Sunday, May 26, 2013

War Memorial Decoration Day - 5/26/2013

Sons and Daughters of Union Veterans, as well as reenactors (from left) Sgt. James Fuches, Connie Nicholson, Pvt. Daniel Boger, Valerie Brady and Bob Wrigley stand before the newly redecorated Civil War memorial at the Union Cemetery of Fayette County for the Decoration Day ceremony, Sunday. Over 300 Civil War veterans are buried in the cemetery and local citizens were invited to honor the sacrifices they made for the nation.
Overseen by reenactors, Mayor of Uniontown Edward Fike welcomes people to the Union Cemetery of Fayette County for the Decoration Day ceremony, Sunday.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Gatekeeper spreads its guardian wings - 5/20/2013

Cedar Point's new GateKeeper roller coaster opened to the
public on Saturday, May 11, 2013 in Sandusky, Ohio.
Sandusky, Ohio - “This is definitely a top-10 coaster and, let’s face it, this ride sure as heck beats Disaster Transport,” said Pamela Kanai of Pittsburgh, Pa. to a cacophony of cheers, as well as a few catcalls, as she exited GateKeeper’s station platform.

Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio has always held a reputation for turning out record-breaking roller coasters and the spring of 2013 was no exception. The amusement resort’s newest coaster, GateKeeper, took flight in May to fanatical acclaim with its immense height, speed and thrills.

“It has caused a great influx of new members because of the media day and I’m sure for CoasterMania,” said Cathy Schwab of Massillon, Ohio and president of the Great Ohio Coaster Club (GOCC). “A lot of people have joined because of this ride.”

Designed by Swiss ride manufacturers Bollinger & Mabillard (B&M), plans for GateKeeper began to emerge to the public in August 2012. Announcements had already been made about the plans to remove the park’s Disaster Transport indoor roller coaster as well as the Space Spiral observation tower to accommodate the new ride and the public was growing antsy to know what would be replacing the two rides. On August 13, Cedar Point officially announced their $30 million project that would include the tallest, fastest and longest winged roller coaster in the world as well as a complete overhaul to the park’s front entrance.

“To work with Cedar Point is always a great pleasure,” said Kim Gent, a representative of B&M, during a press conference. “Cedar Point came up with the idea to build the ride along the beach and above the main entrance of the park... It took a year to design, to do all the drawings and calculations inch-by-inch to make it a safe fun ride."

Construction of GateKeeper took about eight months and began in mid-September. Cedar Point’s Marketing Programs Manager, Bryan Edwards, says hiring local workers was a quintessential element for construction of a project this size.

GateKeeper was designed by Bollinger & Mabaillard and was part of a
$30 million project for Cedar Point
“From the coaster, to pouring the cement for the footers, to landscaping, to actually just building this structure, it really helped put a lot of money back into the Ohio economy by hiring local Ohio workers to put it together,” said Edwards. 

Cedar Point managed to keep the public up-to-date on the construction progress via extensive blogging and social media posts which many roller coaster enthusiasts followed with fanatical zeal.

“We let each other know if there was some new updates,” said Alan Hewston of Parma Heights, Ohio and member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE). “It was great to see them do that because it helps to get the enthusiasts even more excited about the event and about riding the coaster.”

The changes to the resort become apparent as soon as visitors arrive at the park entrance. GateKeeper towers over the main gates with a massive zero-g roll spinning through double keyholes that rise straight up in front of the park like 100-foot knives. The outside entrance plaza has been redone with new turnstiles, ticket booths and a new guest services building.

“The newly redesigned Main Entrance, the now unblocked views of Lake Erie and the beach and, of course, GateKeeper itself are all visually stunning,” said Jason Ballard of Weirton, W.Va. and member of GOCC.

As park guests enter the park and progress up the midway, GateKeeper can be accessed to the far right side of the park near the entrance to Wicked Twister. The new coaster’s trademark blue-waves logo stands boldly on a pedestal beckoning for people to come and sit on it for photos. A massive plaza spreads out across the area with plenty of shaded tables and countless views of the coaster. Queuing lines stretch the length of the ride as it runs along the shores of Lake Erie and offers an unobstructed view of the beaches and the ride’s first elements. However, once the considerable wait is over, it’s time to choose which side to ride and to take flight.

“It was a good ride with good pacing,” said Dave Altman of Plum Boro, Pa. and president of ACE. “The inversions weren’t too disconcerting so I’d say it was a pretty good.”

“It’s got a nice amount of intensity without it being too over-the-top,” said Aaron Lesko of Dravosburg, Pa. and member of ACE. “It’s very re-ridable and I think it will be a very popular ride for the park."

Cedar Point's new GateKeeper sets the world record for the tallest, fastest 
and longest winged coaster on the planet.
As guests board the trains, careful eyes may notice the decorative details that have been put into the cars. The aerodynamic body of a golden griffin-like creature with red eyes, which light up once the sun sets, scowls from the center chassis of the cars. The seats, perched far off to the side of the chassis and track, act as decorative wings for the creature. Running lights come to life along the side of each seat once nighttime comes as well. The modern shoulder-restraints from B&M lay flat across the chest with a pair of handlebars off to the side, offering a clear view in all directions once the train pulls out of the station.

“The harnesses are very comfortable and the seats are very comfortable,” said Carsten Anderson of Avon Lake, Ohio, and member of CP Rundown. “I honestly could sit on the ride all day and not have to worry about anything.”

Depending on the rider’s choice to ride in the left or right set of seats; the ride will present a different experience based on the chosen side. This becomes apparent as soon as the train crests the 170-lift hill and immediately flips upside-down into the opening dive drop. The left side of the train creates a tipping stimulation, rather like the feeling of being tipped from a bucket. The right side, moreover, presents more of a dropping sensation, as if a trap door has opened and the seats have begun to fall.

“Whenever you’re going off the lift hill through the inversion, you just hang upside-down for what seems like an eternity,” said Ron Mazur of Bethel Park, Pa and member of ACE. “That truly sets the pace for the rest of the ride.”

“The ride was awesome. I was on the first row on the right side and it was so, so cool,” said Mary White of Clarkston, MI and member of PointBuzz. “When you’re first going up and you take a loop right after, it’s awesome.”

Additional difference can be felt and viewed as the trains approach the massive double keyhole element that towers over the park’s main entrance. Different sensations of head-chopping moments are experienced, depending on the side of choice, as the train twists through the zero-g roll and slips through the vertical slots in the twin spires.

“The front seat is awesome going into the keyholes,” said Geoffrey Ford of Auburn, N.Y. and member of the Western New York Coaster Club. “It’s just spectacular. It looks like you’re just going to fly into that thing and then the head-choppers are really good in the front seat too.”

GateKeeper's trains spin through double keyholes over the park's newly
designed front entrance.
Upon disembarkment from the ride, a special gift shop is presented to the riders with a large collection of GateKeeper merchandise including shirts, glasses, toys and a large variety of other unique paraphernalia. On-ride photos can also be purchased. The question that remains however: Should I ride it again?

“I’ve rode it five times this morning and on the left, outside is going to be your best ride,” said Andree Shrider of Elkhart, IN and member of Club TPR (Theme Park Review). It’s a very smooth ride, its quiet, it’s a good time.”

GateKeeper is officially open to the public at Cedar Point and has a height requirement of 52 inches. 

GateKeeper opening day, Cedar Point - 5/9/2013 from Joel Brewton on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vietnam Veterans Candlelight Vigil - 5/19/2013

John Kooser of Dunbar and his sister Pam Wable of Uniontown light a pair of candles in honor of their late brother Kenneth Kooser during the annual candlelight vigil at the Fayette County Vietnam Memorial in Hopwood, Friday. Kooser was was killed in Quangtry, Vietnam at the age of 20. 
Elizabeth Nicklow of Oliver lights a candle in honor of her late brother Tommy Kubica during the annual candlelight vigil at the Fayette County Vietnam Memorial in Hopwood, Friday. Kubica was killed in Vietnam at the age of 21. Nicklow honored his memory by painting a picture of him which is on display at the Amvets Post. "He's just sitting on a box, reading the paper, as if he doesn't know that the day is coming to an end," says Nicklow.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Weekend Features - 5/12/2013

Derek Gaisbauer, 14, of Uniontown hones his batting techniques with his friends at Hutchinson Park in South Union Township, Sunday afternoon. Gaisbauer is a student at Laurel Highlands Middle School and plays for his Farmington Legion Team.
C.J. Cole (right), 14, of Meadowbrook teaches his friend and neighbor Blaine Satovich, 12, to proper jumping techniques on their skateboards along their neighborhood streets, Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Jim Campbell Hammer-In - 5/4/2013

Stephen Yusko (left) of Columbus, Ohio pierces a metal plate for a blacksmithing demonstration during the fifth annual Jim Campbell Hammer-In at the Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, Saturday, May 4, 2013. The yearly event consists of a gathering of blacksmiths to get acquainted and compare projects and techniques in their craft. Jim Campbell (right) has been volunteering at the center's blacksmithing program for many years and helped make the program what it is today through his contributions.
Stephen Yusko heats a metal plate inside a furnace as he prepares to subject it to a technique known as "forge welding" in which two pieces of metal are heated entirely and then hammered together to create a textured surface.
Stephen Yusko uses a power hammer to forge weld two pieces of hot metal together, creating a textured surface.