Kings Island opens April 20

As '08 season roll in, coaster veteran holds his dream job at theme park

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Don Helbig, public relations area manager, was hired by Kings Island in 2007, but has been one of its evangelists since its inception in 1972.

Helbig was born in Deer Park, but grew up in Anderson Twp. Like many area residents of the day, his first amusement park visit was to Coney Island. As a child visiting Coney Island, Helbig developed a love for amusement parks.

"I was engaged by the sights and sounds, the atmosphere of the park," Helbig said. "Seeing all the Hanna-Barbara characters that lived in my TV come to life at the park made it a magical place. My passion for amusement parks grew from there."

Helbig was at Coney Island the last day the park was open in 1971, before many of the rides headed north to Kings Island.

Kings Island premiered in 1972 and Helbig was there. He quickly became an enthusiast of the park and began to tally his visits. In 2004, Helbig experienced his 1,000th visit as a park guest and his 11,000th ride on The Racer. His ride count stands at 11,950 for The Racer and 3,113 for The Beast.

Fortunately, his wife, Laura, and 12-year-old daughter, Maria, enjoy amusement parks, too. Laura likes visiting theme parks and likes rides, but it is not a passion for her. Maria is a lot like her father. She loves roller coasters and other thrill-inducing attractions.

As for Helbig, he's at home with his job at Kings Island.

"It's a dream opportunity. Definitely something I always wanted to do," Helbig said. "I couldn't ask for a better situation."

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About the 2008 KI season

Opening Day will be Sunday, April 20. The park will also be open the weekend of April 26 and 27, Friday through Sunday May 2-18, and daily operation running May 23 through Aug. 24. The park will be open Aug. 30 through Sept, 1, and then Fridays (Halloween Haunt only), and Saturdays and Sundays, Sept. 26 through Nov. 2.

Extras

What's in a name? That which we call a ride by any other name would give an adrenaline rush so sweet. Kings Island has renamed rides, restaurants and attractions themed after Paramount films to reflect the change in ownership that occurred when Cedar Fair, L.P. (Cedar Fair Entertainment Corp.) purchased Paramount's Kings Island and the other four former Paramount Parks from CBS Corp. in 2006.

The following name and thematic changes have been made for the 2008 season:

-Bubba Gump Shrimp Sack is now Outer Hanks

-Days of Thunder is Thunder Alley

-Drop Zone is Drop Tower

-Face/Off is Invertigo

-FX Theatre is Action Theatre

-Happy Days Diner is Jukebox Diner

-Italian Job Stunt Track is Backlot Stunt Coaster

-Lt. Dan's Bar is Outer Hanks Bar

-Paramount Theatre is Kings Island Theatre

-Tomb Raider: The Ride is The Crypt

-Top Gun is Flight Deck

"The name changes of the rides themselves probably won't have any effect on my park experience," said Karen Talley, an enthusiast from Lebanon, who has visited the park almost daily since 1992. "What will change for me is the Cedar Fair part. Now that it is a Cedar Fair park, I am not sure if it will affect my enjoyment because there are so many new people. I will miss the family-type park that was under Paramount and I'm not sure if Cedar Fair employees will give me the same type of enjoyment because I knew almost everyone up there."

This year, Kings Island's entertainment lineup will feature six live stage shows (including two at the Festhaus, which has not had live entertainment in years) – the most the park has had since the 1980s:

-County Line (Festhaus) – New for 2008

-Dora's Sing-Along Adventure

-Endless Summer on Ice (Kings Island Theatre)

-Flashback: Totally 80s (International Showplace Theatre) – New for 2008

-Girl's Night Out (Festhaus) – New for 2008

-Hot Island Rhythms – International Street Bandstand

Nickelodeon characters will be located at the Front Gate and occasionally wander throughout the park. Character meet and greets also will be held in designated areas.

- Boomerang Bay will commence the 2008 season May 24. Boomerang Bay is free with park admission.

- Halloween Haunt, which debuted last year, returns in the fall on Fridays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Halloween Haunt will be included with park admission.

- Tickets are $45.99 at the gate. Discounted tickets are available online at www.visitkingsisland.com. Guests are encouraged to buy their tickets online to save time and money. With an e-ticket, guests can go right to the front gate upon their arrival.

? Season passes are on sale now. Guests who purchase a Gold Pass shall receive free season-long parking, a $34.99 savings.

"Kings Island is the perfect mini vacation destination,"said Don Helbig, public relations area manager. "With more than 80 rides, shows and attractions including 14 roller coasters, we truly have something for everyone."

— CHARLES INFOSINO

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how to go

What: Kings Island

Where: Kings Island, 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason.

When: Open on weekends beginning at 10 a.m. April 20. Open daily at 10 a.m. starting May 23. Boomerang Bay opens May 24.

More information: (800) 288-0808 or www.pki.com.

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