tallest coaster in the park. By no means is this dive machine to be considered small. There will be spectacular views of the park, Lake Erie, and the Sandusky Bay from the top of the lift hill. Another aspect of Valravn that people tend to criticize is the layout. Valravn's layout consists of an immelmann, mid-course break run 131 feet tall, a dive loop, a 270-degree roll, and an airtime hill. When comparing this layout to the other large dive machines, a notable absence is a splashdown. It is understandable that the lack of a splashdown could be disappointing, but an additional inversion and airtime hill will be a great substitute.
Valravn is more than worthy to belong among the untouchable coaster collection of Cedar Point. Dive machines are rare to come by, being that there are only two in the U.S. and 11 in the world. While some enthusiasts are still anticipating the 500ft. terra-coaster, the rest of us are more than happy to ride Valravn. It is certainly lining up to be a noteworthy addition to Cedar Point's lineup.
by Andrew Rybarczyk
I've always wanted to experience the differences between the Hollywood and Orlando versions of Halloween Horror Nights. After having the opportunity to go to Orlando for my first HHN last year, I didn't ever expect to go to Hollywood so soon. However two things changed that very quickly. First, COASTER-net was afforded the opportunity to attend HHN Hollywood at this year's very prestigious media event. As one would expect, the Hollywood event is filled with celebrities, red carpets and the all of the haunts people have come to expect to be some of the best in the business. Attending any HHN media event has always been a dream of mine and getting the opportunity to go was one that I just couldn't pass up. However, what sealed the deal was finding out that AvP would be returning for a unprecedented second year. Now if you recall, AvP was the impetus for my attending Orlando last year. The thought of getting to experience the sister haunt especially being able to see the exclusive Alien Queen had me so excited that I booked my flight within the hour of the announcement.
This past weekend was my inaugural trip to Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood. Overall the Hollywood version is definitely one of the best theme park Halloween events anywhere. There are three distinct types of haunts at Hollywood: scare zones, traditional haunted houses and the Terror Tram which is really so unique that I believe it should be put separately. Here are my thoughts on each:
Going into this event, many of these houses had me more intrigued, more so than even the first leaked list from Orlando. AvP, Crimson Peak and This Is the End were at the top of my list. I was also excited to see what the Hollywood crew would do with Halloween. The lineup rounded out with The Walking Dead and Insidious. I'm very happy to say that the three I was most excited about actually came in as my top 3 mazes for the event.
The best house at this event was by far Crimson Peak. The amount of detail poured into this house would put most other haunts to shame. Although I was unfamiliar with the story of this house, I was so impressed that it makes me want to check out this movie when released. This house excelled in the way that it used a variety of ways to scare you. Classic scare techniques put a smile on my face while at the same time mechanical props added to the human scareactors. By far this was the most well balanced house and the attention to detail is what jumped this to my #1 spot.
Second on my list was This Is the End. I know a lot of people rolled their eyes when this was announced, but being one of my favorite movies of the last few years this was one I was very excited to check out. It's done in the classic 3D neon. To be honest the 3D was almost not needed, but just a little something extra. I went through both with and without the glasses and had a good time both trips. The story does recreate classic scenes from the film and by far the Jonah Hill scenes were the best. I also appreciated clips of the real actors during trasitions to try to bring you more into that world. One criticism is that other transition pieces with the demons does get a bit repetitive but the demons look so good, I didn't mind too much. The ending of this house may be one of the best effects and sequences ever done in a haunt. It combines scares and hilarity and will have you walking out very pleased.
Even though AvP could not ever match the perfection of last year's house in Orlando, this iteration gave Orlando a pretty good run for its money. The sets were well done especially the Predator Chamber scene which was just outstanding. This version took a bit different take on the story that followed AvP: Requiem more closely. It featured many Earth based scenes, whereas Orlando's environments were more space based and futuristic. Throughout the maze, there were various interactions with both classic icons, however I wished there were more iconic Predator scenes. The Alien scenes though ruled this house and were so well done that it jumped this house to my top three.
Halloween was tough for me to judge. I was surprised at how similar it was to Orlando's version last year. I can't blame them because of how well received that house was. Most of the scenes were tweaked a bit for space and some were even a bit stronger. The phone cord choking was much more effective with live actors. It was fun to relive this haunt for a second year and people who haven't ever experienced it will undoubtedly love it.
I was really not expecting much from the Hollywood scarezones because I felt that Orlando's are kind of just added in and are either small or designed for photo ops. Wow, I couldn't have been more wrong on this. All three scarezones are the best I've ever been through. I was shocked by the amount of props and scenery used throughout all three. Corps and Exterminatorz both had really energetic scareactors that really worked together to get people. Exterminatorz used some props that absolutely shocked me but thought it was brilliant. Another note was that the amount of fog used was perfect. It obscured forward vision perfectly and really allowed for maximum scareactor effect.
The standout among the three was Dark Christmas. Here the holiday theme was evident from start to finish. The props were just so detailed and the costumes so perfect. The holiday music just topped off a perfect scarezone. This is how it's done folks, I wish other parks would go to learn.
By far the highlight of the event was another that took me a little by surprise. Now I love The Purge. The concept captivated me from the announcement of the first movie. Last year's Purge scarezone was one of the highlights of the event for me. Having not ever been on a Terror Tram, I was never quite clear what it was all about. Let me say the concept of a tram taking you to a location, dropping you off through a scarezone and then picking you back up is an absolutely awesome concept. The story presented on the tram portion was just perfect and really set up the whole experience. The scarezone on the tram and into the backlot were just awesome and combined elements from both films. It just felt like the awesomeness went on forever. This experienced might actually rival AvP for my favorite haunt experience. I should also note that a special touch was the female auctioneer coming back as a greeter for when you are entering the Tram. She added a good deal of tongue in cheek humor that really put you into the world of The Purge.
Overall, my first Hollywood HHN experience was amazing. There's no way Hollywood can compete with the budget and space Orlando has. However, John Murdy and crew really do a great job with working with what they do have. Creativity and ingenuity rule the day here. Going through Orlando last year I sometimes got a very corporate feel that sometimes became a bit formulaic and overly rehearsed. Granted, those elements also are the reason for why it's by far the number 1 Halloween event anywhere. Hollywood though, still has that a bit, but I feel they also have a bit more freedom and push the envelope just a little further. The pieces that were great like The Terror Tram and scarezones were better than anything else out there. I can't wait to be able to go back next year to this event and I'm looking forward to seeing what they can conjure up to keep raising the bar.
Wicked Cyclone is a roller coaster that had possibly the highest anticipation in the enthusiast community after its announcement in years. Well, it not only lives up to the hype but even exceeds expectations. RMC and Alan Schilke are going to go down as legends in the roller coaster community with this coaster on its resume. The fact that they can continuously convert older wooden roller coasters into world class steel roller coasters is astounding.
Wicked Cyclone may have started out as the most anticipated coaster of this year but in April, it started to get overshadowed by Fury 325 and even Twisted Colossus. Reasons for this were because of the love being expressed for Fury as well as some people being underwhelmed by the latest POV for Wicked Cyclone. Others began to jump on the Twisted Colossus bandwagon because of this as well which caused Wicked Cyclone to be almost forgotten about by some as media day approached.
I went into the day having only one RMC roller coaster under my belt in Outlaw Run. Admittedly, I went in expecting this to be a top 10 ride. I was able to get three chances in the last row, tenth row, and ninth row to see if that's where this coaster would end up on my list. Well, on a cold morning in the middle of May, Wicked Cyclone showed up to the riders and made a statement that it was going to be legendary. But what is it about this ride that makes it one of the world's best some people may ask?
Let's start with the fact that it has a little sense of tradition connected with the past versions of this roller coaster. One staple of the Riverside Cyclone and the Cyclone was the catapult first drop. Wicked Cyclone doesn't skip a beat with its 78 degree first drop that gives you the sensation that you're being launched out of your seat.
One big statistic Six Flags promoted with this coaster was the fact there were 14 airtime hills. Most people probably thought only a couple of these would be forceful and memorable. When you're riding this coaster, you feel the presence of every single one of those 14 airtime hills as each one has unbelievable ejector airtime. Think of airtime hills on El Toro and Skyrush and then imagine having double the amount of those. This coaster truly lives up to the pre-opening reputation of being an airtime machine.
The Zero-G-Rolls and Zero-G-Stall are also a very impressive features of this coaster. The hangtime offered on both of these are ridiculous and really allow you the sensation of falling out of your seat and being upside down while having time to appreciate it. These are also spaced out well and aren't overkill like Outlaw Run's double barrel roll. For a 55 mph roller coaster, this feels faster than you might expect. Most world class coasters are at least 70 mph but Wicked Cyclone does a great job of keeping a solid speed once it warms up. There's also a feeling of comfort on this ride with the restraints which you don't have as much of on other airtime machines. The biggest compliment of all is that it is one of the smoothest roller coasters out there. You can tell the track is brand new as it's a pleasure to ride on and feels like glass.
With all of that said, Wicked Cyclone is the complete package. You have everything you could possibly want in a world-class coaster with no negatives. That is not a distinction a lot of roller coasters get. From the catapult first drop, the ridiculous amount of ejector airtime, smoothness, comfort, and hangtime, Wicked Cyclone has it all. Some would consider this a perfect roller coaster. I am one of those people and I've only said that about two or three other roller coasters.
This roller coaster is going to be a game-changer. It's going to confirm that RMC's game is as strong as ever and is also going to make Six Flags New England a destination for enthusiasts. There are now two world-class coasters in the park which raises the park to another level. Six Flags New England is also going to have a change in the guards for the first time in 15 years. Bizarro has been the draw coaster for the park ever since its arrival. Now it looks like Wicked Cyclone is going to take over the role of headliner with its new innovation and very positive reviews. New England has a winner on its hands that should be very popular for years to come.
by Andrew Rybarczyk
This week much has been discussed about the new trademark filing, Valravn for Cedar fair. It has led to a fury of discussion and debate about what the name might be used for if anything at all. First, let’s look at what a “valravn” actually is. The term originates from Danish folklore and is described as a raven that scours a battlefield consuming the bodies of fallen knights and soldiers. Another cool aspect of the mythology is that a valravn can actually assume the form of a knight after consuming the heart of a child. Pretty graphic right? It can also take other forms such as a half wolf creature. Overall, I think it’s a pretty cool name, but what is it going to be used for? I’ve compiled a list of possibilities, some far-fetched, some a more of a possibility. So let’s take a look at what this might be
Cedar Fair over the last few years has been transforming the front gates of its parks. Cedar Point was first with the amazing GateKeeper flyover. This year, it was Fury 325 with the dive under the new entrance. Valravn could do this for another park but would probably have to be unique. We know that a dive coaster is rumored for Cedar Point, but what if it’s not for Cedar Point but rather its neighbor to the north, Canada’s Wonderland? A dive coaster into the center of the plaza would be a spectacle for sure. Now this by itself might not be a longshot, but what if last year’s hot rumor of Centurion actually comes true? What if Canada’s Wonderland not only gets one coaster but two? A Centurion vs Valravn dueling coaster that interacts would really up the ante for a park that has a lot of coasters but only a few really top notch coasters. A new wing coaster and a new dive coaster with interactive elements could make Canada’s Wonderland the top park in North America.
Dark rides are all the rage at Cedar Fair with Matt Ouimet stating that all the parks would be getting a dark ride sometime in the future. Every one of the dark rides thus far have a central enemy such as the Dragon at Wonder Mountain or the steampunk octopus in Voyage to the Iron Reef. The valravn described in mythology fits this description as a pretty cool baddy. The question is what park might it fit in? My first thoughts go to Kings Island or Kings Dominion. Drawing of the medieval feel of the story could fit with the parks name. Yes, I know it’s a bit of a stretch but is it any more of stretch than Voyage to the Iron Reef? A medieval theme for a dark ride could be a really fun topic to explore.
Even though most people are focusing on the possibility of a coaster, it could also be used for haunt. This is less likely due to the language of the filed trademark that states for amusement rides, but also for various merchandise. The valravn and battlefield theme could work as a pretty cool haunt. Imagine an ancient warzone with raven screeches and special effect attacks. You could also pull in the various incarnations of the valravn including the knight and wolf as the haunt progresses.
The easiest answer is that Valravn will be connected to the oft rumored Cedar Point dive coaster. The imagery created by the valravn diving to the battlefield to eat the bodies of the fallen is perfect for a B&M dive coaster. The minute I heard the name and read what it was, Sheikra at Busch Gardens Tampa immediately came to mind. If placed at Cedar Point, Valravn would fit nicely with not only the area but the recent additions. Two years ago, GateKeeper introduced the character of the guardian that has been thoroughly promoted and merchandised. Rougarou this year introduced another new mythical character into the Cedar Point lineup. Valravn would continue this trend. The area also provides an interesting situation as well with the coaster being placed right next to the old bird, Raptor. One would assume that the entrance to the new dive coaster would be located right next to the iconic Cobra Roll of Raptor. In addition, if painted the right color, Valravn and Raptor could be a great complement to each other. A black and purple color scheme would be striking next to the green Raptor. Add in a few grave stones or battlefield landscapes and you could have a very awesome experience. On top of that, you could even add the old Fear Faire haunt to travel under Valravn and have theming that can be kept up all year and heavily utilized during the haunt season. I was skeptical at first of the idea of a dive coaster but if themed correctly it could be a real hit for the park.
So those are my major ideas of what Valravn could be. Obviously its pure speculation at this point and there could be a number of different other possibilities. In fact, it might just be a red herring that is never acted upon by anyone. Overall, I think Valravn is a pretty cool name with a backstory that could lead to some pretty interesting concepts being integrated. Hopefully, when we finally find out what Valravn is, it’s just as good if not better than what we are currently envisioning.
By Dwain Sponseller
I have always imagined what it would have been like to travel the high seas on a ship made from just the timbers of an oak tree in the 1600s. We may have the modern technologies today, but a trip to Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana can get you pretty close in a modernistic fashion. This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Thunderbird Media Day Preview and I want to tell you a little bit about the day.
Hundreds of media and coaster enthusiasts arrived at the park around 6:00am on Thursday morning. I had decided to travel to Louisville and stay the night and get up early Thursday and arrive at the park. For the second year in a row, media day turns out to be one of the coldest mornings of the spring. At a temperature of 35 degrees, I was happy I had brought my jacket alongside. We arrived at the gate where they had us alphabetized. The ride auction winners were escorted back first and then they escorted the rest of us back. The three woodies were quiet and greeting us on this beautiful Indiana morning. After the long trek to the back of the park, we finally arrived at the magnificent orange colored track and elegant ride station. There were park employees there to greet us and breakfast was laid out for us to partake in. (I will get back to the food later in this blog) We began the festivities with an opening ceremony from Koch family and the president. We counted down the launch to the first ride and watched as she sped down the first piece of track.
The ride was then opened for everyone to ride and we took our first rides on the first ever launched wing coaster in the country. This seems like a good place to give my review of the ride. Let me first state that the queue line and ride station is excellent. The station is made to look old and barn like which fits in with the cornfield landscape of the area. There is a silo on the outside of the station that is actually the elevator for the ride. When boarding a train, the train in front prepares for launch and the sound effects of thunder and the flashing lights make it feel like a thunderstorm. The train creeps out to the launch pad and then the fog surrounds and out you go. The ride is short but powerful. My favorite part of this coaster is the launch. This is by far the smoothest wing coaster I have ridden. The transitions are flawless and the coaster is one that you can re-ride over and over again. The restraints are your normal B&M wing type and the greatest thing is the harness does not lock. After riding the coaster in every seat, my favorite seat is the front right outside seat, but many like the left side for the near miss effects in the ride interaction building. Overall this coaster ranks very high on my list because of the overall smoothness and re-ridabilty.
I want to now take this time to truly thank the people of Holiday World for the hospitality and kindness throughout the entire day. They went above and beyond to make everyone at media day feel welcome and satisfied. I want to take this time as well to talk about the food and things were given throughout the entire day. Unlike many media days that last just a couple of hours, this media day lasted all day and was ripe full of activities for everyone. When we arrived at the ride, they had laid out a breakfast that was fit for a king. They had orange juice and all the fountain drinks that we are accustomed to all day long at Holiday World. They had fresh cinnamon rolls with crème cheese icing that was to die for. They also had in house made breakfast sandwiches that were piping hot. They wheeled out coffee and hot chocolate for everyone as well and this was only the beginning. Thunderbird and Voyage were open all morning and you could ride as many times as you wanted on both world class coasters.
When it was lunch time, we were treated to an unbelievable feast of BBQ pulled pork, country fried steak, and all the fixens. There was even a delectable pecan cobbler for dessert. After lunch, the park resumed rides on Thunderbird and the backstage tours of the ride began. We were able to go into the belly of the ride and get pictures and video from different angles that aren’t normally allowed. One of the best moments of the trip was the opening of the Raven and Legend roller coasters as now we were able to experience the entire plethora of wood and steel the park had to offer. Normally the media day would end here, but not at Holiday World. They kept Thunderbird open until everyone was tired of the ride. We were offered a dinner inside of the Plymouth Rock Café that consisted of Pizza and dinner wraps. We also were able to sample the new Thunderbird ice cream throughout the day.
In closing I just want to say once again how thankful I am for this opportunity to represent COASTER-net at Thunderbird Media Day. The people at Holiday World are world class and their park is evidence of that. The park was able to raise a ton of money for Give Kids the World and it was great to be a part of that as always. If you are preparing for a trip to a world class place with world class coasters…make sure you add Holiday World to your list. May the Queue Lines Be Ever In Your Favor!
by Daniel Westfall
I go to many Media Days around the country, and hands-down I have to say that SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, the chain that owns all the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Parks theme parks as well as Water Country USA and Aquatica water parks is one of the best in terms of hosting these events.
The first thing to say about this is that every employee is happy to have you there. From the parking attendants that make sure you know where to go to the VIP escorts who are there to make sure you have every question answered and that you get everything you need, to the designers and park executives that make themselves available to all the media for easy access and provide great information.
As with most rides there is a strict "no lose articles" policy on this ride, and lockers are provided nearby, but unlike most rides, fanny packs are also provided by the park for riders to put small lose articles in (keys, a phone or a wallet) where you may not want to rent a locker just to stash these items. The fanny packs don't interfere with the restraints, which is really a lap-bar only system with a "comfort collar" that I will explain. The "comfort collar" is there simply for your "comfort" that you have something over your shoulders holding you it, though it is not really part of the restraint system. The straps are fairly lose and do not give any of the feeling of either the "child-lock vests" we had on wing-riders or the "head-banging" issues we had with traditional OTSR restraints.
It was my experience that the ride is most intense in the front row. Here you will experience the most extreme g-forces as you get pulled out of your seat through several negative-g and zero-g elements. Those preferring a bit tamer ride should ride in the middle of the coaster where you still get a lot of thrills, but a much smoother ride and better chance of being able to "re-ride."
By Daniel Westfall
This Wednesday I got the pleasure and honor of being one of the first riders for Fury 325 at Carowinds, which is looking to be one of the most exciting coasters this year and for a long time to come. While other coasters may break the height and speed records, this coaster was designed to maximize every element and to allow the riders to have a great view of the park and to have several instances where they can see guests coming into and going out of the park.
Coming into the park there was a new entrance plaza the bridge which Fury 325 dives under and flies over. From this vantage point you can see almost the entire ride other than the final brake run, queue line and station. It's just a beautiful coaster to look at and it ties in very well with the local culture of the Charlotte Hornets as the ride is themed supposed to be themed after a "fury" of hornets buzzing along going up and down and all around.
There was some fear going into this event from the animations and POVs that the ride would lose its speed in the second half and would have little to no airtime. I can tell you that's just not the case and the pace was kept from beginning to end once the trains were full of enthusiastic fans from all around the country.
It's so hard to pick a favorite part of this ride as the whole thing was just amazing form beginning to end, though one word of caution is that although the seating and restraints are similar to that of rides like Diamondback, Intimidator and other B&M's with "clam-shell" restraints, there are no "big boy" seats and riders with large thighs (like me) should use the test seat provided before trying to ride. The seats are slightly inclined so the restraints hit you differently than on most coasters.
We're really looking forward to bringing you a "From Dreams to Screams" documentary on this ride soon thanks to our continued partnership with our friends at Devin Olson Media (special thanks to everyone who participate in the interviews and who is involved in the production). Be looking for From Dreams to Screams: Fury 325 to be released on COASTER-net TV soon!
by Mike Troise
This past school year, theme park enthusiasts at Rochester Institute of Technology got some big news. After months of paperwork, a presentation, and a long approval process, the RIT Theme Park Enthusiasts club was finally approved, largely due to the hard work of a good friend of mine, Robert Cybulski. With myself, COASTER-net’s own Danny Miller, and a few other coaster junkies, the club began.
At the presentation in front of the student government committee that decided our fate, we fascinated them with how much potential this club had. The club began with a simple name of “the roller coaster club” which confused them as we entered the room for our presentation. By the end they were blown away with how much more this club truly was going to be, especially with the career focus.
The goal of this club is pretty simple. We wanted a way for theme park enthusiasts to meet and share in their passion for the industry. While the club welcomes all who are interested, we are also putting a larger focus on career paths for various members. Many of them, including myself, hope to work as engineers in the amusement industry, and this club is a great way to begin working towards that goal.
With a few weekly meetings complete, the club has tons of ideas, and a bright future ahead. To begin, we have already been approved for two booths in the main exhibitor area for Imagine RIT. Imagine RIT is RIT’s annual innovation and creativity festival that spans across campus early May every year. Students submit proposals to be able to show off their hard work that they are accomplishing at RIT. One of the highlights of the May 2014 Imagine RIT was a senior design project that was an automatic s’more maker machine. People waited in line for 15 or more minutes just for one s’more from this machine! On May 2nd, 2015 you will be able to find the “Engineering Thrills” exhibit in the Gordon Field House on the RIT campus.
Our exhibit this year has two major components. The first component will be a K’nex theme park using kits donated by club members. We currently have about 15 flat rides and will be using roller coaster components to construct a model of the highly anticipated Twisted Colossus. We will also be displaying No Limits coasters made by club members on a television. However, we will be running no limits in manual operation and will be controlling dispatch, gates, restraints, and more with a custom built control panel. The club recently acquired the metal box we will be using and are working to obtain the buttons and knobs needed. Once the parts are obtained, the mechanical and electrical engineers will get to work.
Imagine RIT is not the only thing our club will be working on in the coming months. We are currently working to plan a trip to Knoebels in May as well as a facility tour of GCI. The club is working on having guest speakers to come in and talk with students about career paths in the amusement industry. RIT even has an alumni who interned at GCI and is currently working as a lead mechanic at Silver Dollar City. Many club members have expressed interest in future trips to IAAPA which will definitely be looked into for future years if we are able to obtain the funding. While sitting at about 15 members strong, we hope this club continues to grow at RIT and that our members are successful in their career goals.
by Andrew Rybarczyk
I really had no intention of attending Halloween Horror Nights this year. Don't get me wrong, it's something I've always wanted to do but a number of things were working against it happening this year. First, because of the cost involved I thought it might be best to make my HHN debut on the 25th anniversary. In addition I thought time would prevent me from actually being able to attend as well. As always, I still anticipated the house reveals as I have for the last few years knowing that it would be very unlikely that I would get to experience them. By this point we had already received some pretty cool house and scare zone announcements like another rendition of the Walking Dead, a From Dusk to Dawn house and even areas based on the hit SyFy show Face-Off. However on August 4th, my mind was blown. That night Aliens vs Predator was announced and I knew I had to find a way down to Orlando to experience it. I've always lamented not being able to experience some of the great haunted houses of the past at HHN especially two found at HHN 12, JP Extinction and Maximum Carnage. Being that there was no guarantee that AvP would return for a second year, HHN 24 HAD to be my first HHN experience.
Now I've always known that Halloween Horror Nights at both Orlando and Hollywood are well regarded as by far the best Halloween events at any theme park. Many would say they are the best Halloween events anywhere. Needless to say I had high expectations going into my first HHN experience. Last weekend, I can easily say that those expectations were definitely met. Now I've been to a few Halloween events over the years including multiple trips to both Cedar Point's Halloweekends and Six Flags Great America's Fright Fest. A few things make HHN the standout among these. First the detailing of the haunted houses is downright amazing. I was prepared for good, but these environments are comparable to movie sets and sometimes better. The amount of detailing is simply outstanding. What impressed me most is a lot of the detail will never even be noticed especially in the dark but were still included by the designers anyway. (I'll talk more about this later when I discuss the backstage Unmasking the Horror tour.) The costumes and makeup were also very well done and added to the overall presentation. Most importantly though, the scares were varied and really well performed. Many times, scares came from the sides but it was also surprising to see scares from above and below. Water features and air bursts also added to the realism and a feeling of uneasiness as one walked along the haunt path. One other aspect that was new to me was the use of prerecorded sound effects and lights that are triggered by the actors before they initiate the scare. I'm not so sure how I feel about this. Sometimes the sounds and lights worked perfectly and I think the best example was the Halloween house when lights and sounds replaced Michael Myers having to say something (which would have ruined it.) Other times, the sound effects were too over the top and did not fit the character of the creature bring represented. Another issue with this method of scare is sometimes it literally shone a bright light on the scares that were a few feet up in the haunt. Despite these issues, I'd still rank all of the haunted houses at HHN ahead of other houses I've been through at other parks.
As for the houses themselves, AvP, the reason for my attending HHN this year, went beyond my already high expectations. It was perfect from start to finish. Coming face to face with Predator was an experience I will never forget. Beyond that though, the house was also designed better than any other at the event. Entering many rooms, scares were almost immediate while other rooms set the tone for what was to come. The ending was was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had at a theme park haunt and was a perfect cap to the house.
Even though I've never seen an episode of The a Walking Dead, I thought the house was also extremely well done. The sheer number of actors made this house stand out because the actors were able to set up and tag team scares a lot easier. A few sections even had chain scares that were really unexpected and thrilling. Halloween was also fantastic and used the subject matter perfectly. Walking through this house was an abbreviated version of walking through the classic horror film. Michael Myers was fantastic and the designers set up multiple areas where fans could relive classic scenes from the movie (without being killed of course). Rounding out my top four houses was Roanoke Cannibal Colony. Being a history teacher, I was very interested to see how this one would play out and let me say I was fascinated by the story and detail from start to finish. Overall the rest of the houses were very good, but these four really stood out among them.
I would also be remiss if I did not point out how great The Purge:Anarchy was as a scare zone. I love the freedom of scare zones and find that actors have to work double as hard to produce the same result most of the time. The Purge not only had great actors but also had some awesome skits that happened every hour. The capturing of a citizen and then auctioning her off to be killed was just an awesome addition to the scare zone. It took it from what would have been a very good scare zone to one that is probably the best I've been through.
Finally I would like to mention an awesome VIP event that I attended on the last day of the trip. Universal Orlando offers the Unmasking the Horror tour where guests are taken on a lights on tour through three of the houses. Just that alone would be worth the extra money it cost. However, the tour also features very knowledgeable tour guides that give insider perspectives on how the houses were designed. My tour was led by Christina who was just fantastic and had a lot of great insight on not just the houses but also the haunting industry in general. She was able to point out the minute details that really fleshed out the story being created inside the haunted house. The amount of backstory and research that goes into these houses is amazing and allows them to tell a full emotions, story. I would highly recommend this tour if you have the time and money to do it!
It was never in question if I would ever attend Halloween Horror Nights, but rather when. I have to admit, I'm hooked and am already trying to design trips to attend either Orlando's or even Hollywood's event next year. If you even remotely enjoy haunted houses or Halloween, HHN is simply the place you have be. I can't wait to see what Universal has in store for next year and hopefully with the big 25th event, it's even more mind blowing than this year!