cedar point

Working in a Theme Park series: Cedar Point

Eleven years ago this summer when I was 20 years old, I took an adventure that changed my life forever. While some people take trips to Europe, volunteer in Haiti or join the circus, I ran away to work in an amusement park in the United States……100_1999

First a little history

As a 6th grader, I was part of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets that took a group trip to Detroit, Michigan. Somewhere along the way at a gas station or something, I remember spotting a Cedar Point brochure with Mantis on the cover.
After reading it cover to cover, I got back from my trip and begged my dad to take us to this amazing place. Look at the coasters, the rides, the shows! Everything looked amazing. Eventually, the next summer we took a trip and it was amazing. Not only did we visit Cedar Point, we did a whole amusement park trip with stops at the now-defunct SeaWorld Ohio & Geauga Lake.
Fast forward to a couple of years later, I’m bored in class in my last year of college and thinking of what to do in the summer. I decided that it would be cool to work at Cedar Point and that’s what I was going to do. I immediately applied online and much to my amazement they hired me. No interview, no phone call. A simple email confirmation that I was to start at the end of May. Little did I know how this would change my life.Mantis

Getting a work visa

I spent a couple of months dealing with getting my J-1 visa so I could work in the United States. It’s a temporary Visa for Summer Students so they can work with the intention of returning to their home country. I had to prove I had the job by getting a confirmation letter, and also how much money I had in the bank so I could support myself. In addition, the Visa cost me around $500! Yes, I paid $500 to go work a minimum wage job at an amusement park.
Just as I finished school, I packed up my stuff into my red Neon and drove to Sandusky, Ohio. Known only for Cedar Point in the summer, and nothing else!
This was my first time away from home, so it was both exciting and terrifying. Most people move away to school, I was moving to another country to an apartment & job sight unseen.
After crossing the border, getting my visa and driving 6 hours to Cedar Point, I headed straight to H.R. Checked in (processed as they call it) and they showed me my home for the summer: The Cedars. Was I in for a surprise! Let me explain: The Cedars was a hotel at Cedar Point way back in the day, we’re talking like 100 years ago that they converted into dorms for the summer employees. Featuring no heat or air conditioning, and communal bathrooms, this was the most terrible place I’d ever step foot into and it was my new home.Cedars

Moving in

At first, it wasn’t pretty. My first roommate was a pothead who eventually got fired and the second was a big oaf of a dude who was just a weirdo. One day after I met some neighbours, I moved in when one of their guys moved out. It proved to be the best choice I’d ever make.
We made the terrible housing work, I mean we were 20 and had never lived away from home. Being away from adults was worth its weight in gold.
I brought my TV and DVD player, we had a fan running all the time to make the summer heat bearable, and we bought a fridge to keep our snacks and food in. We even bought a snow cone maker to cool ourselves off. When I say I lived in a simple room, that’s what I mean. No kitchen or bathroom, simply a bed, bunk bed, dresser and hangar on the wall that acted as our closet. Oh yeah, and a phone. So where did we cook our food you ask? Their idea of cooking facilities was one microwave in the common room for hundreds of people. Luckily they had a staff cafeteria in the park with cheap food for employees, but not very healthy. I ate A LOT of pizza that summer.

First day of work

I was assigned to park operations, which meant I got to work on the rides. It was awesome. In the pecking order of the amusement park world, park operations is second only to entertainment in social status. It’s glorious. The minimum wage version of being a rockstar!
While I didn’t get to work on any of the star attractions, I ended up working a couple of classics that allowed for us to have fun and mess around without always being super busy. I started on Mine Ride, but quickly realized it was too easy to get an operational, so I requested to be moved. An operational is a safety violation, and the way the lap bars and seat belts were designed it was almost impossible not to get one. I wanted to keep my job so I moved to Snake River Falls.
Snake River Falls is a giant boat ride that takes you up a giant hill, around and splashes you into the lagoon below. Perfect for a hot summer day. The crew at the ride had all started before me, but I quickly became great friends with them. I happened to be the only Canadian working there, so I was given the very creative nickname “Canada.” I was proud to represent my country and be known as the Canadian guy.

Best summer ever

Did it suck sometimes, of course! I’m looking back at it with rose coloured glasses. We put up with terrible housing, getting paid American minimum wage ($6.25 per hour), early hours, late hours, crazy guests, and much more. However the experiences, people and memories overshadow any negatives. We’d eat food at 1am at Steak n Shake, visit the crappy mall, see movies in the outdated movie theatre and take trips to places like King’s Island and Geauga Lake on our days off. It was a much simpler time and our goal was to have as much fun as possible. This was right before social media and smartphones became a thing, so we were isolated from the world and in our own little bubble.King'sIsland
Outside of our actual jobs, Cedar Point ran a lot of awesome staff events. They would do movie nights, ride nights for staff only, beer & water park night, and of course Big Bash, which was the end of the summer party for staff. The back half of the park was open with rides, games, free food and awesome activities. It really was amazing!
I woke up to the sound of roller-coasters in the background every morning and left work walking past a laser show with fireworks. Who wouldn’t love that? I was just a kid when I left, turning 21 while working there.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Adventureland”, you can sort of get an idea of what working in a park is like. Living, working and partying with the same group of people all summer long.
I met some of my best friends there and had the best summer of my life. To this day, some of my closest friends are from that amazing summer. The only thing that has topped that experience is Working at Walt Disney World. I’ve been back to visit a couple of times and the place still gives me the same feeling as the summer I worked there. However visiting Sandusky during the fall is a very different experience than summer. It’s a very seasonal town, Cedar Point is the reason that town exists. Translation: the place sucks in the off season!
To wrap up, it was the best summer I ever had and it changed me for the better. It helped me grow, learn new skills and meet awesome people that became lifelong friends. Cheers to 11 years later Cedar Point!Dragster

Roller Coasters: Bigger is not Always Better

We’ve got a fantastic guest article by Sally Stacey.  Sally loves roller coasters, travels around the world to ride them and even works in a theme park in the UK from time to time as a ride controller! She writes for a number of websites including Vision MX where she got herself a Contour helmet camera to record on-ride action when she gets the chance.

I absolutely love roller coasters and often travel great distances to ride these thrilling machines. These days I constantly marvel at how things have moved on since I experienced my first coaster back in 1977. In those days the corkscrew at Alton Towers was where it was at with thrill rides but coasters of this type are now rather tame in comparison to the complex masses of colourful metal that now propel their riders to ever increasing altitudes and speeds. Curiously, though, it not always the tallest or fastest rides that prove to be the best. A great coaster is produced when the perfect combination of elements result in the creation of a superlative ride experience. Bigger is not always better and now coaster manufacturers seem to moving away from creating more and more enormous constructions towards novelty, innovation and even playing tricks on the mind.

The Best

All coaster enthusiasts have their favourite rides and so there can never be one which is definitively the best but for me the greatest ride experience in the world is to be had on Maverick at Cedar Point in Ohio. At 105 ft this ride is diminutive in stature compared to many of the behemoths on offer but the 70 mph chase through sharp twists and inversions, the mid cycle launch and the ride’s layout combine to produce a compelling experience with no equal that I have found. Having constructed the 420 ft giant Top Thrill Dragster and the much heralded 310 ft Millennium Force, the park turned away from altitude and maximum velocity to commission a ride full of energy and surprises that may be small but packs a real punch. The construction of this ride seems to have turned coaster design in a whole new direction with some interesting results.

Maverick at Cedar Point, Ohio.  Photograph by Craig Lloyd via Flickr(CC BY 2.0).

New Innovations

Just as steel coasters saw a new breed emerge with the introduction of Maverick so have wooden coasters taken a new turn. Like their steel cousins wooden coasters were growing bigger and bigger but new rides built by Great Coasters International Inc (GCII) use twisting tracks, steep cambers and high speed station passes to generate the thrills. The new woodies use articulated Millennium Flyer trains to negotiate the track. These vehicles can cope with the sharp turns and certainly deliver a very comfortable ride. Wodan, the new coaster at Europa Park in Germany, is a fine example of a GCII ride and delivers full on thrills from start to finish. I love this ride and it doesn’t matter at all that it is neither the highest nor fasted woody on the planet.

Wodan at Europa Park, Germany.  Photograph by Gabriel Rinaldi via Flickr (CC BY 2.0) .

Mind Games

Things are now set to take yet another twist with Alton Tower’s new ride for 2013. Smiler will be a steel coaster with multiple inversions but that is not where the trickery will end. The ride is set to incorporate several features deliberately designed to confuse the mind in order to exaggerate the intensity of the experience. The cars will charge towards giant hypodermic needles and hypnotic spinning wheels with the accompaniment of lighting effects. These features will distract riders, diverting their attention from the drops and inversions thus making them more surprising and of greater intensity. Well that is the theory anyway! There are strict limits to how much G force a coaster is permitted to inflict on riders and so if you have reached that limit and cannot make the ride any more severe you simply have to make it feel like it is. I can’t wait to try Smiler which is scheduled to open in May 2013 and I shall try to smuggle a helmet camera onto the ride in order to record the faces of the guests which are often as much fun as the rides themselves!

Cedar Point 2013 Gatekeeper construction

On our weekend trip to HalloWeekends, we took a few photos of the construction site for Gatekeeper, the 2013 B&M Winged coaster Cedar Point is adding to its awesome collection of coasters. The previous occupants of the site, Disaster Transport and Space Spiral, are completely gone. You can see footers are being poured and vertical construction will probably begin in a few weeks. Continue reading

Cedar Point HalloWeekends 2012 Trip Report

halloweekends logo

Over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, we packed up our car and headed to Cedar Point to take in their fantastic HalloWeekends for the first time ever! It’s been on our list for a long time, so it was nice to finally have time to visit.

If you’ve never heard of the event, it’s similar to Halloween Haunt at Canada’s Wonderland, with the exception that it’s included with park admission.

Our first night was Friday and the weather flopped back and forth from being a tolerable chilly to pouring rain. It did put a damper on the evening, but we had the chance to walk the park and take in all the fantastic Halloween themeing and decor. We must say it was very impressive! Continue reading

We're heading to HalloWeekends at Cedar Point!

We’re excited to announce that this weekend we’ll be heading off Ohio to Cedar Point and experience HalloWeekends! It’s our very first time visiting and we can’t be more excited. Look for a ton of pictures and videos next week once we return! In the meantime, check out all the gory details for this years event. Continue reading

Cedar Point announces 2013 coaster: Gatekeeper

One of the worst kept secrets for the 2013 amusement park season has been that Cedar Point is adding a new coaster. Today they finally let the cat out of the bag with the announcement of Gatekeeper. This B&M Flying coaster is set to take over the front gate of the park in a similar fashion to Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland. It will be the longest winged coaster in the world and have the longest drop of any winged coaster worldwide. Check out all the facts & figures for this breathtaking addition to Cedar Point below:

Continue reading

Cedar Point Trip Review

We just got back from our whirlwind tour of Cedar Point and the other fine offerings that Ohio has to offer (Put-In-Bay & Kalahari). We must say, we’re exhausted! We stayed at the amazing Kalahari Resort & Conference Centre. It’s massive, gorgeous and will require its own update. Look for that soon! Check out our thoughts and views from our Cedar Point trip below: Continue reading

Cedar Point Trip

Next week we’re off to visit the super amazing Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. We’re so excited to visit, it’s been five years since we last stepped into the park. Of course, we’ll be taking pictures and video of everything we encounter. We wanted to ask you what you would like us to feature in our trip report and videos. Let us know by leaving a comment below.