Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Marine World Kicks Off 45th Anniversary

Marine World Kicks Off 45th Anniversary
By RICHARD FREEDMAN/Times-Herald staff writer

The wafting aroma of funnel cake, a bactrian camel, and strolling Batman and Robin can only mean someone's having a rather odd dream or Six Flags Marine World Vallejo kicked off its 2006 season on Saturday.

It was, indeed, the season opener for the theme park, celebrating its 20th year in Vallejo and 45th anniversary since the animal and thrill ride venue began in Redwood City.

Count on a lot of "45" turning up in the park through the park through its extended season that won't end until New Year's Eve.

"Everything we'll do is 45," said Paul Garcia, public relations director for Marine World. "It's our happy anniversary."

About 700 employees welcomed a steady stream of visitors, with various discount tickets and season pass prices hoping to take the sting out of the $15 parking tab.

Lorraine Schialabba of Benicia enjoyed the park's curtain-raiser, welcoming free tickets from her church.

"I thought it was going to rain but it's turned out to be sunny," Schialabba said. "It's absolutely wonderful."

Schialabba had already jumped on Medusa, the park's hood ornament roller coaster, twice by early afternoon and hoped to get on a third time.

"I love rollercoasters," said the 50-year-old who apparently was living up to Marine World's quest to convert adults into kids for a day.

"We want moms and dads to leave their 'adult attitudes' behind and come in with a 'child mind,'" Garcia said. "We still want them to supervise the kids, of course, but we always want them to have fun."

Marine World is leaning on some familiar Super Heroes to unveil everyone's inner child, with Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and, as mentioned, the Dynamic Duo cavorting around the park.

Batman signed about 15 autographs by late afternoon and posed for photos. The job, he said, "is pretty cool, seeing the kids laugh and having a good time."

Robin said hanging with the kids was a great job, though he hoped Batman would have more confidence in his crime-fighting ability.

"He doesn't have faith in me," Robin said. "He thinks I'm young, that I can't handle myself. But I think I can."

Could have been a little jealousy going on. Apparently, the muscular man behind the bat is popular with older fans as well as younger ones.

"He works out," Robin said.

All the Super Heroes and a bunch of animals that included a monkey, camel, snake, macaws and a porcupine worked the first of a daily anniversary 10-minute parade that wound its way near the Shark exhibit.

In the day's attendance were 50 students with emotional problems from Truckee High School, who braved early Sierra snow for the four hour trip to Vallejo.

"A lot of them don't get to go many places," said teacher Diana Whitton. "This is a good opportunity to get out of Truckee."

Whitton's 16-year-old daughter, teacher's aide Briana Whitton, chowed down on funnel cake and strawberries.

"Very good," the teen said.

For park hours, visit sixflags.com.

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