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Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Photos: Color bombs galore at Darien Lake's 5K

post by Howard Owens in 5K, Color Me Rad, Darien, darien lake theme park

Thousands of people from throughout WNY were at Darien Lake Theme Park today for the 2nd annual Color Me Rad 5K. The event isn't a real race, but for participants, it's obviously real fun.

Color Me Rad benefits Special Olympics.

Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Photos: Nik Wallenda performs for the first time at Darien Lake Theme Park

post by Howard Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park, nik wallenda

Nik Wallenda, "The King of the Highwire," performed at Darien Lake for the first time on a 750-foot-long wire stretched over one of the lakes.

He performed with is wife, Erendira, and Nick Slimick and Alec Bryant, who were making their professional debut. Slimick and Bryant are graduates of a high school in Sarasota, Fla., where they studied circus performing.

Wallenda drove a specially equipped motorcycle across the wire, which was 150 feet above the water at its apex, with Erendira and either Nick or Alec on a trapeze bar attached below. At the apex, Wallanda performed a handstand on the bike seat on one trip. On another he stood on the seat. On other trips, Erendira and the two young men performed stunts. The final trip was just Nik and Erendira and they performed barrel rolls at the far end of the wire.

This isn't the show Wallenda will be performing at Darien Lake this summer.

The show this summer will be in the Galaxy Theater (to be renamed the Nik Wallenda Theater). Shows start June 24 and run through Sept. 1. The 10-week run will feature two performances every day (4 p.m. and 7 p.m.) except Monday.

The hour-long show will feature top aerialists and stunt performers, Wallenda said. The finale will feature the Wallenda Family Pyramid on the Wire, untethered high above the stage.

During the show's run, performers will entertain park guests with wandering performances throughout the park, called "pop up performances." There will also be a regular interactive 20-minute show on the Gazebo Stage.

Wallenda said one reason he agreed to perform at Darien Lake is he that felt the need to give back to Western New York after being so warmly embraced during the run-up to his highwire walk over Niagara Falls.

"When I got off that cable in Niagara Falls, I said there will always be a piece of my heart that is in this region," Wallenda said. "This community has embraced me. It's been amazing. I get goosebumps.

"I think this shows my commitment to this region, to Western New York and Toronto," Wallenda said. "The community has been so good to me."

More pictures after the jump:

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Darien Lake to host 3-on-3 basketball tournment in Jully

Press release:

City officials, Gus Macker organizers, Darien Lake executives, and members of the Police Athletic League joined together outside Buffalo City Hall this morning to announce that the Gus Macker tournament will be returning to Western New York this year. Genesee County's Darien Lake intervened to save the tournament, which would have otherwise been canceled this year.

“We’re excited to be able to bring the tournament back (here),” said Gus Macker organizer Scott McNeal. “Darien Lake offers the necessary space and infrastructure for the thousands of players and families that come to participate in and watch the games.”

This Gus Macker tournament is the second-largest out of 38 locations nationwide, with more than 3,000 players and spectators annually. The three-on-three tournament attracts both male and female players, 78 percent of whom are under the age of 24, and 47 percent of whom are under 17. 

“As Western New York’s family-fun destination, the Gus Macker Tournament is a perfect fit for us,” said Darien Lake spokesman Vince Nicoletti. “We’re very excited to be hosting the games this year and look forward to continuing this great ... tradition.”

This year’s tournament will take place on July 19th and 20th across Darien Lake’s sprawling parking lots, which will be converted into basketball courts with four to six featured games taking place inside the park itself. Darien Lake will also be keeping the Police Athletic League as the event’s charitable beneficiary.

Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 12:11 am

Photos: Opening day at Darien Lake

post by Howard Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park

In another sign that spring is really here, Darien Lake opened to the entire public today (season pass holders had access last weekend).

Friday, April 4, 2014 at 9:33 am

Darien Lake's new manager combined love of coasters and teaching young people into one career

When Rod Rankin -- the new general manager of Darien Lake Theme Park -- was a young man, he never thought he'd wind up running facilities with rollercoasters and waterslides.

"If you'd asked me I would have said you were crazy," Rankin said. "I was going to be a high school teacher."

He studied secondary education at the University of Southern California and was working as a production manager at Paramount Pictures when Paramount bought a chain of six entertainment parks. Paramount transferred him to the theme park division. He's been working in and running theme parks for 25 years now.

But it's worked out for the would-be high school teacher. Asked what his favorite part of his job is his first response is that it's working with the youngsters who take jobs in the parks each summer.

"It's the good and the bad of this industry," Rankin said. "You're training a new generation of children every year, because this is really kind of a first job. That's the good part." Then he laughs (Rankin, a big man, has a hearty laugh). "The bad part is you're training a new generation of kids every year."

Rankin replaces Bob Montgomery, who ran the park for two years, but decided over the winter that he wanted to return to his native Canada to pursue opportunities closer to home.

Under Montgomery's leadership, Darien Lake was working on developing more of a local flare, bringing in Anchor Bar to serve wings, serving Weber Mustard and Dippin' Dots. That's a trend that will continue, Rankin said.

Besides hiring Nik Wallenda to provide entertainment throughout the season, Three Brothers Winery has agreed to set up a wine-tasting area, a wine shop and will cross promote Darien Lake with tags on its bottles at retail locations.

Another change coming to Darien Lake is a redesigned menu for Beaver Brothers and Maria's Italian Kitchen. The new menu will focus on lighter fare for health conscious diners, Rankin said. Just this week he hired a new chef to oversee the creation of the new menu.

With Paramount, Rankin started out as a project manager and was involved in rollercoaster development.

He describes himself as a coaster junkie. A native of the Los Angeles area, Rankin had plenty of access to coasters at numerous theme parks growing up, notably, of course, Disney and Knotts Berry Farm (he spent a lot of time at Knotts, he said).

Does that mean there's a new coaster in the works for Darien Lake? He won't say. He did say, "It's really fun when you go into a facility to learn the new coasters and then hopefully, eventually, build a new coaster."

Rankin spent 22 years with Paramount and its successor company, before leaving in 2007 as the Western regional vice president. He's been with Herschend Family Entertainment for four years, most recently as general manager of the company's park in Denver (unrelated side note: Herschend recently acquired the Harlem Globetrotters).

A certified master gardener, Rankin is looking forward to putting down roots in Genesee County.  He was excited that he had no trouble selling his home in Denver. He's looking forward to visiting the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Batavia. His gardening interest drifts toward heirloom tomatoes and roses. In fact, he's started a rose garden at every theme park he's run and Darien Lake will be no different, he said.

Darien Lake Theme Park's opening day is May 10. The park is hiring now for seasonal positions.

Monday, March 3, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Darien Lake looking to fill 2,500 positions for the coming season

post by Howard Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park

Press release:

The region’s largest seasonal employer is looking to fill approximately 2,500 open positions across its operations, including the amusement park, water park, lodging, entertainment, food, and retail departments.

More than 50 percent of eligible employees from 2013 plan to return to Darien Lake this season, including local area teachers, seniors, high school and college students. Returning employees, along with new team members, will support weekend and holiday operations starting May 10, with daily park operations beginning June 13. Staffing levels adjust during these time periods and increase once the season is in full swing. 

"There’s something special about working a summer job at Darien Lake,” said Jan Peters, Darien Lake director of human resources. “We’re looking for energetic, friendly applicants of all ages and backgrounds who are interested in learning new skills and helping to create memorable experiences for our guests. It’s hard not to have a fantastic summer when you’re around great people in an environment that’s as fun as Darien Lake.”

Immediate opportunities are available in food services, park services, ride operations, retail, accommodations, campground housekeeping, games, gift shop sales, aquatic operations, skilled trades and park maintenance, entertainment, guest services, safety and security.

Interested applicants can apply online at www.DarienLake.com/jobs or call the Darien Lake Job Line at 585-599-5108.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Nik Wallenda to perform twice daily shows at Darien Lake this summer

post by Howard Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park, nik wallenda

Press release:

With decades of experience captivating audiences around the world, aerialist and high-wire artist Nik Wallenda will spend the Summer of 2014 high above Darien Lake. Heralded around the world as “King of the High Wire,” Nik’s high-flying stunts have landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records eight times and his 2012 walk across Niagara Falls made him a household name across the globe.

Darien Lake and presenting sponsor Tim Horton’s Café and Bake Shop announced today that the internationally renowned daredevil will star in “Nik Wallenda: Beyond the Falls,” featuring the Wallenda Family. The 60-minute thrill spectacular will be produced by Nik himself, exclusively for Darien Lake.

Showing twice daily in the 1,800-seat Galaxy Theatre from June 23 through Sept. 1st (dark Mondays), the show will mesmerize audiences with performances from the world's best aerialists and stunt performers and climax with the breathtaking Wallenda Family Pyramid finale. The amazing stunt features Nik, his wife Erendira, and other members of the Wallenda family walking untethered, high above the stage.

Wallenda’s involvement won’t stop at the Galaxy Theater. Nik Wallenda Productions, Inc., will be crafting additional entertainment for Darien Lake, including a short film chronicling the history of the Wallendas, an interactive tight-rope training academy with hands-on instruction for park guests, and “pop up” performances throughout the park from the cast and crew.

All performances will be free with park admission and for Darien Lake Vacations guests, with preferred seating and VIP packages sold on a limited basis. 2014 season-pass holders will receive exclusive show offers and event invites throughout the show's run. Discounted early-bird season passes are available at Tops Friendly Markets and online at www.darienlake.com.

“The level of entertainment Nik will bring to our guests this season is unprecedented,” said Vince Nicoletti, director of Marketing at Darien Lake. “This truly will be an incomparable entertainment experience.”

“My family and I are thrilled to be back in the area and spending our summer at Darien Lake,” said Nik Wallenda. “With more than a million people coming to the park every season, it’s the perfect location for our act and we can’t wait to get started.”

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Popular Color Me Rad 5K returning to Darien Lake on June 21

Press release:

Back by popular demand, the Color Me Rad 5K, a nationally recognized human tie-dye spectacle and run/walk, is returning to Darien Lake for its second year bigger and better than before. More than 6,800 racers came out for the event last year, raising $15,000 for the Special Olympics of New York. This year, registration will be open to 10,000 participants so even more color-plastered racers can get in on the fun while supporting a great cause.

What makes Color Me Rad so unique is the excitement and entertainment generated by thousands of racers running through the scenic grounds at Darien Lake while a Color Bomb Squad takes aim their shirts, faces, and hair with a rainbow array of colors. A new element to the fun this year, racers will get hand-held color blasters so everyone can get in on the action.   

The event is June 21.

Registration for the run/walk is now open at http://www.colormerad.com/race/buffalo.  

“We strive to partner with organizations and families to create special moments that their kids will share with their kids. There’s no doubt that this is going to be a colorful memory worth sharing,” said Rod Rankin, vice president and general manager of Darien Lake. 

Participants are encouraged to continue their fun after the race with a day at Darien Lake. Accommodations packages are available for registered participants at www.godarienlake.com.

"Special Olympics New York is delighted to be the beneficiary of, and to partner with, Darien Lake and Color Me Rad 5K for this tremendously fun event in June,” said Special Olympics of New York President and CEO Neal Johnson. "Color Me Rad 5K is an energetic event for all, where the volunteers have just as much fun as the participants. Whether you register to run or volunteer for the race, you'll be helping Darien Lake and Color Me Rad 5K support more than 56,000 Special Olympics athletes across the state."

More than 5,000 pounds of FDA-approved, colored cornstarch will be used during the event. In addition to “Color Bomb Squad” volunteers spread along the 3.1-mile course, walkers and runners will also be able to toss their own bags of color into the air, creating an unforgettable display of color.

Photos from last year's Color Me Rad at Darien Lake by Howard Owens.

Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 9:25 pm

A race of the living dead at Darien Lake brings visitors from all over WNY

post by Howard Owens in Darien, darien lake theme park

Hundreds of runners were asked this morning to navigate a 5K course filled with zombies at Darien Lake Theme Park.

The rUNDEAD race was held to benefit Special Olympics and organized and supported by volunteers from throughout WNY, including a collection of zombies near the finish line who a part of the same group in Tonawanda.

Each runner was issued three flags. Those who managed to make it through the course with at least one flag was eligible for a prize. The zombies, rather than seeking the brains of runners, were hungry for flags.

Speed seemed essential when a runner needed to sprint through a gauntlet of zombies.

 

Say "Cheese" -- Arlowe Price, Fattie King and Sam Pecoraro. Price is the owner of Savage Buffalo Carnival whose family has been performing in carnivals and freak shows for five generations. He said he performs frequently in the Buffalo area, but has never been invited to perform anywhere in Genesee County. Here's his Facebook page.

Mike and Cindy Baskin, from Naples. They skipped today's Grape Festival to be zombies in Darien.

Brenda Fox, a proud member of The Batavian Club, and her daughter Indigo at the start line of the race.

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Darien Lake hosts festival celebrating cultures from around the world

post by Howard Owens in Darien, darien lake theme park

Information and photos provided by Tipping Point Media.

This weekend, Darien Lake Theme Park is hosting a Festival of Nations, celebrating cultures and heritages from around the world.

The festival features 19 various bands and dance teams from across Western New York from a variety of backgrounds – Middle Eastern, Brazilian, Irish, German, Polish, African American, Asian, and classic American Country.

The festival continues on Sunday with 11 different live performances from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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