With the snip of giant gold scissors, a burst of fireworks and an aborted attempt to break a bottle of champagne onto the first car, Adventureland amusement park's new Turbulence roller coaster officially opened shortly after 2 p.m. Friday.
"My nerves are building up as we stand," said Ed Tomaselli, 15, of Holbrook, who won the opportunity to be the first rider in the first car on the first trip through the Farmingdale park's spinning, plunging ride. "How many times has this been tested?" he joked before boarding.
Just 45 seconds after the ride launched with a raucous countdown from the crowd of several dozen spectators, park employees and local dignitaries, Tomaselli and 11 other riders were through the loops of the 55-foot-high coaster, moving at speeds up to 45 mph.
"It was amazing," Tomaselli said. "When you go up, and all of a sudden you just start spinning, you're like 'Ahhhh!' You're going downhill and you're spinning and everybody starts screaming and you're facing other people -- it's mind-blowing."
Before sending off the first riders, Adventureland manager Steve Gentile led a ceremony christening the new yellow-and-green ride, which cost the park close to $5 million and replaced the former roller coaster, The Hurricane, that closed last Columbus Day weekend after 23 years. Each train on the new coaster has three cars that seat four people. Riders sit back to back, and each car spins individually as the train speeds through the hills and loops.
Adventureland sponsored a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Nassau Suffolk Services for Autism to determine who would be entitled to be one of the first 24 riders on the coaster. Adventureland ran a similar contest in October to raffle off the last ride on The Hurricane. The two fundraisers combined netted $6,500 for the two groups, Gentile says.
John Janes, 55, a retired police officer from East Rockaway, purchased one of the $5 chances and gave his winning seat to his daughter, Emma, 11. "It's making Long Island history," Emma said. "Not many people get to be the first to ride something that's new."