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Published: Tuesday, 4/2/2002

Cedar Point bustles amid countdown to fun

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Wicked Twister under construction will be one of the new attractions when Cedar Point opens for the season May 5. The Wicked Twister under construction will be one of the new attractions when Cedar Point opens for the season May 5.
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SANDUSKY - High above the ground, Larry Adkins stands in a crane bucket, scraping loose paint off the metal supports under a hill on Cedar Point's Blue Streak roller coaster.

He and a crew of three others are busy repainting the old wooden ride, and they have a month to finish the job in time for the amusement park's opening May 5.

“Hopefully we'll have it done in three weeks, but I don't know,” Mr. Adkins says.

Across Cedar Point, an army of workers is painting rides, laying concrete, sewing costumes, and performing a multitude of other tasks to get the park ready for its first visitors of the season.

Classic rock blares from a boom box as Mr. Adkins and his co-workers from May Painting in Fremont freshen the Blue Streak's sky-blue paint job. It's a fine day for painting - about 50 degrees with a light breeze and the sun poking through the clouds here and there.

On the ground, Zach Bowling dunks a long-handled roller into a big bucket of paint and slathers it back and forth on the coaster's wooden slats.

Maintenance foreman Rick Hiser checks the wheel clearance of one of the park's rides. Maintenance foreman Rick Hiser checks the wheel clearance of one of the park's rides.
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Some of the wood is bare, having been replaced in the winter as part of the park's maintenance work.

With painting a roller coaster, “the angle is the biggest thing, because you're walking uphill,” Mr. Bowling says. “I didn't realize how long this thing is.”

Mr. Adkins says he enjoys the challenge of painting one of the park's best-loved rides.

“It's a fun one,” he says. “This is the second time I've painted it. I painted it back in '91 too.

“My daughters ask every year when we come here, ‘What rides did you paint this year, dad?'”

The view's not bad, either, he adds.

“It's just the idea of being up here at the Point when it's closed,” Mr. Adkins said. “You get to see a lot of the activity behind the scenes.”

Across the park, workers are putting the finishing touches on a new coaster, the bright yellow, U-shaped Wicked Twister. In about a week, park officials will begin testing the new ride, which will rocket riders at 72 mph backward and forward up its pair of 450-degree corkscrews.

Project manager Gary Gast, who oversees construction on all Cedar Point rides, is looking forward to his first Wicked Twister ride.

“I ride them all,” he says. “When they tell me I can ride, I jump on.”

On this day, workers are installing metal sections of silver and yellow fencing around the ride, built along the Lake Erie shoreline.

On the ride's west side, a worker applies bright blue paint to a large entry booth. To the east, another crew member stands in a crane bucket about 100 feet in the air, touching up bolts on one of the ride's green supports.

Mr. Gast says construction crews lost 11 days this winter because of winds, rain, and - last week - snow.

He's happy with that. “Eleven days is real good for winter,” he says.

Around him, the plaza around the new coaster looks anything but ready for prime time. A vast expanse of rutted dirt is dotted with orange cones, striped barrels, and backhoes.

In a month, Mr. Gast assures a visitor, the plaza will be transformed. “This is all going to be concrete, real fancy concrete, pavers, and brightly colored flags and banners,” he says. “It's going to look a little better.”

Another Cedar Point landmark, the nearby Ferris wheel, stands stark and naked without its red, yellow, green, and blue cars, which are in the shop for maintenance.

Near the park's entrance, workers have boarded up the picnic shelters and turned them into temporary paint shops. Inside sit drab green cars from the Mean Streak roller coaster and bright orange cars from the spider-like Monster ride.

In another room, warmed by a blasting space heater, painter Kurt Fox applies dark brown stain to the park's wooden benches and forest green paint to their wrought iron handles. He's lost count of how many benches he's painted.

“A couple hundred of them, I think there is,” he says. “I like it. I think it's one of the gravy jobs, compared to some of the other stuff I do. We do a lot of ride cars in here.”

The man who oversees the selection of colors for Cedar Point's rides, signs, and buildings is John Taylor, graphic services manager for the park.

In “The Amazement Shop,” next to his office, Mr. Taylor shows a visitor a dozen 90-year-old carousel horses, stripped, primed, and sanded for repainting. In a month, the intricate wooden horses will be restored to their original colors and returned to their places around the outer row of the Midway Carousel.

With proper maintenance, the new paint jobs should last for decades, Mr. Taylor says. “These went 30 years,” he says. “We try to take care of them.”



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