By Greg Gelpi
Whooshing about in a tunnel of darkness, the Tornado tossed around and spit out lines of children Thursday in Marietta. The Tornado, Six Flags White Water's newest ride, opened to the delight of children of all ages.
The blue and yellow-checkered funnel-shaped water ride is 61-feet tall at its opening and is 12-feet tall near its base with 5,000 gallons of water gushing through it.
"That drop just feels like you're free falling," Sierra Kalain, 12, said of the Tornado, which spits riders out at 30 mph.
Kalain and her cousins, Kaitlin Chapman, 15, and Jackie Chapman, rode the Tornado 35 times and may still be riding now.
Members of American Coaster Enthusiasts drove from Mississippi to test the new water ride and gave their seal of approval.
"It was awesome," Brandi Herrington, 24, an ACE member from Starkville, Miss., said. "I think it will bring a lot of people in."
Josh Herrington, 24, another ACE member, said he gave the ride two thumbs up and would give more thumbs up if he had them.
"It was so high it was scary," Trevor Porter, 9, said smiling. "You thought you were going to fall off."
Jim Taylor, the spokesman for Six Flags White Water, said the ride has received positive feedback from the International Association of Amusement Parks as well. The Tornado is the first major ride that Six Flags added to the 20-year-old park since purchasing it in 1998.
Although Taylor said he had "concerns" about the impact of terrorism on the number of visitors to the Six Flag parks last year, those concerns are no more.
"We really haven't seen much of a decline," he said, explaining that most of the park's visitors drive to the park and aren't affected by issues related to air travel. Gas prices are cheaper in Georgia as well, he added.
"It's not that people don't have the money and don't take time to spend it," Taylor said. "The biggest thing is people don't take time to play."
A new ad campaign featuring a spry senior citizen dancing about has sparked the "biggest surge of feedback I've ever seen," Taylor said, describing a 65-year-old woman who raved about the commercial. "These parks aren't just for kids, but also for adults who feel like kids."
Six Flags also added Tornadoes to its parks in San Antonio, Texas, and Valencia, Calif.
"You will see us adding some more stuff out here, nothing we can talk about yet," Taylor said. "This is really just the beginning for us."
Six Flags White Water is one of three Six Flags amusement parks in the metro Atlanta area. Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell has five new rides this summer, including its 10th roller coaster, the Wile E. Coyote Canyon Blaster.
For more information on the Six Flags amusement parks, visit www.sixflags.com.