published Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

SoakYa makes a splash: Grand opening of water park gives kids a day to remember (with video)

Hundreds attend opening of Lake Winnie's SoakYa water park
Hundreds of people attended the grand opening of Lake Winnie's newest attraction, SoakYa, a five-acre water park with four large slides, a "Crazy River" and children's play area. Admission to both the "dry" portion of the park and the water park is $31.95.
IF YOU GO

• General admission between Memorial Day and Labor Day, which includes attendance to the water park and Lake Winnie, is $31.95, $15.95 for children under 2 and senior citizens.

• The park features an adventure river with a beach lagoon, a kiddie pool and seven body and tube slides.

• Lifeguards are present throughout the water park.

  • photo
    Patrons exit the "Crazy River" at Lake Winnepesaukah's newest attraction, Soakya water park Monday. The water park features four large slides, a children's play area and a "Crazy River." Admission to both the "dry" park and water park is $31.95.
    Photo by Patrick Smith.
    enlarge photo

It was a lesson in delayed gratification.

First, before the gate opened, the grown-ups had to give their speeches.

They talked about how Lake Winnepesaukah has been family-owned for four generations, and how the new multimillion-dollar water park, SoakYa, would be a boon to the Catoosa County economy.

Children from Heritage Middle School rode into the ceremony by train, each given a balloon to release at the right moment.

"It's a great day for Georgia tourism," said Janet Cochran, a regional tourism director for the state, who spoke to a swelling crowd as the opening time of 1 p.m. approached.

State Sen. Jeff Mullis talked about memories and how he had tried to get his first kiss at the park's Boat Chute.

"You will remember this day forever," he said to the crowd.

All the while, the kids sweated in the sun, hovering near their parents, waiting for the last word, watching the gate. It was the perfect day to ride down a crystal blue, lazy river. School had just ended for many. Parents were off work for Memorial Day. The temperature was somewhere between too hot and breezy. Not a cloud in sight.

Finally, 78-year-old Adrienne Rhodes, the park's president and granddaughter of its founder, gave the word: "Come on, get happy!"

The balloons released, spotting the sky in red, blue and yellow. And a horde of families raced through the small entrance, speed walking to claim chairs.

Toddlers waddled into the kiddie pool. Parents surveyed the pandemonium.

"Well. What do you think?" a man asked his young son. "You think it's worth [the money]?"

Bryce Harris, a 6-year-old missing two front teeth, got stuck on the sidelines with his parents. His mother carefully sprayed him down with sunscreen. Each sticky spritz felt like an eternity.

"I want to go," he said, jumping.

  • photo
    Two people fly down a water slide Monday at Lake Winnepesaukah's newest attraction, the Soakya water park. The water park features four large slides, a children's play area and a "Crazy River."
    Photo by Patrick Smith.
    enlarge photo

"Stand still," his mother said.

His sister, Jordan Roberson, 18, stoked his excitement.

"I'm going to go underwater," she said. "Are you going to go underwater Bubba?"

"Come on. Come on," he said.

After wiggling free of his mother, he started skipping toward the water. But the family wanted to rent lockers and buy soda.

"Come. On. Mom," he said.

When he finally got his way, when he finally was there at the precipice of summer, the red tube was hard to figure out.

He dipped his feet tentatively into the rushing river. A lifeguard wrestled him into the doughnut hole. His family squeezed into tubes behind him.

He glided around the first bend. A blanket of water covered the path forward.

His sister, seeing his wide eyes, nudged him in place to float directly under the waterfall.

He squeezed his nose. He closed his eyes. He puffed his cheeks.

He surfaced.

"Oh. My. Gosh," he said.

Contact staff writer Joan McClane at jmcclane@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6601. Follow her on Twitter: @JoanGarrettCTFP.

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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