Hersheypark in the Dark- and the Wind 10/16/05

Associated parks:

The good news is that the streak of eight overcast and rainy days in PA finally came to an end. The not so good news is that the front that blew the clouds away was accompanied by winds of up to 40 mph.

Since my brother and his family already were visiting from MD for a family function, and they were looking for a "Halloween" event to do on Sunday, I suggested we visit Hershey, especially since it was on their way home anyway. My 9-year old niece begged her great aunt and uncles and grandmother to go, and to my surprise, they agreed. This meant there would be 10 of us in all going, 5 riders and 5 non-riders. I didn't know how well this was going to turn out. One advantage though was that we did have relatives with handicapped tags that did get us really close parking. :)

We arrived at the park at almost 5:30, and in the parking lot, we were approached by two women who told us they had tickets for all day passes which they hadn't used, and did we want them. While my normally intelligent brother was hemming and hawing about possibly not staying too long, I say, "Sure we'll take them, thank you." While thinking, "you dope, who cares how long we're going to stay, they're FREE passes."

After the walk through Tudor Square, admiring the lights and decorations that weren't quite bright enough to be fully seen yet, most of our group made the traditional restroom stop just outside the front gate. At that time, I noticed another group of friends and relatives of ours coming out of the gate. So by the time everyone exchanged pleasantries, it was another 15 minutes till we went through the gates.

As we made the ascent through Rhineland and past all the shops, someone else leaving the park approached us and offered us an intact wristband for nothing. Wristband scalping? We made it to Founder's Circle and bought two more wristbands, one with a passholder's discount.

The non-riders told us to go ahead and get on as many rides as we could, and they'd meet up with us later. So off we went, catching a quick ride on the Scrambler.

Next stop was Comet, which my nephew decided at the last minute not to ride. This is the kid who rode the Williams Grove Cyclone 6 times in one day, and would marathon any Wild Mouse he sees. I can't figure it out. One funny thing happened the ride before ours. A rather large woman was getting on the train and while bracing herself to get in, she unfortunately pushed down the lapbar of the car behind her, pinning the two little kids who were climbing in against the seat. I guess it wouldn't be that funny if it were my dinosaur costume getting crushed.

One ride later, it was our turn. The nephew walked through to the exit, leaving me to ride with my niece and her parents in the seat behind us. Just as we started going up the lift hill, it sounded like we ran over a fricking log or something. What the hell was that? Well we did stay on the track in one piece, and the rest of the ride was really good for Comet.

After that, I took the nephew on the Wave Swinger while the rest took another lap on Comet. Between the wind kicked up by the swings and the breeze itself, I had a few close encounters with the empty swings in the row ahead of me.

Next, we sent the kids on the Tilt-a-Whirl, then my brother, niece and I walked through the empty queue for SDL. My niece wanted the front seat, and we had to wait all of one train for it. It was fun riding with my niece as she loves the loop, although she finds the lift bo-ring, but that's about her limit right now (she's a fraction of an inch below being a Twizzler and GB eligible). We returned to a totally empty station so we asked the ops if we could stay on. They said sure, so off we went again.

By this time, it was entirely dark so you could really notice the lights. Hershey's gone with a family-friendly Halloween event this year, so there are no haunted attractions, no fog, etc. That was fine with me anyway.

We noticed that the wind was much lighter down in Comet Hollow and over in Minetown so that made things a bit more bearable. The next stop for the adults was Great Bear while the kids headed to the Turnpike Cars. Note: I'm using the "regular" names for all the rides, instead of the Halloween themed names Hershey gives all the rides for these three weekends.

Once again, we had to wait only for the next train for front row seats. My brother and sister-in-law had never ridden GB in the front. I told them it would be a totally different experience. It was strange for me as well, since it had been awhile since I bothered waiting for a front row seat.

It was a great ride, heading up the lift hill seeing the last traces of the sunset above the lights of the park below. The pre-drop helix was great in the cool air. Since I had the right outside seat, I really noticed how far we swung out. I had missed all the nuances of a nighttime front row ride, perched at the top of the drop for a millisecond, then plunging into the darkness. Just barely being able to see the track ahead of you as you go through the three quick inversions. Great autumn ride.

We exited the ride and noticed the photo shop wasn’t open. After we all looked at each other and our Larry from the three Stooges hairstyles after that ride, maybe that was a good thing. We found the kids waiting for us back at the GB entrance trying out the test seat. Maybe next year. We also noticed that the Kissing Tower wasn’t operating at all. Was that because of the wind or was there another reason?

We called the other group and told them we were heading across the tall bridge and would meet them somewhere near the monorail entrance. My aunt told me she wasn't sure were that was, but they were at this thing called the "Big Claw" watching how it worked. I was impressed with their interest in the Frisbee type ride.

On the way across the bridge, we got sidelined by a dolphin show going on in the water theatre. It was a fun little diversion, which we all enjoyed. Actually very little, since we got to see about the last four minutes of the show. Back across the bridge, the kids decided they wanted to ride the bumper cars. They rode twice, but the second time, there were a number of empty cars that acted like roadblocks since they were pretty hard to move. The ride ended up with most of the cars in one big logjam.

So while my brother went to buy tickets for the other group to ride the monorail with us, I set off toward the Claw to meet them. Hmmm, I didn't see them anywhere around the ride when I got there. Why was I not surprised to find them not at the Claw ride, but a really large version of that crane used to capture stuffed animals that you see in arcades everywhere? Oh THAT Big Claw. In their favor, they were also intrigued by that "rolly coaster" (yes that's how they say it, when they don't call them "scenics") that went straight up and straight down. I promised to take them over for a closer look after we rode the Monorail.

We headed up the ramp for the Monorail, and you can’t miss the construction going on down below where the Rides Office/ First Aid used to be. Right now, it’s not so much building construction as it is site preparation. A large rectangular area has been leveled and squared off between the Craftbarn Kitchen and the old Arena. In just a few days, I guess we’ll all know what that’s about. Anyway, we only waited a short time for the Monorail to return, and until we were just about ready to load, it looked like we’d be the only people riding it. We did have the first two cars all to ourselves though. It was just a little chilly riding, but you always get a great view of most of the park as well as the “real” chocolate factory. Always reminds me of the “old days” when you could tour the actual factory as opposed to the It’s a Small World- the Size of a Cocoa Bean- tour you get nowadays. (Don’t flame me, I love Chocolate World) The only downside to riding at night is that you can’t see most of Zoo America. I did notice several dark humps, which I figured were reclining bison.

My brother and s-i-l then took the kids trick-or-treating in the area set up behind Canyon River Rapids. If nothing else, Hershey has the best candy for trick-or-treating. Too bad they only give it to kids. Guess they expect the rest of us to buy it.

I took the rest of the crew to the Whistle Stop for some well-deserved hot chocolate. While sipping that, we watched Storm Runner shoot up and over the top hat a few times. Then I took a few of the relatives over to watch the launch. My aunt was hysterical—she just laughed every time it took off. Now, Sidewinder on the other hand she thought was one nasty ride, especially when she saw it going backwards. Even the uneducated can pick a Vekoma headbanger from a mile away! We did manage to scope out a place where we could see SR go through all of its maneuvers.

I waited for my brother to meet us to get at least one ride on SR, but I couldn’t even get him on the cell phone—it DOES help if you turn the thing on. Later, my aunt said she probably would have tried SR if it weren’t so cold. I told her she was a liar. Too bad it will be closed next time we head down for Candylane.

My brother finally called back and told me that the kids were doing their 5th or so ride on the Mouse. A few of our party decided just to wait on a bench, while the rest of us headed over to meet them. If nothing else, I was going to get rides in on Wildcat and LR before calling it a night.

My brother agreed to ride Wildcat with me. He and the s-i-l rode it earlier and they thought it was really rough. We took the first seat of an otherwise empty train. I hadn’t noticed the seat dividers before, but I guess with 2 t-shirts, a sweatshirt a jacket and jeans, it does add a bit to a body’s circumference. It was tight. It must have been a sight seeing 500 lbs or so of riders squashed into the front seat like sausage into a casing. And while the ride was a bit jerky, it wasn’t near as rough as some rides I’ve had on it before. Some turns where I was expecting to be tossed were actually pretty smooth.

I ended the night with two rides on Lightning Racer with my niece, one on each side. First we had the second seat for Lightning. We thought we’d get to race my brother and s-i-l, but they ended up sitting behind us on the same train. For as rough as Wildcat can be, LR was oh so smooth and fast as the dickens. Fantastic ride. That is one of two or three wooden coasters I could ride all day and night. For our second ride, we headed to Thunder. My niece wanted the first seat, but there was someone already in line. Since we were already keeping the family waiting, I told her to take the last seat. She wasn’t thrilled about that, but I assured her it would be a fun ride. For the most part it was. We were zipping along through the course, even seemed to be ahead of Lightning through the crossing points, when coming out of the last turnaround, it just seemed like we stalled out. From then on, we watched Lightning race to the finish a full train length ahead of us. I still maintain something is happening (or is not) in the last turn to slow Thunder up that much.

By that time, it was around 9:30, and we figured it would take our older relatives a half hour to make the trek back to the entrance. We weren’t that far off, with the couple of breaks and other “stops” we had to make. At that point, we were really glad we were able to park as close as we did. My brother and his family hopped into their van and headed back to MD (school night, Yikes!). The rest of us got into my uncles’ boat of a Lincoln—it was the only car that six of us would fit into. And I got to drive the beast home, I’m just glad I didn’t have to parallel park.

Overall, HpitD is a fun family oriented experience. The pay as you go plan was ideal for our situation where we had a mix of non-riders, limited riders and all out riders. Those not riding much didn’t have to pay just to walk around and enjoy the sights. And they ended spending money on refreshments anyway. People looking for haunts and scares will be disappointed. On the other hand, every coaster except for the Soaker is running, so it’s a great opportunity to get in those last rides of the season.

There are still plenty of lights and decorations to set the mood. They have Halloween themed music playing throughout the park, but it seems a bit limited as it cycled quite a few times while we were there. And there was something that sounded a lot like Sammy Davis, Jr. doing the Doors’ “People Are Strange.” Now talk about scary.

Nice TR. Sounds like it is a fun event. Had I not just been there a few weeks ago I probably would have considered getting there sometime this month.

It's great they run every coaster but Roller Soaker. I just wish they had some coasters open at Christmas Candylane. I know they probably wouldn't want to run anything that goes too fast because of the cold but even just Trailblazer and Comet would be nice.

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