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Gurnee's Six Flags Great America celebrates Halloween and Michael Jackson at 2009 Fright Fest with B96 deejay Jerzy

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Photo courtesy of Six Flags Great America

Halloween is coming. Why not scare yourself silly and drop 147 feet on the American Eagle, speed through six 160-degree turns or have random "dead" people jumping out at you at Six Flags Great America? Chicago is already giving Illinoisans the gloomy weather for nearby Gurnee, IL's Six Flags location, but don't let the cold weather stop you. The water park is closed, but the rides are still zooming like crazy. Over 75 rides (including 13 roller coasters, 35 kids' rides and 22 family ride in addition to other water rides), two haunted houses, two "scare-thru areas" and the "Thrill the World" Michael Jackson tribute with thousands of people re-enacting the "Thriller" scene sounds like a lot of fun.

 

Brooke Gabbert, Six Flags' Director of Communications, took time out to talk to ChicagoNow.com blogger Message from Montie about how Chicago's B96 deejay Jerzy is handling living in the Sky Trek Tower (since Oct. 10) until the Raging Bull gets 1.5 million riders, what's new this year for the Fright Fest and why people should spend their weekends at Six Flags.

Message from Montie: You're on your second year with the "Thrill the World" dance event, and there were 4,179 people who entered last year. What are the requirements to enter the "Thrill the World" dance event? Is there a significant rise in participants this year due to Michael Jackson's death?

 

Brooke Gabbert: The event is going to be Saturday, Oct. 24, so we won't have final numbers until after that day, but I have a feeling that we're going to see more people get involved because of Michael Jackson's untimely death. Last year, we were the only Six Flags park to participate, and this year, there's about eight other parks across our system who are participating. It's going to be a really great event. We're planning on a couple hundred people coming out to dance, and I know in our Mexico City park, they're actually up in like 8,000 to 10,000 people coming to dance.

 

MM: So are they butchering the dance or do they know it?

 

BG: You don't have to have a dance background. Anybody can come out. We'll be teaching it in our Hometown Square. If you miss a move, you're not in the spotlight. We'll be teaching the dance a couple hours prior to the event, which we start exactly at 7:30 pm on that Saturday because everybody across the world will be dancing at that time.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Six Flags Great America

 

MM: Is Chicago's B96 deejay Jerzy still living in the Sky Trek Tower?

 

BG: Yes, he is. I actually spoke with him this morning. It's wet and cold, and he's up there. We've been closed all week, and we didn't hit the 1.5 million rides by Monday evening so we open back up tomorrow night. We've got about 3,500, maybe a little more than that--5,000, to hit [1.5 million].

 

MM: So he's not far.

 

BG: Hopefully people will get out here and brave the cold and ride that ride so he can come down?

 

MM: So Great America is only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Why did you mention Monday?

 

BG: We were open this past Monday for Columbus Day. We have three more weekends, and we're open until November 1. On Friday nights, it's 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturdays 10:00 am to 10:00 p.m., and Sundays are 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

 

MM: Tell me about where Jerzy is actually living. Is he really living in this tricked-out place and it looks like it's cold.

 

BG: No, he's living in the Tower, 285 feet [high]. You can watch him on the Webcam. He's up there. It's actually kinda funny. He's sleeping right now, but we'll call up there and be like, "Hey guys." They'll be dancing. He's up there with his producer, Richie Rich.

 

MM: So is his producer staying with him or does he just have guests every once in awhile?

 

BG: No, two of them are up there.

 

MM: Oh, so he's not completely by himself. They didn't punish him totally.

 

BG: I think they're both going to probably need a long break from each other when they get out of there. (laughs)

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Six Flags Great America

 

MM: So tell me about the Fright Fest. I'm assuming you'll be walking through Great America and people will be jumping out at you, but what else goes on to bring in the Halloween spirit?

 

BG: The whole park has been transformed from the moment you'll walk in. You'll see a whole different theme to the park. During the day, it's less spooky for the younger crowd, and we have a Trick-or-Treat Trail that runs from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Bugs Bunny and his friends are dressed up and handing out candy for kids. And then at three o' clock, that's when all the creepy, spooky characters come out. That starts at the parade at three o' clock. We have two haunted houses at an added cost of $10 each, and then we also have these little scare-thru walk areas, and those cost $5. They're free for season pass holders. You could get all four of those for a total of $20 if you purchase a 4-pass. If you buy your tickets at the gate, you're going to pay a lot more. And right now we have everyone paying kids' prices. That's the best way to go--$34.99, and that's $20 off the gate.

 

MM: Can you buy the tickets online for the haunted houses?

 

BG: You can do that when you get in the park. Those passes are located by the haunted houses.

 

MM: That's a $10 discount on the haunted houses and $20 off the regular $54.99 entrance fee. Good to know. Okay, so you've got the haunted houses, the scare-thru walk area and then when you're walking through the area, the last time I went there, I remember things randomly jumping out at me. When you get on the rides are things actually popping out?

 

BG: Yes, some of our rides are themed-out as well. You can choose a different cycle for the ride. For example, a ride will go a different direction or go faster or slower than it normally does in the regular season, and then we'll have those rides themed as well.

 

MM: What rides are those?

 

BG: We have a lot. Teen Chaos is now Blood Bath. There's this fountain out front that they've dyed red with body parts in it. It's kind of creepy. Our Chubasco, which is the spinning teacup, that's called Terror Twister Two, and that's a pretty fun ride. You feel like you're at a dance club. They've got some great music pumping and strobe lights. The American Eagle is called Black Widow, and you'll notice the big spiders that we attached to the American Eagle. Whizzer is called the Swamp Thing. Ricochet is called Ricoslay.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Six Flags Great America

 

MM: I didn't hear you name the bigger rides. Are the bigger rides scary enough without the Halloween theme?

 

BG: Yes, pretty much. On that Raging Bull, you've got a 150-foot drop, so I think that's probably scary enough. Another great thing for the kids is our shows. We have, for the 18th season, "Love At First Fright," which is a really fun show to watch in Grand Music Hall. They change it up every year to add in new things that are applicable for current events. There's also "Dead Man's Party," which is a song-and-dance review. There are different shows throughout the day. You sit down in a theater and watch a live show. It's pretty fun. And like we talked about earlier, there's over 150 characters that roam the park.

 

MM: Is there any great perk coming on Halloween or is it this fun throughout the Fright Fest every weekend?

 

BG: We pretty much celebrate October 31 the way we do all through October. October 3rd is when we opened.

 

MM: So you party like it's Halloween all month long!

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