It's another sign that summer's almost here when Darien Lake is open for business. The popular Genesee County-based amusement park opens its 2015 season this weekend. And this year, there are two new attractions.
Season ticket holders were able to enjoy a sneak preview Friday of Rolling Thunder, a seven-story loop in which a train sways back and forth until finally it completes a full 360-degree loop.
"One of the greatest things about this ride is that it leaves you in suspended animation," said Darien Lake general manager Chris Thorpe. "As you are transitioning from going one way to another, there is a point where you are hanging upside down, completely still or creeping, inch by inch, until you're off to the other side."
Darien Lake's water park will open next weekend, when they'll unveil a second new attraction, known as the Brain Drain. Thorpe says this is not your average waterslide.
"You go up a seven story tower, get into a capsule, something that you might see out of Star Trek or some movie," said Thorpe. "In that capsule there is a countdown, three-two-one. The floor drops out from under you, you fall 38 feet per second at an 80-degree angle, into the waterslide."
The amusement park, which also hosts concerts throughout the summer months, is a key tourist attraction for Genesee County. Tom Turnbull, president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, says tourism is that county's second-largest industry, behind agriculture.
"Tourism brings in $150 million a year," Turnbull said. "With Darien Lake, historically it's been shown that when they unveil a new ride, the visitors go up the next year."
Genesee County's other tourism offerings include the Jello Museum, Batavia Downs race track, a New York Penn League baseball team (the Batavia Muckdogs) and alpaca farms. But the county's biggest attraction, Darien Lake, is preparing to thrill thousands of guests from now until September.