None of the children had ever attended this late night, haunted version of the Busch Gardens amusement park. The entire park undergoes a complete transformation from daytime family fun into a maze of scare zones where creepy monsters jump out from behind bushes and haunted houses (in varying degrees of depravity). Then there are the roller coasters which become a totally different experience when they operate in the dark. This transformation of amusement park to scary adventure park happens in just a couple of hours from closing time.
As we waited in line for our first ride, we discovered that Marshall Locke was about to ride his first roller coaster. Montu is a pretty exciting roller coaster for your first ride! This ride is an inverted cart with your legs dangling through the turns and loops. Our second roller coaster ride, Sheikra, is even more exciting as your cart stops on the edge and dangles you for several seconds before plunging you hundreds of feet at break-neck speeds. They all loved it!
After passing through several of the scare zones with names like “Pain Lane”, we were able to determine which members of the Boca Bunch were ready for more rides and who was ready to take on some horror houses. We were pretty sure that Flynn Stewart would be just fine in the haunted house group after he walked up to a cleaver wielding, blood splattered butcher and challenged him to a staring contest. We had a group vote and half wanted to do haunted houses and the other half wanted to continue with the roller coasters. Coach Keisling took the group that wanted to see some horrors and Danny Dowgiallo (parent volunteer) and I (Denise Searle, programs director) took the group seeking more roller coaster thrills.
Surprisingly, it was the younger kids that were all about the scare houses with Rowyn Shortuse and Parker Becton charging in at the head of their group as they descended into “The Basement”. In our rides group, we discovered that while Katie Kupse loves roller coaster rides, she does not care for 9-foot tall ghouls chasing her while yelling her name (they pay attention and latch onto names when they hear one).
Our groups reconvened for one more roller coaster ride – the Cheetah Hunt (Busch Garden’s newest addition) – and then we would head out. This proved to be our longest wait (one hour!), but the kids enjoyed this ride which stretches over a large area of the park and whips the riders on a serpentine track through canyons.
The return went smoothly with Coach DJ delivering us all safely back to Englewood and Boca Grande. We got back pretty late (sorry parents to keep you up well past bedtime), but judging from the text messages I received the next day, both the parents and children were very happy with our adventure. All of the kids that attended this first Boca Bunch were patient, polite and courteous and it was a pleasure to have them attend.
If you have a child in 6th to 9th grade and you either live on the island or work on the island, he/she is eligible to join the Boca Bunch. This group is led by DJ Keisling, physical education instructor at LA Ainger middle school, and administrative and programs assistant for the Friends of Boca Grande Community Center. Our intent is to create some fun activities and adventures for these kids with new experiences and in the company of their pals. The Friends of Boca Grande Community Center is able to offer this program through the generous support of our donors and in conjunction with other island organizations.
If you have any ideas for some new experiences or would like to sponsor an activity, please feel free to contact the Friends organization at 964-0827.
Denise Searle is the program director for the Friends of Boca Grande Community Center.
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