Rock me. Sock me. Drop me. Shake me.
The Comet will accommodate all four requests, and score the usual wails of terror. We all scream for ice cream during the summer, but some of us scream a little louder for roller coasters.
The celebrated, celestial wooden coaster at the Great Escape amusement park in Queensbury belts in the brave and bold every summer. Spokeswoman Rebecca Close said the 87-year-old coaster is the park’s star attraction; kids and adults are always willing to wait in line for a three-minute jolt of acceleration and exhilaration.
Some coaster lovers respect the Comet for its history. The ride first operated as the fearsome Cyclone at Ontario’s Crystal Beach in 1927. It was re-engineered and reopened as the Comet on May 22, 1948.
Crystal Beach closed in 1989. The Comet was purchased at auction by agents for the Great Escape and rebuilt in Queensbury at a cost of $3.5 million. It opened in 1994, and this summer is observing its 20th anniversary as the park’s classic ride.
While the coaster is a steel structure, the track is made of nine layers of wood. The Comet is as long as three football fields, stands 95 feet high, and runs two 24-passenger trains that can hit speeds of 60 miles per hour.
Gravity provides the muscle. A mechanical lift is used to pull the train up the first incline. Once the cars begin speeding down that first, steep hill, it’s all residual natural speed.
Long Island resident Veronica Passannante and members of her family were safety-barred into one of the ride’s six cars on a recent cloudy afternoon. “It’s fast, it’s a good ride,” said Veronica, 16.
Sisters, parents and friends reacted in similar fashion. They yelled when the Comet began its first drop, and maintained their chaotic composures as the cars clacked and clocked high speed.
“It’s a nice ride,” said dad John Passannante, at 44 the senior member of the flight team. “I think I had my mouth open the whole time,” added Valerie Passannante, 9, adventurous enough to take the car’s front seat.
Others were shaken and stirred when they walked down the ride’s exit ramp.
“We did it three times in a row,” said Sarah Needham, 24, of Weatherford, Texas. “It’s a little bit rough — you don’t expect that first drop.”
The Great Escape has cameras in place on the ride, and snaps a wide range of expressions for photos that people can buy later. Anxiety, awe and “Aaaaahhhhh!!!” seem to be three of the more popular reactions.
Kids often will ride the Comet several times. Adults will get back in line, too.
Jim Gully, 68, of Clifton Park, grabbed the front car. He and his daughter Chrissy Cardoza of Newburgh wanted a clear view of the track. “I ride it anytime I come up here, I get on as much as I can,” Gully said. “I’ve been coming here for years, there’s a lot of history with this coaster.”