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WHITE WATER RAPIDS, SKY DIVER RIDES BEGIN 'AMUSING' AREA RESIDENTS TODAY

Canoeing down a watery roller-coaster or ascending 75 feet in the air only to plunge back down toward the pavement may not sound tantalizing to everyone.

But starting this weekend, these and other attractions promise to tempt thrill-seekers, as area amusement parks show off their new additions for the season.

At Darien Lake Theme Park and Camping Resort, the main new attraction of the summer is Grizzly Run, a new $2.5 million white water rapids ride. It is the feature installation of the third year of a five-year expansion plan that eventually will cost $11.2 million.

The new ride stretches across three acres of rapids, waterfalls, geysers and wooded areas, said Barbara Harrington, spokeswoman for Darien Lake.

"This ride is the caliber of the Viper roller-coaster, which we added seven years ago," she said. "It's like canoeing down a roller-coaster. "

In addition to Grizzly Run, Ms. Harrington said the other big attraction for the summer is the "Live Music by the Lake Series," which will bring the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to the park for four concerts.

Darien Lake, located in Darien Center in Genesee County, will be open until 5 p.m. on weekdays and until 8 p.m. weekends through June 22. It will be open until 10 p.m. on Memorial Day. And starting June 23, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.

Fantasy Island, a 65-acre theme park on Grand Island, has invested $500,000 in additions and renovations for the upcoming season.

Tom Wages, general manager of Fantasy Island, said the park has added three new rides, some new shows and has expanded its picnic area, as well as upgrading its current facilities.

"One objective was to add rides that would appeal to every age group," Wages said. "We have added children's bumper cars to go along with the adult bumper cars; a family balloon race ride where families ride under beautiful colored balloons; and for the fearless, we have added a sky diver ride."

Wages said the sky diver ride is a giant wheel that soars 75 feet into the air and then descends toward the ground. The passengers will be able to operate the cars they ride in, allowing them to wiggle and wobble around as they spin.

Besides the rides, the park will feature new shows such as a WBUF-FM '50s and '60s music show, a high diving show, a traveling clown band that will roam through the park providing spontaneous entertainment, and a children's game show called Do You Dare, where children will perform stunts, answer questions and win prizes. The park also will have its traditional western stunt shows.

Fantasy Island is now under new owners. International Broadcasting Corp. of Minneapolis, owner of the Ice Capades and Harlem Globetrotters, purchased the park in April from Charles Wood, a businessman and Lockport native. Wood, who now resides in the Adirondacks, sold Fantasy Island and Great Escapes Amusement Park in Lake George for $36.3 million, according to Wages.

Wages said that, with the new attractions, he is optimistic the park can increase attendance 15 to 20 percent this summer.

Fantasy Island will be open this weekend through Sunday, for a sneak preview. It will then reopen for the summer on June 17.

New additions at Crystal Beach Amusement Park in Crystal Beach, Ont., will include a go-cart track featuring 12 carts, new games, and live entertainment on the beach.

Grant Nickolson, Crystal Beach park manager, said that a concert series also is in the works for this summer.

Crystal Beach will open on Memorial Day and then remain open on weekends until June 23 when the regular summer hours, six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday, will be in effect.

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