From the Sandusky Register

SANDUSKY

The first splash came at 10:40 a.m.

The new Shoot the Rapids water ride finally began, after several weeks of delay while Cedar Point officials fixed the ride’s problems.

The first riders were 24 people who bid in a Red Cross charity auction for the privilege.

When that was completed — that first group actually got two rides apiece — it was opened up to the general public.

Cedar Point spokesman Robin Innes estimated that about 8,000 people would ride it on the first day.

Jeff Harper, 43, a Southfield, Mich., resident who bid $105 to be one of the first riders, said that although the ride is aimed at the entire family, its two hills make it substantial enough to please coaster fans.

“I think a lot of the coaster fans will really enjoy those drops,” Harper said. “Those are good drops.”

Harper can draw on plenty of experience when discussing Shoot the Rapids. He has been on 682 roller coasters in 191 amusement parks.

“Cedar Point is my favorite in all those parks,” he said.

“It was great. The first splashdown was the best. Really good stuff,” said Andy Rybarczyk, 28, of Chicago, who drove four and a half hours to get to Sandusky.

Rybarczyk had spent the whole winter watching the construction of Shoot the Rapids on a Cedar Point webcam and decided he’d be one of the first riders. He bid $125.

Cedar Point is marketing the ride as suitable for all ages. The youngest first rider Saturday was Abe Haprian, 8, of Wadsworth, Ohio. The oldest was his grandmother, Meredith Hickey, 70, Huron.

Cedar Point officials had not been completely sure the ride would launch on Saturday. It flunked a Thursday night state inspection, but inspectors from the Department of Agriculture returned Saturday morning to complete the licensing process.

Innes did not specify what the last-minute mechanical hitches were, but said Cedar Point and the state inspectors agreed to raise the height requirement for Shoot the Rapids. It had been 42 inches. That was raised to 46 inches for a person accompanied by an older adult, and 48 inches for a person riding by himself.

Shoot the Rapids originally had been supposed to open on May 15. That was delayed to May 29, and then was delayed further. Although other rides have launched behind schedule, the six-week delay for Shoot the Rapids was the longest ever logged for a Cedar Point ride, at least within recent memory, Innes said.

The Firelands Chapter of the American Red Cross has been having auctions for first riders since 1994, and has raised $150,500 with those auctions, said Judy Kinzel, who is active in the local chapter. Shoot the Rapids raised $7,000.

Not everyone could attend Saturday’s debut on short notice — the ride’s launch was announced Thursday — so a few of the people claiming the first 30 seats will come later.

Each rider who won a spot in the auction received the first two official rides on Shoot the Rapids and all-day admission to the park. They also got yellow Shoot the Rapids rain slickers, a Cedar Point mug, a Cedar Point beach towel, a Cedar Point T-shirt, a commemorative medallion and a certificate.

The highest bidder was Jeffrey Brashares of Columbus who bid a total of $2,400, or $800 apiece, to put himself and two family members on the ride. As the top bidder, Brashares got the first pick of available seats.