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darien lake theme park

April 4, 2014 - 9:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, entertainment, Darien, darien lake theme park.

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.

March 3, 2014 - 5:26pm
posted by Howard B. 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.

February 12, 2014 - 12:07pm
posted by Howard B. 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.”

January 29, 2014 - 6:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, sports, Darien, 5K, darien lake theme park, Color Me Rad.

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.

September 28, 2013 - 9:25pm
posted by Howard B. 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.

September 14, 2013 - 7:20pm
posted by Howard B. 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.

August 18, 2013 - 11:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in music, entertainment, Darien, darien lake theme park.

Today Darien Lake Theme Park hosted the “Fiesta Latino Americana." The event was an all day festival of Latino music and dancing, including dance lessons for guests.

Unfortunately, my schedule didn't allow me to be there but for a short time today. I did drop in to see the Victor Antonetti Band.

July 1, 2013 - 2:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, tourism, Darien, darien lake theme park.

Press release:

Darien Lake confirms that its amusement park and water park were closed for approximately two hours today, after the water supply was accidentally cut off.

Monroe County Water Authority had been conducting routine maintenance nearby, which adversely affected the park’s water supply at 11:30 a.m. During the outage, Darien Lake’s bathrooms, food service, and water park were affected.

Darien Lake management closed the park at noon for guest safety. The park’s maintenance crews restored service before 1 p.m., and the park was reopened by 2 p.m.

June 22, 2013 - 12:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Darien, darien lake theme park, 5k race.

More than 8,500 people showed up at Darien Lake Theme Park today for the Color Me Rad 5K Technicolor Run and Walk. The event, which benefits Special Olympics, puts participants through a course filled with "color bombs" -- storms of colored cornstarch.

May 11, 2013 - 8:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park.

Darien Lake Theme Park is getting back to basics -- entertaining families and celebrating its Western New York roots.

Symbolic of that theme was the grand opening today of the 2013 season with a ceremony honoring Paul Snyder, the founder of Darien Lake Fun Country, which was primarily a campground until 1981, when Snyder opened an amusement park.

Snyder, now owner of Beaver Hollow in Java, said he wanted to create a family-oriented atmosphere and he's glad to see Darien's current owners, Herschend Family Entertainment, putting more emphasis on family rides and attractions.

"They've turned it back into a family-oriented resort," Snyder (top photo) said. "I think when Six Flags owned it, they made it kind of a hard-ride park for teenagers and young adults. It was different and harder and I think (the present ownership) has done of good job of turning it back into a family-oriented park. They've done a good job."

New this year is an area called Boardwalk, which features a renovated carousal and Blast Off, a brand new ride that General Manager Bob Montgomery called a "family thrill ride."  It simulates the feeling of "riding a rocket ship to the moon," generating four Gs of air-powered force.

Also new this year is an Anchor Bar food stand, which fits into a growing trend at Darien Lake to feature things that make WNY special. The original Anchor Bar in Buffalo, of course, is where buffalo wings were invented.

The park also serves two other WNY delicacies, Perry's ice cream and Sahlen's hot dogs.

Local music will also get a little extra attention this summer with local bands being invited in for a summer-long battle of the bands.

One of the upgrades to the carousal was decorating it with paintings of WNY scenes (two photographs by Howard Owens were turned into paintings for the carousel -- a picture of a barn in Stafford and a sunrise over Harlow Lake (pictures below).

All of Herschend's parks feature regional themes, Montgomery said, but it's also what the company's research showed people wanted as part of the Darien experience.

Even our Canadian visitors, they're coming to a different country and they wanted an experience that reflected that," Montgomery said. "That's why we began the relationship with Anchor Bar. That's going to be appreciated by our local visitors, but by the people that come from further away as well."

The park's light show has also been upgraded into a bigger laser and fireworks show called "Ignite the Night."

The creation of Broadwalk, installation of Blast Off and creation of "Ignite the Night" was a lot to take on over the off-season, Montgomery said, so the push toward more WNY touches is far from over. There's only so much that can be done during a single off-season.

"You'll see that more and more as we make our way around the park with renovations, bringing those things in," Montgomery said.

Snyder is clearly proud of what the park he started as become and said it's something Genesee County should treasure.

"Darien Lake is the largest privately owned attraction in the State of New York," Snyder said. "A lot of people don't know that, the fact that it employs thousands of young people every year and that employment probably helps keep those kids working and out of trouble -- there's just so many benefits that flow from the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars at this point, it's unique and special."

April 25, 2013 - 3:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park.

Press release:

The legendary Buffalo, N.Y., Anchor Bar franchise announced today they will be cooking up wings in a whole new way this summer, with the opening of their newest location at Darien Lake Theme Park. The new in-park Anchor Bar opening will coincide with the first day of the park’s 2013 season on May 11th. When guests visit the new in-park Anchor Bar, they can expect the same authentic wings at the same prices but in an exciting new atmosphere. 

“We’re thrilled to bring a Western New York favorite like Anchor Bar to the park this season,” said Bob Montgomery, Darien Lake general manager. “Guests can now grab a bucket of crispy original buffalo wings, and relax on the outdoor deck at Anchor Bar all while surrounded by the fun and excitement you’d expect from Darien Lake.”

“Opening a new location at Darien Lake is a very exciting moment for Anchor Bar,” said Ivano Toscani, president, Anchor Bar Franchises. “We couldn’t be happier that our latest business partnership is with one of the most fun places in Western New York.”

The in-park Anchor Bar is part of several cosmetic and capital improvements this season at Darien Lake designed to bring the park back to its Western New York roots. Improvements include: the latest ride addition to the park, Blast-off, a spaceship like thrill ride that skyrockets guests into the air at 4g speeds; the $1 million Ignite the Night laser show; and the all-new Lakefront Boardwalk area, which is a tribute to the region’s lakes and is also the location for the new Anchor Bar.

Darien Lake is also partnering this season with several other local businesses including Tim Hortons, Webers Mustard, Sahlen’s Hot Dogs, and Perry’s Ice Cream.

February 11, 2013 - 12:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC, Darien, darien lake theme park.

The Genesee County Economic Development Center Board of Directors has approved assistance with the following projects:

Darien Lake Theme Park. Darien Lake is planning new cabins and new rides for 2013. The total investment by Darien Lake is $5.2 million and theme park management sought assistance with $1.9 million of the investment. The board approved a PILOT (reduced property tax on the increase in assessed value due to the improvements) worth $147,339 over 10 years. The project will also save $132,000 on sales tax for construction materials. The project is expected to generate six additional full-time equivalent jobs. Darien Lake employees more than 400 FTEs.

Reed Batavia Properties, LLC. Reed is in the process of purchasing the former Batavia City Schools administration building at 39 Washington Ave., Batavia. The company is planning $1.525 million in improvements to the building, converting it to medical offices. The GCEDC board approved a $76,361 PILOT, $52,000 in sales tax exemption, and a $12,500 mortgage tax exemption. The project is expected to generate six new jobs.

Batavia Hospitality, Inc. (Days Inn / Super 8). The company is planning on investing $530,000 in building improvements, including a new pitched roof, exterior facelift and interior upgrades. GCEDC's board approved a PILOT worth $54,198 over 10 years and sales tax exemption of $28,000. The project is expected to create five new jobs and help retain 16 jobs.

January 8, 2013 - 8:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park.

Attorneys for the estate of James T. Hackemer and Darien Lake Theme Park have reached a settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Hackemer's family, according to the Buffalo News.

The decorated and disabled Iraq War veteran died at the theme park in July 2011 when he was ejected from the Ride of Steel while on an outing with his family.

The Buffalo News reports that as part of the settlement, Darien Lake does not admit liability but will provide Hackemer's daughters, both under age 10, an annuity with a total value that exceeds $1 million.

“Darien Lake and its management are relieved to settle this case,” said Hugh M. Russ III, a lawyer for the amusement park. “And while they admit no liability, they did feel obligated to help care for Mr. Hackemer’s two children.”

The exact amount of the settlement is confidential under terms of the agreement.

August 26, 2012 - 1:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, business, darien lake, Darien, darien lake theme park.

Saturday was the first big test for a new pedestrian access policy at Darien Lake and while officials are satisfied with the results overall, they admit there are some kinks to work out.

On the positive side, officials said, traffic control after the concert was much better than used to be expected for a sold-out concert.

On the negative side, there was some confusion over what to do with taxis, how to handle passenger drop-offs and dealing effectively with people trying to circumvent the policy.

Cherry Hill Campground was open for concert parking and apparently tried to establish a private vehicle shuttle service for its patrons. 

Part of the terms of service now for ticket holders is there is only one vehicle entry and one vehicle exit per person and you must have a valid ticket to come onto the property.

Drivers of cars observed coming off The Hill were threatened with arrest for criminal trespass when they were observed coming in through Employee Road and then leaving immediately.

Many of the dozens of people who tried to walk in through Employee Road managed to bum rides from other concertgoers in cars. Of course, they became pedestrians after the concert trying to exit the venue on Employee Road.

Those people were told either to walk to the main gate to leave or to the exit point at the east side of the property.

Officials wanted to keep Employee Road open for vehicle traffic, so a strict no-pedestrian rule was enforced.

"The overall objective is just to make the traffic flow smoother and just create a safer environment for our guests," said Darien Lake General Manager Bob Montgomery. "To that extent, it’s working. If we’ve got a few little leaks here and there, we’ll correct them were we can. If people are really working hard to beat the system, I guess they can if they think it’s really worth all the effort."

Some issues will just work themselves out, Montgomery said, as guests become more familiar with the new system and fewer of them are willing to hassle with private lot parking.

From just before 5 p.m. until shortly after 8 p.m., vehicle traffic to Darien Lake was gridlocked from both the south and the north.

While some concertgoers blamed the new parking policy for the stop-and-go entry, Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble, of the Sheriff's Office, said he doesn't see the connection.

"We've had traffic being backed up in the past when the private lots were open, so I don't see that being the issue," Dibble said.

What surprised authorities, Dibble said, was how relatively few concertgoers started arriving at noon or one o'clock.

Typically, a Saturday concert attracts a lot of early arrivals, and this show didn't for some reason. Many people waited until later in the afternoon to arrive, which meant more people trying to drive in closer to showtime.

Dibble said he spoke to some patrons prior to the show who said they expected other concertgoers to come early, so they decided to come late.

There also seemed to be a higher number of concertgoers coming from the south of Darien.

"There’s something about this place," Dibble said, "that no matter how long you work out here, when you think you’ve got it figured out, there’s just something to do with who the band is, whether they're drawing from the Rochester market, the Syracuse market, the Canadian market, that makes a little different pattern. To a degree it’s unpredictable, it really is."

The worst traffic-related incident prior to the show occurred just before 8 p.m. when the passenger of a vehicle stuck in traffic jumped out of the car and ran into the path of a motorcycle heading south.

Jessica Freeman, 23, of Rochester, suffered head and facial injuries and is in critical condition at ECMC, where she was flown by Mercy Flight.

Prior to the show, concertgoers turned away at Employee Road were clearly frustrated, some of them, but didn't hassle police or security about the policy.

One group of three young men did manage to talk their way onto Employee Road and enter the venue.

Apparently, they had bought their tickets and made their reservations at Cherry Hill Campground in June. After the new policy was announced, one of them had an email exchange with officials at Darien Lake and was told, incorrectly by somebody, that they would be allowed to walk onto the property.

Gerald Rakestraw, VP of development for Darien Lake's owner, Herschend Family Entertainment, was at property Saturday both observing and supervising implementation of the new policy.

He snapped an iPhone picture of the young man's email and then allowed the trio to walk up Employee Road into the venue.

The biggest conflicts of the night came after the concert was over and some people tried to exit the venue on Employee Road.

Rakestraw had predicted some 500 people would try to leave via Employee Road -- far fewer than the thousands walking out in concerts past.

The actual number of pedestrians trying to leave on Employee Road was probably far fewer than 500.

Most were cooperative when told to head in another direction.

One gentleman who was highly intoxicated got lost in the employee parking lot (which was used for regular guest parking last night).

Two people were arrested after apparently wearing out their welcome, so to speak, arguing with deputies about the pedestrian policy.

Rebecca A. Pickem, 25, of Olive Drive, Baldwinsville, discussed the situation with a couple of different cops, went round and round with Sgt. Tom Sanfratello. After several minutes of discussion, Sanfratello told her to leave or she'd be arrested.

Her alleged reply: "I guess you'll have to arrest me," which at that point became a refusal to follow an officer's order, so she was arrested.

Her companion, Tyler A. Vincent, 24, of Olive Drive, Baldwinsville, wouldn't leave and was also arrested.

Reportedly, Pickem and Vincent had parked their vehicle more than two miles from the concert facility and were apparently concerned about how to get back to their car.

The thing is, if Pickem and Vincent had been a little more patient, they were two minutes away from a cab ride to their car.

Sgt. Steve Mullen had called a cab for them.

There was another group of young ladies, four of them, who were stranded at the park. They were reportedly staying at the Attican Motel. The Attican charged them $20 for a shuttle ride to and from the show, according to Mullen. When the driver dropped them off, he reportedly informed them the shuttle might not be available for a ride back to the hotel.

When the women called the motel, they were reportedly told the van had broken down (Note, I was on Employee Road when I saw the van, with Attican Motel written on it, pull into the parking area).

Mullen called a cab for the young ladies and escorted them out to Sumner Road and waited with them for the cab.

By the time Mullen returned to bring Pickem and Vincent to their cab, they were already in custody.

While all of this was going on, there was a young Canadian woman in full agitation mode, running around from one cop or security guard to another yelling at them, hurling insults and threatening to call the Canadian Embassy.

Deputies said she had been difficult to deal with prior to the concert when she tried to walk into the venue.

After the show, she claimed her "bestfriend" had gotten separated from her and her other friend during the concert, three hours prior to her first notifying law enforcement.

She gave three different ages for her missing friend and changed the clothing description.

Any time an official would try to ask her questions about her friend and their travel plans, she would just start yelling again.

She also claimed she wanted to walk out of the facility, but continued to yell at deputies for not doing more to find her friend.

At one point, she yelled at a deputy, "I hope your daughter gets raped some day."

There was another young woman from Canada who was also missing her travel companion, another young woman. She was calm, but clearly worried about her friend.

At 1:30 a.m., Darien Lake security officials were still involved in trying to help both young women locate their friends.

At 1:30 a.m., all Darien Lake parking lots were empty, which under normal sold-out concert nights was at least an hour earlier than might be expected.

Dibble said with Sumner Road free of traffic from private lots, it was much easier to get cars out of the parking lots. Both lanes of Sumner Road could be used for traffic leaving the facility. If not for a couple of minor accidents on Sumner Road, patrons would have gotten out even quicker.

While there were 15 arrests at the concert, the majority of them were related to the new policy, such as three people accused of climbing the new fence to try and gain access to the property.

I spent two hours at the entry gate known as "South PAC," where concert security will bring any unruly patrons for deputies to deal with and potentially arrest or release. South PAC is normally bustling with activity during a concert. During the two hours I was there, not one patron was escorted from the concert.

Batavia resident Carrie Hylkema, who's attended several country shows at Darien Lake, was at the show Saturday as a volunteer for a beer concession set up to raise money for Batavia Ramparts.

She said the atmosphere Saturday was very different from any country show she had ever attended at Darien Lake.

She said concertgoers were much less aggressive than she's seen in the past.

"A lot of times we come driving in, whether we’re working the concert or just going to the concert, you can see it’s out of control before you even come into the gates," she said. "It just seemed more managed tonight. My husband I both commented tonight that it just seemed more in control."

Some of the explanation for the mellower atmosphere, Dibble said, is the fact that so many people came later to the show, got caught in traffic, and had less time to get intoxicated in the parking lot before the concert.

"I’d like to think the underage drinking work that we’ve been doing is paying off, too," Dibble said.

There were 48 underage drinking citations issued Saturday, which is far fewer than have been issued at big country concerts over the past two seasons.

Among the kinks in the system Saturday was what to do with taxi cabs. The plan was, officials said, to only allow cabs into a designated area after 10 p.m. -- for pick up only, not for drop off. But cabs were entering the facility prior to the show.

There was also some confusion over how parents dropping off concertgoers were to enter and leave the facility.

Montgomery acknowledged he and his staff are going to need to figure out these issues for future concerts.

"What we'll do with the team here is, we'll meet again tomorrow and kind of put those issues on the table," Montgomery said. "There's nothing big, nothing that would be a big concern. You're right about the issue with taxis and where do we place them. We want to go back specifically and address that. That's one of the issues that stood out."

Traffic entering the venue, heading toward the main gate, backed up on Sumner Road, with a group of pedestrians in the distance getting into a passenger vehicle offering them a lift.

Pedestrians being told they would not be allowed to walk into the venue.

This vehicle came down off The Hill and is heading toward the main gate.

A trio of concertgoers (third person already in the back seat) get a lift into the venue.

A vehicle that had allegedly previously come off The Hill and delivered concertgoers into the venue gets a trespass warning, and would not be allowed in with another group.

Another driver allegedly issued a trespass warning.

This gentleman was eventually allowed to walk on Employee Road and into the venue after displaying an email from Darien Lake saying that he would be allowed in on foot.

Subject taken into custody after allegedly refusing a police officer order to leave the facility.

Concertgoers party in a 1968 stretch Checker Cab.

A reportedly highly intoxicated individual is taken into custody, charged with disorderly conduct, after allegedly causing a disturbance in a parking lot at about 11 p.m.

This photo submitted by a reader. One concertgoer decided to drive his tractor to the show.

August 16, 2012 - 1:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC, Darien, darien lake theme park.

The Genesee County Economic Development Center is helping the owners of Darien Lake Theme Park refinance $57.5 million in loans by authorizing a mortgage tax exemption of $719,062.

According to a GCEDC release, the bank refinancing the loans is -- for an unexplained reason -- requiring a new mortgage on the property, which is triggering a mortgage tax.

The theme park is owned by Georgia-based Herschend Family Entertainment, which has invested approximately $15 million in upgrades to the facility.

There are 400 full-time equivalent jobs at Darien Lake with an annual payroll of $11 million and the park generates $2.5 million in revenue for local governments and school districts through property and sales taxes.

July 4, 2012 - 2:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Darien, darien lake theme park.

For a concert that drew more than 20,000 people, the Dave Matthews Band show at  Darien Lake Performing Arts Center was largely uneventful.

There were the usual trespass and harassment arrests -- a dozen people total were taken into custody -- but no major fights or serious crimes.

The most notable arrest came early in the evening when Matthew D. Battiston, 20, of Lehn Springs Drive, Williamsville, and Kathryn D. Brown, 19, of Brenridge Road, East Amherst, were caught climbing the cell tower on the east side of the park, allegedly without permission.

Battiston and Brown were both charged with criminal trespass, 3rd, and released on pre-arranged bail of $125 each (pre-arranged bail means they didn't appear in court, but put up the cash in the security processing trailer at Darien Lake).

Brown's mother was at the concert and picked her up. Battiston's mother drove from her home and paid his bail.

Battiston told deputies that what he did was "really stupid."

"This is the last place I would expect to be," said Battiston while handcuffed to a chair in the security trailer. "I'm really embarrassed."

Brown was treated for minor cuts on her legs suffered as she climbed over the barbwire-topped fence around the cell tower.

Both Battiston and Brown were fully cooperative with law enforcement during their arrest and processing and Battiston said they hadn't been drinking.

It might surprise readers to know that not every person that gets kicked out of the concert venue is arrested.

At one point during the evening, near the end of the show, a patron was escorted out of the venue in a wrist lock (deputies do not enter the concert area). Deputies interviewed him for about 10 minutes and then released him.

A deputy said that the man had gotten into a verbal argument with his girlfriend and a group of intoxicated males started yelling at him and pushing him, so he ran from the encounter, which caused security to grab him for possibly causing a disturbance.

The deputy said it's not uncommon for men to get into a verbal argument with their date and have intoxicated males intervene.

Then there are the guys who could probably avoid arrest if they were just a bit more cooperative after getting escorted from the venue.

One gentleman (I've not been able to confirm his name from the arrest report) was brought outside and handed over to a deputy, being told by security, "Show them your ID, all of your ID, including your badge."

Apparently, the man had claimed inside the venue to be a deputy.

However, as a security supervisor interviewed him, the conversation seemed to be going pretty well. He might have been able to talk his way out of an arrest, but he suddenly yelled (by suddenly, we mean without apparent provocation), "Don't yell at me!"

He then started yelling, "Just arrest me, just arrest me, I know you want to do it anyway!"

At that point, he turned to Deputy Jason Saile and started yelling at him that "you might as well arrest me." 

The man then turned around and yelled a string of profanities at Deputy Lonnie Nati. After a minute of this, Nati said, "That's it. You're under arrest."

My evening ride-along with the Sheriff's Office began with Sgt. Steve Mullen.

For the part of the shift I was with Mullen, he was stationed at the entrance known as North Pack. Mullen was there to assist event security with any problems that arose, which typically involve an already overly intoxicated person trying to enter the concert venue.

If you're too drunk, Darien security will keep you out.

One woman who was with her date and another couple were stopped by security and Mullen was called over to check her sobriety. A friend told Mullen that the woman was on medication, which made her appear more drunk than she was.  Mullen administered a breath test and showed the results to an event security officer who said simply, "she's not getting in."

Later, I rode in a gator with Sgt. Tom Sanfratello and two members of Darien's security team to South Pack, another entrance.

It was at this location that I observed two of the events described above.

From there, we went to Employee Road for "The Dump," when the concert is over and the majority of people leave.

The Dump is the time when most of the fights occur and people become frustrated by the two-hour process of driving out of the parking lot.

On Tuesday, there were only two minor altercations reported, both broken up and dispersed by the time deputies arrived on scene.

As The Dump winds down, deputies begin "The Push." They drive through the parking areas in golf carts and gators advising anybody who is lingering that the parking lot is closing.

There's a few dozen people at this point either hanging out in lawn chairs enjoying a late night snack or sleeping in their cars.

There appears to be enough trash on the ground to stuff a small landfill. Nobody takes their empties with them.

After the jump (click on the headline to read more) a photo tour of the evening followed by the complete Sheriff's Office press release of arrests and citations.

June 28, 2012 - 6:55am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Darien, darien lake theme park.

Press release:

Darien Lake has announced an open casting call from 5 to 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 3 at the park administration building located at 9993 Alleghany Road in Darien Center.

The park is looking for extras for the City TV/Breakfast TV live shoot, which begins filming on Tuesday at 6 a.m. Men, women and children of all ages are welcome to attend. For their participation, the first 100 guests will each receive an admission ticket valid for a visit any one day during the 2012 season. Interested parties can park and check in at the administration office located at 9993 Alleghany Road, Darien Center, NY 14040.

NOTE: Every guest is required to complete a waiver (provided by the park) and receive one good-any-day admission ticket at check-in. Upon concluding the shoot, all guests will be escorted off the midway. *For same-day use, guests can reenter the park at 10:30 a.m. via the general parking lot and main gate.

May 28, 2012 - 2:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, Darien, darien lake theme park.

A deputy is in the parking lot of Darien Lake Theme Park investigating a complaint of a dog left in the car.

"It's a very angry cattle dog who isn't going to be taken out of this car without somebody being seriously hurt," the deputy tells dispatch.

He said the windows are tinted and the owner put a blanket in the front windshield to help keep the heat out.

There was a water bowl left in the car, but it's now empty.

Although "angry," the dog is described as in good spirits and not in any distress.

Darien Lake security is going to attempt to locate the owner in the park.

UPDATE 2:52 p.m.: Security is going to keep an eye on the animal and if it shows signs of distress, contact animal control.

May 12, 2012 - 8:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, entertainment, Darien, darien lake theme park.

Darien Lake Theme Park had a media day yesterday, but I got there way late (finishing up the Ranzenhofer story took up most of my day yesterday) so just about everybody was gone and all but one of the new rides was shut down.

Still, I grabbed some photos of the new rides.

The park has turned over pretty much all of its management and with the changes comes a new energy. Besides the new rides, there are other differences at the park. After the jump (click on the headline to read more) is a press release from April 2 about the new rides and other changes. After that is a press release about today's grand opening for the season.

January 17, 2012 - 9:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park.

After a summer filled with bad publicity, Darien Lake Theme Park's owners, Herschend Family Entertainment, has announced changes in its top management at the park.

A veteran of the company, Bob Montgomery, has been named vice present and general manager of the park.

Chris Thorpe, who led the park staff through the accidental death of a patron and the closure for unrelated mechanical reasons of the park's signature ride, is now the assistant general manager and will report to Montgomery.

Rochester resident Steve Hallowell, a former director of marketing for Kodak, has been named director of marketing for Darien Lake.

For previous coverage of events at Darien Lake, click here.

Press release:

Darien Lake Theme & Water Park Resort (Darien Lake) has named Bob Montgomery as the park's new vice president and general manager. Montgomery has been employed by Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE), the management company of Darien Lake, for over a decade. Prior to HFE, Montgomery worked as vice president of operations and development at LEGOLAND, director of operations at Toronto's C.N. Tower and director of attractions at Canada's Wonderland, the top two attractions in Canada.

Darien Lake also appoints marketing veteran and Rochester, New York, native Steve Hallowell as director of marketing. He has 25 years of marketing experience and a long tenure at Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, most recently serving as director of consumer experience marketing.

"The combination of entertainment and accommodations offered at Darien Lake are unique in the industry, and I am excited about this opportunity," said Montgomery. Prior to moving to Darien Lake, Montgomery worked at Wild Adventures, also an HFE property, as vice president and general manager. "The community has a lot of enthusiasm for Darien Lake, and I look forward to leading this great vacation destination, especially as we introduce three new family rides this year."

In his new role, Montgomery oversees all aspects of the park. Chris Thorpe now serves as assistant general manager at the park, reporting directly to Montgomery. Thorpe is responsible for employee development and relations.

Steve Hallowell leads the marketing department with a unique local perspective. "I look forward to working with the marketing team and the Buffalo and Rochester communities to attract even more guests to our park and accommodations," said Hallowell. "As a father of two teenage boys who love to visit the park with their friends, this job definitely promotes me to cool dad."

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