How do you deal with a thief that's 230 feet tall and robs you at 80 miles per hour? The Diamondback roller coaster at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, has claimed more cell phones than a Manhattan taxi. In 2009, the ride's first year, $20,000 worth of mobiles flew from the soaring, nose-diving $22 million structure. "The damaged ones we put in a fish tank in the queue line as a reminder to guests to secure all loose articles before riding," spokesman Don Helbig said.
Fourth of July weekend is a big money-maker for amusement parks across the nation, and which makes this a good time to raise awareness about the money-takers that we ride. Roller coasters do not discriminate. Personal property can become property of the Lost and Found in one stomach-churning loop-the-loop. And those newfangled stand-up coasters, in which riders are secured upright and swoop upside down, can shake change out of pockets and and keys out of bags like Bluto grabbing Popeye by the ankles before the hero eats his spinach.
"Amusement parks can be a 'hats off' experience for some guests," said spokeswoman Collen K. Mangone of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. "Hundreds of items are lost daily by park guests enjoying rides, and hats are among the most commonly lost items. But that's not all guests are losing: Cell phones, car keys, wallets, cameras, and glasses are also regularly lost by riders."
One embarrassed patron lost a toupee on the Diamondback, Helbig said. Some have dropped their gold teeth on the roller coasters at Hersheypark in Pennsylvania, said Kathy Burrows of Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company. The park, which boasts nine coasters called "aggressive" or "high" thrill rides, gathered 1,372 hats, 1,105 cell phones and 726 pairs of glasses in 2010, according to the company's tally.
Despite having ridden 389 coasters at 102 different parks by his count, David Althoff of Columbus, Ohio, said all he has lost are "CoasterMania" buttons given to patrons like him who participate in the annual marathon riding event at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Too many people try to hold on to items with their hands, and hands become occupied in the rush of a coast ride, said Althoff, a 41-year-old projectionist. "Stuff that can get loose, generally will."
Mangone offered these tips for holding on to your stuff. Follow them, and even if you lose your lunch, you can keep your Ray-Bans.
• For your safety, never try to retrieve the item yourself. Wait until the ride stops, exit, and notify a ride attendant or report what's missing at Guest Services. Park staff can often retrieve it for you. If the item fell into a restricted area, tell park maintenance personnel. You may have to wait until the end of the day to retrieve it. If they can't get it right away, they may take your address and mail it to you later.
• Don't bring it! Travel light when you visit a theme park. Leave extra items at home or in the car.
• If you do bring it, make sure it's securely attached or removed prior to riding.
• Most parks provide lockers ... use them.
• If you wear glasses or sunglasses, wear straps to hold them on.
And paste down that toupee. Happy Fourth.