At the entrance, they had a nice festive atmosphere. The park had a live band playing, the Hershey characters rooming around, and several different contests going on. One contest was to win a first car ride on Storm Runner. You would reach into a little treasure chest for a Hershey Kiss. If you pulled out a purple one, you won. I had no luck, but Sam did, so they let him and his partner into the park, where they got Storm Runner shirts and headed back towards the ride.
I waited. As 10 o'clock approached, they had a countdown, and then officially opened the park for 2004. I was one of the first to the ticket booths. This is one of my complaints about Hersheypark, the very inefficient way admission is handled. Everyone goes though the same booths, whether you have a ticket already or not. It would have been nice to be able to buy a ticket at the park right there before opening. It did not really matter though, I was the first at my booth, so I was quickly on my way back to Storm Runner, along with everyone else.
When I got back there, they were testing. One of the tests had a rollback. They backed the train back into the station, then dispatched it again, and on this launch is crept over the tophat. Each additional test launched the ride a little bit faster. Finally, at about 20 after 10, they had the local weatherman give the typical PR spiel, directly fro the cue cards, and then they simultaneously opened the queue and launched the first riders.
The ride queue is actually pretty small, and well shaded, which will be nice in the height of summer. I was though the queue and on the train within five minutes, in the third row.
The launch is awesome, it is so fast and smooth. The tophat offers some excellent airtime too, I never tried the back of the train, but from this seat and a later front seat, I was very impressed with the airtime, both on the tophat, and in several other places on the ride. I was not impressed with the inversions. They are strange, the train does not seem to flow through them very well, especially the in-line and snake dive. They seem a bit rough, and you get a little headbanging, or in the case of these restraints, neckbanging.
Speaking of restraints, these are different. The over the shoulder harness is thin, flat, and flexible. The real restraint is all in the attached lapbar. It is a heavy steel pipe, padded of course, that comes down over you and holds you pretty securely. to complete the restraint system, there is a belt that connects between the riders legs. It is very secure, as well as very accommodating, they seemed to be able to fit a very wide variety of body shapes and sizes. The ride ops were making extra sure they were secure by stapling everyone.
Back to the ride, I liked it, but not loved it. It is certainly unique, it has some very interesting elements, but it is not my cup of tea really. Most riders loved it though, and it is deffinately a great addition to Hershey's line-up.
I next headed over to the Frontier Flyers, Hersheypark's set of Larson flying skooters. With some practice, these flyers are very snappable, there is just one problem, it is not allowed. I snuck a few in, and had an great ride. I also had a great ride on The Claw (Chance Morgan Revolution 32). I actually managed to get a seat that gave some airtime. Every time I've ridden it before I always seemed to get the seat that was always at the bottom of the swing.
I headed for the front of the park. It was about noon time now, and people were streaming into the park. I did some shopping and went out to the car to drop off my purchases and grab some water out of the cooler, as well as put on some sun block (I always seem to forget).
Coming back into the park, I saw the line for the Comet, and decided to hit it later on. The Sooperdooperlooper had no line, so I hopped on the classic Schwarzkopf coaster, and had as fun as a ride as ever.
Working my way up out of Comet Hollow, I next queued up for Great Bear. The wait was just twenty minutes, the ride ops were working very quickly, preventing any stacking. I like Great Bear, it has a nice set of elements, including a cool drop, but it loses steam at the end.
I grabbed a bite to eat and then rode Trailblazer, a decent Arrow mine train, and then headed for the back of the park where Hershey's two (or, as I count it, three) GCI coasters make their home along with Roller Soaker, a Setpoint suspended coaster, and the Wild Mouse, an atypical Mack wild mouse.
Wildcat was running a little rough, to be expected for the beginning of the season, but it still delivered some great laterals as well as a little ejector air. There were several sections of new track. Wild Mouse is right across the midway, and is still one of the best run mice out there. It runs virtually brake free, making for a truly wild ride.
Lightning Racers actually had a line. They were running two trains as opposed to four, but the line was still minimal, maybe a ten minute wait. It was running pretty well too, though it seems the Lightning side was running a bit better, it won every race while I was there, and by a good margin.
I now headed back towards the center of the park. I was going to give Roller Soaker a ride, it was running with minimal water effects, but they were having trouble with it and they shut it down. So off to wait for Storm Runner. I waited about an hour and a half for a front seat ride. It was not too bad a wait, the crew was really hustling, and the line moved very well.
Back to the Flyers, where I meet Scott and Carol Holmes. They, up until last year, were the ACE regional reps in Indiana, and they were nice folks to boot. After the flyers we took the monorail for a spin to get some photos of Storm Runner, which goes over and under the monorail. We then rode the Comet. The Comet is a very good coaster, but it has a trim that really slows it down about halfway through the course, making the last half slow and pretty much free of any airtime. I know why the trim is there, but i can only wonder what the ride would be like without it.
Scott and Carol headed for the dolphin show, but I was pretty much done for the day, so I made my way to the exit, but not before hopping a ride on the Carousel. Hershey has a fantastic carousel, beautifully maintained with a wonderful band organ, which was playing Stars and Strips Forever. The only thing missing is the brass ring catch.
I had a great day at Hersheypark. Though I didn't think Storm Runner was fantastic, it is a great addition and will really bring the crowds into Pennsylvania's largest park. My suggestion, go check this ride out.
I will have photos posted soon.
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