Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Scott and Carol Present - Finishing Your Six Flags Day At Six Flags Great America

After you have ridden all the coasters, seen a couple of shows, and eaten more park treats than you ever imagined, there’s one more thing left to do. Gather in Hometown Square and enjoy the countdown to the start of the Glow in the Park Parade. The Glow in the Park Parade was developed by the creative minds at Gary Goddard Entertainment.

The performers do a few songs on the steps of the train station, the crowd roars their approval, and then everyone together lights up the night with their glow in the dark park toys and cell phones.

This particular day was the Deaf and Hearing Impaired day at Six Flags Great America, so there were signing interpreters at all the show venues. While the crowd is entertaining themselves the performers do a fast costume change and begin the parade. When the fire doors opened and the floats started rolling, the crowd screamed in delight.

Kristopher Jones and Danni Lobello, from Six Flags Great America, provided us with backstage access to see just how it’s all put together. Everything is assembled behind the firehouse doors. There are five sections to the parade, Opening, Wonder Woman, Batman, Scooby Doo, the Six Flags Great America Trolleys (which include the Wiggles and Mr. Six,) and the Loony Tunes Finale.

Every float includes two power sources, one for motive power and another for special effects. There are all custom built for the park to utilize the in place trolley tracks, thus making sure everything passes safely through the train trestles. Each float has as electronic locator that sends a signal to “Parade Central” the float’s exact location so the park’s built in speaker system can be synchronized with parade.

A great deal of work has been done prior to the start of the show. For example, two maintenance technicians go over every costume daily to repair the inevitable wear breaks in the electroluminescent glow wire and the rope lights.

The dragon float alone has enough glow wire to reach the top of the Empire State Building. These are working costumes so repairs are continuous throughout the season. The floats are tested so everything is ready to go before the preshow begins.

A meeting is held before the start of the warm up show, to cover any last minutes changes that might have to be made. It take around ninety people for the entire production of the parade with around sixty being performers and an additional thirty support personnel. The person in the middle of the marching soldiers, (there is only one per row,) must be at least 5’10” tall, and able to carry the weight of the entire row. The other soldiers are cleverly hooked together to simultaneously move with the person wearing the costume. There is only one, but they appear to be many. The frog costume weighs seventy pounds including the battery so a qualified (strong) person has to be in that spot.

The parade itself features drummers, puppeteers, singers and dancers. There is even some kinetic stilt walkers involved. Park guests are included, if you want to participate, you can get to the fire house sometime after 8:00 PM and you just might be asked if you would like to ride the trolley at the end of the parade. That also entitles you to entrance into the VIP viewing area at the base of the steps.

If look closely into the eyes of the children as the parade passes by, they are all awake and excited. Yelling to their favorite characters, and sometimes getting a high five from a performer. Everybody oohs in unison as the dragon unleashes his fiery breath, but it is CO2, and nobody gets burned. If you walk towards the gates you can hear the children excitedly talking about the parade, and they are at least awake for the walk to the car, but they will probably be asleep before the leave the parking lot.

A spectacular finish to an amazing day, for us at least. It was truly a Six Flags day in the most positive sense of the phrase. The park was immaculate, every ride was open, and the parade capped it all off. Many thanks Kristopher, Danni, and Jennifer for the inside look at the parade.