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PUT AWAY YOUR TOYS: Sunday brought perfect weather for hot-air ballooning over the Old Mendon Highway -- but when it's over, you still have to pack up. / Photo by Nancy Williams

Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

Adrenaline junkies, right this way

By Rebekah Bradway

September 20, 2006 | Riders can't turn back once they've been buckled and closed in behind two doors to be lifted and dropped from the world's tallest drop ride at the Celebration Centre just south of Logan.

The Sonic Boom, an attraction known for its height and rusty appearance, drops riders 367 feet without using brakes, but the thrill begins at the bottom of the base.

"That is the scariest ride ever!" said a 10-year-old boy who had just experienced the adrenaline rush of the fall.

Riders can go on the drop ride in pairs, and they sit side by side on bicycle-seat-shaped stools. They are held in place by just one strap that looks and works like a basic seatbelt without a chest strap. After checking the straps and distributing headsets, a ride assistant shuts the riders in behind a glass door surrounded by fence-like metal and then waves goodbye as he closes and locks the outer door, rusty and brown to match the rest of the attraction.

The clear compartment slowly lifts out of the rusty tube, and the riders look watch the entire valley get smaller and smaller through the fence-like walls and see-through door, as if in Willy Wonka's glass elevator. Once at the top, they have the choice of waiting 10 seconds for the ride to drop automatically and without warning, or they can push a red button to release themselves from the view and anticipation. Any screams during the 100-mph drop are muffled by the loud echoing noises made when the compartment enters back into the metal base, ending the exhilarating ride.

The Sky Sling, however, does not end as quickly. Riders can be strapped in to conventional seats, ones that stay upright during the entire ride and use shoulder bars to strap riders in. The other option is to ride in a "suicide seat," for which riders must be strapped to their seats using harnesses.

"The suicide seats are everyone's favorite," ride assistant Tyson Irwin said. "Plus, the harnesses make them safer too.

The Sky Sling flings up as the suicide seats lean forward with bodies parallel to the ground. The harnessed riders face the sidewalk below and can even put their chins down and look through their hanging legs in the direction opposite of the way their seat originally faced.

Irwin, 17, said some of the employees like talking to the riders right before they are flung from the sling-shot-like attraction to distract them. A favorite phrase, he said, is, "And make sure you don't...," making sure to be interrupted by the ride as it flies up for the first time.

Shooting forward, rather than up, sets apart the Celebration Centre's Screamin ' Swing, named the "Best New Ride" for amusement parks in 2005. The name of the attraction explains the basic idea of a swing, but instead of being powered by leg movement, the ride shoots out air to give the swing an extra boost each time it sways toward the ground in a pendulum-looking manner.

Riders are shot forward and backward at 50 mph, leading to streams of tears from wind in some eyes, and they get high enough to face directly the miniature golf course beneath. "The swing ride is way more intense than I thought it would be because of how fast it moves. I thought it would just swing back and forth, but it was pretty crazy," USU junior Adam Cooper said after riding.

The fourth and most expensive of the centre's thrill rides is the Sky Coaster, another swing-like attraction. For this experience, riders are strapped in to what look like body-sized lifejackets. They are secured to several cables, either alone or with one or two partners, underneath a huge arch from which they are then raised. The attached cables lead to an adjacent tower, and once riders have reached the top of the tower, they hear a countdown. A rider pulls a releaser to send them free falling, scooping down through the arch and then ascending back up in a swing-like motion.

"The Sky Coaster makes you feel so secure but so free too. It's pretty sweet, " Cooper said.

Riders must be 42 inches tall and above to be eligible to ride these high-thrill rides, but there are alternative activities for those who can't. The Celebration Centre also has miniature golf, Kiddie Cars, a kids' corner, an arcade and indoor rock-climbing.

Participants can pay for each attraction separately or can buy half-day passes which include everything except the arcade. The half-day passes can be purchased for $35 for people 42 inches and taller or for $20 for those under 42 inches. USU students get $10 off of a pass when they show their student ID card to the cashier.

For more information, the Celebration Centre's website is The address is 1903 S. 800 West.

TALL AND SCARY: The rides at the Celebration Centre are designed to thrill. Below, a statue of ride designer Stan Checketts stands atop the Sonic Boom. / Photos by Brianna Mortensen


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