Columbus Day insanity -- Six Flags Great Adventure

Associated parks:

For the past few years, we've made it a regular thing to visit SFGAdv on Columbus Day. Due to the great weather and growing popularity of holloween events at theme parks, the crowds were HUGE. It was more crowded than when I went on Memorial Day the end of May.

The cars were backed up on the access road, so we had to wait to get to the tollbooths. Then, after finally paying the ridiculous amount of $15 to park in a less-than-stellar lot, we walk a good distance to the entrance, where we encounter more waiting--just to get into the park.

We make our way over to El Toro and get in line, which was already spilling out into the midway. I didn't notice any activity, so we left the line. After walking under the ride toward the bridge, I discovered that the ride was stopped at the bottom of the lift. We headed toward Medusa.

While walking across the bridge, we noticed some disturbing things that we've never seen before at this park. There were naked fake bodies with fake blood on them hanging from things on the bridge. These bodies were wrapped in semi-clear plastic. Another awful site was another body that looked like it was rotten, and guts were spilling out of it.

Shapiro talked of Family Fright Fest, but this seemed to be worse than I've ever seen it before. This is definitely not a family-friendly place. Very bad taste and disgusting. Actually, in general, Six Flags seems to do a bad job with holloween events. Busch Gardens Europe does a much better job.

Anway, we ride Medusa, which turns out to be the shortest wait of our day for a ride. Good ride as usual, though it was a bit rough or bumpy. Two train operation here, which was fine at the time.

We went over to Runaway Mine Train, where we encountered some poor operations and employee performance. For some reason, they had to evacuate one of the trains, which had stopped not far out of the station. In the meantime, we had queued up in the station. While we were there, they didn't even bother to announce that the ride was closed, nor did they close the ride entrance off. There were certainly a fair amount of employees there.

Anyway, we left and headed toward Best of the West, but that was closed--no sign out on the main midway informing anyone of this, either. We finally ended up eating at Granny's, which was fine, and we didn't have to wait too long. We chilled here for a while, just talking and taking it easy. On the way there, we noticed the HUGE line just to get a Flash Pass. My friend commented something about needing a Flash Pass just to get a Flash Pass. How ironic.

The next ride we hit was Nitro. The queue was just about full, with the line beginning right near the arch sign. Of course, they were only running 2 trains, even on such a crowded day, and the third one was sitting in the maintenance shed. The line took about an hour, which I suppose isn't too bad for a day like that, but they could have done better.

For some reason, they had row 7 closed off, but they were letting people board it from row 8, which we did. Good ride, as usual, though not as forceful as row 9. Nitro had my favorite employee of the day. He was a British guy who was enthusiastic and amusing.

We finally made our way back over to El Toro and queued up for it, with the line spilling out into the midway again. Two and a half--yes, that's right--two and a half hours later, we're finally on the ride.

Now, how is it that Nitro and El Toro both were running 2 36-passenger trains, and Nitro probably has the longer (length-wise) queue--why did Nitro take less than half the time? Well, here's what I think. El Toro is less accomodating than Nitro in terms of body size. Even though the park has 2 test seats out front, plus handing out paper disclaimers letting people know that they may not be able to ride, some guests STILL try and ride and end up holding up the line because the employees try to accomodate them, but eventually they have to be let out. Another factor is the LACK of proper staffing of the ride. 3 ops in the station is POOR staffing on a day like this for this ride. There should be AT LEAST 5 people in the station--4 checking bars and belts and 1 running the main controls. Another factor was the large amount of people using the Flash Pass for the ride, and on top of that, there were people who had exit passes who were coming up the exit to ride the ride. The employees were doing a pretty good job and were hustling, so I don't blame them--I blame the park management for understaffing. On top of that, the ride broke down briefly, but not for too long.

Anyway, as far as the ride goes--WOW! This ride was amazing. I have never felt airtime that amazing on any coaster before. Granted, there were only about 4 instances of said airtime, but wow! Upward forces indeed! We sat in the very back seats, and it felt like the train was just being ripped out from under us. And the ride was SO SMOOTH! It does not feel like a wooden coaster--it's definitely more like a steel coaster in terms of ride. And the dive into Rolling Thunder's infield was insane! The air was amazing! And the zig-zag turns were great, too. The ride does seem to fizzle out after these, though, as it's heading back toward the station. But what an amazing ride. I don't think it will dethrone Voyage on my top ten wood list, but it would be very much at #2 or #3.

After we left El Toro, we headed to Kingda Ka, our last right of the day. Yes, for those of you keeping track, we only rode 4 rides total. Anyway, the queue for Kingda Ka was kinda misleading, as people were hanging out in the queue near the front part of it, but they weren't in line for the ride. And the employees were letting them do this! Anyway, KK was only running 2 trains, and even though the line was a fair amount shorter than when I rode on Memorial Day (when they had 3 trains going), the line took almost an hour longer.

While in line, we noticed that the lighting back there was not good. This isn't the best thing for a slow-moving, somewhat crowded queue like this. The queue would only significantly move about every 10-20 minutes, which is because they only let a certain number of people into the station at a time.

Enter the chaos. Someone had the brilliant idea to have an employee come over to the dark queue and invite people to eat a cokroach and jump a bunch of the line of Kingda Ka. Of course, this caused people to get riled up or whatever. People were standing up on the bars of the queue, and no one was making them get down. There was even a security guard present at times, and little to nothing was done about these unsafe antics. On top of that, the folks were being permitted (possibly encouraged?) to hop over the fence to exit the queue after someone ate a roach. How hypocritical and unsafe is that? Finally, later on after we had moved up to next to the lockers, someone over a loudspeaker told people to get off the railings. But it was like Six Flags themselves were causing and, in a way, condoning these antics.

Well, over 2 hours after entering the queue, we were on the ride. It was fun, though definitely rough at times. I still like TTD better. But it was still a fun ride. And it seems that they turned off the launch horn for the ride, perhaps for Fright Fest?

Anyway, the park put on a not-so-great performance. Me and my friend were having fun smearing Shapiro and Six Flags' name, though. For a day this crowded, they should have been running at capacity. I didn't notice one water ride open, though it was warm enough for them to have done so. Of course, Chiller is still closed. Freefall was closed, as well as Rolling Thunder right. The Giant Wheel was closed, too, because of the stage they had there.

On top of all these ride closures, some of the rides they had open weren't running at capacity. Nitro was running 2/3 trains, Medusa was running 2/3 trains, GASM was probably running 2/3 trains, and Kingda Ka was running 2/4 trains. El Toro, which probably has a theoretical capacity of at least 1000 pph, was running at around 500 or less. On top of that, Six Flags was allowing loads of line jumping in the form of Flash Pass, which definitley cut into some of the wait times. Some of the employees were doing good jobs, but the park was understaffed for such a busy day. That staffing may have been acceptible for a slow day in July, but not on a day like today. Even at SFGAm, who was running closer to capacity, the Flash Pass usage was getting annoying and bothersome (see the SFGAm thread by FUN). Flash Pass gets on my nerves, and it's just worse on top of Six Flags' crappy operations.

Overall, we didn't get much accomplished, and I don't want to come back next year unless the forcast is calling high enough for rain. But at least I finally got to ride El Toro, and they do have a winner on their hands. SFGAdv has a great collection of coasters, as does SFMM. It's kinda too bad, though, that it's in Six Flags' hands and not somebody who could run a park better.

coastin' since 1985

I was there on Columbus Day also. Talk about a MAD HOUSE! I Got one ride on Kingdom Ka (About a 1 Hour Wait) BTW its my new No. 1 Steel Non-Looper over 100' Tall :)

Next it was off to EL Toro. It made it to No. 8 on my Top Ten Wood Out & Back List (2 1/2 Hour Wait)

Superman, Ultamate Flght became my 100th Steel Looping Coaster, It was about a 1 1/4 Hour Wait to ride this one. This one made it to No. 9 on my Steel Looping List. Finally I rode Nitro It was a Good steel Hyper, It made it to No. 9 on my Steel Non Looping over 100' tall.

After I got done riding that coaster I decided ENOUGH WAS ENOUGH and AMSCRAYED out of there to go into Philly for some Grub. On my previous Visit to Great Adventure (June 29, 2000 at the Onset of the July 4 Weekend. I was able to Ride All 10 of their Coasters and still have enough time to give Hurricane Harbor a Once-Over. The crowds were Far Worse this time, but can I blame everyone for being there? The Weather was a Little TOO Good (Sunny with a High of 80 Degrees) It isn't the first time I've Gone to a park only to find it was packed, and it won't be the last!

BTW The Weather was COLD when I visited Dorney Friday Night, and Talon was down for Maintainence :( so their Wild Mouse became my 400th Roller Coaster. PPP was a Blast! They sure served us generous amounts of Pizza! I also won a Door Prize.

Dutch Wonderland was Packed, but the maximum wait for their rides was less than 15 Minutes. They had a Kids in Concert show that was top-notch. BYW the Staff of Sky Princess let me Shoot an On-Ride Video of the Coaster!

All in All I "Bagged" Eight More Coasters on this trip, bringing my count to 406!

:):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):) *** Edited 10/11/2006 8:42:12 AM UTC by Borntocoast*** *** Edited 10/11/2006 8:47:18 AM UTC by Borntocoast***

Borntocoast said:
I Got one ride on Kingdom Ka ... It is my No. 9 Steel Looping Coaster

Since when is KK a "looping coaster"?

Haha no I'm not giving Patrick the finger

Whoops! That was meant for Superman, Ultamate Flight!
Do they still have the haunted hayride? I remember back in the day (mid to late '90s) that thing would get about a 3 hour line. But the rest of the park wouldn't be too crowded at all.
ralbat5 said:

While walking across the bridge, we noticed some disturbing things that we've never seen before at this park. There were naked fake bodies with fake blood on them hanging from things on the bridge. These bodies were wrapped in semi-clear plastic. Another awful site was another body that looked like it was rotten, and guts were spilling out of it.


I thought the same thing. Its like management designated a few individuals to decorate different sections of the park without really checking to see if it was appropriate or not. Again, so little direct oversight or planning.

I've been to more crowded parks without running into these kinds of problems. Maybe Columbus Day weekend is a much bigger event then I expected, but Six Flags should know that better than anyone. They can read weather reports just like everyone else and plan for big crowds.

If no amount of planning would have changed the day's outcome, that's an even bigger issue. The fact is other parks chains aren't running into these kinds of difficulties. I suspect these are signs of things to come for Six Flags.

Columbus Day weekend is larger than it used to be. I do not want to come back next year on Columbus Day unless there's a decent change of rain.

SF seems to have it more together at certain parks than at other ones, but we know this. The better ones seem to be:


Then, there are the more average ones:


Then, there are the ones that could definitely use some work (not that the others don't need work, but perhaps not as much):

La Ronde

coastin' since 1985

The problem is systemic, it's the nature of a system that rewards poorly run rides through Flash Pass profits. I agree that the problems are not as big at other Six Flags parks, but it only a matter of time before all the parks in the chain are effected in the same way as SFGAdv. Time will tell.

Why do people defend this system? If they're gonna have one, then run it like Disney--open to everyone and free with admission.

Sure, Flash Pass is open to everyone, but what about those folks who barely have enough money to enjoy their day as it is? Not everyone is as well-off as the ones Shapiro is trying to attract. And with Flash Pass, it's like their saying, your hard-earned money that you paid to get in isn't good enough to enjoy a lot of rides--you need to pay more for that.

Boy, it's gets me upset!

coastin' since 1985

Lord Gonchar's avatar
Why does it get you so upset?

I don't think I've seen anyone get as angry as you seem about a luxury that was out of their reach. I think most people either accept those things as something they may very well never have or they adjust their lives accordingly to get the things they want badly enough.

Where's the mystery?

I'd love to go swim with the dolphins at Discovery cove - I can't justify the $600 price tag for my family of four to enter an amusement park for the day. It's not the park's's mine.

This isn't a SF problem, it's a rablat5 problem.

Do you realize how ridiculous your last comment is? Read it again:

Not everyone is as well-off as the ones Shapiro is trying to attract.

Stop. Think about it. Keep thinking.

You're saying, "Not everyone can afford the product SF is selling and that's a problem."

I don't even know where to begin with that...

Gonch & Rablat - I kind of understand both sides of the issue. It's a luxury that is offerd to all, yet those who benefit from it, do so at the expense of others. It's not like Q-boters get their own ERT and then are mixed in with everyone else.

If the operations ran well and the right number of quality employees were present, there would be no need for it.

I am a gold botter, but only on days when I think it's needed. (I've had both kind of days this past year)

I also had the opportunity to go to other parks (such as Dorney earlier in the summer) where it wouldn't have been required at all or Knoebels, where even the non-riding wife has a nice time.

Two things that are for certain...

1) Unless you enjoy eating insects, they are here to stay in various forms.

2) They are BIG money-makers that bring in bucks to the company (to pay for managerial bonuses among other things).

I've also said this before and I will say it again.

Great Adventure has potential to be a magnificent showplace of a park. If working properly, it has a nice variety of everything for people of all types. Think of what a typical day would be like if each coaster had a staff of five, each flat was working, etc.

While my season ended when my leg crapped out by the swings, I can only hope that "Next Year They Will Correctly Examine The damages And Get It Right."

With a full year of operations under thier belt, the time for excuses is over.

Here's To Shorter Lines & Longer Trip Reports!

Lord Gonchar's avatar
Richie - thanks for a generally open-minded, non-sided post. Those are few and far between in these discussions.

However, I still have to disagree with two points:

If the operations ran well and the right number of quality employees were present, there would be no need for it.

That's not entirely true. Because:

1. Regular Q-bots just replace the time in line with time elsewhere. Even if wait times are managable, there's still those of us who'd rather be anywhere than in line. (or those of us who take advantage and gamble with the 'double-up')

2. Even at acceptable capacity, parks the size of SF parks will have long waits for marquee attractions. There will always be someone wanting to take advantage of the Gold Bot to cut those waits from an hour or so to 15 or 20 minutes.

The big parks will always have a market for such systems based solely on the size of the crowd they draw. (and for the record, I've never used a Gold Q-bot in my life - strictly the vanilla Bot for me :) )

With a full year of operations under thier belt, the time for excuses is over.

Well, I only half-disagree. Excuses? No. But turnaround? Sadly, no.

Luckily we have someone ahead of the game in showing us what it takes to turn around a Burke-damaged SF property...CF with Geauga Lake.

They're going into year 3, have some of the best minds in the business behind them, have improved the park tenfold over what how it ran as SFWOA, reduced prices and still can't get those crowds to return. They may have stopped the bleeding, but they're far from healing.

Red Zone has had control of SF for 10 short months. Don't expect much more for 2007. They're facing the same challenges as the little park in Aurora.

I'd agree that there's no more excuses, but the flip side is that I'd also expect a whole lot of nothing major to change.

Where does Universal fit in all of this? Now that they've eliminated free access to Universal Express in Florida, you either have to pay extra to cut lines, or stay in one of their hotels (at significantly higer prices than other nearby hotels). Yet, by most accounts, Universal's operations are pretty good.

Personally, I just don't like the line cutting systems. Free ones I don't mind as much, but I wish that they all wouldn't exist.

It complicates things. For years, parks have survived without them, and some still do. At El Toro, for instance, they had people boarding from 3 different sources--regular queue, flash pass, and exit passes! No wonder the line moved slow (on top of the already lacking operations). I honestly hope Gonch is wrong and Cedar Fair doesn't institute anything like this anymore. Cedar Point doesn't need this system to get most people to come back, and they understand running rides at capacity--yet another reason why they don't need this.

I understand that SFI is in major debt, and Flash Pass is probably assisting them, however quick or slowly, in getting out of it. But even if/after they get out of debt and improve operations, will they drop the system? Yea right! With the way Shapiro likes to rake in the cash, it'll probably still be around. At least then (if it ever happens), ops will be better and the GP won't be as ripped off as they were before.

People are too impatient these days (myself included). Sometimes, you should just suck it up and deal with it. If you don't want to wait in line as long, go on a different day. It's not that I can't afford a Flash Pass--I just won't get one. I'm very much against it, as is already known.

And Gonch, I understand that not everyone can even afford to get into a park. But, once you get in, whatever happened to everyone being on equal footing? It's been that way for years, and Six Flags had to go and mess that up. Their crummy ops make things worse, but your ticket to get in isn't quite the value that it used to be. On top of that, the people who line cut are doing it at the expense of others. It would be another thing if they didn't affect the rest of the people there, but that's not really possible, since they don't have 2 of every ride.

*** Edited 10/12/2006 2:49:26 PM UTC by rablat5***

coastin' since 1985

At this point, I'm feeling very lucky at how many rides my sister and I banged out two weeks ago on a Saturday. We got every single coaster (with the exception of Rolling Thunder), the Parachute drop and Houdini's Great Escape. This inspite of the fact we lost three hours at KK and didn't ride the first time due to rain. And we did it without a Q-bot.

I'm surprised that Sawmill Splash wasn't open, as it was the day we were there. Maybe they didn't have enough employees to run it or they just decide to mothball it after a
certain date?

Finally, on the note you made about the control op at Nitro, I too thought he was British, until I overheard someone making a comment about him being Australian. The more I listened, I realized that they were probably right. Does anyone know for sure?

He was Australian... All of the UK J-1 visas expired on October 1st, and SF would not have had him working illegally.
^ Are you sure about that? This IS Six Flags we're talking about :)

Anyway, he seemed pretty cool. He was enthusiastic. He also was trying to clear the platform, and this one girl wasn't leaving. He said more than once that there were no re-rides, and she still didn't leave right away. He said something like "Left foot in front of the right foot--it's called walking". Haha--that was great.

It's nice to know that SF actually does have some good employees there. It's a shame that the operations in general are sub-par.

coastin' since 1985

coasterqueenTRN's avatar
I was there on Monday as well but missed the whole "eat a roach" thing. I am sure it was chaotic and caused a lot of people to get angry.

I saw a lot of confusion that day. The Bot entrance to El Toro was abandoned, causing BOTH entrances to blend in together. There was a guy there but he left after a while to never return. What's with that?

When we went to Nitro we noticed the exit ramp was nothing but confusion and chaos, not to mention crowded with people trying to exit the ride. The WHOLE exit ramp was filled with people who had three or four different passes. There were people with "VIP" passes, some kids with these little slips that the ride op signed, as well as those who had the Qbot. The botters were confused about where to go, and was directed to go to yet ANOTHER entrance.

It made it very difficult to get down the ramp to EXIT the ride.

So once when the train stopped, the station was a madhouse and the ride ops didn't seem to care. It created lot of angry people.

It did work out to our favor though, which I will get into during my TR. I can't believe how crowded it was that day. If I didn't need El Toro and didn't have a SF pass I wouldn't have bothered.

El Toro was worth it, though. :) Crazy!


It can be done.

Outside of mechanical downtime you can bet that lines never get so out of control long at CP. I've worked at the park for two seasons and can't tell you how many times my friends from MF would come home after a Saturday and say, "Our line really wasn't that bad today, only 40 minutes to an hour". Not only that, I've waited from the pop machines on TTD and waited just under an hour. Running all your trains and working hard does make a difference. It sounds like some of the employees at SFGAdv are working hard but two trains on KK is absolutely unacceptable. I'm saying all of this as the general trend at CP, not the unquestioned rule or anything like that. I don't remember where, but Jeff also commented that lines never really get absurdly longer than an hour on any day at CP.

I'm going to throw any sort of mechanical issues out of the window for SFGAdv; therefore, Tina's story about the exit ramp is VERY telling. When I worked at Raptor, the exit situation was always the number one thing that caused slower dispatches. It is so chaotic with a train leaving to grab all of their junk, another train loading all their junk in the bin, all while we are trying to get people situated, catch loose articles, etc. I witnessed this issue at Geauga on Dominator, where trains would just sit there while we waited for people to put their shoes on, fix their hair (!!! yes this did happen), talk on their cell phone. It's hard enough to get people the heck off the platform, add to it a BLOCKED exit ramp and you have some serious problems. No wonder capacity is so poor.

It definitely sounds like IF the Q-Bot, special treatment is to work, there has to be a better way of merging these people into the lines. As I understand it, some rides do have merge points, but something needs to be done about crowded exit ramps and unmonitored merge points.

I also want to wholeheartedly agree with rc-madness who stated, " The problem is systemic, it's the nature of a system that rewards poorly run rides through Flash Pass profits". People are just accepting that the lines are slow and the ops suck, so they have to buy their way to the front of the line. If the rides just ran at half decent capacity this wouldn't be a problem (case in point, CP).

I've never been to SFGAdv so I may not be the most credible person on this issue. However, from what I have heard from others this chaos needs to end. CP's freeway system didn't even cost anything and they got rid of it. People cutting in front of you, paid for or not, is just no fun.

-Craig (Alton Towers on Friday woot.)

"I've never been to SFGAdv so I may not be the most credible person on this issue. However, from what I have heard from others this chaos needs to end. CP's freeway system didn't even cost anything and they got rid of it. People cutting in front of you, paid for or not, is just no fun."

Thank you, Craig! Someone else who "gets it" :)

coastin' since 1985

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