email@example.com (Ken Denton)
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 1996 15:50:57 GMT
It was a very hot and muggy day when we descended upon Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana for the 1996 Stark Raven Mad event. We arrived just in time for the guided walk-through and photo op in the "Raven's Nest", the normally off-limits section of the woods that the Raven runs through. This was a great opportunity to photo/videotape the ride in action from angles previously unavailable.
After that, we spent the afternoon wandering the park and sampling some of the rides. The Log Flume is nothing to write home about, being mostly at ground level except for one hill and one drop. Their Raging Rapids ride, on the other hand, was the best example I've been on; you emerge completely soaked. The Flyers have no stoppers, but we couldn't seem to get them to 'snap' at all - maybe the speed was just a bit down.
A nice break from the heat was the free all-day drink service the park provided attendees. Just show your event bracelet at one of two drink stands (one was closed all day), and get a soda. A very, very nice thing indeed.
From 6:30-7:30 we were treated to dinner consisting of pizza, fudge and soda. The pizza was excellent, perhaps rivalling Cesari's at Knoebel's for best park pizza. If this pizza were served in town, I would come there for lunch quite a bit. As dinner ended and we wandered outside, we were greeted by thunderclaps and lightning bolts. A storm was moving in, and it looked pretty bad. But for the moment, all was OK.
Finally, 7:30 brought the moment everyone came to southern Indiana for - the beginning of 4.5 hours of Exclusive Ride Time on the Raven! The station was filled with park brass and coaster enthusiasts as the first trainload of passengers was sent out of the station with hand slaps and cheering.
The station atmosphere for the duration of the event was fabulous - everyone, including the employees, was very into the event. Ms. Koch took the mic from time to time to tell some stories. As one train left the station and stopped on the lift, she announced that someone was asking a very important question at that very moment on the ride. The returning train was greeted with a saxophone rendition of "Here Comes The Bride" and lots of cheering. Another nice touch was jugs of ice-cold water on the platform for riders to get a drink from all night. This is one thoughtful park!
The storm (actually the threat of a storm) stopped the ERT for about 30 minutes, but as soon as it looked better things got back in swing again.
As darkness took over, the Raven transformed itself. What was once a really fast ride during the day become an out-of-control speed machine for the pitch-black night rides. If you have never ridden the Raven at night, you have never really ridden the Raven. The night rides took it from a top-10 ride to a top-3 ride in my book. This is a truly amazing night ride.
The first drop gives good airtime in the back, and the small tunnel hightens the drama. If you're in the front, the tops of hills 2 and 3 will find you up against the single lap bars (yes!) for some serious airtime. The turn over Lake Rudolph is smooth and fast, and perhaps the brightest section of the ride at night. Again, the front seat riders will get popped exiting the lake turn, but for the rest of the ride the back seat is where it's at. Drop #4 is wonderful in the back - major floating air all the way down into the blackness. Like being sucked into the abyss. Reminds me of night rides on the Conneaut Lake Blue Streak, with those 3 camelbacks plummeting you into the inky blackness with the seat somewhere below you.
After the 4th drop, the ride is very intense. Major laterals, quick direction changes, and very little light. Combined with the vision-robbing mister you drop into, you are almost flying blind. This latter section brings to mind Hersheypark's Wildcat for fast laterals. When you finally come screaming into the final turn and the brake run, you'll be convinced the cars are on 2 wheels. It's so fast that it's almost scary - was this structure meant to withstand this punishment? Of course. That's what makes it a great ride.
Toward the end of the ERT, the operators starting doing doubles (not stopping in the station for 2 consecutive rides). I was lucky enough to end the night with back-to-back back seat night rides. One of the best coaster experiences of my life. If you ever get a double ride, be prepared for that left jog before the lift - taken at speed, it's another thrill element.
In short, this was possibly the best coaster event I've been to. The Knoebel's Phall Phun Phest is excellent, but the Phoenix is not running her best during this Fall event. The ACE Spring Conference at King's Island, with 4 hours of ERT on EVERY coaster simultaneously, was pretty amazing but lacked atmosphere. CometCon is also pretty close. But the combination of a top-3 coaster, lengthy ERT, pitch-black rides, managable attendance, and a park that goes all out and is as happy to be there as you are makes this a terrific event.
You can bet the farm I'll be there next year.