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RIDES ARE READY THIS WEEKEND

With weather forecast to be mostly sunny and temperatures in the upper-60's this weekend, area amusement parks expect an excellent opening to their 1993 season.

Although summer doesn't officially start until June 20, area amusement parks always begin a little early with their annual summer kickoffs Memorial Day weekend.

Darien Lake Theme Park in Darien Center opened its season at dusk Friday with Laserlight Fantasy '93 -- a combination of music and spectrum lighting -- at the Old Lakeside Amphitheater.

Laserlight Fantasy, which costs the park about $500,000, is the first of three different laser shows to be held throughout the summer.

Darien Lake has invested over $1 million this year in overall park improvement including upkeep of the rides and updating the catering area.

Additional festivities for the weekend include a Pageant of Bands 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and Sunday, featuring marching bands from high schools and middle schools in New York, Canada and Pennsylvania.

Canada's Wonderland, near Toronto, announced several new attractions. Kid's Kingdom, a play area, gives children and their parents and opportunity to have fun together in over 20 activities. Admission to Kid's Kingdom is free with park admission.

Other events at Canada's Wonderland include Hot Ice, featuring professional ice skaters. Free with the purchase of a regular admission ticket, this show will run several times daily in the Canterbury Theatre. For sports enthusiasts, the park has created The Batter's Box, a professional five cage batting complex and a new 18-hole mini-golf complex called Pro Putt.

Paramount Communications Inc. recently acquired Canada's Wonderland from J.D.S.-CW Ltd.

Two Flags Over Niagara Fun Park, formerly Fantasy Island, on Grand Island, will have hot air balloon rides available 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. all weekend.

As for music, President Ed Lewi said, "We are trying to reach what we feel is a cross section of our audience. We will feature country -- which is very hot right now -- rock and oldies."

Lewi said the park has purchased a new Sea Dragon ride at a cost of $125,000.

WYRK Radio will be broadcasting live today and Little Bit of Country line dancers will perform from 12 to 2 p.m. WGR-FM 97 Rock will broadcast live on Sunday with several bands scheduled to appear including The CPR Band, Wonderland, Grand Illusions, Home Wreckers and Urban Stooges.

On Monday, Memorial Day, the park will hold a Special '50s Theme Day featuring an Antique Car Show by the Ford Lord Car Club and continuous music and entertainment with WHTT Radio broadcasting live.

Two Flags has lowered all ticket prices from last year with a special addition called the "walk around rate" at $4.95 for those who want to enter the park, but not go on the rides.

Lewi said the park has invested "thousands of dollars" in complete cleanup of the park.

Midway Amusement Park, on Route 430 in Maple Springs, has several new additions this season, including a miniature animal display and petting zoo. The park also built a stage area near Chautauqua Lake which will feature family oriented entertainment.

At Midway, which is celebrating its 95th anniversary, families can enjoy go-karts, bumper boats, rides and miniature golf. The park also has a beach, museum and gift shop, food concessions and paddle boat rentals on Chautauqua Lake.

"We're simply a family park, more traditional than other amusement parks," said Ron Gustafson, director of public relations.

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